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September 1, 2008 1:05 PM   Subscribe

"He's always thinking about lots of things — he's a pollinator, he brings ideas to the table" You probably know Neal Stephenson for his work as an author (generally in or adjacent to the Science Fiction genre), but he's also an inventor at Washington based "Idea Factory" Intellectual Ventures, a place with modern goals like stomping out malaria and preventing hurricanes. This is after his old job as part-time rocket scientist.
posted by Artw (17 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
a place with modern goals like stomping out malaria and preventing hurricanes.
Or, you know, locking up as many ideas as possible without ever bothering to turn them into useful products.
posted by louie at 1:31 PM on September 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


New Yorker thing about IV, which made me come to the same conclusion as louie.
posted by neustile at 1:45 PM on September 1, 2008


This article describes Nathan Myhrvold, founder of Intellectual Ventures as

Myhrvold, 47, is a nerd's nerd, an exuberant and charismatic polymath with a rollicking laugh, the rumpled look of a science professor, and an armload of academic credentials.

He has a master's in geophysics and space physics from UCLA, a Ph.D. in theoretical and mathematical physics, and a master's in mathematical economics from Princeton. He's also a paleontologist, a prize-winning photographer, and a gourmet chef.

Oh, yeah - and he's very rich.


and Wikipedia claims he finished his Ph.D. at 23.

*sobbing at my own inadequacy*
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 2:30 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Only 8 more days!
posted by sourwookie at 3:36 PM on September 1, 2008


Yeah, in my short stint working in patent law, I heard all about Intellectual Ventures (and even had some of attorneys in my office leave to work there). Basically intent on using patent law to the greatest personal benefit, and the greatest societal detriment, and no one in the industry (including the people working there) has any illusions about it.
posted by bjrubble at 5:59 PM on September 1, 2008


Nobody, including bodywithoutorgans, should ever feel inadequate just because they don't have a fistfull of graduate degrees. It's all just training and by no means is it a measure of your quality as a human being. Myhrvold may be smart, and he may be rich, but I've seen him openly laugh at and mock other people in the software industry who, during the Microsoft anti-trust trial, shielded their identities from reporters while discussing how Microsoft had abused their power in the marketplace. History has shown that those people had legitimate concern that Microsoft would exact revenge and that Myhrvold was playing the part of a schoolyard bully, foot on the back of the new boy, taunting him for being unable to get up out of the mud.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:54 PM on September 1, 2008


Yikes, I hadn't realised they were so patent trollish, though in retrospect I should have seen that. Now I feel dirty for linking it.

I guess this makes Stephenson the anti-Doctorow.
posted by Artw at 7:06 PM on September 1, 2008


Stephenson's political views are an interesting mystery; he's pragmatically cagey in all interviews. No one that smart falls cleanly into either major party, of course, but my best guess is that he's libertarian leaning, based on the fact that they're the single political subgroup I've seen him mention positively (in this piece about the film 300) and the fact that he did an interview with Reason magazine when The Confusion was released. Along with his evident awe at the ability of efficient commerce to foster innovation throughout The Baroque Cycle. This annoys me, because capital-L Libertarianism is the political philosophy I have the least tolerance for. I have, however, bought all of Stephenson's non-pseudonymous books, likely making me an excellent example of the wisdom of his PR tactics.
posted by gsteff at 12:23 AM on September 2, 2008


No one that smart falls cleanly into either major party, of course, but my best guess is that he's libertarian leaning, based on the fact that they're the single political subgroup I've seen him mention positively [...] This annoys me, because capital-L Libertarianism is the political philosophy I have the least tolerance for.

Considering what's been said upthread, it must be some form of Libertarianism compatible with the practice of intellectual property. There are some flavors that oppose patents and copyright, especially those that circulate in the open source software movement.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:44 AM on September 2, 2008


That was vague - "flavors" is the antecedent of the clause, not "patents"
posted by kid ichorous at 1:46 AM on September 2, 2008


I now keep thinking pf The Dentist in relation to this.
posted by Artw at 8:11 AM on September 2, 2008


Other regrets: Lack of Team Venture reference.
posted by Artw at 8:12 AM on September 2, 2008


I loved Neal Stephensons work until Cryptonomicon. That left me wondering why he felt the need to a good story and characters and bloat them to death. In spite of that, I bought the "System of the World" trilogy and have given up on it about two-thirds through the first phonebook sized volume. I will not buy his next book.
Am I the only one who is disappointed with his recent style of writing?
posted by gnosys at 11:08 AM on September 2, 2008


On re-reading Snow Crash seems a bit too "rad" to me, but I always prefered Diamond Age.
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on September 2, 2008


gnosys - get of your butt and finish the first book. The slow reading of it changes dramatically once he has set the tone and setting for the reader. The biggest challenge for Stephenson in the Baroque Cycle was getting the reader used to a world very different from what we are indoctrinated by in the modern culture. Though, by the end of the third book, you will see just how much of it is indoctrination and not reality.

But anyway.
posted by daq at 11:18 AM on September 2, 2008


Has he started doing proper endings yet?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:55 PM on September 2, 2008


Has he started doing proper endings yet?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:55 PM on September 2


Bah. I always hear crap about his endings, but I feel like he just stops telling the story at some point and life for the characters continues on as it does for all of us. Not having a tidy wrapping up point is a good thing about his style, I think. But you're not alone in your opinion.

What I want to know is: how do I get a job at this place? Not because of Stephenson, but because the work sounds Awesome!
posted by Yellowbeard at 8:28 AM on September 3, 2008


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