Seattle author Neal Stephenson’s works of fiction often play off the potential for future facts — for example, the virtual world described in “Snow Crash,” the nanotechnology at the heart of “The Diamond Age” and the millennium-scale thinking that’s embodied in “Anathem” (and in the real-life 10,000 Year Clock bankrolled by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos).
His latest novel, “Fall; or, Dodge in Hell,” kicks it up a notch with ruminations about what it would take to create an artificial afterlife, powered by computerized replicas of human consciousness.
Stephenson acknowledges that his vision in the afterlife in “Fall” plays loosely with the facts of neuroscience. But his books touch on other technological themes that are closer to reality, and he discussed several of those themes this week during a talk at Town Hall Seattle. Here’s a roundup of five ideas well worth thinking about — with recommendations for further reading.