Neal Stephenson's Anathem AUG 21 2008
Neal Stephenson's new book, Anathem, sounds pretty interesting. From Steven Levy's otherwise unsatisfying profile of Stephenson in the new Wired:
Set on a planet called Arbe (pronounced "arb"), Anathem documents a civilization split between two cultures: an indulgent Saecular general population (hooked on casinos, shopping in megastores, trashing the environment -- sound familiar?) and the super-educated cohort known as the avaunt, or "auts," who live a monastic existence defined by intellectual activity and circumscribed rituals. Freed from the pressures of pedestrian life, the avaunt view time differently. Their society -- the "mathic" world -- is clustered in walled-off areas known as concents built around giant clocks designed to last for centuries. The avaunt are separated into four groups, distinguished by the amount of time they are isolated from the outside world and each other. Unarians stay inside the wall for a year. Decenarians can venture outside only once a decade. Centenarians are locked in for a hundred years, and Millennarians -- long-lifespanners who are endowed with Yoda-esque wisdom -- emerge only in years ending in triple zeros.
Shades of Wall-E and Idiocracy. Another tidbit from the article: Stephenson works part-time for Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures building inventions.