Oct 4, 2016

Thoughts on The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer

I just finished up The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson, a fantastic near-future novel that examines the personal and societal impacts of subversive education, across classes and cultures.

I stumbled across The Diamond Age while pursuing my interest in the universal online tutor idea. Just as Star Trek's tricorder serves as a sci-fi-originated template for a number of real advanced sensing devices, the primer from The Diamond Age has inspired a great deal of real technological work, all centered on bringing personalized education to the hands of children (or all people, more broadly). Think I'm just waxing poetic? This is one of the articles that led to me reading the book. The Kindle may not have implemented the full capabilities of the book's primer, but the fact that the engineering team was so inspired by the primer means that The Diamond Age has already had a massive impact on work in this direction.

Anyway, I'm not going to go deep into the specifics of the book here, as I do think you should read it for yourself. It was great: an instant classic in my mind. I large part of me wishes I had read it when I was younger; I think the impact on my motivation to learn would have been substantial.

While its focus on education was what brought me to The Diamond Age, it also covers central themes of what brings societies together (race, religion, shared experience, etc.), the effects of a society transitioning to post-scarcity, the metaphysical connectedness of humanity (presented through a scientifically realistic mechanism), and a variety of other fascinating topics. I'm not really doing the book justice here... but it really is wonderful. Trust me. Go read it.