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5 questions for Neal Stephenson

5 questions for Neal Stephenson

With help from Mohar Chatterjee

Welcome back to our regular Friday feature, The Future in Five Questions. Today we’ve got Neal Stephenson, the sci-fi author who coined the term “metaverse” and now a Web3 entrepreneur in his own right. Read on to hear his thoughts on a future of cheap energy and water, better ways to reach space and DIY drone warfare.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What’s one underrated big idea?

Desalination. It’s an incredibly obvious, kind of simple process. Nothing is more basic than having water to drink, so it’s kind of hiding in plain sight, but coupled with cheap energy from photovoltaics it’s going to make big changes in the world.

When you look at how much water, or a lack thereof, has shaped where people live and how people make food, the notion that we might be able to engineer ways to get fresh water in a new way could be revolutionary.

What’s a technology you think is overhyped? 

I’m going to go with an oldie: rockets. It’s just a historical accident that chemical rockets became our only way of putting stuff into sp