Neal Stephenson’s Hieroglyph Project Launches

Posted on Tuesday, March 26th, 02013 by Austin Brown
link Categories: Futures, Long Term Thinking   chat 0 Comments


Towers that reach 15 kilometers into the sky and autonomous 3D-printing robots on the Moon aren’t just great fodder for sci-fi; they’re also plausible enough to be considered as audacious, but realistic engineering goals. That sweet spot is exactly what the Hieroglyph project is aiming for. A collaboration between Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination and sci-fi author Neal Stephenson, Hieroglyph seeks to bring engineers and authors of science fiction together to develop and illustrate scenarios in which “Big Stuff Got Done.”

Neal Stephenson explains that Hieroglyph is working to put together a collection of sci-fi that avoids dystopian tropes and instead focuses on positive, inspiring possibilities:

The idea is to get SF writers to contribute pieces to an anthology. These pieces would all be throwbacks, in a manner of speaking, to 1950′s-style SF, in that they would depict futures in which Big Stuff Got Done. We would avoid hackers, hyperspace, and holocausts. The ideal subject matter would be an innovation that a young, modern-day engineer could make substantial progress on during his or her career.

A tower 15 kilometers in height is the scenario Stephenson is exploring, with help from structural engineer Keith Hjelmstad. The Hieroglyph website will serve as a hub and forum for sharing moonshot-style thinking like this; it’s already got Stephenson’s Tall Tower and the aforementioned Moon robots, a scenario being developed by Cory Doctorow.

  • mik

    This is so exciting! I have had this idea for an SF short short story in the back of my mind for years on the tall tower concept. Centred on the very community in which I presently live but 5000 years in the future when harvesting light (not just solar power, but light) means that people choose to live above the gorgeous green fields and sub-tropical delights of the earth below. Massive structures… akin to the ancient Eiffel Tower but about 5 x larger. Vertical cities that keep the natural world and its slowly restoring flora and fauna in posterity. At the same time, there are archeologists studying under the silt of 5000 years! Discovery is still ever the pursuit of humanity. So exciting.

  • Singe

    Gotta get David Brin on board for this.

  • theanphibian

    The register link on their site doesn’t work. I think there is some potential here, but they’ve not made it clear if they’re actually inviting the public or if it’s their walled garden with a celebrity list that puts out blog updates.

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