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How sci-fi can make us smart (rerun)
Dec 13, 2022
Episode 832

How sci-fi can make us smart (rerun)

And teach us about solving big problems in the real world.

Hey smarties! We’re on a break for the holidays and revisiting some of our top episodes from 2022. We can’t do this show without you and we still need your support. If you can, donate today to keep independent journalism going strong into 2023 and beyond. Give now to support Make Me Smart. Thank you so much for your generosity, happy holidays and we’ll see you in the new year.

On Make Me Smart, we often turn to economists, professors and policy wonks to make us smart about some big topics that need explaining. Today, we’re turning to a different kind of expert, sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson.

His latest book, “Termination Shock,” is about climate change, geoengineering and what happens when a billionaire decides to take matters into his own hands.

“I’m past trying to convince people that climate change is real. What I was more interested in was, for an audience that believes that climate change is real, what are some outcomes that we might see, in the near future, as different people in different countries begin to try to come to grips with that problem, because opinions differ as to what the right approach might be. And whenever you get differing opinions, you’ve got conflict, and whenever you’ve got conflict, you have the potential for a good story,” Stephenson said.

We’ll talk with Stephenson about how he thinks about big, complex issues like climate change and what this genre can teach us about the future and solving problems in the real world. Speaking of the future, Stephenson, who coined the word “metaverse” in 1992, weighs in on all the hullaballoo over the metaverse today.

Then, a listener drops some facts on the James Webb Space Telescope and what a former Google researcher was really wrong about.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Senior Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer