cover image Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future

Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future

Edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer. Morrow, $27.99 (560p) ISBN 978-0-06-220469-1

The editors of this gripping anthology "believe that if we want to create a better future, we need to start with better dreams" and counter the trend of dystopian and apocalyptic visions of tomorrow. Neal Stephenson, who founded Project Hieroglyph to "rekindle grand technological ambitions through the power of storytelling," fittingly lives up to that goal with "Atmosph%C3%A6ra Incognita": it plausibly describes an entrepreneur's plan to construct a tower that would be 20,000 meters tall, and whose top would be "for all practical purposes in outer space." The science and the narrative are perfectly blended. Other stories explore the implications of using neuroscience to "cure" individuals whose brains are deemed abnormal, and of replacing the trucking industry with robot trucks and the Amazon/UPS "droneport." Karl Schroeder's "Degrees of Freedom" is particularly clever, featuring a future where a soi-disant democratic government suppresses data about voter turnout, and "Big Data" is used by the public to increase participation in decision-making. The editors' ambition is successfully realized in this fine anthology that any optimistic futurist will appreciate. (Sept.)