Title: Cryptonomicon Authors: Neal Stephenson Category:#supplementals Number of Highlights: 30 Date: 2022-07-17 Last Highlighted: **


Once you found the math in a thing, you knew everything about it, and you could manipulate it to your heart’s content with nothing more than a pencil and a napkin.


The process of science doesn’t work unless young scientists have the freedom to attack and tear down old dogmas, to engage in an ongoing Titanomachia. Science flourishes where art and free speech flourish.”

“Wealth that is stored up in gold is dead. It rots and stinks. True wealth is made every day by men getting up out of bed and going to work. By schoolchildren doing their lessons, improving their minds. Tell those men that if they want wealth, they should come to Nippon with me after the war. We will start businesses and build buildings.”

Now he had learned that a machine, simple in its design, could produce results of infinite complexity.

Having now experienced all the phases of military existence except for the terminal ones (violent death, court-martial, retirement), he has come to understand the culture for what it is: a system of etiquette within which it becomes possible for groups of men to live together for years, travel to the ends of the earth, and do all kinds of incredibly weird shit without killing each other or completely losing their minds in the process.

Randy could see where it was going. Kivistik had gone for the usual academician’s ace in the hole: everything is relative, it’s all just differing perspectives.


An idea springs out of his forehead fully formed, with no warning. This is how all the best ideas arrive. Ideas that he patiently cultivates from tiny seeds always fail to germinate or else grow up into monstrosities. Good ideas are just there all of a sudden, like angels in the Bible. You cannot ignore them just because they are ridiculous.


Your younger nerd takes offense quickly when someone near him begins to utter declarative sentences, because he reads into it an assertion that he, the nerd, does not already know the information being imparted. But your older nerd has more self-confidence, and besides, understands that frequently people need to think out loud. And highly advanced nerds will furthermore understand that uttering declarative sentences whose contents are already known to all present is part of the social process of making conversation and therefore should not be construed as aggression under any circumstances.

Over and over again we see the pattern of the Titanomachia repeated—the old gods are thrown down, chaos returns, but out of the chaos, the same patterns reemerge.”


Ask a Soviet engineer to design a pair of shoes and he’ll come up with something that looks like the boxes that the shoes came in; ask him to make something that will massacre Germans, and he turns into Thomas Fucking Edison.

MEN WHO BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE ACCOMPLISHING something by speaking speak in a different way from men who believe that speaking is a waste of time.


I want them to remain secret for as long as men are capable of evil.


Maybe the way to get that kind of bearing is to go around doing ballsy things in secret that somehow percolate up to the surface of your personality.

“The analogy is clear. Our policies concerning free speech, telecommunications, and cryptography have evolved from a series of simple, rational decisions. But they are today so complex that no one can understand them, even in one single country, to say nothing of all countries taken together.”


This is an allusion to a Randy/Avi conversation of two years ago wherein Avi actually calculated a specific numerical value for “fuck-you money.” It was not a fixed constant, however, but rather a cell in a spreadsheet linked to any number of continually fluctuating economic indicators. Sometimes when Avi is working at his computer he will leave the spreadsheet running in a tiny window in the corner so that he can see the current value of “fuck-you money” at a glance.

The only thing he could work out was that it was groups of people—societies—rather than individual creatures, who were now trying to out-reproduce and/or kill each other, and that, in a society, there was plenty of room for someone who didn’t have kids as long as he was up to something useful.

Randy used to be fascinated by software, but now he isn’t. It’s hard enough to find human beings who are interesting.

War is hell, but smoking cigarettes makes it all worthwhile.

The ineffable talent for finding patterns in chaos cannot do its thing unless he immerses himself in the chaos first.

We look for places where the math is right. Meaning what? Meaning that pop. is about to explode— — —we can predict that just by looking at age histogram— — —and per capita income is about to take off the way it did in Nippon, Taiwan, Singapore. Multiply those two things together and you get the kind of exponential growth that should get us all into fuck-you money before we turn forty.

The virus of irony is as widespread in California as herpes, and once you’re infected with it, it lives in your brain forever.