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Neal Stephenson Takes Blame For Innovation Failure 448

Posted by samzenpus
from the who's-to-blame dept.
itwbennett writes "Neal Stephenson is shouldering some of the blame for discouraging budding scientists and engineers, saying in a interview that perhaps the dark turn science fiction has taken is 'discouraging budding scientists and engineers.' For his part, Stephenson has vowed to be more optimistic. From the article: 'Speaking before a packed lecture theater at MIT yesterday, Neal Stephenson worried that the gloomy outlook prevalent in modern science fiction may be undermining the genre's ability to inspire engineers and scientists. Describing himself as a "pessimist trying to turn himself into an optimist," and acknowledging that some of his own work has contributed to the dystopian trend, he added "if every depiction of the future is grim...then it doesn't create much of an incentive to building the future."'"
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Neal Stephenson Takes Blame For Innovation Failure

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  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:12PM (#39740919)

    Inflated sense of self-worth alert

  • by pluther (647209) <pluther.usa@net> on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:15PM (#39740929) Homepage
    I think you're off the hook Mr. Stephenson.

    Remember all those people who caused the tech boom of the 90s grew up during a time when post-apocalyptic fiction was one of the most popular genres.

    Between the cold war and the religious mania of the early 80s, "If Jesus doesn't get you, Oppenheimer will" was the phrase of the day.

    But a lot of people still went into science and engineering...

  • Re:Really? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by multiben (1916126) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:21PM (#39740977)
    ^This. Don't worry Neal, your works are, at best, forgettable distractions.
  • WTF dude (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Osgeld (1900440) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:21PM (#39740983)

    "the gloomy outlook prevalent in modern science fiction may be undermining the genre's ability to inspire engineers and scientists."

    or maybe its the fact you can get a business degree out of a box of crackerjacks and make more money with much less work sitting on your ass as a manager.

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:23PM (#39740993)

    For all his 80s and early 90s doom-and-gloom fiction, the future turned out to be pretty bright. TV and radio media is dying-out, being replaced with the instant gratification of the internet media. No need to wait until 8 o'clock to see your favorite show; or wait for MTV to play your favorite song; just watch it now online.

    People are talking directly to one another (okay typing to one another) and no longer believing the lies/blatant omissions coming from the old media. The press is once again the people, where it belonged all along. Things are being revealed that were never talked about before.

    We now have computers that fit in our pockets, but are ~1000 times faster than the computer Mr. Stephensen used to type his novels. Instead of being confined to just our local community of friends, we can met people of similar interests across the continent. (I've met all kinds of people through facebook -- common goal: Restore the bill of rights. End the wars. Balance the budget.)

    No the future's not perfect, but certainly better than the "I feel like slitting my wrist" future described by Neal.

  • Ugh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:25PM (#39741007)

    The people who think about becoming scientists are actually smart enough to discern at a relatively young age between sci-fi and reality. Survey how many smart kids who saw "Blade Runner" found that movie disenfranchised them about the future, or whether they just thought it was really cool.
     
    To some extent people don't want to be scientists because as a society we tend to devalue or outcast smart people and our children pick up on that, but to a larger extent it's because many scientists and engineers are severely underpaid for the many years of studying and training it takes to get in the field. One of my friends has spent 7 years of education, getting her Master's and PhD from one of the top schools in the country and having her thesis put in a top journal, and is now getting paid less than I made my first year as a severely underpaid software engineer at a start-up. She could have skipped school entirely and gone into the plumbing trade and her lifetime earnings would have improved. What do you expect when that's the case? (Also, many of the claims that we lack scientists and engineers are actually corporations who mean we lack cheap scientists and engineers, and are vying for H1Bs.)

    Stephenson should feel safe in the knowledge that he has not affected budding scientists and engineers in that way, and thankfully most of them will never have to deal with his writing that's as self-important as he seems to be. (After reading a little of his work, I thought/hoped I was done with him. Now he finds another way to be pompous and annoying.)

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:26PM (#39741019) Homepage Journal

    Seriously -- Snow Crash was alright and had it's place but Neal Stephenson is far from the technological catalyst he thinks he is.
    And frankly Neal should get stuffed for failing to recognize the darkness and dire warnings embedded in many of H.G. Well's stories that still have relevance today. If H.G. Wells can't stall progress and innovation -- who the hell is Neal to say he's even partly to blame?

    What I am convinced of is that I will never bother to read a single other book by Neal Stephenson -- I couldn't make it half way through Cryptonomicon before it got too boring and painfully long winded to read and Reamde, while at least starting out at a faster clip quickly devolved into a complete pile of contrived claptrap complete with Russian Mobsters who feel the need to explain themselves, a British Intelligence Agent who bangs everything she can and a Jihadi Terrorist who could double as a CNN Anchor.

    Perhaps we should tattoo "Massive Ego" to Neal's forehead.

  • by bug_hunter (32923) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:29PM (#39741049)

    Bring in a new Star Trek so we can have a sense of adventure and hope with future technology.
    Enough with the arrogant scientist tries to invent new source of power / robots / travel and causes mass explosions / killer robots / aliens to kill us all.
    Various treks did have issues with casting, plot, time-travel/hollodeck episodes, but it still always made me feel good about tomorrow.

  • Not necessiarly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:30PM (#39741065)

    While I certainly wouldn't say one person bears a large load of responsibility, don't knock the idea in general. Star Trek had some very real influence on geeks. They saw a Utopia in it that they'd like to see happened, and some worked towards it. The cell phone really did get inspiration from Star Trek communicators. There was an interview with one of the guys at Motorola who worked on it saying something along the lines of how he saw the communicator not as an impossible sci-fi gadget, but as a challenge to make.

    Media can influence culture, and sci-fi can for sure influence geeks. That doesn't mean that authors should necessarily take it on as some kind of personal responsibility, but there's something to be said for Utopian fiction and it does seem to be in somewhat short supply these days.

  • by paleo2002 (1079697) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:41PM (#39741151)
    I've always gotten the impression that the dark and dystopian futures prevalent in cyberpunk and related genres are the result of corruption and abuse of the power and potential of technology. They are a warning against what technology can become if not applied responsibly. Most tech-heavy sci-fi ends up being a warning against potential results of some new science and technology.

    Snow Crash . . . is basically reality now . . . Diamond Age is a better example. It portrayed two opposing views of nano tech implementation: centralized vs. decentralized production. Either way it demonstrated the potential of nanotechnology. And, hey, now we have people building 3D printers in garages and using them to make toys for their kids rather than enslave the underclass.
  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @07:45PM (#39741181) Homepage

    Gadget wise we're doing better.

    Real income for the majority of Americans and Europeans, the structure of society, the fundamentals of the economy, our infrastructure - not so much.

    Not to mention the upcoming specter of resource wars and our ever increasing tendencies towards a police state.

    We've changed our view of the apocalypse from nuclear Armageddon to the "Hunger Games" but it's still not a very rosy future.

  • by JustNiz (692889) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @08:14PM (#39741375)

    >> People don't want to go into a field without a future

    I can't think of a field that has more effect in making a more interesting future than software development. Well maybe stuff to do with physics and/or genetics but even that usually comes down to relying on software somehow.

    >> Why would anyone go into a field when society places no value in doing so?

    Because they love the work?
    Personally I went into software development because I couldn't conceive of doing anything else. The fact it pays better than average (or even at all) was entirely coincidental and lucky for me. It truly wasn't a factor in my career decision making. As a matter of fact I don't think I ever really made a decision to be a developer, as much as just continued to do what I do.

    I've observed that nearly always, people that choose software development only because they think it pays well:
    a) Have no intuitive feel for it, so mostly dont even understand how or why to write good code, let alone actually ever do it.
    b) Are often unhappy at work.
    c) Have changed their career path radically at least once.

    These type of people need to get into sales or something ASAP because their low quality work just gives the rest of us who are career professionals a bad image, and they will ultimately flunk out on their own anyway given enough time.

  • dystopian sells (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Khashishi (775369) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @08:30PM (#39741495) Journal

    A good story needs some source of conflict; otherwise, there's just nothing to talk about. For hard science fiction, generally, the science and technology is going to be a primary focus of the novel; the author invents a setting and visualizes how real actors would respond in such a setting. Thus, the setting drives the plot. Therefore, it's only natural that the technology is going to be a source of tension. If you look for other sources of tension, like interpersonal problems, then you might just end up with a space opera.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ATMAvatar (648864) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @08:41PM (#39741575) Journal

    If you were to ascribe blame to any particular group for the perceived slowing of innovation, the best target would be the lawyers. A dystopian future story pales in comparison to a stampeding herd of patent lawyers when it comes to stifling scientific and technological progress.

    You can't even daydream about something new without getting sued for infringing multiple patents anymore.

  • by Prosthetic_Lips (971097) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @08:42PM (#39741581) Homepage

    I would have to disagree.

    While I have seen my share of bad foreign code, there have also been excellent foreign coders.

    The difference, I think, is who is "selling" of the coding services. Think of the most slimy American used car salesman (sorry to my friends that are in car sales! Not talking about you!!), and imagine he is selling programming "talent" in another country. He knows that he just has to get his foot in the door and make a sale, and he makes his commission. So, he gets some mediocre (at best) talent, promises the world, all for a vastly lower bid than any American company. Unfortunately, by the time you realize how bad it is (software takes a while to specify and begin to see results, unfortunately), he is already at the next place selling the same bad programmers.

  • by dpilot (134227) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @08:46PM (#39741615) Homepage Journal

    Don't argue, but I see the role of Utopian fiction as injecting some hope.

  • by niftydude (1745144) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @09:06PM (#39741769)

    The scifi genre is just like any other, there are good ones and there are real lousy ones, but no matter how good or bad the scifi is, it will never encourage or discourage me from exploring

    Nope, I just ain't gonna be influenced by a book

    This. Especially not bad books. I quite enjoyed Cryptonomicon, and so right now I'm trying to read The Baroque Cycle.

    What self-indulgent drivel it is. Pages and pages of History lessons than don't advance the plot at all, or even serve to improve the historical context. It is a case of: Neal read something interesting in a history book, and so is going to jam the detail into his prose regardless of whether it is relevant or useful.

    His recent work is horrible. Neal has bought into his own celebrity and lost all sense of what made him a decent author. I bet the dude thinks each of his individual farts has a unique and pleasant aroma, and so is worth preserving for posterity.

    And what innovation failure? I and the people around me have been innovating our asses off. I'm not going to self promote, but anyone in the world can go to http://scholar.google.com/ [google.com] and see all the incredible research that is going on if they want to.

    Message to Neal: You ain't that influential.

  • Re:Not necessiarly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @09:35PM (#39741919) Journal

    To me the real tipping point seems to be as the "corporate dystopia" of which William Gibson and Cyberpunk was part.

    I recently ran into someone I hadn't seen for years, who used to be heavily into cyberpunk back in those days. I asked him how that was going, and he doesn't read or cosplay any of that any more. I asked why, and he said, "It's not fun any more, it's coming true."

    You've hit the point without even realizing it !

    Those who've read the cyberpunk genre knew well in advance what was to come, and better prepared for it

    Those who haven't, don't even know what hit 'em

  • by Rennt (582550) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @09:37PM (#39741927)

    Thing is, I don't believe it's sci-fi's job to sell technology at all. Even the most positive stories should be tempered with a bit of pessimism.

    SF is supposed to ask questions about what technology does to society, and what that means to the society being changed... stories that are all sunshine and rainbows are nothing more then speculative fantasy.

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @10:11PM (#39742097) Homepage Journal

    Do you know who H.G. Wells is? Have you read his stories?

    Exactly what about my comparison about Neal's statements about him being too dire to H.G. Wells' dark prognostications is idiotic? That was an Apple's to Apple's comparison. The fact that H.G Wells was not mentioned by Neal was my point. Neal isn't a speck on a turd compared to the Man who can lay claim to inventing the scifi genre and who's work is still relevant 150 years later.

  • by demachina (71715) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @10:42PM (#39742225)

    Anathem is another recent book that is pretty good though it is, like most of his book, too long.

    Reamde is total crap. Its pretty much a bad ghost written Tom Clancy action flick. It has no redeeming technological insights or interesting dialogs which is what make Stephenson's good books worth reading.

    Stephenson was trying to do an interactive, online, kind of book. Not sure what happened to it, but I assume it sucked up a lot of time and money, and presumably he phoned in Reamde to try and raise some cash or fulfill a contract with a publisher. Sad really.

    Neal, I love ya man, I read all your books, but Reamde was total crap.

  • Re:Not necessiarly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @11:06PM (#39742327)

    Sci-fi is a reflection of contemporary culture and its view of the future. Back in the Star Trek days, westerners had a pretty optimistic view of the future. After all, they had just launched people into space, and were about to land them on the moon. Even back in Verne's day, people had very optimistic views of the future (they didn't anticipate two world wars) and the benefits to society that technology would bring. Finally, back in the Star Trek days, people were willing to spend money (through the government) to pursue big projects like this. Now, they're not. Extrapolating from present trends, the idea that humans (at least from western nations) are going to go anywhere beyond LEO anytime in the next 200 years is folly. The idea that society is going to collapse and kids are going to fight each other to the death in gladiatorial combat is far more realistic. Sci-fi authors are simply extrapolating from current trends, and correctly so.

  • by anubi (640541) on Thursday April 19, 2012 @11:47PM (#39742563) Journal
    Taco Cowboy... you didn't waste any time getting to the very core of why anybody would mess with STEM.

    My love of Science stems from my curiosity of what happens all around me

    Your devotion to science is driven by the same faction that drives mine.

    We had a discussion on Slashdot a few days ago of correct test answers being marked as wrong. [slashdot.org] It was full of very interesting comments.

    If there is anything discouraging STEM, its not Neal. He's not even on the radar screen.

    Slashdot brought the dragon right out for everyone to see.

    How can we get our kids interested in science, which revolves around a lot of diligent work searching for truth, only to find the rewards start out with being called the teacher's pet, progressing through "being a Boy Scout", "not a 'team player'", then forcible unemployment because one feels obligated to "do that which is right"?

    The comments here on Slashdot reinforced my observation that "being liked" is far more financially productive than "being right". No wonder the kids see through it.

    I got canned for standing up for what I thought was right.

    Many others had the same experience.

    Like religion, rejection based on your beliefs comes with the territory. A manager may want something based on how well a salesman did his job, whereas an engineer may reject it based on his experience of seeing stuff like that fail in the field. Political power ultimately rules.

    From what I can tell, this country no longer needs STEM workers, as other countries can do this much cheaper than we can. I am amazed at all the high-tech parts I can get from aliexpress.com .

    And I am also alarmed that a lot of datasheets I am interested in are in Chinese. I have disassembled several Chinese Lithium Ion battery chargers and noted how cleverly they were made - with Chinese house-numbered parts, no less.

    We cultivate a need for financial professionals, lawyers, insurance, and real-estate investment. Look at our tax laws - they really cream anybody earning a buck.

    I don't blame businesses for not trying to innovate in the USA.

    I am afraid to try as well. No sooner than I produce and try to sell anything, I will get sued - if for nothing more than paralyzing me until I financially die. This is on top of all the paperwork IRS requires of anyone that actually tries to DO anything in this country. Our Congress passes so much frivolous special-interest law that no-one can do anything without exposing themselves to lawsuits. Only the financially strongest can survive at that game.

    We may still love science, But we find something else to do for a paycheck.

    No, Neal, you are not killing STEM.

    Our system is.

  • Some people can't handle epics. Some can. I would recommend never even acknowledging the existence of the Wheel of Time.

  • Re:Not necessiarly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sg_oneill (159032) on Friday April 20, 2012 @01:25AM (#39742957)

    To me the real tipping point seems to be as the "corporate dystopia" of which William Gibson and Cyberpunk was part.

    I recently ran into someone I hadn't seen for years, who used to be heavily into cyberpunk back in those days. I asked him how that was going, and he doesn't read or cosplay any of that any more. I asked why, and he said, "It's not fun any more, it's coming true."

    It reminds me of the old Judge Dredd comics (well I guess they still make em, I havent really read em for a decade). In the back there would always be a letters to the editor where fans would write in to say what they liked and didnt like in the various 2000AD strips. Regularly however you'd get kids writing in and drooling about how awesome Dredd is and how cool living in megacity 1 would be. The editors would absolutely flip it at them, because the kids where missing that whilst Dredd had redeeming qualitys he was still an authoritarian fascist and megacity 1 was a terrible distopia that no sane person would actually WANT to live in.

    What scares me, is that is the diminishment of of the intellectual and structural independence of the judiciary (seriously america, you need to get rid of voting for your judges, it sounds like a good idea on paper, but its brought you the phenomena of conservative and liberal judges that would be mystifying anywhere else. remember if election funding can corrupt politicians it can corrupt judges too). This , combined with the growth of the surveilance state, and all the various technologies of discipline , we're actually turning , slowly, into that very distopia 2000AD warned us about.

    Its quite scary, but worst of all, some people actually want it.

    I think however, SCI-FI authors *should* write about distopias, because its one of the few ways we can really play out the various scenarios in our head and take control over whether technology is indeed going to be a liberating force, or instead our shiny new ball and chains.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday April 20, 2012 @01:38AM (#39743003)

    Wrong, and wrong.

    Go watch Star Trek TOS. If that isn't "leftist", I don't know what is: a utopian society with a big government where there's no poverty, no real use of money, etc. It basically seemed to show the supposed end-state of Marxism.

    And you're wrong about fundamentalism. Go look at the numbers. In the USA back in the 60s, mainstream Protestants used to be the overwhelming majority, with only the Southern Baptists as the ones closest to "fundamentalist", and the Lutherans, Methodists, etc. basically being fairly benign (wasn't it Lutherans who first started making female preachers back in the 1500s?). The fundamentalists were a small, small minority, mainly confined to the South. Not any more. Now, the "mainstream" Protestant denominations are a minority and shrinking fast, while fundamentalist churches are growing quickly nationwide, as seen with all the "megachurches", and Roman Catholicism is growing pretty fast too with the huge influx of Latin Americans (and their brand of Catholicism is much more conservative from the more liberal Americanized version I was raised with back in the 80s). The fundamentalist Christians aren't just noiser, they're much greater in numbers. Go into some mainline Protestant churches like a Presbyterian church; half the congregation is elderly. Over the past couple decades, younger people have been turning to fundamentalism. Not coincidentally, the American population, unlike the way it was in the late 60s and 70s, is all for more war, as this is preached to them in their fundamentalist churches.

  • Re:WTF dude (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Friday April 20, 2012 @02:20AM (#39743247) Journal
    That's the problem right there: management is vastly overrated as a profession; it's interesting that moving into management is always perceived as a step up. I've seen plenty of managers expressing shock and horror at finding that some of their underlings make more than they do, and it seems that they've quickly moved to address that issue; it doesn't happen all that often anymore. Management is important and all that, but it does seem that somehow we got stuck in a loop with inflated egos pushing up inflated salaries and vice versa.

    Another problem is that a lot of companies seem to have problems coming up with good career paths for scientists and engineers. Especially career paths that don't end up in management. The other day, a fellow contractor working for my client asked me to provide input for his yearly appraisal. One section of the form was titled "future potential", where I was asked my opinion on what level the person would be able to attain in 5 years time, and what level he'd be at the top of his career. The choices were jobs like "programme manager", "department manager", "division manager"... the only option that didn't have the word manager in it was "CEO". And this is supposed to be a career path for an IT architect working for a tech firm?

    In general, techies are poorly understood, poorly managed, underpaid and not well respected. And all of these go hand in hand. Small wonder that young people are choosing other career options.
  • by Geof (153857) on Friday April 20, 2012 @03:08AM (#39743475) Homepage

    To me the real tipping point seems to be as the "corporate dystopia" of which William Gibson and Cyberpunk was part.

    At least not in my opinion. In classic dystopias like 1984 or Brave New World, there is virtually no space left for individual freedom and choice. Cyberpunk, however, is all about the spaces in between in which individuals can make choices and possibly change things. Philosopher Andrew Feenberg agrees:

    The world Gibson describes is grim but not strictly speaking dystopian. It is true that elites rule it with immensely powerful means, but those means are so complex that they give rise to all sorts of phenomena over which no one really has control. There are many small openings through which a clever hacker can enter the system and commit a variety of unprogrammed deeds. The future is not clear but may yet be altered by human action on the network. (Alternative Modernity: The Technical Turn in Philosophy and Social Theory, 1995, p. 140)

    The happy happy, joy joy world of Star Trek: The Next Generation, on the other hand, strikes me as truly static and dystopian. Nearly all cultural expression is centuries old. Every conflict can be solved through reason: there are no genuinely intractable differences of opinion or incompatible values among honest people. Only a totalitarian society could so thoroughly crush dissent and eliminate difference. I think I would go stark raving mad.

    I believe a better future is possible and worth fighting for, but compared to ST:NG I'd rather have Gibson's grungy cyberpunk any day. It is dirty, flawed, corrupt - but also iredeemably human. Its diversity and vigor are resistant to the totalitarian disease. The tragedy is that cyberpunk came true: but now we seem to be passing out the other side. A cyberpunk world might be a let-down beside visions of the future we once thought we would enjoy, but compared to many genuine possibilities it's possitively upbeat. Take a look at the world of Paulo Bacigalupi's Windup Girl, for example (which despite its fantastic elements feels right in the same way that Neuromancer once did) - though even he leaves a small space for hope.

    While I agree about the worth of utopian visians, I do not agree with the criticism of dystopian science fiction. The scholars of the Frankfurt School struggled to find an alternative to what they saw as a damaged society. When the human imagination limits itself to the realistic limitations of the world we live in, it serves to accept and conceal that world's flaws. Between the horrors of Stalinism and the alienation of capitalism, the Frankfurt scholars could not imagine an plausible alternative. So to find hope, they were deliberately negative. The injustices of the existing order pointed to the possibility of something better. Herbert Marcuse writes:

    The critical theory of society possesses no concepts which could bridge the gap between the present and its future; holding no promise and showing no success, it remains negative. Thus it wants to remain loyal to those who, without hope, have given and give their life to the Great Refusal. At the beginning of the fascist era, Walter Benjamin wrote: It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us. (One Dimensional Man, 1964, p. 257)

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Friday April 20, 2012 @07:32AM (#39744567)
    Say what? Sending the Navy into space and administering an empire that's apparently not subject to any kind of civilian authority? There's a rigid military chain of command, people obey their superiors and the captain has to say "at ease" before you can so much as slouch. Seriously, is there even a civilian government that has any kind of check on the Navy/Starfleet? I know that there's a civilian United Federation of Planets, but in terms of real executive power, they're basically as impotent as the UN. As far as I can tell, all the high-level negotiations with Romulans, etc. were conducted by admirals, not prime ministers or presidents. Isn't this exactly what right-wingers like?
  • by CaptSlaq (1491233) on Friday April 20, 2012 @08:24AM (#39744937)

    How can we get our kids interested in science, which revolves around a lot of diligent work searching for truth, only to find the rewards start out with being called the teacher's pet, progressing through "being a Boy Scout", "not a 'team player'", then forcible unemployment because one feels obligated to "do that which is right"?

    To quote (of all people) Indiana Jones: [science] is the search for fact... not truth. If it's truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall.

    Pedantic? Perhaps. Science should be.

  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:36AM (#39745671) Homepage

    If there is anything discouraging STEM, its not Neal. He's not even on the radar screen.

    No, it's not Neal. It's pessimistic asshats like you who whine about how "society/government/da man is out to get me" and make themselves victims, rather than taking responsibility for their own lives and doing interesting things. The bottom line is that government never takes more than you make; the lawsuits may make things unprofitable, but the things and the ideas for things are out in the world rather than locked away in your head; and being "canned for standing up for what I thought was right" is a badge of honor, if you wear it that way (of course, from your demeanor, I have the feeling that you were the only one who thought it was right and you were just generally being an asshat who decided his opinions were facts). In summary, the only person who can knock you down this hard is you. Stop whining, pull up your socks, and get back to work.

    Just because you want to play victim doesn't mean we're making you one.

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