Be a Broken Scale

This week, I finished reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. The book has many flaws.

Its pacing is awkward, sometimes too slow, at other times too fast. The complexity of the story is impressive, but it also lacks clarity in a few critical places. The hero doesn’t struggle enough to earn his title, and he spits out a perfect, Sherlock-Holmes-esque explanation of the plot at the end despite not seeming all that clued in throughout the story. The romance elements feel forced, and by its last page, there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up.

Yet, despite all these problems, Snow Crash is still a great book. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in sci-fi, technology, or language. Why? Because its one great idea makes up for every deficiency — and that idea is the metaverse. In fact, Neal Stephenson invented the term, and 30 years after the novel’s publication, its still a groundbreaking vision.

What will it be like to move through a virtual world that feels just as real as our physical one? When will our 3D-avatars look exactly like we do? Apparently, these questions are so important, one of the world’s biggest company’s made the development of the metaverse its singular goal — a goal it committed to so seriously, it even changed its name, from Facebook to Meta.

Regardless of what you think of the concept, it is magnificent enough to outweigh a million flaws. When the book comes up in a chat, you might mention some of its shortcomings, but the metaverse is what will keep the conversation going. That’s worth more than any literary criticism, and that’s why you should be a broken scale. Allow one positive to balance out ten negatives so you can focus on the big picture and live life with a spring in your step.

It’s not always a mistake to not weigh everything equally. Sometimes, one plus should be enough to cancel out a thousand minuses. The trick is knowing when that’s the case, and then to not get hung up on small perceived slights when there are bigger things at stake.