Stephenson sees a parallel to the George W. Bush-era wars between science and religion, made possible because the general population is either indifferent or hostile to extended rational thought. "I could never get that idea, the notion that society in general is becoming aliterate, out of my head," he says. "People who write books, people who work in universities, who work on big projects for a long time, are on a diverging course from the rest of society. Slowly, the two cultures just get further and further apart."
It's really about the difference between people who can sit down and focus their attention for a long period of time on something complicated in a patient and steady way-versus people who never read anything longer than a sentence or paragraph and who get very impatient if you try to go on at any length.