'Thinking of himself as a Dwarf who had hung up his war-ax for a while to go sojourning in the Shire, where he was surrounded by squabbling Hobbits (i.e., Charlene's friends), had actually done a lot for Randy's peace of mind over the yeaers. He knew perfectly well that if he were stuck in academia these people and the things they said, would seem momentous to him. But where he came from, nobody had been taking these people seriously for years. So he just withdrew from the conversation and drank his wine and looked out over the Pacific surf and tried not to do anything really obvious like shaking his head and rolling his eyes.


'"How many slums will we bulldoze to build the Information Superhighway?" Kivistik said. This profundity was received with thoughtful nodding around the table.


'The words came out of Randy's mouth before he had time to think better of it. "The Information Superhighway is just a fucking metaphor! Give me a break!" he said.

'There was a silence as everyone around the table winced in unison. Dinner had no, officially, crashed and burned. All they could do now was grab their ankles, put their heads between their knees, and wait for the wreckage to slide to a halt.

'"That doesn't tell me very much," Kivistik said, "Everything is a metaphor. The word 'fork' is a metaphor for this object." He held up a fork. 'All discourse is guild from metaphors."

'"That's no excuse for using bad metaphors," Randy said.

'"Bad? Bad? Who decides what is bad?" Kivistik said, doing his killer impression of a heavy-lidded, mouth-breaking undergraduate. There was scattered tittering from people who were desperate to break the tension.

'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. People had already begun to resume their little side conversations, thinking that the conflict was over, when Randy gave them all a start with: "Who decides what's bad? I do."

'Even Dr. G.E.B. Kivistik was flustered. He wasn't sure if Randy was joking. "Excusee me?"

'Randy was in no great hurry to answer the question. He took the opportunity to sit back comfortably, stretch, and take a sip of his wine. He was feeling good. "It's like this," he said, ""I've read your book. I've seen you on TV. I've heard you tonight. I personally typed up a list of your credentials when I was preparing press materials for this conference. So I know that you're not qualified to have an opinion about technical issues."

'"Oh," said in mock confusion, "I didn't realize one had to have qualifications."

'"I think it's clear," Randy said, "that if you are ignorant of a particular subject, that your opinion is completely worthless. If I'm sick, I don't ask a plumber for advice. I go to a doctor. Likewise, if I have questions about the Internet, I will seek opinions from people who know about it."

'"Funny how all of the technocrats seem to be in favor of the Internet," Kivistik said cheerily, milking a few more laughs from the crowd.

'"You have just made a statement that is demonstrably not true," Randy said, pleasantly enough. "A number of Internet experts have written well-reasoned books that are sharply critical of it.

'Kivistik was finally getting pissed off. All the levity was gone.

'"So," Randy continued, "to get back to where we started, the Information Superhighway is a bad metaphor for the Internet, because I say it is. There might be a thousand people on the planet who are as conversant with the Internet as I am. I know most of these people. None of them takes that metaphor seriously. Q.E.D."

'"Oh. I see," Kivistik said, a little hotly, he had seen an opening. "So we should rely on the technocrats to tell us what to think, and how to think, about this technology."

'The expressions of the others seemed to say that this was a telling blow, righteously struck.

'"I'm not sure what a technocrat is," Randy said, "Am I a technocrat? I'm just a guy who went down to the bookstore and bought a couple of textbooks on TCP/IP, which is the underlying protocol of the Internet, and read them. And then I signed on to a computer, which anyone can do nowadays, and I messed around with it for a few years, and now I know all about it. Does that make me a technocrat?"

'"You belonged to a technocratic elite even before you picked up that book," Kivistik said. "The ability to wade through a technical text and to understand it is a privilege. It is a privilege conferred bu an education that is available only to members of an elite class. That's what I mean by technocrat."

'"I went to a public school," Randy said. "And then I went to a state university. From that point on I was self-educated."

'Charlene broke in. She had been giving Randy dirty looks ever since this started and he had been ignoring her. Now he was going to pay.

'"And your family?" Charlene asked frostily.

'Randy took a deep breath, stifled the urge to sigh. "My father's an engineer. He teaches at a state college."

'"And his father?"

'"A mathematician."

'Charlene raised her eyebrows. So did nearly everyone else at the table. Case closed.'

Stephenson, N. (1999/. Cryptonomicon. London: Arrow Books. (pp. 81-4)

'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. Bobby Shaftoe has learned most of his practical knowledge—how to fix a car, butcher a deer, throw a spiral, talk to a lady, kill a Nip—from the latter type of man. For them, trying to do something by talking is like trying to pound in a nail with a screwdriver. Sometimes you can even see the desperation spread over such a man's face as he listens to himself speak.

'Men of the other type—the ones who use speech as a tool of their work, who are confident, fluent—aren't necessarily more intelligent or even more educated. It took Shaftoe a long time to figure that our.

'Anyway, everything was neat and tidy in Bobby Shaftoe's mind until he met two of the men in Detachment 2702: Enoch Root and Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse. He can't put his finger on what bugs him about those two. During the weeks they spent together on Qwghlm, he spent a lot of time listening to them yammer at each other, and began to suspect that there might be a third category of man, a kind so rare that Shaftoe never met any of them until now.


'"I don't like the word 'addict' because it has terrible connotations," Root says one day, as they are sunning themselves on the afterdeck. "Instead of slapping a label on you, the Germans would describe you as 'Morphiumsüchtig.' The verb, suchen means to seek. So that might be translated, loosely, as 'morphine seeky' or even more loosely as 'morphine-seeking.' I prefer 'seeky' because it means that you have an inclination to seek morphine."

'"What the fuck are you talking about?" Shaftoe says.

'"Well, suppose you have a roof with a hole in it. That means it is a leaky roof. It's leaky all the time—even if it's not raining at the moment. But its only leaking when it happens to be raining. In the same way, morphine-seeky means that you always have this tendency to look for morphine, even if you are not looking for it at the moment. But I prefer both of them to 'addict,' because they are adjectives modiying Bobby Shaftoe instead of a noun that obliterates Bobby Shaftoe."

'"So what's the point?" Shaftoe asks. He asks this because he is expecting Root to give him an order, which is usually what men of the talkative sort end up doing after jabbering on for a while. But no order seems to be forthcoming, because that's not Root's agenda. Root just felt like talking about words. The SAS blokes refer to this kind of activity as wanking.'

Stephenson, N. (1999/. Cryptonomicon. London: Arrow Books. (pp. 372-4)