[…] Bell and Kelvin, the two supreme ninja hacker mage lords of global telecommunications, have formed an alliance to challenge AT&T and all the other old monopolies.
Any article that calls brilliant scientists “mage lords” deserves being read. If it’s a sprawling and incredibly good report by Neal Stephenson on the laying of an undersea fiber-optic cable, even more so.
Seriously though, this might just be the best piece of non-fiction that has ever crossed my desk. I love pieces like this, that show our world in an entirely new, distinctly science-fiction light. It’s amazing what kind of interesting, weird stories lurk behind the infrastructure we use every day without ever thinking about it.
While reading this, I couldn’t help but think about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. In some of the later books, the “clacks”, a semaphore-based communication system, play an increasingly large role. The stories he tells about building the semaphore towers have the same… well, feeling. It’s always about building the best platform possible, in the face of insanely difficult obstacles. And reading about this quest for perfection is a truly a treat.