Language and Culture

E7J2: Language and Culture

Stephenson portrays a very complex mythological structure in Snow Crash that posits a relationship between human language and computer language. The human brain, he suggests can be thought of as hardware. In the novel’s sophisticated analogy, a computer virus functions identical to a biological virus. It invades the host (body or machine, replicates, spreading and destroying everything through infection. The original “civilized or literate-written and formal language, in the novel is Sumerian- from Sumner (modern day Iraq), the seat of the world’s first civilization (predating China and Egypt). The goddess Asherah personifies a linguistic virus that programs the human brain as a single structure and language. This unifying idea hides a form of mind control or brainwashing–think The Collective?–that seek to control humanity. The god Enki’s counter virus or vaccine, if you will, is nam=shub, which causes humanity to speak different languages. Keeping Snow Crash’s mythology in mind, what do you think about language and culture? Should humans strive for a common global culture and speak the same language or does the Tower of Babel story told in Genesis suggest, paradoxically, that multiple language might end up being humanity’s saving grace?

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