Gnomon Quotes

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Gnomon Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
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Gnomon Quotes Showing 1-30 of 77
“Being a little less good than someone who is brilliant is a failure to be cherished.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Am I a fraud, then, or a scholar? I am both, of course, as we all are. Half of what I know I do not believe. Half of what I believe I cannot prove. For the rest, I hope to muddle through and my mistakes go without comment.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“The human condition is most accurately chronicled in pulp, I think. The ugly and ordinary lusts, the contradictory drives, are all ignored by more self-consciously poetic writers striving to peel away the dross to reveal the inner person who of course exists only as the sum of the dross.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“… it had almost nothing to do with computers, the modernity I was trying to understand. Computers were the bones, but imagination,ambition and possibility were the blood. These kids, they simply did not accept that the world as it is has any special gravity, any hold upon us. If something was wrong, if it was bad, then that something was to be fixed, not endured. Where my generation reached for philosophy and the virtue of suffering, they reached instead for science and technology and they actually did something about the beggar in the street, the woman in the wheelchair. They got on with it. It wasn’t that they had no sense of spirit or depth. Rather they reserved it for the truly wondrous, and for everything else they made tools.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Hah! Both. Good girl. I’m Chase. It’s from the French word for “chair.” Evidently at some point after we left the old home continent for Marseilles my family made its living from the cutting and shaping of wood into uncomfortable furniture. I know it was uncomfortable because I’ve sat on it: awkward in all the wrong places. I like to introduce myself that way, it lets people know what they’re in for.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“All stories are one story, in the end.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Questions that trouble the mind are the only ones worth considering.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Finance by itself is ruthless, and that ruthlessness is its salvation. The real disasters are only possible when you bring politics into it, because politics is about pretending to care.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Perhaps there was another life, not so sad, that I missed somehow this time, and will have in another world.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Just because something is done according to the law does not mean that it is lawful. Law is made in the image of an ideal. One can make a law that does not reflect that image, and that law may be a law without being lawful.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“I am forever confounded by those who would establish a way of doing things that all others must follow or be deemed unhappy. Sometimes the best things are found in unlikely places.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“That power may counterfeit the action of justice in most cases, but justice incomplete is not justice, it is the anticipation of wrong.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Once, I saw a remarkable series of photographs which showed the different compositions of human tears. It had not ever occurred to me until that moment that tears of joy might be measurably different from tears of anger or sorrow, but they are. Cause matters. If you cry from slicing an onion, the structure of your tears resembles the undergrowth in a pine forest. Remembrance is a grid pattern, like the map of New York City, but from each block emerge soft, questing tendrils, as if the body of the tear itself reaches out for what is lost. By comparison, other tears are plain. Elation is etiolated and fragile, grief is sparse, rage is linear, horror is jagged. Of all the pictures in the collection, only remembrance was complex. So what tears, now, is my body crying up above in the daylight?”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“The devil in the detail is that Smart Crowds are fragile. With a very little adulteration, they cease to be smart at all, and become remarkably stupid, or indeed self-harming. They are susceptible to stampeding by demagogues, poisoning by bad information. They can be made afraid, and when they do they become mobs. They can be divided by scapegoating and prejudice, bought off in fragments, even just romanced by pretty faces.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Even the gauntlet that I cast into the teeth of those Georgians—the worthless men and pustulant boys who were so brave as to call my granddaughter foul names from behind digital masks, who threw around threats of sexual assault and murder as if these things were not the ugliest depth to which a man may fall—even my fictitious software application was a cry of rage at Ethiopia, in a way.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“What is the difference between a person and a book? We can know the truth of neither. Both are encoded things seeking to make themselves clear.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Gods do not die, they are transformed. They are sundered, reforged, slain, reborn, eaten and regurgitated. The debts of our legends are never cancelled, because the seed of their renewal is contained in each payment.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“I’ve spent a certain amount of time thinking about this recently, and I have concluded that a doctor who attends the victim of a torture chamber and does not object to the torture is a wanker. More than that, he or she has no intellectual or ethical integrity. There’s only one fundamental human right, and that is the right to security of person, be it physical or mental. Everything else is contingent on the level of society in which you exist – food, shelter, broadband digital access: all these come later. The only right that cannot be debated – if you acknowledge any kind of right at all – is the one that asserts a boundary at the skin, and says that anything within its boundary is the business of that person and no one else. The right to avoid self-incrimination, the right to die, the right to live, the right to freedom from slavery, freedom of conscience and religion, of opinion, and the right not to be tortured − all these exist as subheadings of that one, simple statement: I am me and I am not yours. No one who believes in rights at all can deny this right. It is the first. Without it, there are no others.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Imagine how safe it would feel to know that no one could ever commit a crime of violence and go unnoticed, ever again. Imagine what it would mean to us to know – know for certain – that the plane or the bus we’re travelling on is properly maintained, that the teacher who looks after our children doesn’t have ugly secrets. All it would cost is our privacy, and to be honest who really cares about that? What secrets would you need to keep from a mathematical construct without a heart? From a card index? Why would it matter? And there couldn’t be any abuse of the system, because the system would be built not to allow it. It’s the pathway we’re taking now, that we’ve been on for a while.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“you need only believe that everything is a lie. If the world is not real, if everything we see is a simulation or a game, then the fictions we append to it are no different from the ones which come to us through our senses. And it is true: the odds, overwhelmingly, tell us that we exist inside a computer. Any universe that can support technological life probably will, given enough time. Any technological civilisation will develop modelling, and will in a comparatively insignificant span be able to model everything a planet-bound species could expect to encounter. That being the case, the simulation will rapidly reach the point where it contains simulated computers with the ability to simulate likewise everything a planet-bound species could expect to encounter, and so on and so on in an infinite regress limited only by computing power. That might seem like a hard limit, but processing power still doubles every twelve to eighteen months, and doubling is more extraordinary than people understand. There’s a story that the Emperor of China once lost his throne gambling with a peasant, because he agreed if he lost to pay a single grain of rice on the first square of a chess board and double the amount on each square on the next until he had covered the board. His debt for the final square was eighteen and a half million trillion grains. It is almost impossible to imagine the capabilities of a machine that much more powerful than the ones we have today, but I think we can accept it could hold quite a lot of simulations of our world. The odds, therefore, are negligible that we live in the origin universe, and considerable that we are quite a few steps down the layers of reality. Everything you know, everything you have ever seen or experienced, is probably not what it appears to be. The most alarming notion is that someone – or everyone – you know might be an avatar of someone a level up: they might know that you’re a game piece, that you’re invented and they are real. Perhaps that explains your sense of unfulfilled potential: you truly are incomplete, a semi-autonomous reflection of something vast. And yet, if so, what does that say about those vast ones beyond? Are they just replicating a truth they secretly recognise about themselves? Russian dolls, one inside the other, until the smallest doll embraces the outermost and everything begins again? Who really inhabits whom, and who is in control?”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Are we simulations? What does that question even mean?”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“The corollary is that a book is not finished until it is read. The writing is not complete until what is said has passed from the physical volume which gives it sensory reality into another mind where it kindles thoughts and impressions: a whole understanding of what it means to be, ignited on foreign soil in an act that is either erotic or imperialistic, but in either case miraculous. We become one another. Ink on paper is the frozen matter of a person, a snapshot of selfhood in fungal spores waiting to be quickened in our borrowed mentation, thought shaping itself in us, of us, to emerge from us.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“The doings of this small island are a curiosity only, something everyone who lives here is prone to forget.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“we know nothing of what is true, and yet we are to be judged on our choices and even damned. We walk in deception and must build the most honest world we know, but our efforts shall be to no avail, and in the end, one layer of lies after another must be ripped away, until some final underlying cosmos is shown to be all that ever was.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“I had the distinct impression that calling lawyers was grounds for arrest in itself. It is a staple of crime dramas that only guilty people need lawyers before they discuss things with kindly policemen. The majority of crime dramas are written by middle-class white males with no actual experience of being accused of anything, and they are in any case about the brilliance of a particular detective. All the same, a surprising number of people—including police officers—believe what they see on the television screen without even wondering whether fact and fiction may not be entirely congruent.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Dimples. Granddaughters with dimples. That’s what you need to be careful of in this life.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Because, in this new or old construction of the world, the symbol is the thing.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“Timothy Leary had done it, to the consternation of the FBI, and even worse so had the inventor of the orgone accumulator, that accursèd post-Freudian who had had the temerity to try to teach good American boys and girls about sex—”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“The librarian’s body, lying on the slab, is smaller than I’d expected. If she were a book and not a woman, you’d say she was quite foxed. She’s been read in the bath a few times in her life, and the steam has done her dust jacket no kind of good at all. Many of her pages have been folded down and up again, and you couldn’t call her a recent printing by any means, but even so she’s a handsome edition, bound in dark brown with an elegant design.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon
“How many harmless young black men have been injured or killed in modern cities in white countries this year, for the crime of exciting someone else’s racism? Too many, and it must end.”
Nick Harkaway, Gnomon

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