"I'm here on the Raft looking for a piece of software - a piece of medicine to be specific - that was written five thousand years ago by a Sumerian personage named Enki, a neurolinguistic hacker," Hiro explains, "a person who was capable of programming other people's minds with verbal streams of data, known as nam-shubs..."
"We've got two kinds of language in our heads. The kind we're using now is acquired. It patterns our brains as we're learning it. But there's also a tongue that's based in the deep structures of the brain, that everyone shares. These structures consist of basic neural circuits that have to exist in order to allow our brains to acquire higher languages."
"Linguistic infrastructure," Uncle Enzo says.
"Yeah...anyway, we can access those parts of the brain under the right conditions...Which is to say, someone who knows the right words can speak words...that go past all your defenses and sink right into your brainstem. Like a cracker who breaks into a computer system, bypasses all the security precautions, and plugs himself into the core, enabling him to exert absolute control over the machine."
"In that situation, the people who own the computer are helpless," Ng says...
"What does this have to do with a clay tablet (the software) on the Enterprise?" Mr. Lee says...
"Enki...realized that in order for the human race to advance, they had to be delivered from the grip of this viral civilization (Hiro's term for the primitive Sumerian culture, mindlessly controlled by the mother tongue). So he created the nam-shub of Enki, a countervirus that...went into the deep structures of the brain and reprogrammed them. Henceforth, no one could understand the Sumerian language...Cut off from our common deep structures, we began to develop new languages that had nothing in common with each other. Further transmission of the metavirus was blocked..."
"So you might say that the nam-shub of Enki was the beginnings of human consciousness - when we first had to think for ourselves."
"Of all the gods and religious practices that predominated in Sumer, only Asherah (a Sumerian Demi-God, known for spreading the metavirus) is still going strong today...becuase it has a biological aspect, (and) can remain latent in the human body."
"Because of its latency - coiled about the brainstem of those it infects, passed on from one generation to the next - it always finds a way to resurface....The cult of Asherah lives. The Reverend Wayne's Pearly Gates is the cult of Asherah..."
"Lagos figured all this out...(L. Bob Rife) likes to think big. He took Lagos's idea and told Lagos himself to buzz off...He constucted a string of self-supporting religious franchises all over the world, and used his university, and its Metaverse campus, to crank out tens of thousands of missionaries, who fanned out all over the Third World and began converting people by the hundreds of thousands..."
"He also wanted to spread the biological virus as a promoter or enhancer of the cult...one of the major functions of his Third World missionaries was to go out into the hinterlands and vaccinate people - and there was more than just vaccine in those needles."
"Here...everyone has already been vaccinated, and we don't let religious fanatics come up and poke needles into us. But we do take a lot of drugs. So for us, he devised a means for extracting the virus from human blood serum and packaged it as a drug known as Snow Crash."
"In the meantime, he got the Raft going as a way of transporting hundreds of thousands of his cultists from the wretched parts of Asia into the United States....(Rife) can control these people by grafting radio receivers into their skulls, broadcasting instructions...directly into their brainstem."
"And right now, he has about a million of these people poised off the California coast. He also has a digital metavirus, in binary code, that can infect computers, or hackers, via the optic nerve....The binary metavirus will destroy the mind of a hacker."
"As far as I know, there's no way to stop the binary virus. But there's an antidote to Rife's bogus religion. The nam-shub of Enki still exists...If we could transmit the nam-shub of Enki to all of the (infected) on the Raft...It would jam their mother-tongue neurons and prevent Rife from programming them...But we really need to get this done before the Raft breaks up."
Fourteen pages of Neal Stephenson at his best (or worst, depending on your point of view) reduced to fewer than two. Truly a travesty. The good news is, you are still awake and poised to help save humanity from L. Bob Rife...
To join Hiro in his quest to see Rife listen to Reason, head back to the Enterprise.
To keep Y.T. company on Rife's personal chopper, click your heels three times.
All of this dialogue on the nature of language and free will has you craving more critical theory with Fido.