Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

cryptonomicon Neal Stephenson

Hello, this is Olivier Roland and I want to share a very special science fiction book with you because it has had a huge influence on some of the most successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. The book is “Cryptonomicon” by Neal Stephenson.

Neal Stephenson is a well-known science fiction writer from the USA. One of his best-known books, which I have already mentioned on this channel, is a wonderful book entitled “The Diamond Age”.

And “Cryptonomicon” is simply Neal Stephenson’s masterpiece in which the story is set in two different eras.

The first is in World War II, and the second in the late 90s, early 2000s.

It’s a science fiction story but it’s as close to our world as you can get. And what’s really great is that it’s been given the label as “the novel for geeks” because there’s a lot of detail given in the book that relates to cryptography.

So, I realize that I’ve already lost three quarters of my audience but that’s okay, I’ll continue…

It even includes pages with theoretical and mathematical explanations about cryptography; all contained in a book that genuinely keeps you on the edge of your seat.

This book was recommended or even required reading within PayPal in the late 90’s, as Peter Thiel says in “From zero to one”.

Because the story, which is set in modern times, is about the creation of a computer paradise; a territory where everyone is free to do whatever they want on the IT servers.

As a result, we see the creation of a new currency that is based on the gold reserve; which hadn’t been the case since the Second World War and something that everyone wants.

This is the link between the two eras, which is really beautifully told.

And PayPal is known as the “PayPal Mafia” in Silicon Valley.


Because there are so many people, employees, partners who were at PayPal and then went on to form their own companies that are now worth billions.


Peter Thiel was the very first investor in Facebook. Then there is Elon Musk, who merged with Peter Thiel’s company and created Tesla and Space X, who is really the epitome of the “crazy” entrepreneur, with great vision, who creates enormous value in the world.

We also have the founder of YouTube who came directly from PayPal. After that, Peter Thiel created Palantir, which is a security company worth billions of dollars.

I’ll stop there, but everyone in Silicon Valley knows that PayPal has been such an incredible incubator of new talent.

And this book was practically an obligatory read if you were part of that company.

It’s a bit out of date in certain aspects as the “modern era” it relates to is the late 90’s, early 2000’s. But otherwise, it’s a superb read, keeps you gripped and interested.

It probably won’t be your thing if you have no interest in new computer technologies and that kind of stuff; but if you’re a bit of a geek, I think you’ll really get caught up in it.

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