When I think on Robinson's work as a whole it reads on a very different level than what I typically think of as sci fi because it explores lines of thought very much in tune with philosophy and art.
Within Robinson's work we confront a notion that has been explored extensively by the artist duo Arakawa + Gins. This in the notion of "reversible destiny"
Essentially, it is a type of philisophy that the duo worked out that speaks to enabling humans to live eternally ... by refusing to die. In working toward non-death humans are required to establish architecture...places of dwelling..living that accomodates them and in fact encourage life by constantly reminding one that they are alive.
I cant help but see the parallel in arkady's "socio-architectural theories"(pg 339) and again in the types of architecture that abound on Mars in general. It echos in the actualized architecture of Arakawa + Gins' park "reversible destiny" based in Japan http://www.yoro-park.com/e/rev/
One step past this is an additional connection articulated in Arakawa + Gins' manifesto - in the form of an introduction to their book "Architectural Body"
In which they go about stating the following:
Without doubt, the human race has hideously acquiesced in regard to its own abysmal fate. Underlying all cultures, in East and West alike, is this assumption or attitudinal stance: we--each and every one of us--must die, no doubt about it, for all those who lived before us died. So unquestionably mortal are we that we have even come to call ourselves mortals, for God's sake. Everyone everywhere wants to insist on this. A bunch of defeatists all. Nobody wants to be caught not getting the "real" straight, for not accurately registering what comes to pass puts one at odds with society. How could what so evidently stares one in the face not be, after all, what it rings true as? (A/G Architectural body Intro)
Architecture must be made to fit the body as a second, third, fourth, and, when necessary, ninth (and counting) skin. We believe that people closely and complexly allied with their architectural surrounds can succeed in outliving their (seemingly inevitable) death sentences! (A/G Architectural body Intro)
It must never be forgotten that we don't know what we are in the first place. (A/G Architectural body Intro)
Although the human condition is a crisis condition if ever there was one, few individuals and societies act with the dispatch a state of emergency requires. The fact that the human condition is a crisis condition gets routinely covered up, with culture invariably functioning to obscure how dire the condition is and to float it as bearable(A/G Architectural body Intro)
All intellectual pursuits thus far, in East and West alike, have been largely stopgap measures, so much fiddling while Rome burns, that is, while people line up one after another to die. (A/G Architectural body Intro)
Consider this: An organism-person allied with, in close correspondence with, surroundings that guide skillful coordination of bodily actions ought to be able to escape so-called human destiny, the as-if-ordained downhill course of things. Not only will houses and towns that architecturally guide and sustain an organism-person help her to compose, execute, and coordinate actions more skillfully than was ever before thought to be possible, they will also automatically enlist her in a thoroughgoing architectural questioning of the purpose of the species. An architecturally guided and sustained organism-person should then be able to reverse that destiny known to have been the lot of billions of other members of her species; when it becomes possible for an organism-person simply to go on indefinitely, a reversible destiny shall have been achieved. (A/G Architectural body Intro)
Architecture is the greatest tool available to our species, both for figuring itself out and for constructing itself differently. (A/G Architectural body Intro)
And the body, a complex organism that is always in the process of reading surroundings, needs to be defined together with that within which it moves; peering at it from the other way around, the surroundings need to be defined together with the bodies moving within them (A/G Architectural body Intro)
Theoretical constructs as to the nature of person can be assessed in a thoroughgoing manner through -- and, in the end, only through -- architectural construction.(A/G Architectural body Intro)
The way in which these key phrases parallel the ideas that are quilted into Robinson's novel is rather compelling. For does he not explore in extensive detail the very acts that A/G call for? Indeed!
Terrafoam, Sax's arctic asteroid, the DNA manipulation, moholes, Olympus Mons, The offspring of Hiroko's clan, the paul bunyon tale,Frank's Neitzche quote about the individual (pg 456)and so on.
In closing, I think it important to look to works aside from lit theory in understanding a text for texts are ineed dynamic things that are heavily influenced and influentual in different areas. Though this is known at our level of study I still think we must remember...that there is music, dance, art, photography, and subcultures waiting for inclusion in our analysis beyond the obvious: such as punk - for cyberpunk lit.