The universe isn’t remarkable because of stuff. It is remarkable because of the relationship between stuff.
That is something like a theme from the iconic and celebrated 1979 book by academic Douglas Hofstadter called Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which won both Nobel and Pulitzer prizes. An entire secondary marketplace of ideas and debate centers around the meaning and intention of the book, so I will not attempt to contribute to that. The book did influence computer science, especially the development of artificial intelligence, but Hofstader has said he does not identify with technology or computer culture.
Overall, the dense book brims with interdisciplinary “strange loops,” or examples of the interrelationships between concepts that create systems.The book’s title comes famously from naming three men influential in very different fields: influential Hungarian-American logician Kurt Gödel (1906-1978); Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher (1898-1972) and legendary classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). All their work are used as examples of strange loops. I share a few notes below that I may return to in the future.
Continue reading Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid
Constrained ownership of digital assets could mean thrilling possibilities.
The chaotic pandemic contributed to a frenzied focus on a new stage for non-fungible tokens. I was introduced to the concept a few years back and followed with interest the explosion of attention more recently. I wanted to purchase an NFT to become more familiar with the process, to support an artist and, most importantly, to give my young daughter a small slice of this strange moment in time.
The process is still quite clunky, expensive and fairly confusing — with multiple related systems. It helped that I also recently went through a similar process to chip into a DAO.
Continue reading I bought my daughter an NFT
A single “theory of everything” exists. We just haven’t found it yet.
That’s one of the main arguments from theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), as articulated in his 1988 bestselling book A Brief History of Time. The book helped make him one of his generation’s best known intellectuals, and he used an array of impressive technologies to help him continue to shape public thought during his long battle with ALS. It helped popularize many obscure and complex ideas.
Though he didn’t win a Nobel Prize in his lifetime and he occupied a kind of celebrity status, he did contribute meaningfully to his field. In 1974, in his early 30s, Hawking argued that black holes would emit heat energy, so-called Hawking radiation, which would mean that, unless they otherwise added mass, a black hole could eventually vanish. He helped us discover that black holes might not even be, you know, black. That work gave him needed pedigree to write this book, which is a relatively breezy read while also citing much of the most exciting ideas in theoretical physics and even cosmology.
As a hobbyist consumer of pop science, I’ve long wanted to read this text. Much of what he wrote about has been covered by an array of science Youtubers and writers I follow. Yet I still got much from the book. Do read it. Below I share my notes from the book for myself.
Continue reading A Brief History of Time: Stephen Hawking’s 1988 classic theoretical physics book
The fractional ownership that has been advanced by blockchain technology is an exciting future — even if its popularity borders on the inane. Comparisons to early commercial applications of the internet seem apt. It’s difficult to decipher what will last and what will fade.
Continue reading Yeah, I chipped into a decentralized effort to buy a copy of the U.S. Constitution
Given its large scale, data-driven culture and willingness to experiment, Google has produced a considerable amount of intelligence on operating effective organizations.
Much of it was shared in the 2015 bestselling book Work Rules! by Google’s former chief people officer Laszlo Bock. It’s long been on my list, and earlier this year I finally finished it up.
I recommend you get yourself a copy of the book. Below for my own future reference, I share notes from my reading.
Continue reading Works Rules! Google research and data on running more effective companies from the 2015 book
Translation isn’t about specific word choice. It’s about meaning.
But, then, there are many different kinds of translation. The very old act of translation both creates and defends language in an interconnected world. Earlier this summer, I finished a 2011 book by translator David Bellos called “Is that a Fish in Your Ear: Translation and the Meaning of Everything.” [PDF] Find a review here of it. This is a different approach to understanding language, which has been an interest of mine for years.
You should read the book. For my own purposes, I’ve captured my notes below.
Continue reading Is that a Fish in Your Ear? notes on the 2011 book by David Bellos on translation