Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, October 2012
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.
Stross, The Apocalypse Codex
- Mind candy. Things to do in Denver when lbhe zvaq unf orra gnxra bire ol
na vafrpgvyr nyvra cnenfvgr juvpu abg bayl pbybavmrf lbhe areibhf flfgrz, ohg
ercynprf lbhe gbathr jvgu vgf pnencnprq obql.
(BoErnyJbeyqCerprqrag.) Peeling shrimp on the weekend after reading this was ... unsettling.
- (Before; after)
Sagara, Cast in Peril
- Mind candy. I'm doubtful that it would make any sense if you hadn't been
following the series, as it both begins and
ends in media res.
- I no longer understand why I found this funny in 1996. The title piece is
easily the best of them, and even that seems painfully drawn-out, like a
second-rate Onion article.
E. Lindblom, The
Intelligence of Democracy: Decision-Making by Mutual Adjustment
- Mostly a brilliant exposition of how complex social and political problems
get solved --- or, if not exactly solved, then dealt with ---
by decentralized processes of partisan mutual adjustment, and how this
is actually superior to what could be achieved by centralized authority. (This
draws on, and extends, his earlier
book A Strategy of
Decision, and foreshadows much
Knowledge.) It is however marred by some concluding chapters of a
complacency which I feel could only have come from an American liberal ---
a white American liberal --- circa 1965. Lindblom's later works
suggest his wish to revise and extend his remarks on the inherent benevolence
of decision-making by partisan mutual adjustment... It deserves a full review,
indeed Lindblom's whole output does, but there's no time.
- R. L. Gregory, Odd Perceptions
- Essays on cognitive psychology and psychologists and related topics, by the
author of the
and Brain. The collection came out in 1986, which leads to some
oddness, e.g., when talking about neural models and information theory.
F. Monahan, Numerical
Methods of Statistics
- Decent and reliable on what it does cover, but to my eyes rather
old-fashioned in its choice of topics (e.g., nothing on non-parametrics). I
read the first edition, of 2001; I haven't looked at the second.
- Olivier Blanchard and Stanley Fischer, Lectures on Macroeconomics
- P. M. Chaikin and T. C. Lubensky, Principles of Condensed Matter Physics
- More relics from graduate school, revisited as part of the book purge.
These books are now 15--20 years old; I'm sure that there're more up-to-date
treatments of both topics, though I feel like I'd know if something had
displaced Chaikin and Lubensky form its niche, and I don't.
- Blanchard and Fischer is about "modern" macro, models based on agents who
know what the economy is like optimizing over time, possibly under some limits.
This is the DSGE style of macro. which
has lately come into so much discredit --- thoroughly deserved
discredit. Chaikin and Lubensky is about modern condensed matter physics,
especially soft condensed matter, based
of symmetry-breaking and phase transitions. Both books are about building
stylized theoretical models and solving them to see what follows from the model
assumptions; implicitly they are also about the considerations which go into
building models in their respective domains.
- What is very striking, looking at them side by side, is that while these
are both books about mathematical modeling, Chaikin and Lubensky presents
empirical data, compares theoretical predictions to experimental results, and
goes into some detail into the considerations which lead to this sort
of model for nematic liquid crystals, or that model for magnetism.
There is absolutely nothing like this in Blanchard and Fischer --- no data
at all, no comparison of models to reality, no evidence of any kind supporting
any of the models. There is not even an attempt, that I can find, to assess
different macroeconomic models, by comparing their
qualitative predictions to each other and to historical reality. I
presume that Blanchard and Fischer, as individual scholars, are not quite so
indifferent to reality, but their pedagogy is.
- I will leave readers to draw their own morals.
Manual trackback: John Myles White
Update, 11 December 2012: small typo fixes and wording improvements.
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
The Dismal Science;
Minds, Brains, and Neurons;
Enigmas of Chance;
Commit a Social Science;
The Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts;
Posted at October 31, 2012 23:59 | permanent link