Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, June 2013
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.
- Stanislaw Lem, Summa Technologiae (trans. Joanna Zylinska)
- This was Lem's main attempt to think through the relations between human
intellect and human technology. It's not a book with a central thesis so much
as a series of explorations along related lines, with Lem pushing various ideas
as far as he can go. This means that it considers information, feedback,
self-organization, complexity, biological evolution, evolutionary optimization
algorithms, artificial life, complexity, virtual reality, the social
organization of scientific research, the extent to which public policy can
guide technological development, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence,
"miracles in the heavens", the ethical implications of duplicating people by
transmitting descriptions of them, the minimum description length principle,
and much, much else.
- The themes Lem keeps returning to are the comparison between human
cognition and natural evolution, the importance of self-organization and
homeostasis, and the possibilities of one process creating another of a
radically different nature. All three themes are clearly very
influenced by cybernetics,
& Golem, Inc.) and Ashby
for a Brain). In some ways the influence makes this a bit of a
period piece, but as always Lem had good taste in ideas, and isn't distracted
by the less valuable parts of cybernetics. This means that while some of Lem's
ideas about implementations are obsolete, his general notions are
still very relevant. (What
but a step towards an information farm?) I'd go on, but David Auerbach's
review is already out there, so
read that, and then Summa.
- (Please ignore the attempt, in the introduction to
the translation, to push Lem as the Next Big Thing in Contnential theory; we
owe the translator a debt for her labor of love on this book.)
- Ben Aaronovitch, Midnight Riot (= Rivers of London), Moon over Soho and Whispers Underground
- Mind candy. Adventures and investigations of London constable Peter Grant,
apprentice sorcerer. I learned about these
Nepveu's review, and devoured them.
- — Sequel.
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime;
The Great Transformation;
Posted at June 30, 2013 23:59 | permanent link