Tag Archives: Books

Infinite Summer

For all of y’all literary types who fancy big, sprawling books…it doesn’t get much bigger, or more sprawling than this within contemporary letters (well, maybe this, but…): Join in and read one of the great texts from the late David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest. With groups on the Twitter and the Facebook helping with motivation there is no better time than the present.

People say stuff like this out of the side of their mouth all the time, but this book changed my life, introduced me to a different way of viewing the world, tied me to other people in a way no other book has done. Yes, there are over a thousand pages here, but contrary to what many critics have said, there is not a word out of place, nothing superfluous here, I promise. Thanks, Dave, we miss you.

Infinite Summer

(pic from wikipedia)

Color Coded Library

If you know me, you know that I like books a little bit. I form little forts of them around me wherever I sit. Gift and a curse, I assure you. Reading a lot of the books tends to make it a little embarrassing when you go over someone’s house for the first time, because you have to obsessively scan the shelves while trying to engage in witty banter. The whole shebang’s an ordeal. However, you can go to libraries and stare at the books and no one can tell you from the homeless people. Designer Valeri Madill has created a nice color coding system for libraries, and methinks it would do a lot more for the Carnegie than the cafe section, or whatever it is.

(Thanks Yanko)

The Future of Everything

I just started a book, The Future of Everything [erething?]: The Science of Prediction, by the mathematician qua polymath David Orrell. Orrell was one of the guys who kind of limited the chaos affect in weather (butterfly farts, Hillary wins the election) to almost nothingness, instead attributing large discrepancies (to say the least) in weather prediction to model error, basically the gap between the pretty math model and the real world phenomenon.

The book, thus far at least, has been really interesting, well-written, and erudite-though the beginnings hover on some historical facts that aren’t completely novel, but nonetheless. Dr. Orrell’s main interests in this book revolve around prediction in wealth, weather, and health, tracing the history of prediction from around 1500 BC up through the methods developed by Newton and Kepler that remain in practice to this day (in complicated, derivative forms, I imagine). While it’s not as exciting as the opening of a new Bape store (heh), a couple chunks have popped out thus far, and I should like to quote them and offer some commentary:

“Systems where predictions are of interest-in biology, economics, or climate change-are either alive, influenced by life, or have a similar level of complexity to living beings (1). They are difficult to predict not because of simple technical reasons, which can be overcome with faster computers or better data, but because they have evolved to be that way (2). We pinpoint the causes of prediction error (3).” (italics mfjoe)

Commentary:

1. This is particularly interesting now, when we finally have the ability to recognize the complexity such systems, as well as have a pretty big new one with the Interweb to play with. As an aside, it is also telling of our lack of predictive ability that we can rarely predict how complex systems are going to end up being, per se, let alone how they will be modeled in toto and in situ.

2. I haven’t read far into the book. But the way I look at it is that we evolved to predict certain things very well, and most other things horribly at best. It’s not the system under the scope then, but the one peering through it that cause the error. E.g., I still argue with intelligent (seemingly) people about the ability to beat the house at a casino. As a great thinker, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, pointed out, a casino is the least random, chance destination on the planet. Everything is completely measured and the house always wins (even if your uncle charlie won $10K that one time). However, the games played mimic those we evolved with, and we expect them to be path-dependent (I think I got that right). Hence: ass handed to you. You aren’t more likely to win after losing in a casino a string of times. I am more likely to fall asleep as the hours I haven’t slept continue passing…that’s the gist.

3. Comes from the Popper. Since we have no real ability above chance to know or predict things, why not look for systematic causes for error, so we can start to turn those unknown unknowns into know unknowns (Thanks Rummy, best thing that came out your mouth in your life).

“One type of prediction relates to overall function and can be used to make general warnings. The other type involves specific forecasts about the future. Mathematical models are better at the first than they are the second. (1)

1. Example of first type that I’m fairly sure is largely accurate: Any given Human, a biological system of great complexity, will expire, sometime (for the various reasons consult Aubrey de Grey, also a great offerer of the second type of prediction, of which most will turn out to be very, very far from reality-one could call these Methuselah Mouse Model Errors).

The future of everything book

(Cop it from Amazon)

Orwell vs. Fairey

Shepard Fairey designed new covers for two Orwell books, 1984 and Animal Farm. You probably read one or both in high school but were too concerned with the chick’s ass in front of you to care too much about social engineering. That chick got knocked up right after graduation and her ass just keeps getting fatter, but Orwell is still Orwell -read the books. I remember watching the cartoon version of Animal Farm with this banging girl Les who used to cut my hair and sell me dimes in S. Oakland and tripping out when the pig’s face turned into a human face for a sec…

Fairey Orwell 1984

Fairey Orwell Animal Farm

(Peep em at Obey and Buy em at Penguin)