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TECH TALK: Good Books: Something Different

November 15th, 2002 · No Comments

Finally, as I had promised in the beginning, a few books which have little to do with business and management, but are nevertheless definitely worth spending time on.

A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram is a 1200+ page book which took 10 years to write. Its impact may many more years to fathom or not. Wolframs book builds on his work on cellular automata. His key discovery is many simple programs can produce great complexity. As he writes, Traditional intuition suggests that to do more sophisticated computations would always require more sophisticated underlying rules. But what launched the whole computer revolution is the remarkable fact that universal systems with fixed underlying rules can be built than can in effect perform any computation. Wolfram calls his conclusion the Principle of Computational Equivalence. He gives numerous examples, with a fascinating array of pictures and patterns, which cover almost every aspect of the world around us.

If there is one word which describes our world of today, it is Networks. Linked: The New Science of Networks by Albert Laszlo-Barabasi and Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks by Mark Buchanan are two books which explore the science of networks, with a focus on many of the recent breakthroughs which have enhanced our understanding of how networks actually work.

Next: two books which take us into the past. Technomanifestos: Visions from the Information Revolutionaries by Adam Brate discusses the various concepts that have shaped modern computing by profiling the people behind them. Brates work is a fascination exploration of how thinking and ideas evolved. Among the luminaries whose works have been analysed are Norman Weiner, Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Lickider, Doug Engelbert, Marvin Minsky, Seymour Papert, Alan Kay, Marshall McLuhan, Abbie Hoffman, Ted Nelson, Time Berners-Lee, Richard Stallman, Larry Wall, Eric Raymond, Lawrence Lessig, Eric Drexler, Bill Joy and Jaron Lanier.

Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality is edited by Randall Packer and Ken Jordan. It complements Brates book by providing the original texts of some of the landmark articles in arts and sciences. You will find Vannevar Bushs 1945 essay As We May Think , Tim Berners-Lees 1989 proposal which became the foundation of the World Wide Web and Alan Kays views on user interface design (1989).

Finally, a book to touch the heart. The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery may be a book for children, but its message is for adults. Reading this fable of love and loneliness and seeing its wonderful drawings may just help you to see things differently.


Good Books+T

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