Books for Spring 2009

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley : Re-reading but not from any paradise-engineering paranoia perspective. Simply insightful, focused and a great style. First covered this in high school decades ago. It’s ironic and deviously cool that this was actually course mandated at my high school ! (Have yet to finish Island.)

Pugetopolis – Knute Berger : The Seattle analog of Palahniuk’s A Walk in Portland, Oregon.

Useful because apparently Seattle is one of America’s most difficult cities to grok.

Aesthetic Computing (MIT Press) – Paul A. Fishwick :
“… key scholars and practitioners from art, design, computer science, and mathematics lay the foundations for a discipline that applies the theory and practice of art to computing. Aesthetic computing explores the way art and aesthetics can play a role in different areas of computer science. One of its goals is to modify computer science by the application of the wide range of definitions and categories normally associated with making art. …”
In the domain of Gabriel’s Patterns of Software: Tales from the Software Community (scroll down after link).

Maypole dancing circa 1950, somewhere in America

Blackmore’s “The Meme Machine”

The book presents a fairly good intro to the topic of memetics. I agree with Dawkin’s indirect reference that the theory of memetics deserves a shot. I’d say that Blackmore’s theory on memetics deserves a shot too, at least up to chapter 13.
These chapters are a pretty good spring board into the pool and for me they seemed ‘less koolaid’ than Brodie’s “Virus of the Mind”.

When Blackmore gets to Religion, New Age and Philosophy from chapter 14 onwards and to the end of the book then things seem dogmatic, contrary and too nihilistic in spite of the fact that she does well in pointing out the typical hooks that these meme-plexes use to hook into minds, replicate and cause damage to an open and mutually beneficial society/culture.

It’s fine to go with the opinion that human beings may have no soul, spirit or actual ‘self’ to speak of in any concrete terms but these chapters read as if it’s just a closed case. What about giving the theory a chance ? The buddhist philosophy in conclusion also doesn’t help the argument.

The book was penned almost a decade ago so there’s likely more that the author would add or change now regarding her theory. Still worth a read for the useful meta-memes.