Friday, September 19, 2014

I wish I was better at Math!

The Lifebox, The Seashell, and the Soul: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me About Ultimate Reality, the Meaning of Life, and How To Be Happy: Rudy Rucker (2006)

            Rudy Rucker is one of my favorite “cyberpunk” science fiction writers.  His novels Software, Wetware, Freeware, and Realware really blew my mind when I discovered them in the late 90’s.  Awesome stuff indeed.  Rudy Rucker is also a mathematician and a Professor of Computer Science in California.
            With this book Mr. Rucker explores what he has learned from the “gnarly computation” he studies and writes about.  He describes us as being in the middle of a third great revolution.

            “The first came with Newton: the planets obey physical laws.  The second came with Darwin: biology obeys genetic laws.  In today’s third revolution, we’re coming to realize that even minds and societies emerge from interacting laws that can be regarded as computations.  Everything is a computation.”

This is the fractal nature of my head.
            This book explains the physical and philosophical implications of this idea.  As the exploration of chaos theory and the fractal nature of the Universe show us, the idea that everything just “is” is no longer tenable.  Our DNA is a computation.  The laws of quantum mechanics work as computations of probability.  Nothing anymore just “is” or “is not.”  Things are always variable on many scales, and only because we humans have a limited view of the Universe do we assume that reality is one unchanging, explicit existence.
            The “gnarly” complexity of life arose from the “gnarly” properties of elemental matter.  We are all a part of it.  We all exist in a cloud of probability and fractal nature.  Mr. Rucker shows how these things are not dehumanizing.  They are life affirming!  They are beautiful and glorious and through understanding these concepts, we can all enjoy our daily lives to the fullest.  Real cool stuff!  The math in this is insane.  The deep exploration into mathematics is beyond my level of understanding, but Mr. Rucker helps to explain it as best he can to a layperson.
(This book is available in .pdf format here: )

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