Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The titles on my backlog list ...

Here is the list of titles I recently read but could not yet review. Hope that my recent Blindsight review signals some come back to more regular blogging :-)

OK, after August report on my backlog, I have been reading the following titles: 
  1. "Stonemouth" by Iain Banks
  2. "A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens
  3. "No easy day" by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer
  4. "The Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan
  5. "Creating a World Without Poverty" by Muhammad Yunus
  6. "The Jew in the Lotus" by Rodger Kamenetz
  7. "The Miracle of Mindfulness" by Thich Nahn Hahn
  8. "Toward a True Kinship of Faiths" by His Holiness Dalai Lama
  9. "The Ultimate Dimension" by Thich Nahn Hahn
  10. "The Lonely Man of Faith" by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
  11. "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking
  12. "Living the Mindful Way" by Sharon L. Horstead
  13. "The Information" by James Gleick
I do not include professional books I read here.
However, I feel it is worth to mention at least one of them:
  • "Semantic Web for the Working Ontologist" by Dean Allemang and James Hendler.
In addition to pure technical, semantic web oriented flavor, this book is also very important from the general, or I dare to say, philosophical point of view...

 I'm now reading or plan to read soon:

  1. "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson
  2. "Hyperion" by Dan Simmons
  3. "Meditation and the Bible" by Aryeh Kaplan
  4. "Mindfulness in Plain English" by Bhante Guanaratana
  5. "Turing's Cathedral" by George Dyson
  6. "Anger" by Thich Nahn Hahn
  7. "Mindful Eating" by Thich Nahn Hahn
 As you see, it is not just a small pile, it is a tower of read but not reviewed books...
Well, I guess my 2013 New Year's resolution will be to catch up with all these pending reviews :-)

Mirek, December 25, 2012, Aleksandrow near Lodz





True manifest or thought experiment - „Blindsight” by Peter Watts

Blindsight - science fiction novel by Peter Watts...
It has been sometime since I have read this book and I'm still uncertain whether it sincerely represents its author's view of life (or perhaps author's world view) or it is a sort of gigantic thought experiment.

First, some facts. It is certainly one of the best science-fiction books I have ever read. Set in the second half of XXI century it describes an encounter between humans living on Earth with alien inteligence. The encounter starts with the apparent survey the aliens perform sending micro-satellites (called as fireflies). Humans sent a spaceship, „Theseus” to get into first contact with the aliens dwelling on a cosmic structure, a vessel-sattellite called by itself  „Rorschach”. The encounter reveils that the aliens represent totally different kind of intelligence humans expected. The intelligence is lacking consciousness yet it remain highly intelligent, surpassing humans. When the danger of this devilish creatures becomes critical, the artificial intelligence controlling the human spaceship attacks them in apparent suicide mission leaving the lonely survivor live and coming back to Earth, that, by the time of the mission undergoes a new kind of holocaust, caused by unconscious vampires ... It is possible that he is the only truly conscious subject in the entire universe...

Plot is perhaphs not the best part of the novel, though in comparison to many sci-fi(s), it is original and untypical. Language is difficult, peppered with many biological and neuroscientific terms, but the deep comprehension is rewarding. Yet not the plot itself or its language make the essence of the novel. In reality it is a philosophical treaty said in the frame of sci-fi story. It's a big discourse about human consciousnes and its nature, mind and matter interplay, essence of biology, human interaction, artificial intelligence etc.

However, when I read it carefully, I noticed that its author identifies with some quite specific views that go far from what I used to belive in... Sex seems to be presented as nothing more than a blind copulation. His views on biology seems to verge on a brink of primitive reductionism. In his world human free will seems not to exist and intelligence does not need conscious beings to express itself. I probably oversimplify it, yet this is what seems to emerge from Blindsight...

I have an impression that Watts somehow believes in propositions put forward in famous GEB (Gödel, Escher, Bach) book (by Douglas Hofstadter). Yet this book was not mentioned in the "Notes and References" to the novel. In the "Notes" author seem to explain scientific background for many of his constructs used in the novel.

I prefer to believe that Watson's novel, dark and mechanistic is indeed a kind of thought experiment - not an epiphany of some well grounded scientifically based conclusions. For example, while it is instructive to know that Metzinger's "Being No One" was one of inspirations, it is somehow reassuring that such views do not even dominate the whole gamut of current consciousness sciences...

And, as the thought experiment - it is one of the best I ever read...


Monday, December 24, 2012

Coming back ???

I would be very happy to come back to active blogging. Seems my life has become too hectic and full of so many matters and issues and challenges that I hardly can find time for my blog.
Anyway, I will try. I solemnly promise: I'll try !

December 24, 2012 Aleksandrow near Lodz. My parents place ...