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Thread: What are you reading?

  1. #41
    Digging this up to see if anyone has any nonfiction books they'd suggest (that hasn't been already). I'd like to mix up my fiction preference, as the only 'nonfiction' I've really read, at least within the past decade, would include Rules of Play and other game design books.
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  2. #42
    Doesn't care what his title is
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    Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Kahneman
    Colonel Roosevelt, by Morris
    AntiFragile, by Taleb
    Parallel Lives, by Plutarch

    All highly recommended

  3. #43
    Doesn't care what his title is
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    Also, go hit up a goodwill/thrift store. You can usually find excellent books and bestsellers from two years ago (or at least some interesting reading) for fifty cents.

  4. #44
    Admiral of Awesome
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    Capital in the Twenty First Century if you want to broaden your inspiration base. Itís not for everyone but it does talk a lot about the political economies of the late 1800s through today

  5. #45
    Working on Sexuality, Magic, and Perversion by Francis King
    Just started People Care : Career-Friendly Practices for Professional Caregivers
    by Thom Dick

    (Both seem great but I can't say I would recommend them to you. However, I can recommend The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet by David KAAAAAAAAAHN)

    Finishing up re-reading A Wizard of Earthsea for my fiction reading.

    Have to finish them up before my last semester of a completely pointless degree starts next week. I am, however, taking a class from Joseph Tainter, author of Collapse of Complex Societies, which is also a good non fiction read.
    sniff

  6. #46
    Although technically fiction and we've stalled a bit over the last month but my son and I will soon get back into Musashi: An Epic Novel of the Samurai Era.
    "I would rather claim to be an uneducated man than be mal-educated and claim to be otherwise." - Wookie 03:16


  7. #47
    Admiral of Awesome
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spook View Post
    I am, however, taking a class from Joseph Tainter, author of Collapse of Complex Societies, which is also a good non fiction read.
    thats legit rad, dude. His theory of decreasing marginal value of complexity changed the way I look at things, itís become a major source of both narrative inspiration and also real life terror.

  8. #48
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    thats legit rad, dude. His theory of decreasing marginal value of complexity changed the way I look at things, itís become a major source of both narrative inspiration and also real life terror.
    Yeah, I am taking it with a friend as a goodbye party (we are both done this semester) and we are incredibly excited, even though the class is Sustainability: Concepts and Measurement and not specifically his ideas on diminishing returns of additional cool ****. We plan to try to derail things in that direction as often as possible. The more apocalyptic type stuff is more fun to meme about but the concepts I've got from him is the stuff that I think gives me nightmares more often.

    Care to expand on the narrative inspiration bit?
    sniff

  9. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    thats legit rad, dude. His theory of decreasing marginal value of complexity changed the way I look at things, it’s become a major source of both narrative inspiration and also real life terror.
    Is there a tl;dr version of this idea?

  10. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    Is there a tl;dr version of this idea?
    Civilizations solve problems by adding complexity. Each time you add complexity, the cost goes up. Eventually the cost of adding complexity exceeds the value of the solution; problems stop being solved and/or the solution makes everything worse. Ultimately the civilization collapses.

    For example: when London was founded, you could heat a house by chopping down a tree in your own back yard. Eventually the trees got too far away, so you had to pay someone to collect the firewood, and someone else to deliver it to you. Then the wood wasnít enough, you needed coal; which meant coal mines, coal miners, long range coal transport, coal furnaces instead of fireplaces. Then the coal started making people sick, so you needed a gas distribution network and a central facility to produce town gas. So on and so forth - as London kept encountering energy problems, the solution was to add layers upon layers of added complexity, whole infrastructures, capital owners, investors, financial services, and exponentially expanding numbers of workers that all need to be fed for each BTU generated.

    Then extrapolate to every other problem.

  11. #51

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    Can somehow reducing complexity be a solution or is it an impossibility? Or could that just add more fuel to fire? Is this complexity issue accelerated mainly by population growth? Is climate change and its response an example of this issue on a global scale? I'm intrigued.
    SnailIracing:n(500tpostshpereline)pants
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  12. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by ECHOMAN View Post
    Can somehow reducing complexity be a solution or is it an impossibility?
    lets form a committee to investigate it

    I'll edit in a serious answer i'm eating popcorn and just wanted to get the joke out of my system

  13. #53
    If I am to understand you correctly, you are saying that it would be wise to convert our entire economy to a 500TB JAR file?

  14. #54
    Admiral of Awesome
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    Quote Originally Posted by ECHOMAN View Post
    Can somehow reducing complexity be a solution or is it an impossibility? Or could that just add more fuel to fire? Is this complexity issue accelerated mainly by population growth? Is climate change and its response an example of this issue on a global scale? I'm intrigued.
    As much as I hate to take the easy way out, the short answer here is to read the dude's book.

    Anything a civilization does to solve a problem involves adding complexity. That includes population growth and climate change, and even the problem of complexity itself. For example, if you pass a law that says you need to lift two regulations for every new regulation introduced, now every time you need a new regulation you have to study all of the old ones to figure out which are safest to eliminate. This will probably mean hiring teams of specialists and will encourage regulatory bodies to hoard obsolete regulations to trade for future regulations, rather than eliminating them as they're identified. The goal was to reduce complexity, but the result is a massive increase to the cost of solving all future problems. Civilizations can't reduce complexity.

    That said, a reduction in complexity is possible. It doesn't need to be, but it is usually catastrophic. We call this reduction of complexity the collapse of a civilization.

  15. #55
    When Ken Thompson said that one of his most productive days was deleting 1000 lines of code, I had no idea he was talking about the collective DNA of redundant humans.

  16. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reverend Jones View Post
    When Ken Thompson said that one of his most productive days was deleting 1000 lines of code, I had no idea he was talking about the collective DNA of redundant humans.
    Civilization collapse doesn't mean the same thing as mass death.

  17. #57
    I am sure there are possible collapse scenarios on the horizon that don't involve a precipitous decline in population. However, I am having trouble believing that any of them would be compatible with catastrophic climate change and ecological collapse.

  18. #58
    sniff

  19. #59
    Admiral of Awesome
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    The software analogy isn't bad, but you have it backwards. A software company needs computer code in order to keep running (i.e. have a product to sell). Engineers add feature after feature in an effort to keep ahead of customer demands, making localized bug fixes to patch over architectural problems that would take too much time to fix. Gradually, the cost of adding new features creeps up. Bugs become ossified. The whole product gets slower and buggier each release. Customers start to call the software "bloatware" and pine for better days when the software worked better. The company gets overtaken by competitors and all of the smart people quit. The company either gets bought out by another business (which cuts headcount) or it takes a long slide into irrelevance before ultimately sputtering out.

    ^ that's what civilization collapse looks like. Do people usually die? Sure, because civilizations are super convenient for the privileged people of those civilizations, and they tend to cling to power for a lot longer than they should (see Rome for example). Or because the civilization finds itself suddenly incapable of solving problems and then people die. It's theoretically possible to have a managed collapse. It's never happened, because people generally don't plan for failure, but it's possible.

    Note that a population decline is an inevitable feature of civilization collapse, though, among other things because declining civilizations end up discouraging reproduction for various reasons.

  20. #60
    Your first paragraph is roughly what I had in mind (though without the detail) with my "massive JAR file" comment, and I agree this version of the analogy makes more sense than my second comment (which I meant more whimsically).

  21. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jon`C View Post
    Civilizations solve problems by adding complexity. Each time you add complexity, the cost goes up. Eventually the cost of adding complexity exceeds the value of the solution; problems stop being solved and/or the solution makes everything worse. Ultimately the civilization collapses.

    For example: when London was founded, you could heat a house by chopping down a tree in your own back yard. Eventually the trees got too far away, so you had to pay someone to collect the firewood, and someone else to deliver it to you. Then the wood wasn’t enough, you needed coal; which meant coal mines, coal miners, long range coal transport, coal furnaces instead of fireplaces. Then the coal started making people sick, so you needed a gas distribution network and a central facility to produce town gas. So on and so forth - as London kept encountering energy problems, the solution was to add layers upon layers of added complexity, whole infrastructures, capital owners, investors, financial services, and exponentially expanding numbers of workers that all need to be fed for each BTU generated.

    Then extrapolate to every other problem.
    I suppose this can only mean complexity of infrastructure and social organization. If each person had to chop their own wood, that adds a massive amount of complexity to each individual's day. The per capita labor input to maintain that economic productivity is massive. Once you specialize some people to maintain the gas infrastructure, the per capita input drops dramatically, so the labor per capita is far less complex. So what he's saying seems to be Adam Smith 2.0, division of labor is the source of productivity increases, and society can load a huge amount more complexity overall if we can specialize a few people to handle the complexity of a specific task for all.

    However I'm not fully sure just going from wood -> gas increases complexity. What if you had a society wherein, once people stop having to chop wood for heat, instead of filling that time with economic productivity sat with their thumbs up their asses? It's not obvious net complexity increases solely from this on it's own; it seems rather complexity increases because people have more free time to work on different complex things.

    I'll have to read the book.

  22. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reid View Post
    I suppose this can only mean complexity of infrastructure and social organization. If each person had to chop their own wood, that adds a massive amount of complexity to each individual's day. The per capita labor input to maintain that economic productivity is massive. Once you specialize some people to maintain the gas infrastructure, the per capita input drops dramatically, so the labor per capita is far less complex. So what he's saying seems to be Adam Smith 2.0, division of labor is the source of productivity increases, and society can load a huge amount more complexity overall if we can specialize a few people to handle the complexity of a specific task for all.

    However I'm not fully sure just going from wood -> gas increases complexity. What if you had a society wherein, once people stop having to chop wood for heat, instead of filling that time with economic productivity sat with their thumbs up their asses? It's not obvious net complexity increases solely from this on it's own; it seems rather complexity increases because people have more free time to work on different complex things.

    I'll have to read the book.
    Remember that the point here is civilizations actually work - just up to a certain point. It's a diseconomy of complexity. That doesn't mean adding complexity is always a bad thing; initially it's good, because the benefits of that complexity outweigh the costs of adding it. That's why it was worth doing. After a certain point, though, the return on complexity turns negative.

    Chopping down a tree isn't complicated, it's inconvenient. Those are different things. A municipal gas distribution grid is a hell of a lot more complicated than giving everybody an axe.

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