Knowing that I’ve read a lot about Shannon and even Vannevar Bush over the years, I’m pleasantly surprised to read some interesting tidbits about them that I’ve not previously come across. I was a bit worried that this text wouldn’t provide me with much or anything new on the subjects at hand.
I’m really appreciating some of the prose and writing structure, particularly given that it’s a collaborative work between two authors. At times there are some really nonstandard sentence structures, but they’re wonderful in their rule breaking.
They’re doing an excellent job so far of explaining the more difficult pieces of science relating to information theory. In fact, some of the intro was as good as I think I’ve ever seen simple explanations of what is going on within the topic. I’m also pleased that they’ve made some interesting forays into topics like eugenics and the background role it played in the story for Shannon.
They had a chance to do a broader view of the history of computing, but opted against it, or at least must have made a conscious choice to leave out Babbage/Lovelace within the greater pantheon. I can see narratively why they may have done this knowing what is to come later in the text, but a few sentences as a nod would have been welcome.
The book does, however, get on my nerves with one of my personal pet peeves in popular science and biographical works like this: while there are reasonable notes at the end, absolutely no proper footnotes appear at the bottoms of pages or even indicators within the text other than pieces of text with quotation marks. I’m glad the notes even exist in the back, but it just drives me crazy that publishers blatantly hide them this way. The text could at least have had markers indicating where to find the notes. What are we? Animals?
Nota bene: I’m currently reading an advanced reader copy of this; the book won’t be out until mid-July 2017.
A great little introduction and start to what portends to be the science biography of the year. The book opens up with a story I’d heard Sol Golomb tell several times. It was actually a bittersweet memory as the last time I heard a recounting, it appeared on the occasion of Shannon’s 100th Birthday celebration in the New Yorker:
In 1985, at the International Symposium in Brighton, England, the Shannon Award went to the University of Southern California’s Solomon Golomb. As the story goes, Golomb began his lecture by recounting a terrifying nightmare from the night before: he’d dreamed that he was about deliver his presentation, and who should turn up in the front row but Claude Shannon. And then, there before Golomb in the flesh, and in the front row, was Shannon. His reappearance (including a bit of juggling at the banquet) was the talk of the symposium, but he never attended again.
📖 Read loc 1440-2080 of 12932 (16.08%) of American Amnesia by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson
Examples and discussion of how markets can manage to fail and why we need good government to fill in the (gaping) holes.
There’s also some good discussion of rent seeking behavior here too. The more I read, the more I think this should be required reading for everyone. I could see a need for taking just the first three chapters and expanding them out into their own book.
Circumstances for our poor hero Charlie become far more desperate before they begin to turn for the better.
Except that we’ve just read how horrifically poor and physically starving the family was, I’m surprised that he took two candy bars. Though I suspect his family would easily have given him the who dollar’s worth of food.
📖 Read loc 962-1440 of 12932 (11.13%) of American Amnesia by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson
This continues to be intriguing with lots of examples (and footnotes, which I’ve been skipping over presently, but will circle back upon later). It continues to make a strong argument for a mixed economy and even bolsters with evidence that the richest countries are usually the ones with the most government–something which flies in the face of traditional Republican values. There’s also some good discussion of what markets are and aren’t capable of, a point which is often missed in the bigger public, potentially because of the decades of chanting that capitalism is best while we fought a cold war with Russia.
More people should really be concerned with externalities in the markets.
In general this seems to be a sweeping meta-analysis of lots of other sources and material, most of which is footnoted. I do sometimes wish they went into greater detail on many of their points, but I suspect that no one else would be reading the book because of its length. Their arguments are fairly quick and to the point however.
I suspect at the time this was written many of these horrid children were hyperbole. It now seems like people accidentally read this as a model for how children should be and they totally missed the fact that Charlie was the hero.
Donald Trump was 18 years old when this book was released. Sadly, I strongly suspect he never read or benefited from it.