Collective Thinking

In terms of the Internet, it’s like humanity acquiring a collective nervous system. Whereas previously we were more like a… collection of cells that communicated by diffusion. With the advent of the Internet, it was suddenly like we got a nervous system. It’s a hugely impactful thing.

   ~ Elon Musk 


Visual and Statistical Thinking

Display architecture recapitulates quantitative thinking; design quality grows from intellectual quality.  Such dual principles – both for reasoning about statistical evidence and for the design of statistical graphics – include:

  1. documenting the sources and characteristics of the data
  2. insistently enforcing appropriate comparisons
  3. demonstrating mechanisms of cause and effect
  4. expressing those mechanisms quantitatively
  5. recognizing the inherently multivariate nature of analytic problems
  6. inspecting and evaluating alternative explanations

When consistent with the substance and in harmony with the content, information displays should be documentary, comparative, causal and explanatory, quantified, multivariate, exploratory, skeptical.

   ~ Edward Tufte, Visual and Statistical Thinking


The Essence of the Hacker Ethic

The technology has to be considered as larger than just the inanimate pieces of hardware.  The technology represents inanimate ways of thinking, objectified ways of thinking.

The myth we see in War Games and things like that is definitely the triumph of the individual over the collective dis-spirit.  The myth is attempting to say that the conventional wisdom and common understandings must always be open to question.  It’s not just an academic point.  It’s the very fundamental point of, you might say, the survival of humanity, in a sense that you can have people merely survive, but humanity is something that’s a little more precious, a little more fragile.  So that to be able to defy a culture which states that “Thou shalt not touch this,” and to defy that with one’s own creative powers is…the essence.

   ~ Hackers, Steven Levy


High Frequency Algos

It’s not just that humans are less and less involved in trading; it’s that they can’t be involved.

By the time the ordinary investor sees a quote, it’s like looking at a star that burned out 50,000 years ago.

   ~ Wired Magazine, Raging Bulls by Jerry Adler 


Everyone is one

The replication and reintegration capabilities of transporter technology raise some intriguing possibilities.  For example, with a properly outfitted transporter, you could make clones of anyone that would be both physically and psychologically identical to the original… You could make clones of yourself that explore different parts of the galaxy.  At some point in the future, these clones could be reintegrated into one, so that “you” would have all their memories and experiences.  You could even integrate other people’s experiences into your mind… You could even look forward to a time when all the experiences of all the sentient creatures in the universe are merged into one vast super-mind.  In that case, the Hindu claim that “everyone is one” would then be a reality.

~ Star Trek and Philosophy, Eberl and Decker


Quantum Leap

Quantum Leap by blue(skied)
Quantum Leap, a photo by blue(skied) on Flickr.


  by blue(skied)
, a photo by blue(skied) on Flickr.

We are data

…data is just a dumb kind of programming.  We are data, pieces of a cosmic computer program that is the universe.

   ~ Hackers, heros of the computer revolution, Steven Levy


…but as the TMRC [MIT’s “Tech Model Railroad Club”] people used the word, there was serious respect implied.  While someone might call a clever connection between relays a “mere hack”, it would be understood that, to qualify as a hack, the feat must be imbued with innovation, style, and technical virtuosity.  Even though one might self-deprecatingly say he was “hacking away at The System” (much as an axe-wielder hacks at logs), the artistry with which one hacked was recognized to be considerable.

   ~ Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, Steven Levy

We Are Already the Borg

Science fiction’s cyborg was a literal chimera of meat and machine. The world’s cyborg was an extended human nervous system: film, radio, broadcast television, and a shift in perspective so profound that I believe we’ve yet to understand it.  Watching television, we each became aspects of an electronic brain.  We became augmented.  In the Eighties, when Virtual Reality was the buzzword, we were presented with images of…television!  If the content is sufficiently engrossing, however, you don’t need wraparound deep-immersion goggles to shut out the world.  You grow your own. You are there.  Watching the content you most want to see, you see nothing else.

The physical union of human and machine, long dreaded and long anticipated, has been an accomplished fact for decades, though we tend not to see it.  We tend not to see it because we are it, and because we still employ Newtonian paradigms that tell us that “physical” has only to do with what we can see, or touch.  Which of course is not the case.  The electrons streaming into a child’s eye from the screen of the wooden television are as physical as anything else.  As physical as the neurons subsequently moving along that child’s optic nerves.  As physical as the structures and chemicals those neurons will encounter in the human brain.  We are implicit, here, all of us, in a vast physical construct of artificially linked nervous systems.  Invisible.  We cannot touch it.  We are it.  We are already the Borg, but we seem to need myth to bring us to that knowledge.

 ~ William Gibson, Distrust That Particular Flavor