Shalizi’s review of NKS

I laugh out loud every time I reread Cosma Shalizi’s review of “New Kind of Science” (2005).  I remember reading it back in college when everyone was talking about the book, when I was just losing my naivete about the popular science treatments of complex systems and such.  I must be getting more cynical as I get older because I keep liking the review more.  This time my favorite line was

Wolfram even goes on to refute post-modernism on this basis; I won’t touch that except to say that I’d have paid a lot to see Wolfram and Jacques Derrida go one-on-one.

And on the issue of running your own conventions and citing yourself, he compares it to

… the way George Lakoff uses “as cognitive science shows” to mean “as I claimed in my earlier books”

These quotes are funnier in context.

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3 Responses to Shalizi’s review of NKS

  1. People like Shalizi are very handy to have around; because they are humorous they are fun to read, and being informed and informative means they disabuse you of your naive notions at less cost than would come further down the road.

    I also liked Shalizi’s line (somewhere) about people hallucinating power laws at every turn. I had read, for instance, George Zipf’s statistical breakdown of word useage “Human behavior and the principle of least effort”, known as “Zipf’s law”, which posited a power law distribution of both natural and social phenomena.

    Shalizi knows his statistics and would have none of it. I appreciated his input. Always good to borrow someone’s jaundiced eye. Critical thinking comes at a price; nice when someone out there is willing to pay.

  2. I actually don’t get the Derrida reference. Is he saying Derrida & Wolfram are both crazy? Or simply that they come from different sides of the C P Snow divide and it would be interesting to watch them clash—no sarcasm included?

  3. Wow, that’s pretty incredible about Matthew Cook. Although as I understand it it’s not actually uncommon (at least in certain places) for salaried workers to give up all they create in exchange for that guaranteed, regular paycheque.

    I think I’ll find reading about cyclic tag systems and Emil Post much more interesting than computation-as-pantheism.