The library will endure; it is the universe... We walk the corridors, searching the shelves and rearranging them, looking for lines of meaning amid leagues of cacophony and incoherence, reading the history of the past and of the future, collecting our thoughts and collecting the thoughts of others, and every so often glimpsing mirrors, in which we may recognize creatures of the information.
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When the Lilliputians first saw Gulliver's watch, that "wonderful kind of engine...a globe, half silver and half of some transparent metal," they identified it immediately as the god he worshiped. After all, "he seldom did anything without consulting it: he called it his oracle, and said it pointed out the time for every action in his life." To Jonathan Swift in 1726 that was worth a bit of satire. Modernity was under way. We're all Gullivers now. Or are we Yahoos?
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Tiny differences in input could quickly become overwhelming differences in output.... In weather, for example, this translates into what is only half-jokingly known as the Butter- fly Effect""the notion that a butterfly stirring the air today in Peking can transform storm systems next month in New York.
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There are two kinds of geniuses: the 'ordinary' and the 'magicians'. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they've done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest calibre. - Mark Kac
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We all behave like Maxwell's demon. Organisms organize. In everyday experience lies the reason sober physicists across two centuries kept this cartoon fantasy alive. We sort the mail, build sand castles, solve jigsaw puzzles, separate wheat from chaff, rearrange chess pieces, collect stamps, alphabetize books, create symmetry, compose sonnets and sonatas, and put our rooms in order, and all this we do requires no great energy, as long as we can apply intelligence. We propagate structure (not just we humans but we who are alive). We disturb the tendency toward equilibrium. It would be absurd to attempt a thermodynamic accounting for such processes, but it is not absurd to say we are reducing entropy, piece by piece. Bit by bit. The original demon, discerning one molecules at a time, distinguishing fast from slow, and operating his little gateway, is sometimes described as 'superintelligent, ' but compared to a real organism it is an idiot savant. Not only do living things lessen the disorder in their environments; they are in themselves, their skeletons and their flesh, vesicles and membranes, shells and carapaces, leaves and blossoms, circulatory systems and metabolic pathways - miracles of pattern and structure. It sometimes seems as if curbing entropy is our quixotic purpose in the universe.
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the library is the last free space for the gathering and sharing of knowledge: 'Our attention cannot be bought and sold in a library.' As a tradition barely a century and a half old in the United States, it gives physical form to the principle that public access to knowledge is the foundation of democracy ["What Libraries Can (Still) Do, " The New York Review Daily, October 26, 2015].
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Billions of years ago there were just blobs of protoplasm; now billions of years later here we are. So information has been created and stored in our structure. In the development of one person's mind from childhood, information is clearly not just accumulated but also generated-created from connections that were not there before
One simple but powerful consequence of the fractal geometry of surfaces is that surfaces in contact do not touch everywhere. The bumpiness at all scales prevents that. Even in rock under enormous pressure, at some sufficiently small scale it becomes clear that gaps remain, allowing fluid to flow.
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the brain does not own any direct copies of stuff in the world. There is no library of forms and ideas against which to compare the images of perception. Information is stored in a plastic way, allowing fantastic juxtapositions and leaps of imagination. Some chaos exists out there, and the brain seems to have more flexibility than classical physics in finding the order in it.
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The basic idea of Western science is that you don't have to take into account the falling of a leaf on some planet in another galaxy when you're trying to account for the motion of a billiard ball on a pool table on earth. Very small influences can be neglected. There's a convergence in the way things work, and arbitrarily small influences don't blow up to have arbitrarily large effects.
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Intuition was not just visual but also auditory and kinesthetic. Those who watched Feynman in moments of intense concentration came away with a strong, even disturbing sense of the physicality of the process, as though his brain did not stop with the grey matter but extended through every muscle in his body.
The Internet has taken shape with startlingly little planning? The most universal and indispensable network on the planet somehow burgeoned without so muchasa boardofdirectors, never minda mergers-and- acquisitions department. There is a paradoxical lesson here for strategists. In economic terms, the great corporations are acting like socialist planners, while old- fashioned free-market capitalism blossoms at their feet.
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Writing comes into being to retain information across time and across space. Before writing, communication is evanescent and local; sounds carry a few yards and fade to oblivion. The evanescence of the spoken word went without saying. So fleeting was speech that the rare phenomenon of the echo, a sound heard once and then again, seemed a sort of magic.
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As a technology, the book is like a hammer. That is to say, it is perfect: a tool ideally suited to its task. Hammers can be tweaked and varied but will never go obsolete. Even when builders pound nails by the thousand with pneumatic nail guns, every household needs a hammer. Likewise, the bicycle is alive and well. It was invented in a world without automobiles, and for speed and range it was quickly surpassed by motorcycles and all kinds of powered scooters. But there is nothing quaint about bicycles. They outsell cars.
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One of the ways the telegraph changed us as humans was it gave us a new sense of what time it is. It gave us an understanding of simultaneity. It gave us the ability to synchronize clocks from one place to another. It made it possible for the world to have standard time and time zones and then Daylight Savings Time and then after that jetlag. All of that is due to the telegraph because, before that, the time was whatever it was wherever you were.
The body itself is an information processor. Memory resides not just in brains but in every cell. No wonder genetics bloomed along with information theory. DNA is the quintessential information molecule, the most advanced message processor at the cellular level - an alphabet and a code, 6 billion bits to form a human being.
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With the advent of computing, human invention crossed a threshold into a world different from everything that came before. The computer is the universal machine almost by definition, machine-of-all-trades, capable of accomplishing or simulating just about any task that can be logically defined.
The Fifties and Sixties were years of unreal optimism about weather forecasting. Newspapers and magazines were filled with hope for weather science, not just for prediction but for modification and control. Two technologies were maturing together: the digital computer and the space satellite.
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If we want to live freely and privately in the interconnected world of the twenty-first century - and surely we do - perhaps above all we need a revival of the small-town civility of the nineteenth century. Manners, not devices: sometimes it's just better not to ask, and better not to look.
It's important with any new technology to try to pay conscious attention to what the drawbacks might be. We choose to multitask. Sometimes our choices aren't the wisest of choices, and we regret them, but they are our choices. I think it'd be wrong to think that they're automatically bad.
Memes can be visual. Our image of George Washington is a meme. We don't actually have any idea what George Washington looked like. There are so many different portraits of him, and they're all different. But we have an image in our head, and that image is propagated from one place to another, from one person to another.
As for memes, the word 'meme' is a cliche, which is to say it's already a meme. We all hear it all the time, and maybe we even have started to use it in ordinary speech. The man who invented it was Richard Dawkins, who was, not coincidentally, an evolutionary biologist. And he invented it as an analog for the gene.
Is privacy about government security agents decrypting your e-mail and then kicking down the front door with their jackboots? Or is it about telemarketers interrupting your supper with cold calls? It depends. Mainly, of course, it depends on whether you live in a totalitarian or a free society.