Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. Shovel them under and let me work- I am the grass; I cover all. And pile them high at Gettysburg. And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years, ten years,and passengers ask the conductor- What place is this? Where are we now? I am the grass. Let me work.
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. Shovel them under and let me work- I am the grass; I cover all. And pile them high at Gettysburg And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor: What place is this? Where are we now? I am the grass. Let me work.
For most people, geeks or not, modern life is just this incredibly complex problem amenable to no good obvious solution. But we can peck around the edges of it; we can make little shortcuts. And once you point out that everyone does that, once you coin the term, it's really easy to pile a whole lot of shared behaviors into one neat pile.
If instead of arranging the atoms in some definite pattern, again and again repeated, on and on, or even forming little lumps of complexity like the odor of violets, we make an arrangement which is always different from place to place, with different kinds of atoms arranged in many ways, continually changing, not repeating, how much more marvelously is it possible that this thing might behave? Is it possible that that "thing" walking back and forth in front of you, talking to you, is a great glob of these atoms in a very complex arrangement, such that the sheer complexity of it staggers the imagination as to what it can do? When we say we are a pile of atoms, we do not mean we are merely a pile of atoms, because a pile of atoms which is not repeated from one to the other might well have the possibilities which you see before you in the mirror.
You can take a pile of rocks and use them to build a house, or you can take the same pile and start a war. Tell children not to throw rocks, make rules against picking up rocks, and then make them mad. Keep projecting what not to do and you make the thought in their brains of what can and will be done.
The to-read pile is more than just a physical stack of books: it's a tower of ambitions failed, hopes unrealised, good intentions unfulfilled. Worse still, it's a cold hard reminder of mortality. Already, I have intentions to read more books than I can hope to manage in a normal lifetime. How will this pile of books taunt me when I'm 64?
In a typical 401k plan, when you first become eligible you get a big pile of forms and you're told, fill out these forms if you want to join. Tell us how much amount you've saved and how you want to invest the money. In, under automatic enrollment you get that same pile of forms but the top page says, if you don't fill out these forms, we're going to enroll you anyway and we're going to enroll you at this saving rate and in these investments.
Eric, you need to look at the whole picture, " the PM said. "You look at the jobless as a huge pile of scrap and you're looking for what can be recycled. That's good. That's your job. But what you don't realise is that this pile of scrap itself serves a purpose. I need my zeros, Eric. They put fear in people; fear of crime and terrorism. They are a stark reminder to the stakeholders that what they despise today, they may end up joining tomorrow. It keeps them obedient. Remember that!
Mathias remembered that once when he was a boy, he'd gone up to a pile of red apples that lay in the market cart, in the market near Stolberg where his father often took him. He'd always loved apples, and he couldn't resist the temptation of grabbing one out of the pile. He chose the closest, a splendid red piece of fruit that he would never forget because of his overwhelming desire to take it and hide it in the folds of his clothing. A moment after Mathias reached out and snatched it, the pile slid and applies tumbled down all around him. The farmer, who knew his father, would have been satisfied with an apology. But his father, a successful craftsman who was well-known and respected in the town, had insisted on purchasing an entire basketful of apples, because of the trouble Mathias had caused. Mathias got the worst scolding his father had ever given him. Not because of the money, but for the small act of petty thievery, which an upright man like his father would never tolerate. He shouldered his punishment, and in the end was only allowed to eat as single apple from the basket. He spent the night thinking about the pile. He had to remove only one and the whole thing had come down. He wondered if the same thing might happen with any tower, no matter how majestic and imposing it might seem, were someone to remove the right stone from the base. The thought stayed with him throughout his life. Venice now seemed a lot like that pile of apples. If three murders truly represented an irresistible opportunity, then which nobleman would have seized it, knowing that such a thing would cause La Serenissima and everything it represented to come crashing down?
For the first time in six or seven thousand years, many people of goodwill find themselves confused about art. They want to enjoy it because enjoying art is something they expect of themselves as civilized persons, but they're unsure how to do so. They aren't even sure which of the visible objects are art and which are furniture, clothes, hors d'oeuvres, or construction rubble, and whether a pile of dead and decomposing rats is deliberate art or just another pile of decomposing rats.
Let us return for a moment to Lady Lovelace's objection, which stated that the machine can only do what we tell it to do. One could say that a man can "inject" an idea into the machine, and that it will respond to a certain extent and then drop into quiescence, like a piano string struck by a hammer. Another simile would be an atomic pile of less than critical size: an injected idea is to correspond to a neutron entering the pile from without. Each such neutron will cause a certain disturbance which eventually dies away. If, however, the size of the pile is sufficiently increased, the disturbance caused by such an incoming neutron will very likely go on and on increasing until the whole pile is destroyed. Is there a corresponding phenomenon for minds, and is there one for machines? There does seem to be one for the human mind. The majority of them seem to be "sub critical, " i.e. to correspond in this analogy to piles of sub-critical size. An idea presented to such a mind will on average give rise to less than one idea in reply. A smallish proportion are supercritical. An idea presented to such a mind may give rise to a whole "theory" consisting of secondary, tertiary and more remote ideas. Animals' minds seem to be very definitely sub-critical. Adhering to this analogy we ask, "Can a machine be made to be super-critical?