Three Sciency Books and Why

The Minds I

The Mind's I

The Mind’s I edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett

Awesome book on consciousness and cognition. I totally loved this book right before I came into recovery (though I am certain I love it now, too.) Basically, a series of essays/stories/one play about the nature of consciousness. Do we have souls? What is a soul? That sort of thing.

The part that fascinated me so much about this book at the time was the question of artificial intelligence. If “soul” is a byproduct of a biological processes dependent upon an “observer,” what would happen if we could replicate that experience in a non-biological entity? What would that be? Could we actually do it?

The last page answers all the questions the book, not to mention millennia of philosophical ponderings, bring up, so if you do want a glimpse into the Ultimate Truth, be sure to skip to that last page. (I may be misremembering that.)



Arcadia by Tom Stoppard (you could also watch this one)

I read and then watched this one when I was in high school, and oh, how I cried at the end! (Spoiler alert!) (Though I admit that I cry at the end of nearly every episode of Friends, so make of that what you will.) I hadn’t put together before now that this play may have influenced my decision to study the Eighteenth Century (by which I mean the Long Eighteenth Century) in college and grad school! Lookie there! Learning all the time!

The play moves between the early 1800s (LONG!) and the present day. I won’t burden you with plot details that I don’t remember at all, but I will say that the play brilliantly rhapsodizes on, then enacts Chaos Theory in a way that might move one to tears. The heroine (okay, fine, this is pretty much a four-person play with no one protagonist) is this awesome thirteen-year-old girl, who basically breaks down the Second Law of Thermodynamics during her study sessions with her tutor. Like you do.



Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson

There is so damn much going on in this book, which is the first in The Baroque Cycle, I don’t even know where to start. Long Eighteenth Century, again, but this time at the front end of it. A lot about the beginnings of commerce and the figurings-out of science stuff that laymen now take for granted. I think that I will recommend the second book even more highly. (Next blog post: The Confusion’s library classification chapter. Not making this up.)

Why: I am still kind of trying to figure this stuff out. The first one is about the mind and how it works– important as I’m trying to get to a place of creating intuitive grouping/sorting systems. Arcadia is about how the mind works but it is also a great metaphor for internet, right? You can’t unstir what’s been stirred in. (Nor should you, say I.) Libraries are pretty much about fighting entropy. Is there some other relationship to have with it that would be more enriching? Quicksilver is a history of everything. I am especially tripping on the part about the creation of money, which is a big theme in my life right now. So much of the Enlightenment was about categorizing and classifying. This is where the encyclopedia, as we now use it, was invented. So, there are these awesome scenes of the Royal Society trying to put together a language that will only consist of truth! Amazing! Also awesome: codes, which makes me want to go encode something…



  1. […] from the Eighteenth-Century Enlightenment obsession with organization of knowledge and learning. Like I said on Friday, this is the era of the encyclopedia and strangely, relatedly, of landscape gardening, wherein the […]

  2. […] because I didn’t hear of Ada Lovelace until I was in late high school, when we were reading Arcadia (scroll down). And then I heard about her a lot from my awesome tech-y friends in college, because […]

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