The Singularity Is Near

January 17, 2010

I first stumbled upon Ray Kurzweil’s website some years ago. It immediately turned me off with words like “Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever.” It sounded like one of those “How to be happy and get everything you want” books, which rarely accomplish anything but big bucks for the author, and disappointment for the suckers who buy them.

I’ve read The Singularity Is Near now, and my opinion about the book is mixed. I don’t remember what made me look it up in the first place — but I certainly don’t regret reading it.

Kurzweil argues that evolution is an exponential process, and that each new paradigm opens the door towards a faster development of the next one. As evidence, he shows logarithmic plots such as this:

singularity countdown

If this were plotted linearly, most of the “interesting” events (like Homo Sapiens, cities, and the Internet) would be grouped together in a small chunk of recent time, compared to the time it took for life before that to evolve.

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Paper Towns

January 9, 2009

papertowns-rightJohn Green’s latest and greatest novel. After an inspiring debut and a less relatable second novel, Paper Towns was a very pleasant surprise. It is definitely the best young adult book I’ve read this year; and it will be interesting to see if another will take its place as the year unfolds.

In the first part, the book takes us on a dizzying to-do list of adventures (I tend to like novels that contain lists). It promises to be a page-turner with tons of fun and no  deep moral. But the second part makes a character disappear, veering away from such a prediction completely. There is a lot of meditation on understanding other people, and in particular, on misimagining others by seeing them as idea[l]s.

The hunt for clues left by the missing person continues almost until the end, making this another novel for whose answer-in-the-lack-of-answers ending I feared. Although the characters do finally reunite, the message Green sends out is not one that inspires comfort. Basically, he puts Maugham’s tower of brass into words intelligible to the impatient Google generation. True and complete understanding between people is impossible; you cannot be someone else.

The novel ends with a brilliant metaphor about human suffering and understanding.

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Quotes from “Lock and Key”, by Sarah Dessen

August 19, 2008

Which was not as impressive as her other works.
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Quotes from “Theatre”, by William Somerset Maugham

August 9, 2008

(which is unfortunately unavailable online)

  • People don’t want reasons to do what they’d like to do. […] They want excuses.
  • It’s like lying and not knowing you’re lying, that’s what’s fatal. […]
  • The tragedy of life is that sometimes we get what we want.
  • When I’ve seen you go into an empty room I’ve sometimes wanted to open the door suddenly, but I’ve been afraid to in case I found nobody there.
  • “the origin of poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity”
  • […] It’s we, the actors, who are the reality. […] They are our raw material. We are the meaning of their lives.
    […] Why, it’s only we who do exist. They are the shadows and we give them substance. We are the symbols of all this confused, aimless struggling that they call life, and it’s only the symbol which is real. They say acting is only make-believe. That make-believe is the only reality.

Citazioni da “Cento colpi di spazzola prima di andare a dormire” di Melissa Panarello

August 9, 2008
  • Ma questi schiamazzi mi stanno dilaniando, so che stanotte qualcuno vivrà più di me.
  • La solitudine mi sta distruggendo forse, ma non mi fa paura. Io sono la migliore amica di me stessa, io non potrei mai tradirmi, mai abbandonarmi.
  • Là dentro troverai la morte. Non potrai più riprendere il cuore, bambina, morirai, e qualcuno getterà la terra sulla tua tomba. Nemmeno un fiore, nemmeno uno.
  • Ero inerme. Lo sguardo basso e spento. Vuoto. Non ho voluto guardare.
  • Dove sei finita Narcisa che tanto ti amavi e tanto sorridevi, tanto volevi dare e altrettanto ricevere; dove sei finita con i tuoi sogni, con le tue speranze, le tue follie, follie di vita, follie di morte, dove sei finita immagine riflessa allo specchio, dove posso cercarti, dove posso trovarti, come posso trattenerti?
  • Paura, tanta paura.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl

August 4, 2008

by Barry Lyga.

(Try to ignore the bombastic title.)

Skinny guy living in his mother’s basement, computer and comic book geek, bullied at school, convinced everyone hates him. Self-proclaimed brainiac loser and his bullet, good liar, surviving from week to week between gym classes, hoping to start over in college. Sounds familiar? Sometimes it’s good to know, there are people worse off.

With more than a fair deal of unrealistic moments (IM date, Dina) and obvious plot turns (stolen bullet, step-fascist helps, she’s at the con), this novel is only as good as its sarcastic narrator. I liked the ending a lot, though.

Quotes:

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Epiphany of the Day

July 28, 2008

It is NOT a good idea to eat while listening about putrefaction.