I love the themes of this book: multiple universes, long now, Project Orion, all kinds of math, and so on. I imagine this book would be extremely dull...moreI love the themes of this book: multiple universes, long now, Project Orion, all kinds of math, and so on. I imagine this book would be extremely dull at best or unintelligible at worst for someone who is not already versed in these topics. But ultimately the book didn't gel because of a lack of characterization or even an ending.
Stephenson takes the odd decision to take normal words and make them sound foreign ("up sight" instead of "insight", "polycomsmi" instead of "multiverse"), presumably to give this planet a foreign feel, but it just made the book harder to read. There is no reason to call "technology" "praxis". Around 20% into the book I finally figured out what people were talking about as I got used to of all of the made up words and started back from the beginning so I could understand what I had been reading. Hint: use the glossary. This kind of obfuscation was annoying, but now that I know the words it is fun to speak this language, and I love the term "jeejah".
Some of the characters were unique enough to stand on their own, but 90% blended together and seemed to have no distinctive personalities. I still don't know who was who, even males and females seemed to be the same people, nor do I care too much about most of them.
Stephenson's partisan attack on people who believe semantics are an emergent property from syntax left me feeling offended, because I am one of them, and his concepts of the foundations of mathematics being a "flow" into this universe seemed to be missing the point of the concept, at least to me. Maybe I need to read some Plato.
But like all Stephenson books, it just kinds of peters out, like he couldn't figure out how to tie things together and got bored so he just ends it. There was nothing satisfying about the finale at all.
Nevertheless, I liked the book and I guess if I cared enough to complain about it, it is because it spoke to me about concepts I care about, and I love the world that he crafts, with its preservation of knowledge in monasteries.
This should be required reading in high school. A class should be taught around it. Once you get it, then it all seems so obvious. But you will notice...moreThis should be required reading in high school. A class should be taught around it. Once you get it, then it all seems so obvious. But you will notice others who haven't discovered these life techniques yet. It definitely opened my eyes and improved my life. (less)
I think this man is probably a genius, but he is also probably wrong about so much. Most importantly, he is possibly the worst, most confusing writer...moreI think this man is probably a genius, but he is also probably wrong about so much. Most importantly, he is possibly the worst, most confusing writer I have ever read, and a great thinker that cannot organize his thoughts is likely to miss things.
Wins: Convincing argument that most of our mind is not accesible to our conciosness. Just might be true.
Convincing argument that we share a collective unconcious. It would make sense that we are born with instinctive common templates about life, nature, and society. However, I suspect he goes too far in the interpretation of mythology. Apparently no myth is too obscure to be part of the collective unconscious.
Convincing argument that humans need religion, and that only the living, morphing religions are healthy. (btw I am a long time athiest)
Fails: Synchronicity is based on bad statistics and bad studies. He gets a bit too excited here and sadly this misinformed paper is one of his best written.
His dream interpretation is unverifiable and just a bit self indulgent.
His personality types are vauge and unrecognizable, and likely just not true.
In conclusion, I will probably read more about his ideas, but I will have to read other authors who know how to communicate. (less)
The adrenaline ran through my veins as I read this book, because I loved it so much. I think he is onto something, although I suspect he got some of t...moreThe adrenaline ran through my veins as I read this book, because I loved it so much. I think he is onto something, although I suspect he got some of the details wrong. When I tried to map out what he was describing, somethings didn't look like they would pan out. E.g. "names" flowing up and down the cortical regions were very vague, and how they could still be static names while getting less specific at each region was confusing to me.
He doesn't do a great job of describing how he think the cortex works, although he tries. Apparently, you can download the software for from his company's website so I guess only high level details matter for the book. He says it takes about a year to get good at it.
He is pro-Chinese Room experiment. I was annoyed that he takes Searle's side that computers will never be able to simulate intelligence / consicousness, and yet his company creates software using his proposal that is intended to simulate visual intelligence.
Basically he says here are the data structures involved in the cortex, and that is most of everything that is needed for intelligence, but you just won't be able to simulate or implement these in the computer. You'll need a new device that is not a computer. Then he goes off and simulates it on a computer. I wonder how the rationalizes this contradiction. (less)
A classic, but so abstruse that it became very, very dull. A clearer writer would have made a better case. I am not even sure what Thoreau's case was....moreA classic, but so abstruse that it became very, very dull. A clearer writer would have made a better case. I am not even sure what Thoreau's case was. Woodchucks are awesome? People suck? It's not clear from a first read. (less)
It is pretty good, if you are into Jungian psychology. I'd prefer to hear a bit more about why he thinks what he says is true, instead of just stating...moreIt is pretty good, if you are into Jungian psychology. I'd prefer to hear a bit more about why he thinks what he says is true, instead of just stating it as true, for example, the reason for the difference in the shape of the cross in western Europe vs. the shape of the cross in Eastern Europe.
In any event, it does a good job of making you less scared of your shadow side and more willing to express it. (less)
His call for people to live their lives now instead of waiting for some far off retirement are truly profound and touching.
His pedantic descriptions...moreHis call for people to live their lives now instead of waiting for some far off retirement are truly profound and touching.
His pedantic descriptions of how to market your infomercial product are kind of pedestrian.
I cannot decide if I agree with all his conclusions, such as the importance of always traveling the world. Also, I think his audience might be those with ADD more than myself, but I am still digesting a week after having finished it. (less)
If you have never been part of the Jehovah's Witnesses religion, I am not sure what this book would mean to you. If you are interested in the subject...moreIf you have never been part of the Jehovah's Witnesses religion, I am not sure what this book would mean to you. If you are interested in the subject of thought control, or institutional evil, then you may get something out of this. But if you have been a member of this religion, then this book will resonate from your teeth to your toes.
To be a Witness is to give up much of your creativity, your ability to express yourself freely, and the sum of your critical thinking. Above all, being a Witness is intensely, oppressively dull. To get a taste of just how anti-intellectual it is, check out this spot-on animation of what a Sunday with the Witnesses is like. This is no exaggeration, this is pretty much exactly how it is. From the stage, they read the words to you, they read the question to you, and then you read back the answer. They call it "study" but it is unsatisfying and painful beyond belief, not like any other studying I have ever done.
The Witnesses I have known over the years are for the most part nice and well-intentioned people, but since their actions are controlled by the Organization they can be very cruel and small minded. Take away the Organization and they are great people.
This book shows how the Jehovah's Witnesses transformed themselves from a highly imaginative and little bit loopy religion in the 1800's, who believed the pyramids were built by God, into an intensely sad and crushing legalistic religion that spends more time creating new rules and counting service hours than it does providing spiritual support to its members.
The source of the problem, just like communism and other authoritarian states, is the centralized government of this religion. A dozen incompetent men name themselves the "Governing Body", also known as the "Faithful and Discrete Slave", and they call all of the shots. If anyone else forms any opinion that person is excommunicated. If one studies the Bible on their own, they are excommunicated and excommunication in this religion is particularly painful, since you will lose contact with your Mother or child - complete loss of contact. They call it "disfellowshipping".
The Governing Body and the preceding two Presidents of the "Watchtower, Bible, and Tract Society" are responsible for the 100% prophecy failure rate of the last 100 years and the bizarre and ever changing rules - no beards, no college, no oral sex with your spouse, and no masquerade parties. What is grounds for disfellowshipping this year may not be next year and as they change the rules they never ever admit fault, but sometimes they blame the members for misunderstanding the old rules.
Raymond Franz, the author, was one of the insiders, a member of the Governing Body who ended up getting disfellowshipped himself. He exposes the inner workings of the power center of this religion and shows how decent people on the Governing Body can get out of touch with the people they rule and how they can get caught up in the corruption of their jobs, especially when they feel that God is talking to them directly. For the average Witness, they have absolutely no idea how the religion is run and just assume that God is directing everything. These rules have led to enough people dying either from medical restrictions or from being forced to piss-off a murderous dictator, when you could have just bought a political party card instead for a buck.
I am grateful that Franz wrote this book, but I do not pity that he lost all that he worked for over 40 years. He was part of this group and he was complicit in decisions that hurt many, many people. Maybe he wised up in the end, but I am not overwhelmed with his conversion. He still comes across as morally smug and condescending, although he tries mightily to come off as humble - a trick that I have seen over and over with the Witnesses. Still, I respect him for writing this powerful source of information where before there was only mist and shadow.
Ultimately, the Governing Body has three weapons to protect its power: enough money to sue anyone who speaks out, total information control over its members, and disfellowshipping. As the internet has grown, the Witnesses have lost total control over information. They are desperately trying to keep their members off the internet, where reviews like this can written, but they will not succeed at this war. With fewer members they will eventually have less money to sue. But the last weapon, disfellowshipping, is still incredibly powerful. It will stay potent even as they shrink, and that is why they are turning to it more and more.
I don't think this religion will be around 100 years from now, at least in any form that looks like what it has been since the 1930's. They will ultimately have to modify themselves to be more open, truthful, and flexible to match the informational access of their members and new recruits, or they will wither away. There just aren't that many people willing to drink this kool-aid anymore.
If you are considering becoming involved with this religion, do yourself the favor to read this book cover to cover and then make up your mind. If you are still interested in the Witnesses, join up, but keep in mind that that this book is forbidden and reading it could get you disfellowshipped.(less)