Very interesting book, and this is backed up by a lot of the changed thinking coming out of the Pentagon after running essentially two failed large-sc...moreVery interesting book, and this is backed up by a lot of the changed thinking coming out of the Pentagon after running essentially two failed large-scale counterinsurgencies.
The gist of the book has to do with Fourth Generation Warfare 4GW, the blurring of lines between politics, war, civilians, infrastructure. And also has to do with the increasing empowerment of small groups through things like ad hoc networks, emergent intelligence, open source warfare.
The bottom line is this is something worth watching as it develops, since even the US is vulnerable. There are large and growing numbers of potential insurgent groups, from teabaggers to right wing militias to drug gangs to eco terrorists. The fact that they don't share common ideologies is irrelevant in 4GW. Like the insurgency in Iraq, groups with extremely different agendas are all pursuing a similar strategy, under a complete absence of leadership.
The thing to watch isn't mass protests or voting out incumbents or even spectacular attacks. When they start targeting infrastructure for disruption you can lay odds the US will become a failed state like Iraq in short order. They don't have to drop the US electrical grid either. Periodically interrupting regional infrastructure, whether it's the electrical grid, communications networks, energy deliver, or transportation can cause massive economic damage and bleed the state dry. And this requires very few people to conduct successfully.
This book is really ground breaking in a lot of ways. I think some parts of it, such as his description of the US economic model aren't quite on track. The book was published before the 2008 financial crisis, which discredited a lot of the conventional wisdom up until then.
The end recommendations of decentralizing and building smaller, self-sufficient, sustainable communities based around resilience is very sound. This is becoming a theme recommendation among a wide variety of groups from survivalists to environmentalists.(less)
Currently reading this book, considering completely redoing the landscaping into a sustainable "edible forest." This book so far seems written in a ki...moreCurrently reading this book, considering completely redoing the landscaping into a sustainable "edible forest." This book so far seems written in a kind of drippy style, but the concepts are very interesting.(less)
This is the best book describing the ongoing financial and regulatory capture in the developed world.
While the partisans scream about socialism and ot...moreThis is the best book describing the ongoing financial and regulatory capture in the developed world.
While the partisans scream about socialism and other non sequitur pseudo-economic arguments, the crisis is actually continuing and deepening behind the illusion of another asset bubble courtesy of incredible monetary easing.
The author is more optimistic than me, despite a shared view that deregulation has led to widespread financial fraud throughout the economy- although following him on his blog he appears to be increasingly critical of the weak form that the financial regulatory reform is taking.
The next stage will likely involve massive sovereign defaults or currency crises, and the associated social disorder.(less)
Python is a high-level programming language built on the philosophy of making easily readable code. While it usually carries a performance penalty com...morePython is a high-level programming language built on the philosophy of making easily readable code. While it usually carries a performance penalty compared to some other languages, I think the coding process is a lot friendlier with Python.
This book gives a good tour of the language, in an interesting way, by working through multiple video game programs.(less)
The book was ok, unfortunately the good health information was mixed with some pseudoscience, and some of the stuff was very difficult to get a good b...moreThe book was ok, unfortunately the good health information was mixed with some pseudoscience, and some of the stuff was very difficult to get a good bead on whether it is credible or not- even for researchers.
I did make some diet changes based on the recommendations in this book, and the overall effects have been very positive. Unfortunately, given how complicated the human body is, it appears impossible to me to find authoritative answers on a lot of things.(less)
I stopped reading this book partway through because it wasn't good.
Although I believe there is an extremely serious economic downturn imminent, this b...moreI stopped reading this book partway through because it wasn't good.
Although I believe there is an extremely serious economic downturn imminent, this book's premise is not the reason why. The author attempts to tie everything into wave analysis, some of which appear fabricated out of thin air. Demographics are important and can follow some cyclical trends, but this book is all over the place and completely incoherent. There are so many predictions for given years for various wave patterns of varying credibility that it just makes a big mess.
My thesis on this type of analysis- the human brain is designed for pattern recognition. This book finds patterns all over the place, but not all are valid.
It would also be difficult to position or trade on this advice, which I think is a major intended audience. The author points out he made the correct call when people were expecting a downturn in the 90s, and made a buy call after the dot-com bubble. But he also made outrageous predictions, and has made bad predictions on timing and levels just months after publishing (when the short term predictions should be the most accurate). The author has so many predictions laid all over the place out it's impossible not to hit or miss on a lot of them. In fact, there are so many, it's almost impossible to keep track of them all. Therefore those that hit become memorable, and those that miss become forgotten (when he is doing his own self-promotion).(less)
Despite being kind of off-put by the religious theme and background in controversy with religious groups as this book and the Davinci Code became popu...moreDespite being kind of off-put by the religious theme and background in controversy with religious groups as this book and the Davinci Code became popular, I liked this book a lot. A really good piece of historical conspiracy fiction.(less)
I'd consider the bulk of this book accurate, especially in the sense of some really groundbreaking work on the horizon in biotech and nanotech. I thin...moreI'd consider the bulk of this book accurate, especially in the sense of some really groundbreaking work on the horizon in biotech and nanotech. I think the author is grossly optimistic about his timeframe- turning the bulk of the entire solar system into a giant computer by the end of this century just isn't going to happen.
I'd also say that intelligence and capability doesn't necessarily track the exponential growth in computing power. Consider the difference in capability between individuals of differing intellects, or the level of optimisation you can get with a given procedure- these things tend to be bounded more than the unrestrained exponential growth in computing price performance that technology has been able to produce.
I do believe there will be strong AI however, probably in this century.(less)
Best comic book ever, nothing else even comes close. I recently watched the movie, which I think did as well as possible trying to portray this book.
T...moreBest comic book ever, nothing else even comes close. I recently watched the movie, which I think did as well as possible trying to portray this book.
There are two major directions on the word "Watchmen" itself which are interesting to follow.
One is the incredible structural detail of the plot, as each piece is a delicate piece of machinery moving with some overall purpose towards the plot itself. Watches and watch-like machinery is repeated all over the place, and the characters themselves each play their own role in this. This is one of the only pieces I've ever seen that jibes free will with predeterminism, the ultimate contradictory concepts, in a somewhat satisfying way- as each piece of machinery is self aware and exerting their free will, and yet predetermined to reach the final outcome. And it does it from a level of physics on up, with Dr. Manhattan as a self-aware entity able to perceive quantum time with a singular past and future. He is able to do literally anything, and is aware of everything that will happen to him, but does not alter anything in his timeline, and yet is not trapped by his fate.
And this steps into the other major theme on the word "Watchmen"- as protectors. With the necessary "Who watches the watchmen?" question. And in this story, the answer is no one. The Watchmen are the masters of the world, everything else from popular sentiment to government institutions are crushed by the direction the Watchmen take the world. And the philosophical guidance of the characters is what shapes their will. From the nihilism of the Comedian to the moral absolutism of Rorschach- but the "lesser" characters have their philosophy marginalized by the "might" of the greater characters of Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias. But might does not necessarily translate to right. Dr. Manhattan's character represents all might, no will, the ultimate laissez-faire- he literally does nothing except at the will of others in the entire story- from his following his father's will to become a watchmaker and then a physicist, to his actions at the will of the government, to Silk Spectre, to Ozymandias and humanity overall. And Ozymandius represents the ultimate in the expression of human will- a totally self-made individual reaching the pinnacle in every category of human endeavor. In the end his utilitarianism appears to win out, but the book leaves the open question of whether human will (the world as we will it to be) actually trumps objective truth (the world as it is) via Rorschach's journal.
Now all of this works well in the book, because of the incredible depth of the structure, with multiple concurrent storylines, flashbacks, pieces on the Watchmen world's historical background, etc. You can read this book dozens or hundreds of times, and find new stuff every time.
Obviously you can't put it all in the movie- there's no room. A lot of it is in there as vaporware, but if you haven't read the book you probably won't see how deep the rabbit hole runs. So I'm not going to fault the movie for cutting this scene or that scene, even though it dropped so much depth out of the story. It did as well as it could do, in my opinion, keeping the story together and moving in an entertaining and coherent manner.
Stuff in the movie that I didn't think was that good: A lot of the violence seemed gratuitous- eye candy to satisfy the people who went to the movie to see an action packed comic book movie. I don't remember that much joint snapping, compound fracturing fighting happening in the book- there was a lot of violence in the book, but it seemed a lot more muted. The midnight scene at the end felt rushed and weird. It seemed like they were just trying to squeeze in everything and call it a day by the end. Zap Dr. Manhattan and the cat Ozymandius catches the bullet Dr. Manhattan's back! but what's on TV? how could you do this? we have to!, but Rorshach must die!, you understand, kthxloveyoubye. You could barely get the implications that this was the climax of the movie, and a climax of competing philosophical arguments.
Stuff in the movie that I did think was good: The alternate armageddon I liked a lot. I think the movie did better than the book, to be honest. Blasphemy!
It fit better, because in the book, there were really only three things that were not grounded in reality.
1) Dr. Manhattan and his powers 2) Tachyons, which were a plot device needed for Dr. Manhattan's storyline- to limit the limitless 3) Psychics
Everything else, although fictional, was possible (at least theoretically).
By getting rid of the psychics and the psychic monster at the end, they eliminated everything impossible, except things related to Dr. Manhattan, which is a necessary plot device for exploring absolute conditions. I think that makes a more elegant framework, to be honest.
Plus, without being able to include all the foreshadowing on the abductions and genetic engineering, just dropping a psychic monster into the middle of New York would have been the most retarded climax possible.
This book has a lot to say about philosophy and economics, and it's a good read for people trying to understand a Laissez-faire capitalist or Libertar...moreThis book has a lot to say about philosophy and economics, and it's a good read for people trying to understand a Laissez-faire capitalist or Libertarian point of view.
It's dead wrong on many, many things, and pretty extremist in its practical application: Rorschach from Watchmen is the best example of a Randian ideal I can think of, and he's obviously crazy.
But at the same time, it has a lot of applicability on the current economic meltdown: just replace out of control socialism with out of control crony capitalism, and we're looking at a very realistic dystopian future from here.(less)