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The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul: What Gnarly Computation Taught Me about Ultimate Reality, the Meaning of Life, and How to Be Happyby Rudy Rucker
Synopses & Reviews
?A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,? goes the ancient saying. This concept is at the root of the computational worldview, which basically says that very complex systems (the world we live in) have their beginnings in simple mathematical equations. We?ve lately come to understand that such an algorithm is only the start of a never-ending story: the real action occurs in the unfolding consequences of the rules. The chip-in-a-box computers so popular in our time have acted as a kind of microscope, letting us see into the secret machinery of the world. In Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul, Rucker, known as the father of cyberpunk, uses whimsical drawings, fables, and humor to demonstrate that everything is a computation; that thoughts, computations, and physical processes are all the same. Rucker discusses the linguistic and computational advances that make this kind of "digital philosophy" possible, and explains how, like every great new principle, the computational worldview contains the seeds of a next step.
"Timothy Leary meets Bill Gates in this muddled book, part memoir of a life spent teaching mathematical logic, part history of computer science, but mostly a long, strange quest for the meaning of life. UC-San Jose computer scientist Rucker argues that all of reality is a mathematical computation. Like most computation, physical reality — such as the wind driving leaves on a tree — produces 'gnarly,' interacting and nonrepeating patterns. Moreover, even human consciousness is computation, as shown by the lifebox. A device Rucker invented in one of his science fiction novels, it's a gadget that preserves an individual's life; to Rucker, a lifebox reduces a person simply to a computerlike device that uses software to access the personality. Yet, by the end, he decides that gnarly computation, though it might be the key to reality, doesn't hold the meaning of life, which is beauty and love. And individuals, he concludes, can be happy by 'turning off the machine' and 'opening their hearts.' Rucker blissfully spouts his facile pop psychology, but most readers will be lost in the gnarled prose of computer science and bogs of poorly explained mathematical logic. Agent, Russell Weinberger." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Rucker--known as the father of cyberpunk--uses whimsical drawings, fables, and humor to demonstrate that everything is a computation, that thoughts, computations, and physical processes are all the same.
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