Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What do a mathematician, a musician and an artist have in common? And how does this find resonance with one of the forefathers of AI? This is a book that plays out on so many different levels – infact more than a read, its an experience you are about to immerse yourself in. For example while self-recursion is discussed at depth, its done in a playful manner and through multiple points of view (with some adorable literary characters setting the stage before handing it over for some in-depth rumination!). Its clear the book is special to the author as well – just check out the preface and you’ll know how much the book and its life mean to him.
Read this book and am sure you will find it a rewarding experience. Its rarely that a polymath will take you by the hand and show you how he sees the world. for such an intellect, specialisations don’t matter – art, literature, math and music are all fertile ground for an exploration of on patterns and how complexity plays out. It’s a meandering, long read – treat it as a walk in the wild woods and not a formal tea at the garden – and you’ll come out with a sense of wonder. Guaranteed!
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The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What is time and how does it flow? When a scientist of Mr.Rovelli’s caliber expounds his narrative (he is both a renown scholar and a storyteller), you are sure to be spellbound by the breadth of his topic and his ability to take you by the hand and explore it so beautifully. You will walk away with a better appreciation of time, how it flows, how space relates to it and of course with a sense of wonder at everything around you. This is a worthy successor to his exceptional book on Physics, a must read in my view for everyone – not just for the topic itself, but for getting inspired by a mind of great curiosity and genius.
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Kinsey and Me: Stories by Sue Grafton
A good short story collection. If you have read Sue Grafton, you know the format – a honest-to-goodness detective who has a charming take on life as well! The sleuthing is very interesting and a wide variety of characters make the stories a riveting read. Summary – a light, good read – vintage Grafton albeit in very short doses. Recommended!
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“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun.”Alan Watts
As we embark on the new year, here are a couple of frameworks from two legends (one was a stoic philosopher and the other leads our ecom revolution today!) that have served me well over the years – with the wish that they prove to be key tools in your arsenal too and make the year very special.
How to overcome fear – the Seneca way
Fear is an universal emotion – while what we fear differs from person to person (security/death/illness/loneliness), the emotion itself looms heavy on most of our minds. Seneca, the stoic sage, has an antidote to fear that builds upon a simple insight that “fear of an event is often more crippling than the event itself”.
And once we accept this, then he has a simple solution to transcend the fear. Embrace the fear and act upon it – albeit in small doses!
Seneca gives us a practical example to illustrate his framework and his advice on how we can overcome the fear of poverty are very relevant even today (the fear of poverty is why we are “always” engaged in worrying about our financial security, our addition in working all the time etc.)
“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’” – SenecaSeneca
Now Seneca was one of those rare philosophers who practiced what he preached – and his solutions therefore have exceptional real time validity. So do try out the framework, it has certainly worked for me in many instances.
How to evaluate life changing decisions – Bezos’ regret minimization framework
In the face of a decision that involves a significant change to our life – personal or professional – I have always had the challenge of debating endlessly between what the mind tells me is right and what the heart encourages me to do. Jeff Bezos (yes the Amazon guy) apparently faced a similar dilemma a few decades ago – he was torn between choosing to embark on an uncertain dream (starting amazon.com) or continuing with his job (which included a “big bonus” in the short term!).
I went to my boss and said to him, “You know, I’m going to go do this crazy thing and I’m going to start this company selling books online.” This was something that I had already been talking to him about in a sort of more general context, but then he said, “Let’s go on a walk.” And, we went on a two hour walk in Central Park in New York City and the conclusion of that was this. He said, “You know, this actually sounds like a really good idea to me, but it sounds like it would be a better idea for somebody who didn’t already have a good job.” He convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision.
So, I went away and was trying to find the right framework in which to make that kind of big decision. I had already talked to my wife about this, and she was very supportive and said, “Look, you know you can count me in 100 percent, whatever you want to do.” It’s true she had married this fairly stable guy in a stable career path, and now he wanted to go do this crazy thing, but she was 100 percent supportive. So, it really was a decision that I had to make for myself, and the framework I found which made the decision incredibly easy was what I called – which only a nerd would call – a “regret minimization framework.”
So, I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, “Okay, now I’m looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have.” I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so, when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision. And, I think that’s very good. If you can project yourself out to age 80 and sort of think, “What will I think at that time?” it gets you away from some of the daily pieces of confusion. You know, I left this Wall Street firm in the middle of the year. When you do that, you walk away from your annual bonus. That’s the kind of thing that in the short-term can confuse you, but if you think about the long-term then you can really make good life decisions that you won’t regret later.Jeff Bezos (I believe this was from “the Everything Store” – a wonderful book by Brad Stone)
I’ll leave you with one more thing (yeah!) – some wonderful advice from Russ Roberts‘ “How Adam Smith can change your life” where he encourages us to be kind and trustworthy to make the world a better place. BTW – if you haven’t read it yet, this is a must read book on so many different levels.
“If you want to make the world a better place, work on being trustworthy, and honor those who are trustworthy. Be a good friend and surround yourself with worthy friends. Don’t gossip. Resist the joke that might hurt someone’s feelings even when it’s clever. And try not to laugh when your friend tells you that clever joke at someone’s expense. Being good is not just good for you and those around you, but because it helps others be good as well. Set a good example, and by your loveliness you will not only be loved, but you may influence the world.”
And that’s it for now – here’s wishing everyone a wonderful year. Please do share/like/comment this post – it’s the conversation that adds the greatest value to a post.