This month the book club I started with some pals from work discussed
H(A)PPY, the latest novel from Nicola Barker.
It’s set in a post-post-apocalyptic world, among a people known as The Young. This world and The Young are never really described, physically. Bodies are rarely mentioned. I read this as suggesting that The Young are consciousnesses living in silicon, though this is never sad outright (and other members of the book club disagreed). The Young experience their thoughts, and everybody else’s and their reactions and emotions via The Stream, an always-present communication network, whose modes of information beyond text are cleverly communicated in the book by unusual typography. The Young’s society is utopian; they are free from need and police themselves to free from desire, the root of unhappiness. The Young are happy. But Mira A is h(a)ppy.
Continue reading H(A)PPY
At the beginning of this month I spent a week travelling around Northwest Germany work. There is a concentration of good maths departments in North Rhine-Westphalia and I did a tour of some of them. I couldn’t get to as many places as i would have liked because Tuesday was a public holiday—May Day is always on the 1st on the continent—but still a lot of places that were new to me.
Continue reading North Rhine-Westphalia
While I was in Southampton earlier this year I was asked to write a short post on my job for the maths postgraduate students’ blog. I’m posting it here as well, in case anyone else is interested in what I actually do all day.
Continue reading My job
I have been reading Jessie Greengrass’ first novel Sight over the last week. As should come as no surprise to anyone who has heard me talk about Greengrass in the last couple of years, I thought it was fantastic. Strange though it is to say about a book that is in large part about the difficulty of ever knowing others (or ourselves, clearly), Sight made me feel more than anything I have read for a long time that the author was writing just for me. I wasn’t surprised to find out that Greengrass’ background is in analytic philosophy. At a reading in Islington she told us that she was attracted to the intellectual satisfaction of the subject but didn’t find it a very useful way of engaging with the world, which reflects my view of maths as a primarily aesthetic pursuit.
Continue reading Revelation is by definition isolate -- Jessie Greengrass' *Sight*
Roger Federer’s neural net
Here’s a paragraph that caught my attention when I was re-reading one of David Foster Wallace’s late essays Roger Federer as Religious Experience a couple of evenings ago:
Continue reading Two thoughts on AI and genius