Technology and society as chicken and egg

Is Twitter the cause or the by-product of our half-baked public discourse? Paper by Mark Kurlanksy is a thinly veiled rumination on this question. Not Twitter exactly, but whether technology shapes society or is instead shaped by it. Kurlanky comes down very much on the latter. It wasn’t paper and ink that spurred bureaucracy, philosophy, […]

Ideas are nothing without execution

Robert Hooke is the poster boy for the notion that it is not sufficient to have a good idea. As I’ve lugged Lisa Jardin’s biography of Hooke around over the past few weeks, it’s been hard to explain who exactly Hooke was. You may remember him as the ugly cretin in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos […]

The curious life of Charles Darwin

Your ideas are the sum of your influences. This is something I first came across in Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From: “ideas are works of bricolage; they’re built out of that detritus. We take the ideas we’ve inherited or that we’ve stumbled across, and we jigger them together into some new shape.” And […]

Mozart was a village

It’s hard to fathom the mind of a genius. Although I really enjoy biographies, I often learn more of and from the world around them than I do from the subject itself. In the case of Paul Johnson’s short, brilliant biography of Mozart, it’s Mozart’s father that piqued my interest. The endless renditions of concertos, […]

The giants of economics were humans, too.

Grand Pursuit by Sylvia Nasar is a tough book to describe. I’ve alternately been calling it a series of economic biographies, and a sweeping history of political economy. The blurb refers to it as a "survey" of the characters that shaped economics. I’m not sure any of these really get at what makes it so […]

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