Tandem reading; Complex failures; Flying toasters
Not too many readings this month. I spent some of today reading Emergent Tokyo : designing the spontaneous city and already know I'm going to love it. Perfect for those who've been enthralled by Tokyo and urbanists regardless of whether they've been there or not.
I was reading by myself today, but perhaps I should have read with a friend: Emma Specter has a lovely piece in Vogue of all places, last year, called Words With Friends: On the Joys of Tandem Reading:
I don’t know exactly what it is about reading with friends that I treasure so much, but I think it has something to do with comfort, with a tacit closeness that nobody feels the need to name. When you’re getting a drink with a brand-new casual friend (as I often am these days, while I adjust to life in a new city), you’re as “on” as you might be for a first date, peppering the person across the table from you with questions about work and siblings and dreading the crashing thump of an awkward silence. With old friends, though, you’re free to check out, to stare into space, to—okay, fine—be a little rude, and nobody thinks you love them any less just because you’re deeply engrossed, in, say, Katie Kitamura’s Intimacies, and absolutely need to know how it turns out.
Something about this seems connected to why Bookwyrm (and similar apps) are attractive to many people. Initially I thought the functionality to share “quotes” seemed unnecessarily performative, but this article helped me to think about it in a different way as an act of generosity and, potentially, intimacy–especially given Bookwyrm's ability to share a quote with only a select group, or even an individual.
Modern humans are surrounded by extremely complex systems – though I suppose the main difference compared to our ancient ancestors is that now far more of those systems were created by us. Richard I. Cook wrote about How Complex Systems Fail in 1998 and it's as clear and accurate now as it was then. In short, complex system failure is as complex as the systems themselves.
David Finnigan writes about the complexity of a system that evolved without us but is now evolving with human behaviour: the global weather and ocean systems. Finnigan reminds us that whilst it's right to be alarmed, such times are not entirely without precedent in human memory: We've been here before
The scale and speed of climate change we're facing now is something new. We can't go back to the past, and we shouldn't try. These Indigenous stories of sea level rise are not a template for our future, and they don't tell us how we should live today. But they are a part of our toolkit, and we need to learn what they teach us, and build on it.
Of course, sometimes whether a system is failing is in the eye of the beholder. Mike Lynch has broken his own filters to bring us a short meditation on what it means to think:
the question “can machines think?”, like a great deal of philosophy, implies a tacit model of what it is like to be a thinking subject, and the answer an individual human gives to it will be very dependent on what they think their own thinking is like.
Bryan Braun has a little all-CSS surprise for retro Microsoft Windows fans. If you were ever a fan of Flying Toasters, check it out.
All of this leaving you exhausted? Maybe you should learn how to take a nap.
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