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The Dreams of Reason: The Computer and the Rise of the Sciences of Complexity

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In the provocative, enlightening style of James Gleick's Chaos, The Dreams of Reason reveals how the conjunction of the revolutionary new sciences and computer technology is changing our view of reality.


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In the provocative, enlightening style of James Gleick's Chaos, The Dreams of Reason reveals how the conjunction of the revolutionary new sciences and computer technology is changing our view of reality.

30 review for The Dreams of Reason: The Computer and the Rise of the Sciences of Complexity

  1. 5 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    Heinz Pagels meditations of science, philosophy, complexity and the science of chaos, computer modeling, Artificial intelligence, cognitive science. Gives a look into where these sciences were going and some interesting biographical comments and comments on academia of the 1980s. Enjoyable and much of the science is still very relevant. At the same time because the book is a bit old some of the debates are no longer central to what is going on now especially in the fast moving world of AI. Still Heinz Pagels meditations of science, philosophy, complexity and the science of chaos, computer modeling, Artificial intelligence, cognitive science. Gives a look into where these sciences were going and some interesting biographical comments and comments on academia of the 1980s. Enjoyable and much of the science is still very relevant. At the same time because the book is a bit old some of the debates are no longer central to what is going on now especially in the fast moving world of AI. Still, it is good to look at passionate debates of the past that now seem a bit quaint now. I got something different from the book that the deadhead who recommended Pagels to me in a conversation in the parking lot outside a Grateful Dead Show in Buffalo on July 4th, 1989 but I am glad I finally got around to reading the book my friend recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Blaine

    In the 1980s before there was the internet, when most people were just getting started with personal computers, American physicist Heinz Pagels understood the intimate connection between the exponential rise and proliferation of computing power and how it was contributing to the birth of a whole new realm of mathematics and physics, and with it, our understanding of the most important aspects of the world we live in. This was the rise of the sciences of complexity - chaos theory, fractal geometr In the 1980s before there was the internet, when most people were just getting started with personal computers, American physicist Heinz Pagels understood the intimate connection between the exponential rise and proliferation of computing power and how it was contributing to the birth of a whole new realm of mathematics and physics, and with it, our understanding of the most important aspects of the world we live in. This was the rise of the sciences of complexity - chaos theory, fractal geometry, nonlinear dynamics, cyber-everything, parallel processing, neural networks, self-organizing and self-adaptive systems - in short, the science of the macro-world systems we experience everyday: the climate, air and water flows, traffic dynamics, biological organization, population dynamics, and a host of everyday systems that had previously been too complex to study. All at once, the explosion of computing power in smaller machines became affordable to researchers with little grant money, grad students, garage nerds, or science enthusiasts of any sort and enabled them to work with kinds of analyses that hitherto were only available to small groups of researchers in the government, the military, and large universities. Simulations and analyses of complex systems with multiple variables, nonlinear system variables, were now possible and would lead to a revolution in our understanding of the organizational dynamics of natural systems. Because of this explosion of computing power, Pagels discusses the emergence of a new view of mathematics and with it, a new view of the foundational ideas of physical reality: the computational view. In mathematics this is the notion that to know a mathematical truth you must be able to compute it in a manner similar to a Turing machine. But the notion is extended in the physical world suggesting that the material world and the dynamical systems in it arise computationally, as “natural” computers. The brain, the weather, the solar system, are all like computers – “according to the computational view, the laws of nature are algorithms that control the development of the system in time, just like real programs do for computers” (p45). Computational biology is the study of biological systems and artificial life done on a computer. The computer, the tool which gave rise to this computational view, also gave rise to a new fundamental organizing principle of nature: that of information as the foundational principle underlying the organization of reality (e.g., Information and the Nature of Reality). Almost thirty years have passed since Pagels wrote his book and the sciences of complexity are now well established and part of many fields of study in the sciences. When I read it in the early 1990s, this book gave me a better idea of many of the trends in science that were birthed and propelled by the proliferation of computing power. I can still recommend this book as a good introduction to the sciences of complexity and their relation to the profound changes in our understanding of the world brought on by computers and computing power.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ed Terrell

    This book intertwines the history and development of the the major ideas in science, mathematics and philosophy with Pagels personal reflections. The book starts off at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur and ends in India. Along the way, we move from the philosophical ideas of Wittgenstein and Chomsky, into Lorenz's work on deterministic chaos, Neumann's cellular automata, Turing machines and cognitive science. He seemingly and effortlessly, leaves no stone unturned and unexamined. Whether its his This book intertwines the history and development of the the major ideas in science, mathematics and philosophy with Pagels personal reflections. The book starts off at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur and ends in India. Along the way, we move from the philosophical ideas of Wittgenstein and Chomsky, into Lorenz's work on deterministic chaos, Neumann's cellular automata, Turing machines and cognitive science. He seemingly and effortlessly, leaves no stone unturned and unexamined. Whether its his discussion of Karl Popper versus Thomas Kuhn or Wolfgang Pauli's relationship with Jung, he manages to provides glimpses of insight and leaves the reader with more questions than answers as we each must find our own path.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Brokaw

    I read this in college and it rocked my world. I need to reread to remember the particulars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Old Old

    I reread this book, opening it at random, and while it takes awhile for my aging brain to kick in, it does eventually recall what I read, hopes I will continue reading to maybe reread a part it has totally forgotten. Good book to be introduced to complexity & computer usages. I reread this book, opening it at random, and while it takes awhile for my aging brain to kick in, it does eventually recall what I read, hopes I will continue reading to maybe reread a part it has totally forgotten. Good book to be introduced to complexity & computer usages.

  6. 5 out of 5

    TaleofGenji

    I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/11611390 I registered a book at BookCrossing.com! http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/11611390

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alistair

  8. 5 out of 5

    Huppes Kemp

  9. 5 out of 5

    Schwabenland

  10. 4 out of 5

    Daneel Lynn

  11. 5 out of 5

    Konstantinos

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chih-ping Lin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Irenesolo

  15. 5 out of 5

    Clinton T

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  17. 5 out of 5

    Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jia-hau Ching

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul Vittay

  20. 4 out of 5

    Subhajit Das

  21. 5 out of 5

    Micheal Peterson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steven

  23. 5 out of 5

    Vladimir Zuzukin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  25. 5 out of 5

    John

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lloyd

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nik Blosser

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shih Yang

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Well written and great read.

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