Human Uniqueness, Imaginary Books, and the Invention of the Spreadsheet: Lux Recommends #13

By Sam Arbesman

Welcome to Lux Recommends in 2016! This is Lux Recommends #13, the newest edition of what we at Lux are reading and thinking about.


Are humans truly unique? How do we know? A fascinating article on what makes humans truly different is how they use energy. — Sam

The 21st Century Philosophers: The technological elite of Silicon Valley are not just building companies, they are working hard to think deeply about AI and other topics. — Sam

When a Unicorn Start-Up Stumbles, Its Employees Get Hurt: When a high flying startup falters, employees are often the most vulnerable. One of the uglier sides of Silicon Valley, and something I would love to see a solution for. — Zavain (also recommended by Adam G)

Decentralising Facebook with Blockchains and Userfeeds: The technology may not be here quite yet, but long term, is this where Blockchain technology is heading? An interesting future take where networks and marketplaces are disrupted by decentralized, user served, blockchains. — Zavain

A Non-Imaginary Post about Imaginary Books in Real Books: Lists of books from various authors—Dickens, Borges, and more—that they’ve included in their works, even though they don’t exist. — Sam

How To Cultivate the Art of Serendipity: “That’s why we need to develop a new, interdisciplinary field — call it serendipity studies — that can help us create a taxonomy of discoveries in the chemistry lab, the newsroom, the forest, the classroom, the particle accelerator and the hospital.” Great stuff. — Sam

Star Wars, Smash the Force: The Star Wars canon resonates with almost all of us, in no small part due to it’s simplicity and dogmatic; though ill-defined sides: the Dark Side vs the ‘ ‘ Side? In searching for balance, have we implicitly created the Dark Side? To end it, do we need to destroy the Force itself? — Zavain (for more Star Wars reading, see below)

Welcome to the Metastructure: The New Internet of Transportation: An exploration of the new ways we will use and think about how we move through cities. — Sam

Risks and Opportunities From the Changing Climate: Playbook for the Truly Long-Term Investor: “Fundamentally, considering climate factors is an economic risk management and opportunity capitalization issue core to prudent investing for the long term.” — Adam K

Dan Bricklin invented the spreadsheet — but don’t hold that against him: “Other potential names included Electroledger, Calculedger, Calcupaper, and Compulator” Love this. — Sam

What Do You Consider the Most Interesting Recent [Scientific] News? What Makes It Important?’s 2016 question and nearly 200 answer. (here’s Sam Arbesman’s)

This Year’s $5B Virtual Reality Market: Shahin Farshchi’s examination of VR and what the future holds for it (as well as hurdles to growth).

The Problem With Technological Ignorance: Sam Arbesman’s essay on the need to teach abstraction to truly understand the profound complexity of our technologies.


Houston, We Have a Narrative: Why Science Needs a Story, by Randy Olson — Zack (and also Josh)

And don’t forget to check out Bret Victor’s bookshelf.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens: I don’t think you need our recommendation to see this, as large fractions of the world has watched it already. So I highly recommend also taking a look at this essay by Adam Rogers on the future of Star Wars/movie storytelling in general. And also the fact that Darth Vader’s chest control panel has Hebrew lettering (but gibberish) on it.

Interstellar and Ex Machina: I think one or both might have been mentioned previously, but these are great movies, and thoughtful approaches regarding two big future themes: space travel and artificial intelligence. Plus, they are both now available on Amazon Prime. — Sam


Fargo and Crashbox — Josh

Making a Murderer: An unbelievable story of prosecutorial and police misconduct. A Netflix show 10 years in the making that left me actually screaming at my television. Fans of Serial and The Jinx will love this. —Jeff

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride — One of my favorite shows just returned with a 90 minute holiday special. I haven’t seen yet, but intend to ASAP! — Jeff

The Man in the High Castle — Sam

Fun Science Trivia

The Pyramids were already built before woolly mammoths went extinct. — Adam K

What two letters are the only ones not represented on the Periodic Table? Answer here. — Adam K

Have a suggestion? Let us know.