Tuesday, June 14, 2005


After finishing reading Guns, Germs and Steel, two thoughts have strongly registered into my mind.

First: The outcome of human history could not have been different on a large scale and it is independent of the individuals. This is not to say that the great minds of human civilizations, from Alexander the Great to Einstein, didn't change history. However their effect could not alter the evolution of our species in the big things (for example, the conquest of the Americas from the Europeans) which is tied strongly to the environment into which each civilization has risen.

Second: Up until reading this book, I thought that any scientific work (thesis, paper, book) could sum up their important contributions into equations (for theory), into graphs (for experimental works) and into a piece of code (for computer science people). However it is clear to me now that this is not enough. Although Diamond's book has some graphs, his scientific arguments exist only as ideas and concepts - they cannot be put down to equations or graphs or code. This is a great disappointment for me since it is very easy to distinguish a useful equation or graph or code that you need to use, rather than an idea which is put into words and it is blended along with not-so-useful information. Diamond's writing is simply superb even just to admire the way of excellent presenting scientifically such ideas and not have the reader wondering around.

My next task/book is Godel, Escher, Bach: It is the most math-related book that ever won the Pulitzer prize, and deals with consciousness. Specifically, the author presents examples from music, painting and math, and tries to show how the realization of "I" - the fact that we realize that we exist as beings - can arise as a result of non-alive materials. His arguments so far are along the concept of words, e.g. the meaningless symbols 'o', 'g', 'd', when put together they can form 'dog', which acquires a meaning greater than the sum of its parts, just by having the arrangement right.