Orthogonal, book #1
Generally I like my SF hard, even diamond hard. I don’t disdain fantasy; some of my favorite stories are fantastic. (As I’ve said often, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is my #1, my proverbial desert island companion.) But I definitely lean towards harder SF.
Growing up it was, of course, the Holy Trinity, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, but there was also Clement, Niven, and many others who stirred a large measure of science into their fiction. More recently the list of hard SF authors includes Forward, Steele, Stephenson, and a particular favorite of mine, Greg Egan.
I can safely say his Orthogonal series is as hard as science fiction gets.
Here’s a blast from the past, a re-post (of a re-post) of a post I wrote many years ago on another platform. (Long, long ago on a blog far, far away.) Creative writing isn’t really my thing, but I don’t hate how this turned out. I originally posted it here in 2011, and re-cycled it in 2012, 2013, and 2014. I meant to do it every year but forgot. Since it’s been a while, I thought I’d give it another go.
The original writing exercise was to write a short piece from the point of view of a pumpkin. The exercise was given to us just before Halloween. (Same guy who gave us an exercise to write a piece from the point of view of our car.)
Most writers took the tack that pumpkins suffered horribly at this time of year. Naturally, I took a different tack, and so I give you…
My dad and my dad’s dad were Lutheran ministers, and my dad’s brother taught theology at a Lutheran seminary. Lotta preachers on the paternal side of the tree. (Lotta teachers on the maternal side; mom and sis among them. I grew up with preachers and teachers.)
All of which gave me something of an insider view of religion and the organizational church. It also provided a cornerstone I’ve built on through much of my life: a reconciliation between the Yin of my science side and the Yang of my spiritual side.
One interesting place the two meet is Pascal’s Wager.
There is a key rule of thumb (or heuristic) in science known as the Copernican Principle. It essentially says: “We’re not special.” (The “we” in question being the human race.) It’s named after Nicolaus Copernicus, who, in 1543, forever banished the Earth and its thin film of humanity from the center of the universe.
Ever since, the science view of humanity is that it’s just part of the landscape, nothing particularly special, a mere consequence of energy+time creating increasing organization in systems. We may be complex, perhaps even a little surprisingly so, but we’re still nothing special.
Yet it seems to me that, at least in some ways, we really are.
I’ve always had a strong curiosity about how things work. My dad used to despair how I’d take things apart but rarely put them back together. My interest was inside — in understanding the mechanism. (The irony is that I began my corporate career arc as a hardware repair technician.)
My curiosity includes a love of discovery, especially unexpected ones, and extra especially ones I stumble on myself. It’s one thing to be taught a neat new thing, but a rare delight to figure it out for oneself. It’s like hitting a home run (or at least a base-clearing double).
Recently, I was delighted to discover something amazing about spheres.
I’ve contemplated the voice(s) in my head all my adult life, though it’s only recently I’ve thought deeply about them. One big question I’ve had being why sometimes it’s a dialog rather than a monolog.
To be clear, I am fully aware that it’s all me; it’s my voice(s). “They” (or rather “we”) are aspects of my own mind — my inner voice. Something I’ve naturally assumed everyone had.
But some say they have no inner voice!
Analog computer: AKAT-1 (1959)
Last September I posted the Pancomputation trilogy (parts: I, II & III) which was a follow-up to last spring’s Digital Dualism trilogy (parts: 1, 2 & 3). The first trilogy was a continuation of an exploration of computer modeling I started in 2019. Suffice to say, over the course of writing these posts, my views on what “computing” means evolved and crystalized.
As discussed in the Pancomputation posts the notion of computation is difficult to pin down (many general concepts are because we don’t have even more general concepts to define them with). A pancomputation view sees everything as computing. A computer science view restrictively equates it with a Turing Machine.
I’ve realized my view depends heavily on computational dualism.