Making sense of the world

I’ve noticed that when I’m walking about, sort of thinking idly, I find myself asking “How?” How was that building constructed? How come that sewer is there? OK, I guess that one is really a why question. So I suppose the underlying curiosity is really about the mechanism of the world.

Sure, you can’t reduce the world to a mechanism, a machine. Its full of humans, so you can’t really make any kind of useful predictions. But there are definitely systems in place and some are more influential than others. Some of those systems, while not predictable machines, do display tendencies and trends. Learning them is one of the little intellectual side-journeys I’ve been immersing myself in lately.

If you want to play along, here’s what I’m into at the moment:

  • Economics (probably macroeconomics in particular)
  • Cognitive science
  • Linguistics

For the former, I encourage you to listen to The Economist Podcast (iTunes) and read the weekly edition when you get the opportunity. They also seem to have moved away from using a pay-wall, so check out the articles on The Economist website as well.

If you’re wondering why on earth economics might be interesting, then check out Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. I never thought I’d wish I understood macroeconomics and financial instruments so that I could figure out what’s going on in a book by a cyberpunk author. But then I read the Baroque Cycle and I did. Its no coincidence the last of the cycle is titled The System of the World and here I am, seeking a system that illuminates the world.

For cognitive science and linguistics, I’m still just getting started. I read Introducing Linguistics this summer and its great. It seems its part of a series where they match a subject matter expert with a graphic designer. The result is easily read but highly informative. Its very much in the same style as Kathy Sierra.

If you’re ahead of me here and know a good bit on any of these subjects, feel free to drop some suggestions on what I should read next!

Adam Keys @therealadam