Dyson: Turing’s Cathedral

The reason I started this blog was basically that I had been reading „Turing’s Cathedral“ about the life of John von Neumann by George Dyson. The reason I am writing about the book is that I am reading a biography about Alan Turing at the moment. If you add some Konrad Zuse here, you have the beginning of the digital age. I will focus mostly on the first part of the book about the invention of the digital. Whether machines will one day be able to replicate themselves will be left to transhumanism.


“What began as an isolated 5-kilobyte matrix is now expanding by over two trillion transistors per second (a measure of the growth in processing and memory) and five trillion bits of storage capacity per second (a measure of the growth in code). Yet we still face the same questions that were asked in 1953. Turing’s question was what it would take for machines to begin to think. Von Neumann’s question was what it would take for machines to begin to reproduce.”

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Lewis: Flashboys

I think there were only two more chapters to go, when I started to google the facts in Michael Lewis’ „Flashboys“. The story about a transparent exchange that fights intransparent market places and high-frequency traders (HFT) just seems unbelievable. But as promised by the author, all the characters really exist. Well, of course, it is a non-fiction book. But the inconceivability of the story unfolding, as well as the sheer amount of money shifted in HFT globally, and the way Lewis portrays the fight of Brad Katsuyama make it hard to believe. But I guess, it is just pretty well written.


„The unit of trading was now milliseconds, but the records kept by the exchanges were by the seconds. There were one million microseconds in a second. It was if, back in the 1920s, the only stock market data available was a crude aggregation of all trades made during the decade.“ (81)

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Catmull: Creativity, Inc.

What Ed Catmull is really doing in his book „Creativity Inc.“ is to provide a way how to deal with creative minds. Within Pixar he establishes structures, that help creative ideas and people survive despite criticism and changes. Becoming the president of Pixar, Catmull would devote himself to learning how to build not just a successful company but a sustainable creative culture.“ The book is in his words „an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.“


We must acknowledge the random events that went our way, because acknowledging our good fortune – and not telling ourselves that everything we did was some stroke of genius – lets us make more realistic assessments and decisions. The existence of luck also reminds us that our activities are less repeatable. Since change is inevitable, the question is: Do you act to stop it and try to protect yourself from it, or do you become the master of change by accepting it and being open to it? My view, of course, ist hat working with change is what creativity is about. (166)

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Bilton: Hatching Twitter

In most parts „Hatching Twitter“ reads like a soap. It is hard to believe how many assaults and revolutions are involved in the becoming of Twitter. The book’s subtitle is „A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal“ – and it really delivers enough stories to justify that. On the other hand, Nick Bilton’s book is a great manual when it comes to growing your community, building strategic partnerships and growth-hacking. Reading the book, you will also meet many of the key players in Silicon Valley.

Nick Bilton - Hatching Twitter

„Then there was the hashtag, the pound symbol that until then had primarily been used on telephones while checking an answering machine. On Flickr, the photo-sharing site, people sometimes used the hashtag symbol to group similar images. In one instance, people had been using Flickr to share pictures of forest fires in San Diego, California, and had started to organize the newsy pictures with a tag that read „#sandiegofire.“ Chris Messina, a designer who lived in the Valley and was friends with many of the Twitter employees, started using the same symbol on Twitter, and before long it was picked up by others on the site.“

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Shteyngart: Super Sad True Love Story

It has been quite a while that I read „Super Sad True Love Story“ but I have to think back to that novel every now and then, because it foreshadowed a lot that is happening in Social Media and Quantified-Self today. Apart from that, Gary Shteyngart’s book is a real fun read.


„Four young people committed suicide in our building complexes, and two of them wrote suicide notes about how they couldn’t see a future without their äppäräti. One wrote, quite eloquently, about how he „reached out to life“, but found there only „walls and thoughts and faces“, which weren’t enough. He needed to be ranked, to know his place in this world.

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Weizenbaum: Die Macht der Computer und die Ohnmacht der Vernunft

Die Erstausgabe von „Die Macht der Computer“ stammt aus dem Jahr 1976. Es ist bemerkenswert, wie wenig sich die meisten Fragestellungen bis heute geändert haben. Auf der anderen Seite haben es die von Weizenbaum beschriebenen „Computermetaphern“ bis weit in unseren Sprachgebrauch geschafft. Fast 40 Jahre später kann man außerdem sagen, dass von dem Wunsch Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft isoliert zu betrachten, nicht viel geblieben ist.


„Ich plädiere für den rationalen Einsatz der Naturwissenschaft und Technik, nicht für deren Mystifikation und erst recht nicht für deren Preisgabe. Ich fordere die Einführung eines ethischen Denkens in die naturwissenschaftliche Planung. Ich bekämpfe den Imperialismus der instrumentellen Vernunft, nicht die Vernunft an sich.“

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Kahnemann: Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahnemann got the nobel prize for his study. And he wrote one of the most important books on behavioural economics – ever. Does this have anything to do with tech. Not at first. But it is all about intuition, analysis and formulas and how we make desicions based on gut feeling or rationality. And now that we are entering a more and more data- and metric-driven society, it is about time to think about why we are acting the way we do and what algorithms want us to do. One thing upfront: this book is awesome!


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Lanier: Who owns the future?

When Evgeny Morozov and Shoshana Zuboff already had a certain standing in Germany, Jaron Lanier was pretty much unknown. But he might just become the leader of the „We own our data“-movement of people such as Max Schrems. What Lanier does in his book is introducing the so called „Siren Servers“ and highlighting how we manage to ignore Terms and Conditions of online services and how these service providers trick us into not caring.


“We want free online experiences so badly that we are happy to not be paid for information that comes from us now or ever. That sensibility also implies that the more dominant information becomes in our economy, the less most of us will be worth.”

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von Baeyer: Das informative Universum

In „Das informative Universum“ macht sich Hans Christian von Baeyer auf die Suche nach der Information nach Lesart der Wissenschaft. Nur um – als er sie gefunden hat – wieder aufzubrechen, um das Quantenbit vorzustellen, das für Kreativität in der binären Logik sorgen soll. Gute Nachrichten für Nerds: Er fordert, damit wir dem Allen Herr werden können „ein Umdenken in unserem quantitativen Denken“ und ein freundlicheres Verhältnis zu sperrigen mathematischen Funktionen wie dem Logarithmus.


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Morozov: To Save Everything, Click Here

Rund drei Wochen ist es her, als Angela Merkel mit ihrem #Neuland-Vergleich eine Netz-Debatte losgetreten hat, die erst belacht wurde, dann versachlicht, nur damit die NSA uns Tage später zeigt, wie sehr wir hierzulande wirklich noch im Wald stehen. Auf haarsträubende Weise werden Netz und Web, Social und Mobile durcheinander gebracht. Offshoreleaks werden gehypt ohne Ende, dabei muss jedem klar sein, dass diese Daten genauso durch die Deep Packet Inspection erzeugt worden sein könnten. Evgeny Morozov gelingt in seinem Buch einen echten Diskurs zwischen echter Moderne und Neusprech zu beginnen. Genau das richtige also…


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