Alan Turing in a society of machines

I am usually not at a loss for words (at least while writing). But what can one possibly write about that bird, that song; that tragedy, that ecstasy; that lamb, that lion; that beautiful genius called Alan Turing—that hasn’t already been written?

What can I add? Don’t forget what Iqbal said: ‘A particle in its place can be as powerful as the sun!’ So yes, perhaps I can! I remember a reverend saying that, “There is nothing in any tragedy, ancient or modern, nothing in poetry or history (with one exception), like the last hours of Socrates in Plato.” The pity is that unlike for Socrates and Christ, we have no account of Turing’s last moments before his murder. Perhaps, I can try and give my guess, my model of what might have happened… Continue reading Alan Turing in a society of machines

The Chomskyan Style

Chomsky’s review of B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior

There are two quotes about Chomsky the scientist that I think best describe him. First is by a person whom I normally wouldn’t quote, Daniel Dennett. Dennett says about Chomsky: “Not many scientists are great scientists, and not many great scientists get to found a whole new field, but there are a few. Charles Darwin is one; Noam Chomsky is yet another”.

However, it is the second quote that I like more; probably because it reflects the feeling that I have always got myself. In an article (Chomsky and his Critics), discussing books in which Chomsky interacts with his critics among philosophers, Ian Hacking says, “It is like watching the grandmaster play, blindfolded, thirty-six simultaneous chess matches against the local worthies. He almost always wins.”

Indeed, Chomsky often reminds me of the great 18th century Urdu poet, Mir Taqi Mir. Continue reading The Chomskyan Style

Popper’s falsification

The Black Swan?

Popper’s falsification approach might be a good logical exercise but that’s not how science is done. We often can’t know if a phenomenon falsifies a theory. There are way too many factors. Since I am not a philosopher, I will narrate a personal anecdote that might illuminate matters. This happened during the time I was in the beautiful city of Delft Continue reading Popper’s falsification

Herbert Simon: Sciences of the Artificial

Herbert Simon: Sciences of the Artificial.

This is a review of Herbert Simon’s “Sciences of the Artificial” that I just finished reading. Let me first say a few words about the writing style. Simon’s writing style is quite lackluster. He isn’t a great writer like say Bertrand Russell, or George Orwell for that matter. But for the purposes of this book, his style suffices and is perhaps spot-on.  Continue reading Herbert Simon: Sciences of the Artificial

Descartes mindless animals: Wrong conclusion but right science!

Cartesians had an idea about animals. They believed that animals were machines without minds. Here’s the story: Continue reading Descartes mindless animals: Wrong conclusion but right science!

Why Einstein was both wrong and right in being so stubborn

Einstein’s stubbornness

Based on my limited study of some notable epochs in the history of science, chiefly Newton’s demolition of the mechanical philosophy, I have to say I am rather amazed at times by Einstein’s refusal to go along with Quantum mechanics. Perhaps, it would be instructive to draw parallels with an earlier era in the sciences where a shift in the dominant thinking, arguably greater than that brought about by quantum mechanics, occurred. I talk here of the Newtonian revolution.  Continue reading Why Einstein was both wrong and right in being so stubborn

Leo Tolstoy: The Supreme Agent Based Modeler OR What is Agent Based Modeling All About?

I am fond of saying to myself that science is not like art, it is art. However, upon hearing the late Iris Murdoch say that the aims of science and literature are divergent, in that science seeks to clarify whereas literature seeks to mystify, I have been forced to reevaluate my statement. Apparently, some (much?) of modern prose falls under the category of mystification. To my unsophisticated mind, that is sad.

Anyhow, to be honest, I haven’t read a lot of literature to be in a good position to evaluate Iris statement. The few writers that I have read, I daresay I have read them more completely and devotedly than many people. Chief among them is Leo Tolstoy. Whether or not science is art, or like art, what is true is that Tolstoy was a prime practitioner of the scientific method in art. Let me explain.  Continue reading Leo Tolstoy: The Supreme Agent Based Modeler OR What is Agent Based Modeling All About?