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Jordan Peacock
Lives in Lakeville, MN
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Jordan Peacock

What Are You Reading?  - 
Currently reading. Also starting Pattern Recognition by William Gibson this weekend as part of a reading group.
Brian E. Denton's profile photoAB Helton's profile photo
Hmm, Pattern Recognition. I read it five years ago and remember little about it. My review wasn't terribly insightful either. Perhaps I should give it another go. Just not at the moment.
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Jordan Peacock

Discussion  - 
I'll just leave this here..
This wasn't actually for my students, and dates back to the early 90s. A number of people at Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) asked for my "top ten" books. This is not possible for anyone who reads extensively, so I came out with that list as a bare start. I should mention that reading lots ...
AB Helton's profile photoJordan Peacock's profile photo
From this list I've read:

Mind and Society by Lev Vygotsky
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
Republic by Plato
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
The Federalist Papers

and I feel like I've absorbed a number of these through secondary sources (Minsky, Dewey, Mumford, etc).
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Jordan Peacock

What Are You Reading?  - 
Some updates.

First of all, because I'm a huge philosophy geek, I excitedly preordered these two books that I've been watching the progress of for literally years:

An English translation of Simondon's 'On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects':

and Adam Kotsko's treatise on the devil, 'The Prince of This World':

The other thing was recognizing how I tend to find books, novels in particular, at all. My wife was asking me was led to the novels currently on my stack (Jo Walton's The Just City, Alvaro Enrigue's Sudden Death and Maureen F. McHugh's China Mountain Zhang).

The answer was telling: Walton was via the Crooked Timber group blog, they have been doing a symposium on it. Past symposiums have covered non-fiction such as Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years and novels such as Stross' bibliography and Spufford's Red Plenty. I've read Among Others by Walton, which was pretty good (although not the 6/5 stars I was hearing from other people), but the conceit of a novel in which Athena pulls Sokrates, Boethius, Proclus, Plotinus, etc. into pre-cataclysm Atlantis to build Plato's republic was pure Jordan-candy. And I just finished vol. 2 of A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps which focused substantially on these Neoplatonists. So, there's that.

Enrigue I'd never heard of, but Warren Ellis reviewed Sudden Death in his newsletter as follows:

"SUDDEN DEATH by Alvaro Enrigue is fucking superb. The translator, Natasha Wimmer, produces a sensitive and nimble translation of what must have been a murderous enterprise. Enrigue frames the end of the Renaissance and the conquest of Mexico in... a tennis game. He achieves that marvellous thing of connecting all the moving parts of the transition of an age in a single bloody tennis game and all the threads that come off it. Very few people can pull this particular stunt off properly, and we have to add Enrigue to that short list. And Enrigue doesn't give a fuck - he sticks emails in there, stops dead to address the audience like a writer/presenter of rhetorical television, even discussing and explaining the mechanics of the book itself. It's big, audacious, smart, funny, learned, gory, occasionally lit with anger, and he spins it all together into a swirling fugue of a crescendo. I burned through it in three nights. One of the essential reads of the year, I think."

Finally, China Moutain Zhang came up not once, but three times, once with the high praise of "my favourite science fiction novel of all time" at the local science fiction convention I attended last month. Having not heard of it before, I was immediately intrigued... more so the more I learned of it.

So short answer: find people with excellent taste. Poach from them.
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I have Sudden Death checked out from the library, but it's looking like I'll have to return it before I get a chance to read it, on account of unexpected travel. The wait for it wasn't long this time, but I can't guarantee this will be the case next time. I might just buy it.
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Jordan Peacock

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Jordan Peacock's profile photoAB Helton's profile photo
It is a fantastic book. I'll finish it tonight, which is fortunate as it's due back tomorrow with no possibility of extension.
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Jordan Peacock

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Some tunes for your Saturday

Jordan Peacock

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Charles Stross on Space Opera cliches:

Don't worry about hitting the electrons bound to the neutral hydrogen either, gamma photons totally aren't a thing


Pay no attention to the native microbiota, they're harmless
... You won't even suffer from hay fever! Much less systemic anaphylaxis.


Ecosystems are robust; why not let your ship's cat stretch her legs whenever you land?
... This goes for your ship's rats, too


If you implant humans with the gene for chlorophyl they can magically become photosynthetic
... Okay, if you add the genes for RuBiSCO and the C3 pathway they can magically become photosynthetic
... Because of course two square meters of skin is enough surface area to photosynthetically capture enough energy for a high-metabolic-rate mammal to live off


The same kind of Money is accepted everywhere as payment for all debts


It is profitable to ship crude break-bulk cargo like timber or foodstuffs between star systems because starships are cheap and easy to repair and operate


Nobody has ever heard of end-user certificates or bonded cargo


If there are two or more ethnicities represented on a planet their collective politics are simple and easily understood by analogy to 20th century US race relations


... Pay no attention to the blank spots on the map
... And especially don't go looking for the unmarked mass graves


... Hijra? Hermaphrodites? Transgender? Asexual? What are those?


Spaceships are:
... bilaterally symmetrical
... rugged and able to survive impacts with other objects
... easily maintained by semi-skilled labour/shade tree mechanics
... about as complex as a 1920s tramp steamer, or maybe a deep-sea fishing trawler
... easily piloted
... can stop on a dime
... available second-hand in good working order from scrapyards
... have wings and an undercarriage, like a biplane
... You can hear them coming a parsec away


Nobody would ever think to run a starship up to 50% of light-speed and ram a planet


Radar gives us an instantaneously updated map of everything in a star system
... But stealth technology is totally a thing!


Laser beams are instantaneous, don't spread or disperse, and can melt anything
... Except a force field that somehow refracts/bends/absorbs the confused photons


Aliens communicate in language
... Using noises
... Emitted by their mouths
... At frequency ranges we can perceive


Aliens have religious beliefs because they have the same theory of mind as human beings and attribute intentionality to natural phenomena

Jordan Peacock

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Icelandic inheritance law 
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Jordan Peacock

What Are You Reading?  - 
I may have bitten off more than I can chew. 
Jordan Peacock's profile photoBoris Borcic's profile photo
+Jordan Peacock Well, both, taking the latter as a weak proxy for the former... sorry that time is mistreating you, but glad to see you haven't disappeared wholesale... a few days ago I got surprised that so many years flew by since G+ opened... zoomed out on it and the first change that occurred to me was that I hadn't seen you around for a long time... and a quick look at your web presence gave the same impression you had retreated... so, please have my best wishes for the future, whatever the problems concretely are.

This said, the tome on the top on "paraconsistency" indeed titillated my curiosity;)
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Computing the uncomputable

Last month the logician +Joel David Hamkins proved a surprising result: you can compute uncomputable functions!  

Of course there's a catch, but it's still interesting.

Alan Turing showed that a simple kind of computer, now called a Turing machine, can calculate a lot of functions.  In fact we believe Turing machines can calculate anything you can calculate with any fancier sort of computer.  So we say a function is computable if you can calculate it with some Turing machine.

Some functions are computable, others aren't.  That's a fundamental fact.

But there's a loophole.

We think we know what the natural numbers are:

0, 1, 2, 3, ...

and how to add and multiply them.  We know a bunch of axioms that describe this sort of arithmetic: the Peano axioms.  But these axioms don't completely capture our intuitions!  There are facts about natural numbers that most mathematicians would agree are true, but can't be proved from the Peano axioms.

Besides the natural numbers you think you know - but do you really? - there are lots of other models of arithmetic.  They all obey the Peano axioms, but they're different.  Whenever there's a question you can't settle using the Peano axioms, it's true in some model of arithmetic and false in some other model.

There's no way to decide which model of arithmetic is the right one - the so-called "standard" natural numbers.   

Hamkins showed there's a Turing machine that does something amazing.  It can compute any function from the natural numbers to the natural numbers, depending on which model of arithmetic we use. 

In particular, it can compute the uncomputable... but only in some weird "alternative universe" where the natural numbers aren't what we think they are. 

These other universes have "nonstandard" natural numbers that are bigger than the ones you understand.   A Turing machine can compute an uncomputable function... but it takes a nonstandard number of steps to do so.

So: computing the computable takes a "standard" number of steps.   Computing the uncomputable takes a little longer.

This is not a practical result.  But it shows how strange simple things like logic and the natural numbers really are.

For a better explanation, read my blog post:

And for the actual proof, go on from there to the blog article by +Joel David Hamkins.
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Jordan Peacock

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Jordan Peacock

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I like the stars. It's the illusion of permanence, I think. I mean, they're always flaring up and caving in and going out. But from here, I can pretend... I can pretend that things last. I can pretend that lives last longer than moments. Gods come, and gods go. Mortals flicker and flash and fade. Worlds don't last; and stars and galaxies are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust. But I can pretend.

                               Neil Gaiman "The Sandman"

I'm a metaphysical realist, posthumanist, autodidact, infovore.

I'm intellectually promiscuous, and love provocative engagements in good faith. I post regularly on topics that interest me, which include but are not limited to: political philosophy, world history, world news, philosophy of technology, political activism, cutting edge computer science, resilient community building and futurist scenario-building.

I am married, and we have two small children.

I blog regularly at

Below are a few other quotes that capture well how I see the world:

"You are not an atheist if you deny what theists affirm. You are an atheist if you have no use for the concepts and doctrines of theism."

                         John Gray

"You cannot banish unreason simply by believing correct things."

                         Andreas Schou

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.


Democracy is...the action that constantly wrests the monopoly of public life from oligarchic governments, and the omnipotence over lives from the power of wealth. It is the power that, today more than ever, has to struggle against the confusion of these powers, rolled into one and the same law of domination.

                               Jacques Rancière, Hatred Of Democracy
                                        translated by Steve Corcoran

"Submitting oneself to labor discipline—supervision, control, even the self-control of the ambitious self-employed—does not make one a better person. In most really important ways, it probably makes one worse. To undergo it is a misfortune that at best is sometimes necessary. Yet it’s only when we reject the idea that such labor is virtuous in itself that we can start to ask what is virtuous about labor. To which the answer is obvious. Labor is virtuous if it helps others."

                               David Graeber

Changing our way of thinking about the world is a necessary first step, but it is by no means sufficient: we will need to destratify reality itself, and we must do so without the guarantee of a golden age ahead, knowing full well the dangers and possible restratifications we may face.

                               Manuel de Landa
                               "A Thousand Years Of Nonlinear History"

Anarchism, at least as I understand it, leaves posterity free to develop its own particular systems, in harmony with its needs. Our most vivid imagination cannot forsee the potentialities of a race set free from external restraints. How, then can anyone assume to map out a line of conduct for those to come? We, who pay dearly for every breath of fresh air, must guard against the tendency to fetter the future. If we succeed in clearing the soil from the rubbish of the past and the present, we will leave to posterity the greatest and safest heritage of all ages.

                               Emma Goldman

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far."

                               H.P. Lovecraft

"Let's plan for a future where we're all as stupid as we are today."

                         Andreas Schou

"Modern politics is a chapter in the history of religion."

John Gray

"The debate between believers and atheists is confused. The real issue is not whether one should side with believers that assert the reality of the divine and supernatural, and the secular who assert only the reality of the material world or the naturalistic; rather, the debate is between logics of transcendence/sovereignty/patriarchy/state versus logics of immanence/anarchy. The issue of supernatural causation is a historically important issue given our current historical moment, but a sidebar to a much more fundamental issue. For my part, I am an a-theist, not an atheist."

                         Levi Bryant

Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Lakeville, MN
Norman Wells, Northwest Territories, Canada - Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Edmonton, Alberta, Canada - Mahboula, Kuwait - Adan, Kuwait - Hadiya, Kuwait - Sydney, New South Wales, Australia - Burnsville, Minnesota, U.S.A. - Lakeville, Minnesota, U.S.A.
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