Tag Archives: writers

Self on Ballard


Will Self explores the imagination and work of writer JG Ballard, who he came to know in his final years. Will draws on the many telling interviews that Ballard gave throughout his working life and on Self’s own tapes of his encounters with him. From his life of suburban anonymity, Ballard charted the realms of innerspace and the madness of the modern world with a cool eye and visionary prose.

via bbc iplayer

The Fourth Quadrant: A map of the limits of statistics by Nassim Taleb



Random Walk—Characterized by volatility. You only find these in textbooks and in essays on probability by people who have never really taken decisions under uncertainty.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the man who wrote of the black swans, the highly improbable and unpredictable events that have massive impact, has recently written an essay for EDGE about how those who are putting society at risk are “no true statisticians”, but merely people using statistics either without understanding them, or in a self-serving manner. its entitled THE FOURTH QUADRANT: A MAP OF THE LIMITS OF STATISTICS and can be found on the EDGE site here>

Statistical and applied probabilistic knowledge is the core of knowledge; statistics is what tells you if something is true, false, or merely anecdotal; it is the “logic of science”; it is the instrument of risk-taking; it is the applied tools of epistemology; you can’t be a modern intellectual and not think probabilistically—but… let’s not be suckers. The problem is much more complicated than it seems to the casual, mechanistic user who picked it up in graduate school. Statistics can fool you. In fact it is fooling your government right now. It can even bankrupt the system (let’s face it: use of probabilistic methods for the estimation of risks did just blow up the banking system).

Two books I need to read:

Tim Gill’s No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society

Frank Furedi’s Where have all the Intellectuals Gone?

Lectures at the James Martin 21st Century School

Check out these video lectures online with the various directors of the schools of thought at the James Martin C21st School:

Director Interview: Science and Civilization
Professor Steve Rayner

Director Interview: Environmental Change
Professor Diana Liverman

Director Interview: Migration
Professor Stephen Castles

Director Interview: Future of the Mind
Professor Baroness Susan Greenfield

Director Interview: Emergent Infections
Professor Angela McLean

Director Interview: e-Horizons
Professor William Dutton

I am currently reading…

“The View from 2500AD” by Arthur C Clarke

An article written by Arthur C Clarke for Forbes last December.

Looking back on the appalling 21st century from our vantage point, 500 years later, it sometimes seems incredible that the human race could have survived such a time of troubles. The moment of greatest danger can now be pinpointed precisely–the year 2010.Fifty years earlier, the chief threat seemed to be from thermonuclear weapons; however, these could be manufactured only by wealthy nations possessing both vast financial resources and a high level of technology.Then, suddenly and totally unexpectedly, the situation was transformed by the invention of the Electromagnetic Pulse Bomb. The origin of this terrifying device is unknown: Like most concepts whose time has come, it was probably invented independently in a number of places. However, the first public account appeared in the September 2001 issue of Popular Mechanics under this dramatic headline:

E-BOMB: In the blink of an eye, electromagnetic bombs could throw civilization back 200 years. And terrorists can build them for $400.

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JG Ballard on South Bank Show