13 September 2007

Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics -- Paul W. Glimcher

A fascinating book about the relatively new science known as neuroeconomics. The main thesis of the book is "that the fundamental limitation which neurobiology faces today is a failure to adequately incorporate probability theory into the approaches we use to understand the brain." The book basically begins with a ground up explanation of the history of neuroscience and mathematics (extremely abridged). The examples throughout the book make the ideas from the past and the hypothesis proposed by the author quite easy to understand. The book even includes some interesting pictures that illustrate certain experimental situations.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the brain, decision making, history of science or who just wants to expand their knowledge of how the world works. It is written at a level accessible to almost anyone, but is very illuminating to one with a bit of formal training.

The Myth of Sisyphus -- Albert Camus

Although the actual "Myth" is only 5 pages long, the preceding 115 pages lays the groundwork and is actually the intellectual meat of this piece of work. Essentially this is an exposition of existentialist thought, wherein Camus presents his own hypothesis of the world and then works to justify his claim. The actual Myth of Sisyphus is basically the story of Sisyphus who was sentenced to eternal push a rock up a hill only to have to let it fall back down and repeat the task. Camus presents this story and uses it to demonstrate the ideas he has developed in the opening text. The book is actually a somewhat complicated piece of philosophy and was thus rough as a pleasure read. One interesting quote that I found particularly moving was, "Every man has felt himself to be the equal of a god at certain moments. At least, this is the way it is expressed. But this comes from the fact that in a flash he felt the amazing grandeur of the human mind." The next sentence I separate but still quote because quite fascinating. "The conquerors are merely those among men who are conscious enough of their strength to be sure of living constantly on those heights and fully aware of that grandeur."

In summary, I recommend this book for anyone who is willing to put in the time to re-read a majority of the book in order to get most of the meaning. It is not an easy read but it is, I dare say, the best piece of work describing existential philosophy. A philosophy that I do not subscribe to myself, but I find the viewpoint nonetheless interesting.