Maquina Lectora

Notes of a curious mind

Tag: books (Page 2 of 6)

Wealth Inequality and the Forces of Convergence | Reading "Capital in the Twenty-First Century"

A 700-page book on economics is not exactly a light read for someone with a background in environmental sciences, but after all this success, discussions and reviews, I felt I had to read Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I borrowed it from the library and I am glad I did. There have been plenty of reviews, critiques and a variety of arguments for and against, but, to me, the real importance of the book lies in just a few pages where the author discusses the forces of convergence that have led to decreasing inequality.

Thomas Piketty’s central argument is that when the returns on capital (r) outpace economic growth (g), {r>g} over time, wealth inequality increases and therefore, those who control wealth will always get richer and those who depend on the growth of the economy, the labour, will always be poorer compared to the rich. Piketty’s suggestion that a global tax of up to 2% a year should be introduced on individual wealth to prevent capital concentrating in the hands of the few has been controversial but there has been no real attack. One of the problems with the global tax is that it requires a high level of international cooperation.  Some, Bill Gates included, have suggested a progressive tax on consumption instead.

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The Missing Shade of Blue or the dangers and the delights of philosophy

It was the title that made me pick up this book off the shelf in the library. The Missing Shade of Blue refers to David Hume’s thesis, or rather objection to his thesis, that simple ideas are derived from corresponding simple impressions. But Hume also argues that under certain conditions it seems possible that an idea can emerge without being caused by an impession.  We can imagine a purple horse without having seen one. As he describes in the ‘missing shade of blue’ thought experiment

Suppose, therefore, a person to have enjoyed his sight for thirty years, and to have become perfectly acquainted with colours of all kinds except one particular shade of blue, for instance, which it never has been his fortune to meet with. Let all the different shades of that colour, except that single one, be placed before him, descending gradually from the deepest to the lightest; it is plain that he will perceive a blank, where that shade is wanting, and will be sensible that there is a greater distance in that place between the contiguous colours than in any other. Now I ask, whether it be possible for him, from his own imagination, to supply this deficiency, and raise up to himself the idea of that particular shade, though it had never been conveyed to him by his senses? I believe there are few but will be of opinion that he can: and this may serve as a proof that the simple ideas are not always, in every instance, derived from the correspondent impressions; though this instance is so singular, that it is scarcely worth our observing, and does not merit that for it alone we should alter our general maxim.*

Jennie Erdal’s book , “The Missing Shade of Blue. A philosophical mystery”   refers to our ability to make sense of something that we have not experienced. Happiness, perhaps!

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Books, Music and a few more things, or how to stop hating your daily commute

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Posthumans on the run – NEXUS by Ramez Naam

I am intrigued by the whole concept of  transhumans and posthumans. I am fascinated and terrified the same time by the technology, the possibilities, of this dynamic interplay between humanity and technology.  Some call this singularity, but there is no reference of this in the story.

Nexus is a  street “nano-drug” that allows people to  run software in their brains and connect telepathically.  There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.

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The Aspern Papers by Henry James.

The Aspern Papers is a novella written by Henry James, originally published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1888. It is the story or rather the quest of an American editor – he is also the unnamed narrator of the story – to obtain a collection of letters by the American Romantic poet Jeffrey Aspern.

He believes that Juliana Bordereau, an elderly and ill lady who lives in Venice in a dilapidated old palazzo, with her spinster niece Miss Tina, in “obscurity” and “almost on nothing”, is in possession of these unpublished and priceless “literary remains”. In order to get access to them the narrator becomes a lodger of theirs, under a false name.  He does not have a plan of how to acquire the papers but it did not make him too miserable, “for the whole situation had the charm of its oddity.” Meanwhile, what better place is to spend summer than in Venice?

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"We were a little group of geniuses thrown together by chance"

‘The Man who wasn’t Maigret: A Portrait of Georges Simenon’ by Patrick Marnham

La Caque (named after a type of barrel used for packing herring) was a group of young men (painters, artists and writers), most of them former students of the Académie des Beaux-Arts (the Academy of Fine Art) in the city of Liège, Belgium. La Caque had a symbol, the scorpion biting its own tail, which  is sometimes taken as a symbol of eternity but could also be seen as a symbol of suicide. The leader of the group was the artist Luc Lafnet.

In her 1977 study of Simenon, “Georges Simenon: Maigrets and the Roman Durs”, Lucille Frackman Becker writes about the ‘La Caque’.

“….they feverishly sought intense excitement, any kind of ecstasy, of the boby, of the senses, of the mind, by any means imaginable and even using artifices, by meticulously codified formulas that resembled those of sexual maniacs”.

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