This is the clearest and best-written intro article on math, computability and big numbers I have read, period (and it’s from 1999, by the way).
More importantly, once the author (Scott Aaronson, a prof at MIT/CSAIL, and someone, hehe, semi-famously at odds with my client Stephen Wolfram) makes his way through the Ackerman sequence, Turing machines and Busy Beavers, he makes several very worthwhile arguments about our cultural understanding of big numbers. This is a topic that I’m keenly interested in, as I’m in the business, ultimately, of bringing advanced, and often algorithmically and computationally significant, technologies to market.
Indeed, one could define science as reason’s attempt to compensate for our inability to perceive big numbers. If we could run at 280,000,000 meters per second, there’d be no need for a special theory of relativity: it’d be obvious to everyone that the faster we go, the heavier and squatter we get, and the faster time elapses in the rest of the world. If we could live for 70,000,000 years, there’d be no theory of evolution, and certainly no creationism: we could watch speciation and adaptation with our eyes, instead of painstakingly reconstructing events from fossils and DNA. If we could bake bread at 20,000,000 degrees Kelvin, nuclear fusion would be not the esoteric domain of physicists but ordinary household knowledge. But we can’t do any of these things, and so we have science, to deduce about the gargantuan what we, with our infinitesimal faculties, will never sense. If people fear big numbers, is it any wonder that they fear science as well and turn for solace to the comforting smallness of mysticism?
Definitely required reading, and thanks to @mrflip for pointing me to this piece.
Leaving Porter Novelli, and Jones-Dilworth, Inc. Is Born!
I’ve got big news on my end to announce – I am leaving Porter Novelli and starting my own agency – Jones-Dilworth, Inc. My last day in the office was today, and Monday is my last official day – Tuesday the 16th marks the launch of the newco.
It turns out that when you work with entrepreneurs day in and day out for years, it is only a matter of time before you catch the bug yourself!
I am really, really excited. Thanks to all of you whose support has helped me find this new path and make it a reality.
Clients to start include Twine, Siri, Wolfram|Alpha, Swingly, Prefinery, Gelato, and a few other stealthy offerings and advisory roles yet to be announced.
Focus will be on “early” – early companies, early markets, and early/new media. The goal is to keep the team lean and mean for the rest of 2009, and then to take a hard look at 2010 and decide if and how we want to grow. I’ve already hired a few great people, but am also looking to add 1-2 more, so if you know of anyone…
It is definitely a bittersweet parting and I have (and will always have) much love for PN and PN Austin+NYC especially. It is an elite firm and it is the only reason I’m able to make the move that I’m making with a straight face. I am beyond grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been afforded along the way – they have been formative, and rewarding. And I owe my career largely to Laura Beck, who has been a mentor and a friend and the best boss I’ve ever had.
Bringing cutting-edge technologies to market is what I am passionate about, and I’ve wanted for a long time to build a company around that – the agency of the future is going to be rather different than what we’re familiar with today, and I hope to make significant new steps in that direction.
The new e-mail will be: josh [at] jones-dilworth.com (my PN e-mail will self-destruct EOD on Monday the 15th). Phone # stays the same at 917-209-2956.
The new website is the works too, and will go live sometime next week – this blog obviously needs updating too, as do an infinite array of social networks – all in time. I’ve busy wrapping things up and making the transition, so all of the branding goodness is pulling up the rear;)
I’ll outline much more about the new agency in the inaugural blogs posts on Jones-Dilworth website. I will remain HQ’ed in sunny Austin TX, though — some things don’t change;)