Overcomplicated: Technology at the Limits of Comprehension

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Penguin, Jul 19, 2016 - Technology & Engineering - 256 pages

   Why did the New York Stock Exchange suspend trading without warning on July 8, 2015? Why did certain Toyota vehicles accelerate uncontrollably against the will of their drivers? Why does the programming inside our airplanes occasionally surprise its creators? 
   After a thorough analysis by the top experts, the answers still elude us. 
   You don’t understand the software running your car or your iPhone. But here’s a secret: neither do the geniuses at Apple or the Ph.D.’s at Toyota—not perfectly, anyway. No one, not lawyers, doctors, accountants, or policy makers, fully grasps the rules governing your tax return, your retirement account, or your hospital’s medical machinery. The same technological advances that have simplified our lives have made the systems governing our lives incomprehensible, unpredictable, and overcomplicated. 
   In Overcomplicated, complexity scientist Samuel Arbesman offers a fresh, insightful field guide to living with complex technologies that defy human comprehension. As technology grows more complex, Arbesman argues, its behavior mimics the vagaries of the natural world more than it conforms to a mathematical model. If we are to survive and thrive in this new age, we must abandon our need for governing principles and rules and accept the chaos. By embracing and observing the freak accidents and flukes that disrupt our lives, we can gain valuable clues about how our algorithms really work. What’s more, we will become better thinkers, scientists, and innovators as a result. 
   Lucid and energizing, this book is a vital new analysis of the world heralded as "modern" for anyone who wants to live wisely.

 

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User Review  - Carlie - www.librarything.com

I found this short book a refreshing take on technology and its impact on our lives. It was neither doomsday scenario nor rose-colored glasses in perspective. The author posits that we are now at a ... Read full review

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User Review  - rivkat - LibraryThing

We no longer live in an age in which an educated person can basically understand the issues facing us across the range of issues, according to the best available science/learning in each area. Also ... Read full review

Contents

INTRODUCTION
3
Chapter 2
31
Chapter 3
67
Chapter 4
95
Chapter 5
111
Chapter 6
151
Further Reading
177
Index
233
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About the author (2016)

Samuel Arbesman is Scientist in Residence at Lux Capital, a science and technology venture capital firm. He is also a Senior Fellow of the Silicon Flatirons Center of Law, Technology, and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado and a Research Fellow at the Long Now Foundation. His writing on science, mathematics, and technology has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired. Arbesman's first book, The Half-life of Facts, examines how knowledge changes over time. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and children.

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