Good books I read in June 2023.
Broad Band by Claire L. Evans
“The untold story of the women who made the Internet” is a chronological collection of stories showcasing the fundamental contribution of exceptional women in shaping the Internet as we know it today.
You’ll learn about known early figures, including Ada Lovelace, the ENIAC Six, and Grace Hopper, as well as less famous participants in the subsequent stages of technological development, such as Radia Perlman with her spanning-tree protocol for Ethernet and Stacy Horn, the founder of Echo, one of the earliest internet communities, to this day accessible only via Telnet.
As the story of hypertext shows, technology alone isn’t enough to change the world—it has to be implemented in an accessible way and adopted by a community of users who feel enough ownership over it to invent new applications far beyond the imagination of its architects.
Planta Sapiens by Paco Calvo
I picked up this book while at the library with my son as part of my ongoing effort to get exposure to a variety of topics — see Broaden your range to improve your thinking.
Paco Calvo is the director of MINT Labs, a research center focused on exploring plant intelligence.
Throughout the book, Calvo makes his case for how plants possess the ability to plan ahead and create models of the world around them. That is to say, plants are intelligent and conscious, albeit not at the same level as humans.
To be honest, I wasn’t convinced by the argument for plants being conscious instead of simply operating as a conglomerate of cellular systems only trying to survive and replicate. I also felt Calvo’s frequent encouragement to “open our mind” and “change perspective” uninspiring. Data and explanations should stand on their own merit without the need for mental gymnastics.
Still, the book asks interesting questions on intelligence and brings forward various moral conundrums. For example, what would happen to the whole vegan endeavor if it turned out that plants were conscious living beings?
I also appreciated Calvo’s head-on discussions of the critiques of MINT Labs’ research and the overall effort of taking a multidisciplinary approach to the problem. Regardless of where the research on plant intelligence will lead, we need more people who take criticism seriously and try to integrate different fields.
We might do better being encouraged to know less and instead to think more.
The second chapter in Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy sees Thrawn team up with none other than Darth Vader on a special mission to investigate a disturbance in the Force, interleaved with flashbacks of an earlier encounter between the Chiss admiral and Vader’s former self, Anakin Skywalker. Expect the same level of craft and Sherlock-Holmes-like deductive feats as the first installment.
On the same library trip where I got Planta Sapiens, my son borrowed Theodora Hendrix and the Monstrous League of Monsters, an okay book about a ten-year-old girl with an attitude who has been raised by a group of monsters.
What have you been reading?