Category Archives: science

Complexity and Economics by NAF-Biz NY (Nov 16, 2017)

On November 16, prior to the 2017 Peter Stuyvesant Ball, the Netherland-America Foundation (NAF) organized this year a lecture about Complexity and Economics. The lecture, at Baker McKenzie in New York, was a high level overview of complexity principles for public policy by speakers Dr. Roland Kupers, among other associate fellow at the University of Oxford, and via a pre-recorded video by Prof. Lex Hoogduin.

On forehand, I was very excited to attend this talk as I deal with the topic more or less as a developer advocate for IBM either via the IBM Data Science Experience (DSX), Machine Learning and IBM Watson (cognitive computing, having some experience in R programming, data science, machine learning, calculus, and 20+ years of software engineering. The evening was certainly not un-interesting, but I was a little disappointed by the lack of depth of the presentations, and neither of the speakers touched on machine learning, statistics, or mathematics which have my immediate interest. But nevertheless, the two talks touched upon enough topics for further inquiry to make the evening inspiring.

Kupers’ talk relates to his publication entitled ‘Complexity and the art of public policy’ (2016) in collaboration with David Colander. Kupers is a physicist by training with experience in the field of fractals, then switched to economic policy early in his career, being a consultant now, who among other advised the NWO (Dutch organization for scientific research). Continue reading

Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City (2004)

Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City (2004) 390p.

I have read ‘The Devil in the White City’ as a trilogy, together with ‘Nature’s Metropolis‘ and ‘The Jungle’, and the overlap and synergies between the three works is so insightful to understand the roots of modern America, which sprouted in the Gilded Age of Chicago. Americans in general have perhaps a short memory and a shallow desire to understand their history or present, as they are so energetically working to build their future, but as they strive thus forward, they fail to see the straight trail they leave behind. The history of Chicago is interestingly also transcending the contemporary spleen of American culture. ‘Nature’s Metropolis’ more than any other work perhaps, gives a more comprehensive insight into the shared destiny of the northern East Coast and the Great West and South. The history of Chicago is the stitching between the common descent, by opening the gap between the White City and the Black City, between the amazing wonders and creative forces of the American Dream on one hand and the devastating destruction and humiliation of the American Psyche on the other, by describing a meticulous history of the ‘World’s Columbian Exposition‘ of 1893 and a portrait of America’s first serial killer H.H. Holmes.

Looking forward to the feature movie with Leonardo diCaprio by Martin Scorsese.

Keith Devlin, The Man of Numbers (2011)

themanofnumbers_keithdevlin_2011 Keith Devlin, The Man of Numbers (2011) is a largely historical biography about Leonardo Bigollo (~1170 – ~1250 CE), better known in his own time as Leonardo Pisano or in our time as Leonardo Fibonacci.

Fibonacci is best known for the sequence of Fibonacci numbers (1,2,3,5,8,13,21… etc), whose limit of ratios we know as the Divino Proportion coined by Luca Pacioli (1445-1517), the Golden Ratio coined by Martin Ohm (1792-1811), or as it is called in Euclid’s Elements, the extreme and mean ratio. Fibonacci numbers are only one of several mathematical puzzles posed in his Liber Abaci (1202), the Book of Calculation, a teaching book for mercantile administration, in which Leonardo describes the basics of the Hindu-Arab counting system, at the time largely unknown in Europe, where the Roman and medieval systems were still dominant. Devlin argues that the Liber Abaci caused a mathematical revolution that facilitated the mercantile boom of the Renaissance.

The book by Devlin is a little light on facts and mathematics, though none are absent, maybe because there are only few historic facts known about Leonardo, and because most of the math in our time sounds like very basic modern mathematics described in very cryptically described textual puzzles. If you really want to know everything about Fibonacci’s influence, you should read the translation of the Liber Abacci. If you really want to know everything about the mercantile revolution, you should read perhaps about Cosimo de’ Medici (1389-1464), or about the scientific revolution, you should read perhaps about Galileo Galilei (1564-1642).


Salman Akhtar, Immigration and Identity (1999)

Akhtar_Immigration_and_Identity_1999Salman Akhtar, Immigration and Identity (1999)

Akhtar gives a surface level overview of immigration specific psycho-analytical therapy. The core of Identity problems for immigrants lies in the cultural and social separation and individuation process, that causes responses of loss and idealization, depending if the immigration occurred voluntary or was forced. The psychological response should be one of rapprochement.

Akhtar in general does a very nice job in sketching the main issues in immigration psychology. He oversteps his own rule of cultural neutrality only where he feels compelled to distinguish between western and eastern culture. Notibly, Akhtar is of eastern descend, so it’s no surprise he characterizes the eastern psyche as a mind of heart and love, while describing the western mind as the mind of time and money. This distinction is not only obviously placing Akhtar in the position of patient instead of analyst, but is also so blatant that it instantly makes one doubt his analytical capacity. In the end, I choose to oversee this pillar of his therapeutical theory, because the rest of his book is fairly solid, although not particularly shocking in insight.

His insertions of his own poetry are a little bit unprofessional, but that too I can oversee and find in a childish way entertaining, though by all means, they have no place in an academic publication, and I would have to disqualify the book as being a non-scientific work for those last two criticisms. Still, it will offer any immigrant a few basic insights into the psychology of immigration, and is an entertaining work.