Re: META: Recommendations for a 13 year old transhumanist

Anders Sandberg (
08 May 1999 21:52:38 +0200

"Chandra Patel" <> writes:

> I'm trying to do this whole polymath thing since I think I have a fairly
> good head start.

Good idea. I have found that getting to learn the basics of many areas at an early age is a big advantage. My main problem was that it was too fun to get lost in the higher levels of the subject, making my practically useful basic knowledge a bit spotty, but your approach seems rather through. Good luck with it!

> On the physics side I'm starting with Feynman's lecture
> series.

A good idea. A very good series.

> If anyone has any recommendations for good introductions to
> relativity, quantum mechanics, and other topics please let me know.

I wonder if Misner, Thorne, Wheeler _Gravitation_ is worth reading for you. I like it and it is a standard book, but some may have different opinions and I'm not sure about the intro potential. Anyway, it is likely not worth reading until you have the basic physics clear.

> I'm also interested in sharpening my programming skills which have been
> isolated mainly to BASIC and QBASIC at this point. What computer languages
> are best for beginning my trek toward Coding Deity status? There seem to be
> lots of options and my teachers and friends have no ideas about where to
> start.

Like the others, I think C is worth knowing. Pascal - well, it is good for you, but in my opinion it tastes bad :-) Once you understand C, I would suggest going directly to Java, C++ is in my opinion a bit too messy.

I would like to mention Lisp and its successors like Scheme. Fairly simple to learn, a very different approach to programming (functional instead of imperative) and maybe a good complement to C in maturing as a coding deity.

I learned programming by writing a lot of basic and making all the mistakes; it was nice to see that more modern languages had found ways (functions, scoping, object oriented programming) that solved them but I knew I had roughly had the same ideas on my own (just been unable to do them in basic). Programming skill is really about programming a lot, making mistakes, learning to discover them and gradually learn how to write code so that they don't occur.

Any interest in neuroscience? In that case I can recommend Kalat's _Biological Psychology_

And do read science fiction.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y