Extropian Principles Reading List

John K Clark (johnkc@well.com)
Sun, 12 Oct 1997 09:38:58 -0700 (PDT)


My 2 cents:

Although I haven't read Robert Anton Wilson I like Max's list, but Eliezer is
absolutely correct, "Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas R. Hofstadter just has
to be at the top of any Extropian reading list, it's a pure joy, the most
brilliant book I've ever read and the only non fiction science book I thought
deserved a Nobel Prize in literature. "Metamagical Themas", another book by
Hofstadter is also excellent, as is "The Mind's I" which he wrote with Daniel

For an introduction to complexity theory and a little cellular automation
read "The Recursive Universe" by William Poundstone.

I really think that something by Raymond Smullyan is needed, "The Tao Is
Silent" is his most accessible and probably the most accessible book on my
list, certainly the funniest. That doesn't stop it from being a profound
examination of eastern philosophy and modern logic. This book taught me that
not all mystics are fools, just most of them.

The best popular account of the weird world of Quantum Mechanics is
"The Cosmic Code" by Heinz R Pagels, and for General Relativity "Black Holes
and Time Warps" by Kip Thorne. David Deutsch's brand new book "The Fabric Of
Reality" is the best explanation of the many worlds interpretation of Quantum
Mechanics I've ever seen and it gives you a good dose of the Philosophy of
Karl Popper too.

For physical anthropology and the evolution on humans I would recommend
"Lucy" by Donald Johanson. For earlier times and the start of multicellular
life I like "Wonderful Life" by Stephen Jay Gould. For even earlier history
and the very beginning of life try "Origins" by Robert Shapiro. I loved
Richard Dawkins "The Selfish Gene" and "The Blind Watchmaker" but in many
ways "The Extended Phenotype" is his best book.

For somebody who knew nothing about science but wanted to learn you couldn't
do better than "Asimov's New Guide To Science" and for those unfortunate
people infected with the pseudo science meme (Danny, are you listening?)
Carl Sagan's "The Demon Haunted World" (1) is a good antibiotic, so is
"Fads and Fallacies In The Name Of Science" by Martin Gardner.

(1) I "read" this book by listening to it on cassette tapes in my car, I've
been doing this a lot lately and it's great! Instead of getting
frustrated when I get into a traffic jam I now find I don't mind a bit.

John K Clark johnkc@well.com

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