By Chet Yarbrough
Bitwise (A Life in Code)
By: David Auerbach
Narrated by David Marantz
David Auerbach wishes not to be categorized. However, Auerbach is an author, ivy league graduate, computer geek, software coder, gamer, philosopher, and more. The point is categorization does not explain the real Auerbach. Auerbach offers a wide-ranging conception of what is real and not real in the world.
Auerbach criticizes categorization because it is fictive. His example is the wrong-headed categorization of sexuality. What social or cultural value can come from such categorization? Auerbach notes at one point Facebook insists users identify their sexual predilection from a list of hundreds of categories.
Auerbach pursues the concept of what is real in “Bitwise”. He fails to clearly define real but identifies what real is not. Real is not simply what the mind’s eye beholds and it is not the mathematics of reproducible experiment. There is a concreteness to real in Auerbach’s belief. However, real remains a mystery because it is to be revealed in a future not yet written.
To Auerbach, real lies somewhere within the triptych of human’ thought, mind, and language.
Auerbach’s philosophical argument for real is partly supported by the evolution of scientific understanding of the world. Newton discovered a partial truth about the physics of moving bodies. Einstein expanded Newton’s partial truth with a more comprehensive understanding of space and time. Einstein’s truth is changing with the discovery of quantum mechanics. All of these discoveries came from the interplay of human’ thought, mind, and language. This triptych gives concreteness to what is real.
Auerbach questions the advance of software algorithms as a method for finding truth about what is real. An algorithm is only a tool of human’ thought, mind, and language. Auerbach infers there may be a time when a computer becomes more human with the ability to define reality but not until they are more than algorithmic machines. That, of course, raises many more questions.
An algorithm is a set of calculations meant to define reality or conduct problem solving operations when in fact they neither define reality nor solve anything.
A revelation one has from Auerbach’s “Bitwise” is that gamers have become important to a younger generation because algorithms offer insight to the concreteness of existence. One can experiment with life’s outcomes without consequence in the real world.
Auerbach gives the example of a gamers use of a nuclear war game to show how world diplomacy decisions lead to world conflagration. Early versions are refined but remain blunt predictive instruments that only mimic human’ thought, mind, and language.
In his early career, Auerbach’s software experience comes from working with Microsoft. He suggests the stewardship of Balmer diminished Microsoft’s innovative history. Auerbach leaves Microsoft to join Google. He finds Google to be a more cutting-edge software developer by recognizing the value of data gathering and mining.
“Bitwise” is a clarion call to the public. Big Brother is here. It has the face of Google and the power of a nation-state.
The near future is dependent on software coding. The long future is dependent on human’ thought, mind, and language.