1. Emma Goldman, the fiery early-20th-century anarchist, is credited for giving the world the immortal refrain “if I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” (actually it’s not clear that she ever said it so pithily, but she did express such a thought). Admittedly, no one would mistake me for either a dancer or an anarchist, but I’ve always felt a kinship with Goldman over her terpsichorean line in the sand. The other day, it occurred to me that there’s a parallel sentence that sums up my entire political philosophy—on the one hand, my default instinct to side with the downtrodden and with the progressive left, but on the other, my dissent from any even vaguely anti-STEM, anti-rationality, or anti-nerd undercurrents, and my refusal to join any popular uprising that seems liable (for example) to delay the discovery of a P≠NP proof, by inconveniencing the people working on one.
So, here’s my sentence, which you should feel free to reprint on t-shirts and coffee mugs as desired:
If I can’t do math, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.
2. Over at Scientific American‘s website, John Horgan posted an account of a workshop on Integrated Information Theory, which I attended a couple weeks ago at NYU (along with David Chalmers, Giulio Tononi, Christof Koch, Max Tegmark, and a dozen or so others). I was the “official skeptic” of the workshop, and gave a talk based on my blog post The Unconscious Expander. I don’t really agree with what Horgan says about physics and information in general, but I do (of course) join him in his skepticism of IIT, and he gives a pretty accurate summary of what people said at the workshop. (Alas, my joke about my lunch not being poisoned completely bombed with the IIT crowd … as I should’ve predicted!) The workshop itself was lots of fun; thanks so much to David, Giulio, and Hedda Hassel Morch for organizing it.
3. As you might have noticed, I’ve created a new category on this blog: “Obviously I’m Not Defending Aaronson.” This category—reserved for posts that caused at least a hundred people to hate me—refers to a peculiar phrase I encountered over and over, in the social media threads denouncing me as a horrible person. The phrase tends to occur in passages like: “look, obviously I’m not defending Aaronson, but it’s worth pointing out that, if you carefully reread everything he wrote, he never actually said that war orphans should be roasted alive and then eaten for fun. That’s just something we all know that a clueless, arrogant nerd like him would think.”
4. Right now I’m at the “ThinkQ” conference at IBM in Yorktown Heights. Here are the PowerPoint slides from my talk yesterday, entitled “The Largest Possible Quantum Speedups.” Regular readers of this blog will find a lot that’s old and a little that’s new.