Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bon Voyannegut

I'll join the masses commenting on the last stanza of Kurt Vonnegut's Requiem this week. I haven't read much Vonnegut. Matter of fact, the work I most associate with him is the "wear sunscreen" commencement speech which was mistakenly attributed to him when it first went around.

So why blog on it? The last stanza of Requiem, which his NY Times obituary quoted, just hit a nerve. I think a lot about how people (of a certain means) create the environments they live and work in, how often they complain about the result, and how much they will do to avoid being conscious of their role in it. Not wanting to comment on the stanza out of context, though, I first went looking for the rest of the poem.

The stanza preceding the quoted one ends with "we know what we're doing" (see the full piece).

And then I realized that the poem really applies to a different corner of my life. I'm starting to read about the logic of human decision making and thinking about how computational artifacts can account for the more emotional components of it when encoding human judgments in logical form. So the poem spurred me to bridge different issues on my mind, which is the best I hope for from reading. What better kind of moment to blog on?

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