Despite moments of personal distaste, Sorin’s concise arguments stand as a model of reason.

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Software and Mind

THE MECHANISTIC MYTH AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

In this massive philosophical treatise that crosses disciplines with verve and meticulous logic, politics, cognitive science, software engineering and more become threads in a complex examination of mental modeling.

Sorin argues against what he labels the “mechanistic myth”: the belief that virtually all fields, from psychology to biology, can be addressed by pursuing methodologies and theorizing based on hierarchical modeling—a method of breaking down processes and concepts from high-level ideas into simple, indivisible base units or concepts. Although Sorin’s primary expertise and focus for the book is in programming and computer science, he convincingly argues that the success of hierarchical structures has spread from the hard sciences of physics and engineering—where, in Sorin’s estimation, these models work and should be utilized—to virtually all fields of study, including sociology and psychology, in which the processes and concepts involved appear to be too complex for the relative simplicity of hierarchical modeling. Since these fields study human interactions, which function on multiple levels and can vary depending on numerous factors, Sorin argues that the important concepts and theories in these so-called “soft” sciences cannot be adequately modeled or understood using hierarchical thinking. From this basic concept, Sorin broadly examines what he sees as troubling trends in academia, software development, government and many other endeavors. Early on, Sorin betrays the color of his conclusions through frequent use of emotionally charged words (e.g., absurd, charlatans, totalitarianism) and disdain for the majority of those working in the mechanistic mode, focusing especially on academic bureaucrats and those who, in Sorin’s opinion, work with pseudoscientific theories, such as linguist Noam Chomsky’s theories regarding universal grammar. To be fair, Sorin offers a disclaimer in his critique of the “mechanical myth”: “Myths,” he says, “manifest themselves through the acts of persons, so it is impossible to discuss the mechanistic myth without also referring to the persons affected by it.” His clear disapproval of these groups and theories doesn’t detract from the thorough explanations, well-reasoned arguments and crystalline logic he employs at every step. His explanations of mechanistic vs. nonmechanistic models and of the importance of tacit knowledge (meaning knowledge that is gained by experience, which isn’t always expressible in simple ways) are particularly cogent, and his textbook-length elucidations will enrich understanding for university-level students in various fields of study.

Despite moments of personal distaste, Sorin’s concise arguments stand as a model of reason.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0986938900

Page Count: 944

Publisher: Andsor Books

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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