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Chris Aldrich

In addition to your thoughts above, I’d also highly recommend people take a look at Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) technology which is primarily headed by Spritz (though there are a multitude of knock-offs on the market). The basic premise is that the technology helps to prevent subvocalization while also simultaneously getting rid of seccadic eye movements. I don’t find it as useful for technical reading, but magazine articles, newspapers, and most fiction work well with this method. I’ve written a bit about it here:

Based on psychology research for plateauing, one can continually increase one’s speed by pushing one’s limit up several hundred wpm and then backing off a bit, which will make the speed seem slower than just prior, but still faster than previous bests. I’m sure there’s some upper hard limit, but I now find reading at 800+wpm very comfortable without losing comprehension significantly.

Chris Aldrich

Checked into Math Sciences

Lie Groups. Hi, my name is Chris, and I'm a...

Chris Aldrich

I recall a few years back that academic Kathleen Fitzgerald, wrote a peer-reviewed book Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy on the Media Commons Press Platform at Subsequent to outside and open commentary, she published via NYU Press as well as on several online outlets including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. There are a wealth of other open examples like this if you're willing to dig into some of the technology (I'm happy to help guide you if you're interested). Fitzpatrick herself may be willing to give you an update on the state of the art as well. For some additional information on her story try these articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education: and

Chris Aldrich

Chris Aldrich

Updated my list: Follow/Subscribe @BigHistory @BigHistoryPro @BigHistoryInst @davidgchristian @BHP_Eric

Chris Aldrich

Resilience and Complexity

1 min read

I was interested to see a recent interview of Dr. Rodin in conjunction with her recent book on resilience. I've ordered a copy as I'm surprised to hear how some of the principles she discussed were related to my own research in the areas of Complexity Theory and particularly the overlap of information theory and molecular biology. The science underpinning all of this is truly fascinating. 

For those unfamiliar with these areas, I'd recommend also taking a look at Melanie Mitchell's Complexity: A Guided Tour and Nicholas Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable which do a reasonable job of giving the idea of how these areas all inter-relate with little or no mathematics. In particular Taleb discusses the concept of "too big to fail" from a probabilistic and an evolutionary standpoint, which can easily be applied to the potential fragility of institutions which underpin cities and will help to make them more resilient.

(In reply to And the Next 35 Resilient Cities Are...)

Chris Aldrich

There is definitely some general relation between the two subjects within complexity theory, and as likely one of the few people who know what both fields entail, I've not come across anything specific or even general linking the two fields in a direct manner. I've seen some research that ties the two fields separately to other areas in an indirect manner, but I doubt this is of any interest to you.

One of the few papers I'm directly aware of in the space is "Analaysis and improvement of genetic algorithms using concepts from information theory[1]" by John Edward Milton, though it's been quite some time since I read it, and I recall it being a thesis.

The closest thing I can think to refer you to is some of Melanie Mitchell's work. She's written a book entitled "Complexity: A Guided Tour[2]" (Oxford University Press, 2011) which touches on both subjects underneath the umbrella of complexity studies though in separate chapters. This book is best described as popular science and doesn't have many (any) equations at all, so it'll give you only an idea of their relationship. If you contact her directly (I know she's on Twitter), perhaps she can give you more specifics.

I also maintain an open Mendeley group ITBio: Information Theory, Microbiology, Evolution, and Complexity[3] which may be of some tangential help for your search. Unfortunately there are only a few dozen researchers who can function in the worlds of information theory and evolution/biology at the same time.

You might also delve into the work of Stuart Kauffman ("The Origins of Order[4]" (Oxford University Press, 1993), though many serious information theorists refute the direction he takes mathematically as his grounding isn't in information theory itself) or Gregory Chaitin[5] who have some interesting material tangential to the subject. The Santa Fe Institute may also have one or more interesting tangential researchers.

I'm quite interested to see/hear what your or others may come up with in this interesting space.


Chris Aldrich

Chris Aldrich

This is a really interesting and fundamental question which has some very deep roots in areas like cognitive neuropsychology, linguistics, neurobiology, etc. For a really good look into the origins of some of these topics I might recommend reading some Steven Pinker's popular science titles. (

Pinker is one of the world's leading authorities on language and the mind and some of his books include The Stuff of Thought, The Blank Slate, Words and Rules, How the Mind Works, and The Language Instinct. Without getting overly technical, he takes a very close look at some the ideas you've brought up. (And of course if you want to get very technical, there is a very broad and deep area of journal articles and research in these areas.)

Psychologist and Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman's book "Thinking, Fast and Slow" (2011, Farrar, Straus & Giroux; also looks at some of the early psychological correlates to some of these questions and has something interesting to say about early collective learning and cooperation as well.

Chris Aldrich

Today, I got an email update from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI, which has some generally excellent free teaching materials in science/technology related areas. (I recommend everyone spend some time on their site when they have a block of free time.)

In particular today, they have some nice looking materials for thresholds 5 and up:
Exploring the Anthropocene
Summary: How are our activities affecting the planet? This engaging interactive brings our popular poster ( to life, letting you explore data on human population growth, air pollution, agriculture, mining, water use, and other factors. Turn layers on and off, identify trends and correlations, and discover the impact of human activities on the environment.

They've also got an accompanying set of 6 stream-able lectures

Biodiversity in the Age of Humans
Summary: Are we witnessing a sixth mass extinction? What factors threaten ecosystems on land and in the sea? What are researchers doing to try to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems?

Most of their materials have online videos, animations, virtual laboratories, and poster-type components for helping to illustrate their points.

Primarily the HHMI's mission is to help move cutting edge research forward, though they also spend some significant time trying to help educate the public on the importance of their research. Given the wealth of free educational materials and funding along with the overlap of major areas of science which underpin Big History (in particular evolution, earth science, chemistry, biology, physics, etc.) it may also be worthwhile for the larger Big History movement to work along side of this part of HHMI to pool resources and education materials for improved pedagogy. Perhaps the Big History Project could partner up to help extend HHMI's reach into classrooms? :)