Random Reading: ‘Hello Goodbye Hello’ 


A circle of 101 remarkable meetings beginning and ending with Adolf Hitler.

This book caught my eye a couple years ago back at my old library in Denver. I’d forgotten the title but came across it again today while browsing the stacks.

It’s a collection of anecdotes of chance encounters between notable people. The anecdotes are a bit humdrum but the unbroken chain of chance encounters between mid-20th and late-19th century intelligentsia, politicians and pop stars is in itself fascinating (For instance, Elvis Presley isn’t too many chance encounters removed from Rasputin; just as Helen Keller isn’t far removed from Michael Jackson) :

Adolf Hitler——> John Scott-Ellis——> Rudyard Kipling——> Mark Twain——> Helen Keller——> Martha Graham——> Madonna——> Michael Jackson——> Nancy Reagan——> Andy Warhol——> Jackie Kennedy——> Queen Elizabeth II——> The Duke of Windsor——> Elizabeth Taylor——> James Dean——> Alec Guinness——> Evelyn Waugh——> Igor Stravinsky——> Walt Disney——> P.L. Travers——> George Ivanovich Gurfjieff——> Frank Lloyd Wright——> Marilyn Monroe——> Nikita Kruschev——> George Brown——> Eli Wallach——> Frank Sinatra——> Dominick Dunne——> Phil Spector——> Leonard Cohen——> Janis Joplin——> Patti Smith——> Allen Ginsberg——> Francis Bacon——> Princess Margaret——> Kenneth Tynan——> Truman Capote——> Peggy Lee——> President Richard Nixon——> Elvis Presley——> Paul McCartney——> Noel Coward——> Prince Felix Youssoupoff——> Grigori Rasputin——> Tsar Nicholas II——> Harry Houdini——> President Theodore Roosevelt——> H.G. Wells——> Josef Stalin——> Maxim Gorky——> Leo Tolstoy——> Pyotr Il’ich Tchaikovsky——> Sergei Rachmaninoff——> Harpo Marx——> George Bernard Shaw——> Bertrand Russel——> Sarah Miles——> Terence Stamp——> Edward Heath——> Walter Sickert——> Winston Churchill——> Laurence Olivier——> J.D. Salinger——> Ernest Hemingway——> Ford Madox Ford——> Oscar Wild——> Marcel Proust——> James Joyce——> Harold Nicholson——> Cecil Beaton——> Mick Jagger——> Tom Driberg——> Christopher Hitchens——> George Galloway——> Michael Barrymore——> Princess Diana——> Princess Grace——> Alfred Hitchcock——> Raymond Chandler——> Howard Hawks——> Howard Hughes——> Cubby Broccoli——> George Lazenby——> Simon Dee——> Michael Ramsey——> Geoffery Fisher——> Roald Dahl——> Kingsley Amis——> Anthony Armstrong-Jones——> Barry Humphries——> Salvador Dali——> Sigmund Freud——> Gustav Mahler——> Auguste Rodin——> Isadora Duncan——> Jean Cocteau——> Charlie Chaplin——> Groucho Marx——> T.S. Eliot——> Queen Elizabeth I——> The Duchess of Windsor——> Adolf Hitler

I suppose it’s appropriate that this list begins and ends with Hitler. At this point in time, he might be the single most recognizable person of the 20th century. Ghoulish as the shadow he casts over humanity is.

Augmented Intelligence

American communities, as determined by a computer, with a human assist.
(via Atlas Obscura)

This map is a representation of the economic and communal regions of America, irregardless of state lines. It’s an amalgamation of human and computer analysis. Artificial intelligence aggregated the data points and the human intelligence connected the dots and decided which areas deserved prominence.

Here is how the raw commuter and census data is visualized, without human interpretation:
American regions, based on commutes.

It’s very pretty on it’s own but isn’t terribly informative.

The dense nodes along the coast makes sense, with particular nodes in between that show a lot of activity, as good are shipped across country. I see Denver being one of the big hubs between the east and west coasts which is in line with its long-standing reputation as ‘the corridor of the west’.

Taken together, these maps show how computers and humans can work together to tease out the meaning in a vast matrix of data. There’s a lot of talk about artificial intelligence replacing humans in many areas but if a number is crunched and nobody’s around interpret it, is it still meaningful?

Machine intelligence compliments and augments our intelligence but is meaningless without thoughtful interpretation.