I am actually kind of surprised that I hadn’t read this novel before. It is probably one of the first steampunk books. Imagine an alternate Victorian era Neal Stephenson and you will have a fairly good idea of what to expect. Amongst the pure entertainment ruminations on computer science in a world where Babbage succeeded in building his analytical engine. Very fun.
Even the most rational of us have irrational beliefs. And it isn’t necessarily a bad thing that we do. That is the central premise of this nicely leftfield popular science book. When, for example, Richard Dawkins fetishises a first edition of Darwin’s Orgin of Species he is attributing an object with magical properties. And there is no real reason to yell at one’s laptop when it isn’t doing what we expect. Hutson draws on research in fields as varied as neuroscience, anthropology, and psychology to figure out how irrational behaviour can help us. A challenging read for an ultra-rationalist like me.