(-10 + 9 – 8 + 7 * 6) * (5 * 4 * 3 + 2 – 1)

When I woke up this morning, the above sequence came to me. Apparently I was thinking about this in my sleep. It’s so cool that you can form 2013 as a countdown using only simple arithmetic of 10 separate numbers. I’m starting to suspect there are many solutions for any given year. Maybe I’m just a nerd. 🙂

Speaking of which, a recent encounter reminded me of the following snatch of conversation from the film “The Matrix”:



“Can you fly that thing?”


“Not yet.”


This is the scene in which Trinity, the female lead, instantly downloads to her mind the ability to pilot a helicopter, and the entire audience thinks (to quote Keanu) “Whoa!”

I attended a holiday party the other week at which I was introduced to a clearly very interesting and intelligent woman whom, I was told, wrote for the New York Times. I found out only later, when I did a Google search, that she had written a number of features about research topics I have worked on, which I would have loved to discuss with her.

I might have figured that out at the party, but pumping people for questions about their work while they are holding a drink can be socially awkward. If it had come up in the flow of conversation, that would have been ok.

If we really had the capability posited in “The Matrix” — if I could have simply stood there and acquired, from one moment to the next, the knowledge I later looked up, I might have been able to start that conversation in a fun and interesting way. But would that have been better?

In a way, this is like asking whether a world with cars and trains and airplanes is better than a world where people just walk. Of course such a capability would be enormously empowering, but would it be better?

In other words, would you prefer to live in a world where any body of information could be acquired instantly, even during the flow of conversation? Or would the disadvantages of such a universal ability outweigh the advantages?

One thought on “(-10 + 9 – 8 + 7 * 6) * (5 * 4 * 3 + 2 – 1)”

  1. Your Google Glass frames could handle this. Start face recognition on the person your talking to. Listen for voice and context cues (“…I write for the New York times”, GPS coordinates in the city).

    Then it’s just a matter of managing the awkward stare as you try to skim the articles floating just above her head.

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