Ben Smithgall

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Software and data at Spotify. Previously with U.S. Digital Service and Code for America.

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Galápagos

By Kurt Vonnegut

Finished reading on April 6, 2018

Truly wonderful. Experimental tenses and subtle (and not-so) commentaries on the failures of modern states and finance make this a great adventure.

A million years into the future, people have lost many things through evolution, but they are much happier. Are they better off? It’s unclear, but the planet is certainly in better condition.

Perhaps the most interesting subtle irony of the book is that while it is nominally about evolution and natural selection, the fact that the book is written “a million years in the future” means the characters’ fates are largely predetermined. In fact, some names are prefaced with a * when they are about to experience an “evolutionary event.” This contrasts directly with the randomness inherent in evolution and makes for an interesting tension that plays off a major question: do we truly have free will?

★★★★★