A Gift. Get it, give it. Book of Numbers, by Joshua Cohen.


I just finished this amazing book. It is about technology and humanity, disrupting, inventing. It’s about our connected, searchable, business-driven world, infatuated with algorithms, startups and founders, yet deeply rooted in the old time religions. It’s an amazing, stylish and disruptive celebration of writing, language and ideas. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetites.

On hiring a CEO

We fantasized about being able to type all the qualities we desired in a corporate boss into a searchengine that would just spit out the result, his/her title and brief, spew a figurehead to that Aeron throne that tilted precarious atop the nominal cap of the company pyramid. CAO, Chief Amnesia Officer, CBO, Chief Borderline Intellectual Functioning Officer, CCO Chief Catatonia Officer, Chief DSM IV.   Qualities as like Facey, Gladhandy, A Suit, No One. Quantity 1. We settled on President. Start immediately.

On Hinduism and the invention of online – recounted while driving

His driving was not erratic if we followed his thoughts, because his driving followed his thoughts and veered and passed. Cut off. He was telling us about India, which had invented online. The Vedas, the Upanishads. He rehashed the Ramayana, stalled.  the Mahabharata, stalled. Rather, he said, Hinduism had invented the cosmology that had been plagiarized online. The net, the web, just a void and in the void a wilderness, a jungle of hardware sustaining a diversity of software, of sites of all out of order pages, a pantheon to be selectively engaged, an experience special to each user. Each click was a dedicated worship, an act of mad propitiation that hazarded destruction.
Altogether, never altogether, online comprised a religion of bespoke blue plural gods that could also be goddesses that could also be customized in any alternative to gender and blueness, not a religion but a flux of cults, temporary sects, routing allegiances, provider alliances. The user as like the Hindu can ping the deity of the specific moment or location, or the one pertinized to a particular task, without any core theology, without any central control, anything goes.
What guaranteed this access was search. No one understood search as like an Indian.

On the algy (algorithm) and the business plan

We were convinced that we were writing everything wrong and had gotten everything uncombobulated, that we were writing the algy as like it were the businessplan, and writing the businessplan as like it were the algy. The algy a sequence of specific commands executing specific operations, the bplan a sequence of nonspecific goals and objectives or just subjective projections that would execute only if we failed to convince the VCs, or worse, if we succeeded at failing them totally. The algy used sequences of numbers to represent functions, the bplan used sequences of letters to represent the dysfunctionality of its intended readership, manipulating prospective investors according to sociocultural filters and career trajectories, levels of greed and their enabling inadequacies, significant degrees of gullibility too, or just plain unadulterated stupeyness.

Read the New York Times Review here

The Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen is published by Random House.
The work is copyright 2015 Joshua Cohen