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Zero History

September 3, 2010

Zero History

Author:
William Gibson
Publisher:
Putnam Adult (2010)

Amazon | After a gig investigating “locative art” for the “overly wealthy and dangerously curious” Hubertus Bigend, founder of the trend-forecasting firm Blue Ant (Spook Country, 2007), Hollis Henry finds herself once again under Bigend’s employ. This time she is hired to discover the identity of the designer of a secret brand of clothing called Gabriel Hounds, whom Bigend hopes to enlist in his bid to get into the… read more

Permutation City

August 6, 2010

Permutation City

Author:
Greg Egan
Publisher:
Eos (1995)

Amazon | The good news is that you have just awakened into Eternal Life. You are going to live forever. Immortality is a reality. A medical miracle? Not exactly.

The bad news is that you are a scrap of electronic code. The world you see around you, the you that is seeing it, has been digitized, scanned, and downloaded into a virtual reality program. You are a Copy… read more

Rhythms of the Brain

August 3, 2010

Rhythms of the Brain

Author:
Gyorgy Buzsaki
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA (2006)

Amazon | Studies of mechanisms in the brain that allow complicated things to happen in a coordinated fashion have produced some of the most spectacular discoveries in neuroscience. This book provides eloquent support for the idea that spontaneous neuron activity, far from being mere noise, is actually the source of our cognitive abilities. It takes a fresh look at the co-evolution of structure and function in the mammalian brain,… read more

The Lifecycle of Software Objects

August 3, 2010

Lifecycle of Software Objects

Author:
Ted Chiang
Publisher:
Subterranean (2010)

Amazon | Is science fiction a literature of ideas, or of characters? Works that focus on the former often neglect the latter, and vice versa. It’s very difficult to examine complex abstractions and simultaneously articulate the mechanisms of fiction: most writers who attempt this balancing act end up throttling back on the ideas, or fail sideways into technical writing. So Chiang’s novella–the second piece he’s ever published that’s long… read more

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

July 27, 2010

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

Author:
Matt Ridley
Publisher:
Harper (2010)

Amazon | Ideas have sex, in Ridley’s schema; they follow a process of natural selection of their own, and as long as they continue to do so, there is reason to retire apocalyptic pessimism about the future of our species. Erstwhile zoologist, conservationist, and journalist, Ridley (The Red Queen) posits that as long as civilization engages in exchange and specialization, we will be able to reinvent ourselves and responsibly… read more

A Cosmist Manifesto: Practical Philosophy for the Posthuman Age

July 22, 2010

A Cosmist Manifesto: Practical Philosophy for the Posthuman Age

Author:
Ben Goertzel
Publisher:
Humanity + (2010)

Amazon | The term Cosmism was introduced by Tsiolokovsky and other Russian Cosmists around 1900. Goertzel’s “Cosmist Manifesto” gives it new life and a new twist for the 21st century. Cosmism, as Goertzel presents it, is a practical philosophy for the posthuman era. Rooted in Western and Eastern philosophy as well as modern technology and science, it is a way of understanding ourselves and our universe that makes sense… read more

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

July 20, 2010

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

Author:
V. S. Ramachandran, Sandra Blakeslee, Oliver Sacks
Publisher:
Harper Perennial (1999)

In these unsettling tales from a neuroscientist every bit as quirky as the more famous Oliver Sacks, Ramachandran sets out his beliefs that no matter how bizarre the case, empirical, strikingly simple testing can illuminate the ways brain circuitry establishes “self.” In a chatty, nearly avuncular style, he (along with his coauthor, a New York Times science writer) snatches territory from philosophers on how we think we know what… read more

Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with Others

July 20, 2010

Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with Others

Author:
Marco Iacoboni
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2008)

How do we know what others are thinking and feeling? Why do we weep at movies? UCLA neuroscientist Iacoboni introduces readers to the world of mirror neurons and what they imply about human empathy, which, the author says, underlies morality. Mirror neurons allow us to interpret facial expressions of pain or joy and respond appropriately. Thanks to these neurons, Iacoboni writes, [w]e have empathy for… fictional characters—we know how… read more

Online Worlds: Convergence of the Real and the Virtual (Human-Computer Interaction Series)

July 18, 2010

Online Worlds: Convergence of the Real and the Virtual (Human-Computer Interaction Series)

Author:
William Sims Bainbridge
Publisher:
Springer (2009)

Amazon | Virtual worlds are persistent online computer-generated environments where people can interact, whether for work or play, in a manner comparable to the real world. The most popular current example is World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online game with eleven million subscribers. However, other virtual worlds, notably Second Life, are not games at all but internet-based collaboration contexts in which people can create virtual objects, simulated architecture,… read more

Last Flesh: Life in the Transhuman Era

July 16, 2010

Last Flesh: Life in the Transhuman Era

Author:
Christopher Dewdney
Publisher:
HarperCollins Canada (1998)

Media Studies | Last Flesh has a decidedly optimistic tone, reminiscent of McLuhan’s catholic embrace of human creativity and ingenuity. Like McLuhan, Dewdney harbours the poet’s desire for sublime transcendence, and the evolution of human capacity.  As a poet, Dewdney has always been at home in the material world of science; in fact, much of his poetry attempts to integrate the documentary impulses of the sciences with the imaginative… read more

The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?

July 16, 2010

The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?

Author:
David Brin
Publisher:
Basic Books (1999)

Amazon | Science fiction writer Brin (The Uplift War) departs from technological fantasy to focus on the social and political ramifications of our information age.

While addressing the technology-vs.-privacy debate, he offers an informed overview of the issues and a useful historical account of how current policies evolved. Also beneficial are his descriptions of the different viewpoints on encryption software, online anonymity, the Clipper Chip and… read more

Immortality: How Science Is Extending Your Life Span and Changing the World

July 16, 2010

Immortality: How Science Is Extending Your Life Span - and Changing The World

Author:
Ben Bova
Publisher:
Harper Perennial (2000)

Amazon | The quest for human immortality is ongoing in science labs around the world, and the possibility is now closer to science fact than fiction, claims Bova, a veteran and prolific author of science books.

Bova admits that few scientists would agree with that claim but that scientists “are usually not the best predictors of their own futures.” Again Bova lives up to his reputation of writing… read more

Forever For All: Moral Philosophy, Cryonics, and the Scientific Prospects for Immortality

July 16, 2010

Forever For All: Moral Philosophy, Cryonics, and the Scientific Prospects for Immortality

Author:
R. Michael Perry
Publisher:
Universal Publishers (2000)

Amazon | This book considers the problems of death and the hereafter and how these ages-old problems ought to be addressed in light of our continuing progress. A materialistic viewpoint of reality is assumed, denying the likelihood of supernatural or other superhuman assistance. Death, however, is not seen as inevitable or even irreversible; it is maintained that the problem can and should be addressed scientifically in all of its… read more

Seeding the Universe with Life: Securing Our Cosmological Future

July 16, 2010

Seeding the Universe with Life: Securing Our Cosmological Future

Author:
Michael Noah Mautner
Publisher:
Legacy Books (2000)

Amazon | The future of life in the universe is an important subject of astrobiology. In this new popular science title, a well recognized researcher describes how we can seed new solar systems with microbial representatives of our family of organic life. The book also describes a life-centered astroethics that will motivate these missions. It describes the unity of all gene/protein life: a common ancestry, a special place in… read more

Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness

July 16, 2010

Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness

Author:
Roger Penrose
Publisher:
Oxford University Press (1996)

Amazon | A leading critic of artificial intelligence research returns to the attack, attempting to lay the groundwork for an analysis of the true nature of intelligence. Building on his arguments in The Emperor’s New Mind, Penrose (Mathematics/Oxford) begins by refuting the assertion that true intelligence can be attained–or even adequately simulated–by the strictly computational means to which current computers are ultimately limited. Much of his argument depends closely… read more

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