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Better than Human: The Promise and Perils of Enhancing Ourselves (Philosophy in Action)

February 10, 2014

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Author:
Allen E. Buchanan
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA (2011)

Is it right to use biomedical technologies to make us better than well or even perhaps better than human? Should we view our biology as fixed or should we try to improve on it? College students are already taking cognitive enhancement drugs. The U.S. army is already working to develop drugs and technologies to produce “super soldiers.” Scientists already know how to use genetic engineering techniques to enhance the… read more

Humanity Enhanced: Genetic Choice and the Challenge for Liberal Democracies

January 30, 2014

HumanityEnhanced

Author:
Russell Blackford
Publisher:
The MIT Press (2013)

Emerging biotechnologies that manipulate human genetic material have drawn a chorus of objections from politicians, pundits, and scholars. In Humanity Enhanced, Russell Blackford eschews the heated rhetoric that surrounds genetic enhancement technologies to examine them in the context of liberal thought, discussing the public policy issues they raise from legal and political perspectives.

Some see the possibility of genetic choice as challenging the values of liberal democracy. Blackford… read more

Personality Capture and Emulation

January 22, 2014

Personality-Capture

Author:
William Sims Bainbridge
Publisher:
Springer (2014)

Personality Capture and Emulation is the gateway to an amazing future that actually may be achieved, enabling the preservation and simulation of human personalities at progressively higher levels of fidelity.

This challenge is no longer the province merely of uninhibited visionaries, but has become a solid field of research, drawing upon a wide range of information technologies in human-centered computing and cyber-human systems.

Even at modest levels of… read more

America’s Space Futures: Defining Goals for Space Exploration

January 22, 2014

Americas-Space-Futures2

Author:
Eric R. Sterner
Publisher:
BookBaby (2013)

America’s Space Futures is an important contribution to the ongoing debate about space policy, the American space program, and the human destiny in space.

It lays out alternative paradigms and frameworks for assessing America’s future in space and how different visions would require changes to America’s current approach to space development and exploration.

Since the end of the Apollo program in the 1970s, the U.S. civil space… read more

The Society of Mind

January 21, 2014

The-Society-of-Mind2

Author:
Marvin Minsky
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster (1987)

Marvin Minsky — one of the fathers of computer science and cofounder of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT — gives a revolutionary answer to the age-old question: “How does the mind work?”

Minsky brilliantly portrays the mind as a “society” of tiny components that are themselves mindless. Mirroring his theory, Minsky boldly casts The Society of Mind as an intellectual puzzle whose pieces are assembled along the way. Each… read more

Brain-Computer Interfacing: An Introduction

January 21, 2014

Brain-Computer Interfacing

Author:
Rajesh P. N. Rao
Publisher:
Cambridge University Press (2013)

The idea of interfacing minds with machines has long captured the human imagination. Recent advances in neuroscience and engineering are making this a reality, opening the door to restoring and potentially augmenting human physical and mental capabilities. Medical applications such as cochlear implants for the deaf and deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease are becoming increasingly commonplace. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) (also known as brain-machine interfaces or BMIs) are now… read more

The Techno-Human Shell: A Jump in the Evolutionary Gap

January 20, 2014

The Techno-Human Shell Cover.

Author:
Joseph Carvalko
Publisher:
Sunbury Press (2013)

Medical technology now verges on incorporating computers with the computational power of the famous Watson IBM computer and Internet-like communications directly into our anatomy.

As the size and complexity of computers spiral downward, the wholesale use of these devices (as well as RFID-type technology) will become as common as a present vaccine. These initiatives will extend lifetimes, keep us younger longer and enhance our intelligence.

Related to… read more

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

January 17, 2014

Amusing Ourselves to Death Cover.

Author:
Neil Postman
Publisher:
Penguin Books (2005)

Originally published in 1985, Neil Postman’s groundbreaking polemic about the corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse has been hailed as a twenty-first-century book published in the twentieth century. Now, with television joined by more sophisticated electronic media—from the Internet to cell phones to DVDs—it has taken on even greater significance. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a prophetic look at what happens when politics, journalism, education, and even… read more

The Case for Space Solar Power

January 16, 2014

The Case for Solar Power.

Author:
John Mankins
Publisher:
Amazon Digital Services (2014)

This book makes the Case for Space Solar Power. recounting the history of this fascinating concept and summarizing the many different ways in which it might be accomplished. It describes in detail a highly promising concept – SPS-ALPHA (Solar Power Satellite by means of Arbitrarily Large Phased Array) – and presents a business case comprising applications in space and markets on Earth.

The book explains how it is… read more

We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer’s

January 13, 2014

We Are Our Brains cover.

Author:
D. F. Swaab, Jane Hedley-Prole
Publisher:
Spiegel & Grau (2014)

A vivid account of what makes us human.

Based groundbreaking new research, We Are Our Brains is a sweeping biography of the human brain, from infancy to adulthood to old age. Renowned neuroscientist D. F. Swaab takes us on a guided tour of the intricate inner workings that determine our potential, our limitations, and our desires, with each chapter serving as an eye-opening window on a different stage of brain… read more

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

January 13, 2014

The Second Machine Age.

Author:
Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company (2014)

A revolution is under way.

In recent years, Google’s autonomous cars have logged thousands of miles on American highways and IBM’s Watson trounced the best human Jeopardy! players. Digital technologies — with hardware, software, and networks at their core — will in the near future diagnose diseases more accurately than doctors can, apply enormous data sets to transform retailing, and accomplish many tasks once considered uniquely human.

In The Secondread more

The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease

January 13, 2014

the-story-of-the-human-body-cover

Author:
Daniel Lieberman
Publisher:
Pantheon (2013)

In this landmark book of popular science, Daniel E. Lieberman — chair of the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and a leader in the field — gives us a lucid and engaging account of how the human body evolved over millions of years, even as it shows how the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and advancements in the modern… read more

Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality

January 8, 2014

book_our_mathematical_universe

Author:
Max Tegmark
Publisher:
Knopf (2014)

Max Tegmark leads us on an astonishing journey through past, present and future, and through the physics, astronomy and mathematics that are the foundation of his work, most particularly his hypothesis that our physical reality is a mathematical structure and his theory of the ultimate multiverse. In a dazzling combination of both popular and groundbreaking science, he not only helps us grasp his often mind—boggling theories, but he also… read more

The Turing Test: Verbal Behavior as the Hallmark of Intelligence

January 8, 2014

TheTuringTest

Author:
Stuart M. Shieber
Publisher:
A Bradford Book (2004)

The Turing Test is part of the vocabulary of popular culture — it has appeared in works ranging from the Broadway play “Breaking the Code” to the comic strip “Robotman.” The writings collected by Stuart Shieber for this book examine the profound philosophical issues surrounding the Turing Test as a criterion for intelligence.

Alan Turing’s idea, originally expressed in a 1950 paper titled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” and… read more

Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

January 7, 2014

book-neutrino-hunters

Author:
Ray Jayawardhana
Publisher:
Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2013)

A Publisher’s Weekly Best Science Book of the Season

An Amazon Best Book of the Month

A Book to Watch Out For in December, The New Yorker’s Page—Turner Blog

A Los Angeles Times Gift Guide Selection

One of the Best Physics Books of 2013, Cocktail Party Physics Blog, Scientific American

Detective thriller meets astrophysics in this adventure into neutrinos and the… read more

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