Category: Books

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (Max Tegmark)

How will Artificial Intelligence affect crime, war, justice, jobs, society and our very sense of being human? The rise of AI has the potential to transform our future more than any other technology—and there’s nobody better qualified or situated to explore that future than Max Tegmark, an MIT professor who’s helped mainstream research on how to keep AI beneficial.
How can we grow our prosperity through automation without leaving people lacking income or purpose? What career advice should we give today’s kids? How can we make future AI systems more robust, so that they do what we want without crashing, malfunctioning or getting hacked? Should we fear an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons? Will machines eventually outsmart us at all tasks, replacing humans on the job market and perhaps altogether? Will AI help life flourish like never before or give us more power than we can handle?
What sort of future do you want? This book empowers you to join what may be the most important conversation of our time. It doesn’t shy away from the full range of viewpoints or from the most controversial issues—from superintelligence to meaning, consciousness and the ultimate physical limits on life in the cosmos.


A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age (Jimmy Soni & Rob Goodman)

In their second collaboration, biographers Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman present the story of Claude Shannon—one of the foremost intellects of the twentieth century and the architect of the Information Age, whose insights stand behind every computer built, email sent, video streamed, and webpage loaded. Claude Shannon was a groundbreaking polymath, a brilliant tinkerer, and a digital pioneer. He constructed the first wearable computer, outfoxed Vegas casinos, and built juggling robots. He also wrote the seminal text of the digital revolution, which has been called “the Magna Carta of the Information Age.” In this elegantly written, exhaustively researched biography, Soni and Goodman reveal Claude Shannon’s full story for the first time. With unique access to Shannon’s family and friends, A Mind at Play brings this singular innovator and always playful genius to life.


Chemical Complexity: Self-Organization Processes in Molecular Systems (A.S. Mikhailov & G. Ertl)

This book provides an outline of theoretical concepts and their experimental verification in studies of self-organization phenomena in chemical systems, as they emerged in the mid-20th century and have evolved since. Presenting essays on selected topics, it was prepared by authors who have made profound contributions to the field.


Traditionally, physical chemistry has been concerned with interactions between atoms and molecules that produce a variety of equilibrium structures – or the ‘dead’ order – in a stationary state. But biological cells exhibit a different ‘living’ kind of order, prompting E. Schrödinger to pose his famous question “What is life?” in 1943. Through an unprecedented theoretical and experimental development, it was later revealed that biological self-organization phenomena are in complete agreement with the laws of physics, once they are applied to a special class of thermodynamically open systems and non-equilibrium states. This knowledge has in turn led to the design and synthesis of simple inorganic systems capable of self-organization effects. These artificial ‘living organisms’ are able to operate on macroscopic to microscopic scales, even down to single-molecule machines.


In the future, such research could provide a basis for a technological breakthrough, comparable in its impact with the invention of lasers and semiconductors. Its results can be used to control natural chemical processes, and to design artificial complex chemical processes with various functionalities. The book offers an extensive discussion of the history of research on complex chemical systems and its future prospects.


The Seneca Effect: Why Growth is Slow but Collapse is Rapid (Ugo Bardi)

The essence of this book can be found in a line written by the ancient Roman Stoic Philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca: “Fortune is of sluggish growth, but ruin is rapid”. This sentence summarizes the features of the phenomenon that we call “collapse,” which is typically sudden and often unexpected, like the proverbial “house of cards.” But why are such collapses so common, and what generates them? Several books have been published on the subject, including the well known “Collapse” by Jared Diamond (2005), “The collapse of complex societies” by Joseph Tainter (1998) and “The Tipping Point,” by Malcom Gladwell (2000). Why The Seneca Effect? This book is an ambitious attempt to pull these various strands together by describing collapse from a multi-disciplinary viewpoint. The reader will discover how collapse is a collective phenomenon that occurs in what we call today “complex systems,” with a special emphasis on system dynamics and the concept of “feedback.” From this foundation, Bardi applies the theory to real-world systems, from the mechanics of fracture and the collapse of large structures to financial collapses, famines and population collapses, the fall of entire civilzations, and the most dreadful collapse we can imagine: that of the planetary ecosystem generated by overexploitation and climate change. The final objective of the book is to describe a conclusion that the ancient stoic philosophers had already discovered long ago, but that modern system science has rediscovered today. If you want to avoid collapse you need to embrace change, not fight it. Neither a book about doom and gloom nor a cornucopianist’s dream, The Seneca Effect goes to the heart of the challenges that we are facing today, helping us to manage our future rather than be managed by it.


Waste Is Information

Waste is material information. Landfills are detailed records of everyday consumption and behavior; much of what we know about the distant past we know from discarded objects unearthed by archaeologists and interpreted by historians. And yet the systems and infrastructures that process our waste often remain opaque. In this book, Dietmar Offenhuber examines waste from the perspective of information, considering emerging practices and technologies for making waste systems legible and how the resulting datasets and visualizations shape infrastructure governance. He does so by looking at three waste tracking and participatory sensing projects in Seattle, São Paulo, and Boston.

Offenhuber expands the notion of urban legibility—the idea that the city can be read like a text—to introduce the concept of infrastructure legibility. He argues that infrastructure governance is enacted through representations of the infrastructural system, and that these representations stem from the different stakeholders’ interests, which drive their efforts to make the system legible. The Trash Track project in Seattle used sensor technology to map discarded items through the waste and recycling systems; the Forager project looked at the informal organization processes of waste pickers working for Brazilian recycling cooperatives; and mobile systems designed by the city of Boston allowed residents to report such infrastructure failures as potholes and garbage spills. Through these case studies, Offenhuber outlines an emerging paradigm of infrastructure governance based on a
complex negotiation among users, technology, and the city.



Waste Is Information
Infrastructure Legibility and Governance
By Dietmar Offenhuber

MIT Press