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Category Archives: Recommended Books

Review – ‘The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity’

The Atlantic – Human History Gets a Rewrite A brilliant new account upends bedrock assumptions about 30,000 years of change. By William Deresiewicz. “…The Dawn of Everything is written against the conventional account of human social history as first developed by Hobbes and Rousseau; elaborated by subsequent thinkers; popularized today by the likes of Jared Diamond, Yuval Noah Harari, and Steven Pinker; and accepted more or less universally. The story goes like this. Once upon a time, human beings lived in small, egalitarian bands of hunter-gatherers (the so-called state of nature). Then came the invention of agriculture, which led to surplus production and thus to population growth as well as private property. Bands swelled to tribes, and increasing scale required increasing organization: stratification, specialization; chiefs, warriors, holy men. Eventually, cities emerged, and with them, civilization—literacy, philosophy, astronomy; hierarchies of wealth, status, and power; the first kingdoms and empires. Flash forward a few thousand years, and with science, capitalism, and the Industrial Revolution, we witness the creation of the modern bureaucratic state. The story is linear (the stages are followed in order, with no going back), uniform (they are followed the same way everywhere), progressive (the stages are “stages” in the first place, leading from lower to higher, more primitive to more sophisticated), deterministic (development is driven by technology, not human choice), and teleological (the process culminates in us)…”

Exponential, book review: Technology acceleration and its impact on society

ZDNet: “An “exponential gap” is opening up between our understanding of our world, which updates slowly, and new technologies, which change faster than we can cope with, argues Azeem Azhar… The exponential growth of computer power led the inventor Ray Kurzweil to propose the Law of Accelerating Returns and predict that by 2045 machine intelligence will pass that of… Continue Reading

This book explains actually helpful actions you can take to fight climate change

Fast Company: “In a new book, Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation, and a website called Regeneration, Paul Hawken lays out solutions. The book is a sequel to Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, which looked at how existing technologies and approaches could be used to achieve “drawdown,”… Continue Reading

BOOK TALK: If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future

Virtual Book Talk – Wednesday, October 6, 2021 – 7:00pm to 8:00pm – Registration Requested: “The Simulmatics Corporation, launched during the Cold War, mined data, targeted voters, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge―decades before Facebook, Google, and Cambridge Analytica. Jill Lepore, best-selling author of These Truths, came across the company’s papers in MIT’s archives… Continue Reading

They Knew: How the U.S. Government Helped Cause the Climate Crisis

Yale Environment 360 – “James Gustave Speth has been calling for action on climate since serving in the White House in the 1970s. In an e360 interview, he talks about his new book, which chronicles how successive U.S. administrations repeatedly failed to act in response to scientists’ increasingly dire warnings. Few people have followed the… Continue Reading

Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

“Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (OVER) is an impressive piece of art crystallizing the ecological and social tragedies of humanity’s ballooning numbers and consumption. Filled with powerful and evocative images, OVER addresses the many challenges caused by human population size (7.3 billion) and growth (1.5 million people every week). OVER was created as the centerpiece of the… Continue Reading

Don’t stick a fork in books yet

Teleread, Felix Pleşoianu: “I just came across an excellent write-up called How to Fork a Book: The Radical Transformation of Publishing. “Forking” is a term borrowed from open source software, whose license allows anyone to make their own modified versions that diverge from the original, taking it in another direction, like a fork in a… Continue Reading

Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America

The New York Review – “Pedestrian fatalities are rising dramatically in the US, and Angie Schmitt’s Right of Way gives a rare look at why and what might be done about it….On America’s streets, such reconsideration is sorely overdue. There is no illustration of this fact starker than our disastrous pedestrian fatality numbers. In 2010,… Continue Reading

A fascinating design history of the filing cabinet

Fast Company Adapted with permission from The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information by Craig Robertson, published by Minnesota University Press “…The filing cabinet emerged at the same time the skyscraper was becoming a cultural symbol that presented capitalism and modernity as distinctly American projects for the 20th century. As vertical structures, the skyscraper and… Continue Reading

How Does Artificial Intelligence Work?

BuiltIn.com: “Less than a decade after breaking the Nazi encryption machine Enigma and helping the Allied Forces win World War II, mathematician Alan Turing changed history a second time with a simple question: “Can machines think?”  Turing’s paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” (1950), and its subsequent Turing Test, established the fundamental goal and vision of… Continue Reading

When Graphs Are a Matter of Life and Death

The New Yorker: “…In A History of Data Visualization and Graphic Communication (Harvard), Michael Friendly and Howard Wainer, a psychologist and a statistician, argue that visual thinking, by revealing what would otherwise remain invisible, has had a profound effect on the way we approach problems. The book begins with what might be the first statistical… Continue Reading