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Computing: A Concise History (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
The history of computing could be told as the story of hardware and software, or the story of the Internet, or the story of "smart" hand-held devices, with subplots involving IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter. In this concise and accessible account of the invention and development of digital technology, computer historian Paul Ceruzzi offers a broader and more useful perspective. He identifies four major threads that run throughout all of computing's technological development: digitization--the coding of information, computation, and control in binary form, ones and zeros; the convergence of multiple streams of techniques, devices, and machines, yielding more than the sum of their parts; the steady advance of electronic technology, as characterized famously by "Moore's Law"; and the human-machine interface.Ceruzzi guides us through computing history, telling how a Bell Labs mathematician coined the word "digital" in 1942 (to describe a high-speed method of calculating used in anti-aircraft devices), and recounting the development of the punch card (for use in the 1890 U.S. Census). He describes the ENIAC, built for scientific and military applications; the UNIVAC, the first general purpose computer; and ARPANET, the Internet's precursor. Ceruzzi's account traces the world-changing evolution of the computer from a room-size ensemble of machinery to a "minicomputer" to a desktop computer to a pocket-sized smart phone. He describes the development of the silicon chip, which could store ever-increasing amounts of data and enabled ever-decreasing device size. He visits that hotbed of innovation, Silicon Valley, and brings the story up to the present with the Internet, the World Wide Web, and social networking.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 06/15/2012
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 199 pages

Post-Truth (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
Are we living in a post-truth world, where "alternative facts" replace actual facts and feelings have more weight than evidence? How did we get here? In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Lee McIntyre traces the development of the post-truth phenomenon from science denial through the rise of "fake news," from our psychological blind spots to the public's retreat into "information silos."What, exactly, is post-truth? Is it wishful thinking, political spin, mass delusion, bold-faced lying? McIntyre analyzes recent examples -- claims about inauguration crowd size, crime statistics, and the popular vote -- and finds that post-truth is an assertion of ideological supremacy by which its practitioners try to compel someone to believe something regardless of the evidence. Yet post-truth didn't begin with the 2016 election; the denial of scientific facts about smoking, evolution, vaccines, and climate change offers a road map for more widespread fact denial. Add to this the wired-in cognitive biases that make us feel that our conclusions are based on good reasoning even when they are not, the decline of traditional media and the rise of social media, and the emergence of fake news as a political tool, and we have the ideal conditions for post-truth. McIntyre also argues provocatively that the right wing borrowed from postmodernism -- specifically, the idea that there is no such thing as objective truth -- in its attacks on science and facts.McIntyre argues that we can fight post-truth, and that the first step in fighting post-truth is to understand it.
Author: Lee McIntyre
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 02/09/2018
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 240 pages

Frankenstein: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds (MIT Press)
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has endured in the popular imagination for two hundred years. Begun as a ghost story by an intellectually and socially precocious eighteen-year-old author during a cold and rainy summer on the shores of Lake Geneva, the dramatic tale of Victor Frankenstein and his stitched-together creature can be read as the ultimate parable of scientific hubris. Victor, "the modern Prometheus," tried to do what he perhaps should have left to Nature: create life. Although the novel is most often discussed in literary-historical terms -- as a seminal example of romanticism or as a groundbreaking early work of science fiction -- Mary Shelley was keenly aware of contemporary scientific developments and incorporated them into her story. In our era of synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and climate engineering, this edition of Frankenstein will resonate forcefully for readers with a background or interest in science and engineering, and anyone intrigued by the fundamental questions of creativity and responsibility. This edition of Frankenstein pairs the original 1818 version of the manuscript -- meticulously line-edited and amended by Charles E. Robinson, one of the world's preeminent authorities on the text -- with annotations and essays by leading scholars exploring the social and ethical aspects of scientific creativity raised by this remarkable story. The result is a unique and accessible edition of one of the most thought-provoking and influential novels ever written.Essays byElizabeth Bear, Cory Doctorow, Heather E. Douglas, Josephine Johnston, Kate MacCord, Jane Maienschein, Anne K. Mellor, Alfred Nordmann
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 04/28/2017
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 320 pages

Cloud Computing (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
Most of the information available on cloud computing is either highly technical, with details that are irrelevant to non-technologists, or pure marketing hype, in which the cloud is simply a selling point. This book, however, explains the cloud from the user's viewpoint -- the business user's in particular. Nayan Ruparelia explains what the cloud is, when to use it (and when not to), how to select a cloud service, how to integrate it with other technologies, and what the best practices are for using cloud computing. Cutting through the hype, Ruparelia cites the simple and basic definition of cloud computing from the National Institute of Science and Technology: a model enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources. Thus with cloud computing, businesses can harness information technology resources usually available only to large enterprises. And this, Ruparelia demonstrates, represents a paradigm shift for business. It will ease funding for startups, alter business plans, and allow big businesses greater agility. Ruparelia discusses the key issues for any organization considering cloud computing: service level agreements, business service delivery and consumption, finance, legal jurisdiction, security, and social responsibility. He introduces novel concepts made possible by cloud computing: cloud cells, or specialist clouds for specific uses; the personal cloud; the cloud of things; and cloud service exchanges. He examines use case patterns in terms of infrastructure and platform, software information, and business process; and he explains how to transition to a cloud service. Current and future users will find this book an indispensable guide to the cloud.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 05/06/2016
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 280 pages

Synesthesia (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
One in twenty-three people carry the genes for the synesthesia. Not a disorder but a neurological trait -- like perfect pitch -- synesthesia creates vividly felt cross-sensory couplings. A synesthete might hear a voice and at the same time see it as a color or shape, taste its distinctive flavor, or feel it as a physical touch. In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Richard Cytowic, the expert who returned synesthesia to mainstream science after decades of oblivion, offers a concise, accessible primer on this fascinating human experience.Cytowic explains that synesthesia's most frequent manifestation is seeing days of the week as colored, followed by sensing letters, numerals, and punctuation marks in different hues even when printed in black. Other manifestations include tasting food in shapes, seeing music in moving colors, and mapping numbers and other sequences spatially. One synesthete declares, "Chocolate smells pink and sparkly"; another invents a dish (chicken, vanilla ice cream, and orange juice concentrate) that tastes intensely blue. Cytowic, who in the 1980s revived scientific interest in synesthesia, sees it now understood as a spectrum, an umbrella term that covers five clusters of outwardly felt couplings that can occur via several pathways. Yet synesthetic or not, each brain uniquely filters what it perceives. Cytowic reminds us that each individual's perspective on the world is thoroughly subjective.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 03/02/2018
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 288 pages

Neuroplasticity (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
Fifty years ago, neuroscientists thought that a mature brain was fixed like a fly in amber, unable to change. Today, we know that our brains and nervous systems change throughout our lifetimes. This concept of neuroplasticity has captured the imagination of a public eager for self-improvement -- and has inspired countless Internet entrepreneurs who peddle dubious "brain training" games and apps. In this book, Moheb Costandi offers a concise and engaging overview of neuroplasticity for the general reader, describing how our brains change continuously in response to our actions and experiences.Costandi discusses key experimental findings, and describes how our thinking about the brain has evolved over time. He explains how the brain changes during development, and the "synaptic pruning" that takes place before brain maturity. He shows that adult brains can grow new cells (citing, among many other studies, research showing that sexually mature male canaries learn a new song every year). He describes the kind of brain training that can bring about improvement in brain function. It's not gadgets and games that promise to "rewire your brain" but such sustained cognitive tasks as learning a musical instrument or a new language. (Costandi also notes that London cabbies increase their gray matter after rigorous training in their city's complicated streets.) He tells how brains compensate after stroke or injury; describes addiction and pain as maladaptive forms of neuroplasticity; and considers brain changes that accompany childhood, adolescence, parenthood, and aging. Each of our brains is custom-built. Neuroplasticity is at the heart of what makes us human.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 08/16/2016
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 193 pages

Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making (MIT Press)
In making decisions, when should we go with our gut and when should we try to analyze every option? When should we use our intuition and when should we rely on logic and statistics? Most of us would probably agree that for important decisions, we should follow certain guidelines -- gather as much information as possible, compare the options, pin down the goals before getting started. But in practice we make some of our best decisions by adapting to circumstances rather than blindly following procedures. In Streetlights and Shadows, Gary Klein debunks the conventional wisdom about how to make decisions. He takes ten commonly accepted claims about decision making and shows that they are better suited for the laboratory than for life. The standard advice works well when everything is clear, but the tough decisions involve shadowy conditions of complexity and ambiguity. Gathering masses of information, for example, works if the information is accurate and complete -- but that doesn't often happen in the real world. (Think about the careful risk calculations that led to the downfall of the Wall Street investment houses.) Klein offers more realistic ideas about how to make decisions in real-life settings. He provides many examples -- ranging from airline pilots and weather forecasters to sports announcers and Captain Jack Aubrey in Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander novels -- to make his point. All these decision makers saw things that others didn't. They used their expertise to pick up cues and to discern patterns and trends. We can make better decisions, Klein tells us, if we are prepared for complexity and ambiguity and if we will stop expecting the data to tell us everything.
Author: Gary Klein
Published by: A Bradford Book | Publication date: 09/30/2011
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 355 pages

Memes in Digital Culture (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
In December 2012, the exuberant video "Gangnam Style" became the first YouTube clip to be viewed more than one billion times. Thousands of its viewers responded by creating and posting their own variations of the video--"Mitt Romney Style," "NASA Johnson Style," "Egyptian Style," and many others. "Gangnam Style" (and its attendant parodies, imitations, and derivations) is one of the most famous examples of an Internet meme: a piece of digital content that spreads quickly around the web in various iterations and becomes a shared cultural experience. In this book, Limor Shifman investigates Internet memes and what they tell us about digital culture. Shifman discusses a series of well-known Internet memes -- including "Leave Britney Alone," the pepper-spraying cop, LOLCats, Scumbag Steve, and Occupy Wall Street's "We Are the 99 Percent." She offers a novel definition of Internet memes: digital content units with common characteristics, created with awareness of each other, and circulated, imitated, and transformed via the Internet by many users. She differentiates memes from virals; analyzes what makes memes and virals successful; describes popular meme genres; discusses memes as new modes of political participation in democratic and nondemocratic regimes; and examines memes as agents of globalization. Memes, Shifman argues, encapsulate some of the most fundamental aspects of the Internet in general and of the participatory Web 2.0 culture in particular. Internet memes may be entertaining, but in this book Limor Shifman makes a compelling argument for taking them seriously.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 10/04/2013
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 216 pages

The Future (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
The future is like an unwritten book. It is not something we see in a crystal ball, or can only hope to predict, like the weather. In this volume of the MIT Press's Essential Knowledge series, Nick Montfort argues that the future is something to be made, not predicted. Montfort offers what he considers essential knowledge about the future, as seen in the work of writers, artists, inventors, and designers (mainly in Western culture) who developed and described the core components of the futures they envisioned. Montfort's approach is not that of futurology or scenario planning; instead, he reports on the work of making the future -- the thinkers who devoted themselves to writing pages in the unwritten book. Douglas Engelbart, Alan Kay, and Ted Nelson didn't predict the future of computing, for instance. They were three of the people who made it.Montfort focuses on how the development of technologies -- with an emphasis on digital technologies -- has been bound up with ideas about the future. Readers learn about kitchens of the future and the vision behind them; literary utopias, from Plato's Republic to Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland; the Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair; and what led up to Tim Berners-Lee's invention of the World Wide Web. Montfort describes the notebook computer as a human-centered alterative to the idea of the computer as a room-sized "giant brain"; speculative practice in design and science fiction; and, throughout, the best ways to imagine and build the future.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 12/01/2017
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 194 pages

The Technological Singularity (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
The idea that human history is approaching a "singularity" -- that ordinary humans will someday be overtaken by artificially intelligent machines or cognitively enhanced biological intelligence, or both -- has moved from the realm of science fiction to serious debate. Some singularity theorists predict that if the field of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to develop at its current dizzying rate, the singularity could come about in the middle of the present century. Murray Shanahan offers an introduction to the idea of the singularity and considers the ramifications of such a potentially seismic event.Shanahan's aim is not to make predictions but rather to investigate a range of scenarios. Whether we believe that singularity is near or far, likely or impossible, apocalypse or utopia, the very idea raises crucial philosophical and pragmatic questions, forcing us to think seriously about what we want as a species. Shanahan describes technological advances in AI, both biologically inspired and engineered from scratch. Once human-level AI -- theoretically possible, but difficult to accomplish -- has been achieved, he explains, the transition to superintelligent AI could be very rapid. Shanahan considers what the existence of superintelligent machines could mean for such matters as personhood, responsibility, rights, and identity. Some superhuman AI agents might be created to benefit humankind; some might go rogue. (Is Siri the template, or HAL?) The singularity presents both an existential threat to humanity and an existential opportunity for humanity to transcend its limitations. Shanahan makes it clear that we need to imagine both possibilities if we want to bring about the better outcome.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 08/07/2015
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 272 pages
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