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Machine Learning: The New AI (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
Today, machine learning underlies a range of applications we use every day, from product recommendations to voice recognition -- as well as some we don't yet use everyday, including driverless cars. It is the basis of the new approach in computing where we do not write programs but collect data; the idea is to learn the algorithms for the tasks automatically from data. As computing devices grow more ubiquitous, a larger part of our lives and work is recorded digitally, and as "Big Data" has gotten bigger, the theory of machine learning -- the foundation of efforts to process that data into knowledge -- has also advanced. In this book, machine learning expert Ethem Alpaydin offers a concise overview of the subject for the general reader, describing its evolution, explaining important learning algorithms, and presenting example applications.Alpaydin offers an account of how digital technology advanced from number-crunching mainframes to mobile devices, putting today's machine learning boom in context. He describes the basics of machine learning and some applications; the use of machine learning algorithms for pattern recognition; artificial neural networks inspired by the human brain; algorithms that learn associations between instances, with such applications as customer segmentation and learning recommendations; and reinforcement learning, when an autonomous agent learns act so as to maximize reward and minimize penalty. Alpaydin then considers some future directions for machine learning and the new field of "data science," and discusses the ethical and legal implications for data privacy and security.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 09/30/2016
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 224 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

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

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

The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (MIT Press)
Since the end of World War II, economists have tried to figure out how poor countries in the tropics could attain standards of living approaching those of countries in Europe and North America. Attempted remedies have included providing foreign aid, investing in machines, fostering education, controlling population growth, and making aid loans as well as forgiving those loans on condition of reforms. None of these solutions has delivered as promised. The problem is not the failure of economics, William Easterly argues, but the failure to apply economic principles to practical policy work.In this book Easterly shows how these solutions all violate the basic principle of economics, that people -- private individuals and businesses, government officials, even aid donors -- respond to incentives. Easterly first discusses the importance of growth. He then analyzes the development solutions that have failed. Finally, he suggests alternative approaches to the problem. Written in an accessible, at times irreverent, style, Easterly's book combines modern growth theory with anecdotes from his fieldwork for the World Bank.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 08/02/2002
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 356 pages

Metadata (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)
When "metadata" became breaking news, appearing in stories about surveillance by the National Security Agency, many members of the public encountered this once-obscure term from information science for the first time. Should people be reassured that the NSA was "only" collecting metadata about phone calls -- information about the caller, the recipient, the time, the duration, the location -- and not recordings of the conversations themselves? Or does phone call metadata reveal more than it seems? In this book, Jeffrey Pomerantz offers an accessible and concise introduction to metadata. In the era of ubiquitous computing, metadata has become infrastructural, like the electrical grid or the highway system. We interact with it or generate it every day. It is not, Pomerantz tell us, just "data about data." It is a means by which the complexity of an object is represented in a simpler form. For example, the title, the author, and the cover art are metadata about a book. When metadata does its job well, it fades into the background; everyone (except perhaps the NSA) takes it for granted.Pomerantz explains what metadata is, and why it exists. He distinguishes among different types of metadata -- descriptive, administrative, structural, preservation, and use -- and examines different users and uses of each type. He discusses the technologies that make modern metadata possible, and he speculates about metadata's future. By the end of the book, readers will see metadata everywhere. Because, Pomerantz warns us, it's metadata's world, and we are just living in it.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 11/13/2015
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 256 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

Cannabinoids and the Brain (MIT Press)
The cannabis plant has been used for recreational and medicinal purposes for more than 4,000 years, but the scientific investigation into its effects has only recently yielded useful results. In this book, Linda Parker offers a review of the scientific evidence on the effects of cannabinoids on brain and behavioral functioning, with an emphasis on potential therapeutic uses. Parker describes the discovery of tetrahydocannbinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis, and the further discovery of cannabinoid receptors in the brain. She explains that the brain produces chemicals similar to THC, which act on the same receptors as THC, and shows that the endocannabinoid system is involved in all aspects of brain functioning. Parker reports that cannabis contains not only the psychoactive compound THC, but also other compounds of potential therapeutic benefit, and that one of them, cannabidiol (CBD), shows promise for the treatment of pain, anxiety, and epilepsy. Parker reviews the evidence on cannabinoids and anxiety, depression, mood, sleep, schizophrenia, learning and memory, addiction, sex, appetite and obesity, chemotherapy-induced nausea, epilepsy, and such neurodegenerative disorders as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's Disease. Each chapter also links the scientific evidence to historical and anecdotal reports of the medicinal use of cannabis. As debate about the medical use of marijuana continues, Parker's balanced and objective review of the fundamental science and potential therapeutic effects of cannabis is especially timely.
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 01/06/2017
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 248 pages

What Algorithms Want: Imagination in the Age of Computing (MIT Press)
We depend on -- we believe in -- algorithms to help us get a ride, choose which book to buy, execute a mathematical proof. It's as if we think of code as a magic spell, an incantation to reveal what we need to know and even what we want. Humans have always believed that certain invocations -- the marriage vow, the shaman's curse -- do not merely describe the world but make it. Computation casts a cultural shadow that is shaped by this long tradition of magical thinking. In this book, Ed Finn considers how the algorithm -- in practical terms, "a method for solving a problem" -- has its roots not only in mathematical logic but also in cybernetics, philosophy, and magical thinking. Finn argues that the algorithm deploys concepts from the idealized space of computation in a messy reality, with unpredictable and sometimes fascinating results. Drawing on sources that range from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash to Diderot's Encyclop├ędie, from Adam Smith to the Star Trek computer, Finn explores the gap between theoretical ideas and pragmatic instructions. He examines the development of intelligent assistants like Siri, the rise of algorithmic aesthetics at Netflix, Ian Bogost's satiric Facebook game Cow Clicker, and the revolutionary economics of Bitcoin. He describes Google's goal of anticipating our questions, Uber's cartoon maps and black box accounting, and what Facebook tells us about programmable value, among other things.If we want to understand the gap between abstraction and messy reality, Finn argues, we need to build a model of "algorithmic reading" and scholarship that attends to process, spearheading a new experimental humanities.
Author: Ed Finn
Published by: The MIT Press | Publication date: 03/06/2017
Kindle book details: Kindle Edition, 272 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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