The Net Delusion [EPUB]
25 December 2013, 15:03
2011 | EPUB + MOBI | 0.44/0.68MB
“The revolution will be Twittered!” declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran in June 2009. Yet for all the talk about the democratizing power of the Internet, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. In fact, authoritarian governments are effectively using the Internet to suppress free speech, hone their surveillance techniques, disseminate cutting-edge propaganda, and pacify their populations with digital entertainment. Could the recent Western obsession with promoting democracy by digital means backfire?
In this spirited book, journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov shows that by falling for the supposedly democratizing nature of the Internet, Western do-gooders may have missed how it also entrenches dictators, threatens dissidents, and makes it harder—not easier—to promote democracy. Buzzwords like “21st-century statecraft” sound good in PowerPoint presentations, but the reality is that “digital diplomacy” requires just as much oversight and consideration as any other kind of diplomacy.
Marshaling compelling evidence, Morozov shows why we must stop thinking of the Internet and social media as inherently liberating and why ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of “Internet freedom” might have disastrous implications for the future of democracy as a whole.
It Began with Babbage [EPUB]
23 December 2013, 09:15
2013 | EPUB | 4.64MB
As a field, computer science occupies a unique scientific space, in that its subject matter can exist in both physical and abstract realms. An artifact such as software is both tangible and not, and must be classified as something in between, or "liminal." The study and production of liminal artifacts allows for creative possibilities that are, and have been, possible only in computer science.
In It Began with Babbage, computer scientist and writer Subrata Dasgupta examines the distinct history of computer science in terms of its creative innovations, reaching back to Charles Babbage in 1819. Since all artifacts of computer science are conceived with a use in mind, the computer scientist is not concerned with the natural laws that govern disciplines like physics or chemistry; instead, the field is more concerned with the concept of purpose. This requirement lends itself to a type of creative thinking that, as Dasgupta shows us, has exhibited itself throughout the history of computer science. More than any other, computer science is the science of the artificial, and has a unique history to accompany its unique focus.
The book traces a path from Babbage's Difference Engine in the early 19th century to the end of the 1960s by when a new academic discipline named "computer science" had come into being. Along the way we meet characters like Babbage and Ada Lovelace, Turing and von Neumann, Shannon and Chomsky, and a host of other people from a variety of backgrounds who collectively created this new science of the artificial. And in the end, we see how and why computer science acquired a nature and history all of its own.
The Incredible Human Journey [EPUB]
23 December 2013, 09:09
2009 | EPUB + MOBI | 3.52/3.24MB
Alice Roberts has been travelling the world - from Ethiopian desert to Malay peninsula and from Russian steppes to Amazon basin - in order to understand the challenges that early humans faced as they tried to settle continents. On her travels she has witnessed some of the daunting and brutal challenges our ancestors had to face: mountains, deserts, oceans, changing climates, terrifying giant beasts and volcanoes. But she discovers that perhaps the most serious threat of all came from other humans. When our ancestors set out from Africa there were already two other species of human on the planet: Neanderthal in Europe and Homo erectus in Asia. Both (contrary to popular perception) were intelligent, adept at making tools and weapons and were long adapted to their environments. So, Alice asks, why did only Homo sapiens survive?
Part detective story, part travelogue, and drawing on the latest genetic and archaeological discoveries, Alice examines how our ancestors evolved physically in response to these challenges, finding out how our colour, shape, size, diet, disease resistance and even athletic ability have been shaped by the range of environments that our ancestors had to survive. She also relates how astonishingly closely related we all are.
As a lecturer in Anatomy at Bristol University, Alice Roberts is eminently qualified to write this book. As a talented artist, she is perfectly qualified to illustrate it, and dotted throughout this lively book are many of the sketches and photographs from her travels.