books: good non-fiction

Some non-fiction books that I read on paper. I sometimes wish this stuff was more interactive, even beyond a Kindle. I want to read words (15-minute YouTube videos entertain more than instruct!) and have easier access to the particular things referenced. Maybe people will read physical books wearing Google Glass spectacles.

Compelling argument to give Nick Bostrom’s institute money to study the dangers of AGI

book cover of 'Superintelligence'

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
ISBN 978-0-19-967811-2

★★★★☆ Dry yet readable explanation how we can’t understand or control an intelligence greater than ours, so we must figure out how to instill goals in it that are good for humankind (i.e. “donate to my Future of Humanity Institute”). The problem is real if far-off, and it looks like the first Artificial General Intelligence will have the goals of a sociopathic billionaire like Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg.

Engaging travelogue and history guide to San Francisco

book cover of 'Cool Gray City of Love'

Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco by Gary Kamiya
ISBN 978-1-60819-960-0

★★★☆☆ A clever way to present interesting details about the history, natural history, and built form of the city. It’s not a guidebook but it makes you want to visit the locations.

Unfocused rumination on alien-ness

book cover of 'Other Minds'

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith
ISBN 978-0-374-22776-0

★★★☆☆ Interesting sensitive description of octopi and how different they are, but it doesn’t attempt to answer the hard questions about the nature of mind.

Weak book about an excellent project

book cover of 'The Vinyl Frontier'

The Vinyl Frontier: The story of the Voyager golden record by Jonathan Scott
ISBN 978-1-4729-5613-2

★★☆☆☆ The design, production, and curation of the audiovisual album stuck on the side of the Voyager probes is interesting, but this book quotes so heavily from the existing book written by Carl Sagan and other the participants (“Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record) that I wonder how much it adds. It feels like an extended magazine article, and it turns out the author writes for Record Collector Magazine. Also, it has five typos!

Intriguing mad scientist designs

book cover of 'The Inventions of Daedalus'

The Inventions of Daedalus: A Compendium of Plausible Schemes by David E. H. Jones
ISBN 0-7167-1413-2

★★★☆☆ Collection of the quasi-scientific imaginary inventions presented in New Scientist in the 1970s. Some are dated, but they still make you think.

How did I do this?

This blog post has bits of JSON-LD describing my book review that in theory tell search engines what I’m explaining; a script generates them along with the visible templated HTML that I paste into WordPress. The post “book reviews yet again” has the gory details.

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