What We Are Reading Today: Understanding the Digital World

What We Are Reading Today: Understanding the Digital World
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Updated 03 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Understanding the Digital World

What We Are Reading Today: Understanding the Digital World

Author: Brian W. Kernighan

Computers are everywhere. Some are highly visible, in laptops, tablets, cell phones, and smart watches. But most are invisible, like those in appliances, cars, medical equipment, transportation systems, power grids, and weapons. We never see the myriad computers that quietly collect, share, and sometimes leak personal data about us. Governments and companies increasingly use computers to monitor what we do. Social networks and advertisers know more about us than we should be comfortable with. Criminals have all-too-easy access to our data. Do we truly understand the power of computers in our world?
In this updated edition of Understanding the Digital World, Brian Kernighan explains how computer hardware, software, and networks work. Topics include how computers are built and how they compute; what programming is; how the internet and web operate; and how all of these affect security, privacy, property, and other important social, political, and economic issues.


What We Are Reading Today: Dollars and Sense

What We Are Reading Today: Dollars and Sense
Updated 22 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Dollars and Sense

What We Are Reading Today: Dollars and Sense

Edited by Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler

In Dollars and Sense, bestselling author and behavioral economist Dan Ariely teams up with financial comedian and writer Jeff Kreisler to challenge many of our most basic assumptions about the precarious relationship between our brains and our money. 

In doing so, they undermine many of personal finance’s most sacred beliefs and explain how we can override some of our own instincts to make better financial choices.

Exploring a wide range of everyday topics—from the lure of pain-free spending with credit cards to the  pitfalls of household budgeting to the seductive power of holiday sales — Ariely and Kreisler demonstrate how our misplaced confidence in our spending habits frequently leads us astray, costing us more than we realize, whether it’s the real value of the time we spend driving forty-five minutes to save $10 or our inability to properly assess what the things we buy are actually worth. Together,  Ariely and Kreisler reveal the emotional forces working against us and how we can counteract them.


What We Are Reading Today: Rationality; From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

What We Are Reading Today: Rationality; From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky
Updated 21 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Rationality; From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

What We Are Reading Today: Rationality; From AI to Zombies by Eliezer Yudkowsky

In “Rationality: From AI to Zombies,” Eliezer Yudkowsky explains the science underlying human irrationality with a mix of fables, argumentative essays, and personal vignettes. 

These eye-opening accounts of how the mind works (and how, all too often, it doesn’t!) are then put to the test through some genuinely difficult puzzles: Computer scientists’ debates about the future of artificial intelligence (AI), physicists’ debates about the relationship between the quantum and classical worlds, philosophers’ debates about the metaphysics of zombies and the nature of morality, and many more. 

In the process, the book delves into the human significance of correct reasoning more deeply than you’ll find in any conventional textbook on cognitive science or philosophy of mind.

This book compiles six volumes of Yudkowsky’s essays  into a single electronic tome. Collectively, these sequences of linked essays serve as a rich and lively introduction to the science  — and the art — of human rationality.


What We Are Reading Today: The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan

What We Are Reading Today: The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan
Updated 20 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan

What We Are Reading Today: The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan argues in “The Case Against Education” that the primary function of education is not to enhance students’ skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity — in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. 

Learn why students hunt for easy As and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy.

Caplan shows how the labor market values grades over knowledge, and why the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers.  He explains why graduation is our society’s top conformity signal, and why even the most useless degrees can certify employability. 

Romantic notions about education being “good for the soul” must yield to careful research and common sense — The Case against Education points the way.


What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
Updated 19 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Minor Feelings is a thought-provoking, insightful, smart collection of essays that delve into Asian American history, identity and psychology. 

“By blending history and cultural criticism with stories from her own past, this book highlights the complexities of being Asian in America,” said a review published in goodreads.com.

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. 

The book “traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and art-making, and to family and female friendship in a search to both uncover and speak the truth,” said the review.

Park Hong “wrote this book with courage and all her heart — exposing her feelings with honesty and wit. Her writing is incredible and this is a true masterpiece,” the review added. 

“She reckons with her identity as an Asian American while exploring larger themes of unity, art, friendship, mental health and much more. Her poeticism comes through in the beautiful writing.”


What We Are Reading Today: The Free World by Louis Menan

What We Are Reading Today: The Free World by Louis Menan
Updated 17 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Free World by Louis Menan

What We Are Reading Today: The Free World by Louis Menan

The Free World from Louis Menand is a sweeping survey that looks at how and why perceptions about the United States, both domestically and internationally, changed so completely during these years.

In his followup to the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Metaphysical Club, Menand offers a new intellectual and cultural history of the postwar years.

In his 2001 book, The Metaphysical Club, Menand offered an intellectual history of America after the Civil War by looking at a group of men whose ideas and discussions helped shape American thought. 

“Now, he focuses on the years after World War II through the Vietnam War, when American culture was exported more broadly to the world,” said a review published in The New York Times.

“If you asked me when I was growing up what the most important good in life was, I would have said ‘freedom,’” he writes. 

“As I got older, I started to wonder just what freedom is, or what it can realistically mean. I wrote this book to help myself, and maybe help you, figure that out.”