What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities

What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities
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Updated 20 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities

What We Are Reading Today: A Thousand Small Sanities

Author: Adam Gopnik

A stirring defense of liberalism against the dogmatisms of our time from an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author.
Not since the early twentieth century has liberalism, and liberals, been under such relentless attack, from both right and left. The crisis of democracy in our era has produced a crisis of faith in liberal institutions and, even worse, in liberal thought.
A Thousand Small Sanities is a manifesto rooted in the lives of people who invented and extended the liberal tradition, according to a review on goodreads.com. Taking us from Montaigne to Mill, and from Middlemarch to the civil rights movement, Adam Gopnik argues that liberalism is not a form of centrism, nor simply another word for free markets, nor merely a term denoting a set of rights.
It is something far more ambitious: The search for radical change by humane measures. Gopnik shows us why liberalism is one of the great moral adventures in human history — and why, in an age of autocracy, our lives may depend on its continuation.


What We Are Reading Today: What Makes Us Smart by Samuel Gershman

What We Are Reading Today: What Makes Us Smart by Samuel Gershman
Updated 20 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: What Makes Us Smart by Samuel Gershman

What We Are Reading Today: What Makes Us Smart by Samuel Gershman

At the heart of human intelligence rests a fundamental puzzle: How are we incredibly smart and stupid at the same time? No existing machine can match the power and flexibility of human perception, language, and reasoning. Yet, we routinely commit errors that reveal the failures of our thought processes. What Makes Us Smartmakes sense of this paradox by arguing that our cognitive errors are not haphazard. Rather, they are the inevitable consequences of a brain optimized for efficient inference and decision making within the constraints of time, energy, and memory—in other words, data and resource limitations. Framing human intelligence in terms of these constraints, Samuel Gershman shows how a deeper computational logic underpins the “stupid” errors of human cognition.

Embarking on a journey across psychology, neuroscience, computer science, linguistics, and economics, Gershman presents unifying principles that govern human intelligence. First, inductive bias: Any system that makes inferences based on limited data must constrain its hypotheses in some way before observing data. Second, approximation bias: any system that makes inferences and decisions with limited resources must make approximations. Applying these principles to a range of computational errors made by humans, Gershman demonstrates that intelligent systems designed to meet these constraints yield characteristically human errors.


What We Are Reading Today: A Place like No Other by Anthony R. E. Sinclair

What We Are Reading Today: A Place like No Other by Anthony R. E. Sinclair
Updated 20 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: A Place like No Other by Anthony R. E. Sinclair

What We Are Reading Today: A Place like No Other by Anthony R. E. Sinclair

With its rich biodiversity, astounding wildlife, and breathtaking animal migrations, Serengeti is like no other ecosystem on the planet. A Place like No Other is Anthony Sinclair’s firsthand account of how he and other scientists discovered the biological principles that regulate life in Serengeti and how they rule all of the natural world.

When Sinclair first began studying this spectacular ecosystem in 1965, a host of questions confronted him. What environmental features make its annual migration possible? What determines the size of animal populations and the stunning diversity of species? What factors enable Serengeti to endure over time? In the five decades that followed, Sinclair and others sought answers. What they learned is that seven principles of regulation govern all natural processes in the Serengeti ecosystem. Sinclair shows how these principles can help us to understand and overcome the challenges facing Serengeti today, and how they can be used to repair damaged habitats throughout the world.


What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy
Updated 18 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

What We Are Reading Today: The Mechanization of the Mind by Jean-Pierre Dupuy

In March 1946, some of the greatest minds of the 20th century — among them John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Walter Pitts — gathered at the Beekman Hotel in New York City with the aim of constructing a science of mental behavior that would resolve at last the ancient philosophical problem of mind and matter. The legacy of their collaboration is known today as cognitive science.
Jean-Pierre Dupuy, one of the principal architects of cognitive science in France, reconstructs the early days of the field here in a provocative and engaging combination of philosophy, science, and historical detective work.
He shows us how the ambitious and innovative ideas developed in the wake of that New York meeting prefigured some of the most important developments of late-20th-century thought. Many scholars, however, shunned the ideas as crude and resented them for being overpromoted.
This rejection, Dupuy reveals, was a tragic mistake and a lost opportunity.


What We Are Reading Today: Russian ‘Hybrid Warfare’ by Ofer Fridman

What We Are Reading Today: Russian ‘Hybrid Warfare’ by Ofer Fridman
Updated 18 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Russian ‘Hybrid Warfare’ by Ofer Fridman

What We Are Reading Today: Russian ‘Hybrid Warfare’ by Ofer Fridman

During the last decade, “Hybrid Warfare” has become a novel yet controversial term in academic, political and professional military lexicons. Enthusiastic discussion of the notion has been undermined by conceptual vagueness and political manipulation, particularly since the onset of the Ukrainian crisis in early 2014.

Many political observers contend that it is the West that has been waging hybrid war since the end of the Cold War.

In this highly topical book, Ofer Fridman offers a clear delineation of the conceptual debates about hybrid warfare, according to a review on goodreads.com.


What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy

What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy
Updated 17 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy

What We Are Reading Today: The Lessons of Tragedy

Author: Hal Brands and Charles Edel

The book offers an eloquent call to draw on the lessons of the past to address current threats to international peace.

Today, after more than seventy years of great‑power peace and a quarter‑century of unrivaled global leadership, Americans have lost their sense of tragedy. They have forgotten that the descent into violence and war has been all too common throughout human history.

In a forceful argument that brims with historical sensibility and policy insights, two distinguished historians argue that a tragic sensibility is necessary if America and its allies are to address the dangers that menace the international order today, according to a review on goodreads.com.