The Stack

Benjamin H. Bratton

In The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty, Benjamin H. Bratton proposes that different genres of computation—smart grids, cloud platforms, mobile apps, smart cities, the Internet of Things, automation— can be seen not as so many species evolving on their own, but as forming a coherent whole: an accidental megastructure called The Stack that is both a computational apparatus and a new governing architecture. We are inside The Stack and it is inside of us. The Stack is an interdisciplinary design brief for a new geopolitics that works with and for planetary-scale computation. Interweaving the continental, urban, and perceptual scales, it shows how we can better build, dwell within, communicate with, and govern our worlds.

MIT Press

A Portable Cosmos

Alexander Jones

Jones, professor of the history of exact sciences in antiquity at NYU, exhaustively analyzes the famed Antikythera mechanism, a mysterious bronze astronomical device of ancient Greek origins that many modern commentators thought exceeded the technological capabilities of its time. After recounting how it was found in 1901, Jones discusses the investigations and initial theories about the mechanism’s nature and origins. With this foundation set, he delves into its historical context, addressing culture, religion, astronomy, technology, and more. These chapters, which make up the book’s bulk, provide a surprisingly vivid picture of Mediterranean and Mesopotamian cultures at the time of the mechanism’s likely creation, around 200 B.C.E., and dispel the myth that the mechanism was somehow ahead of its time by explaining the apparent reasons for its multiple functions, which include a zodiac scale, an Egyptian calendar scale, a Moon phase display, and means to track planetary motion. Moreover, Jones includes painstaking technical descriptions and diagrams of the materials, construction, and probable inner workings of the mechanism, making clear that the scientific knowledge and craftsmanship of the day was sufficient for its design and manufacture. Though Jones’s dense and straightforward prose makes this closer to a textbook than a popular science book, his comprehensive look at the Antikythera mechanism and its context will suit readers interested in the mechanism or the history of science in general.

Oxford University Press

Zeros and Ones

Sadie Plant

A highly contentious, very readable and totally up-to-the-minute investigation of women's natural relationship with modern technology, an association which, Plant argues, will trigger a new sexual revolution. Zeros and Ones is an intelligent, provocative and accessible investigation of the intersection between women, feminism, machines and in particular, information technology. Arguing that the computer is rewriting the old conceptions of man and his world, it suggests that the telecoms revolution is also a sexual revolution which undermines the fundamental assumptions crucial to patriarchal culture. Historical, contemporary and future developments in telecommunications and in IT are interwoven with the past, present and future of feminism, women and sexual difference, and a wealth of connections, parallels and affinities between machines and women are uncovered as a result. Challenging the belief that man was ever in control of either his own agency, the planet, or his machines, this book argues it is seriously undermined by the new scientific paradigms emergent from theories of chaos, complexity and connectionism, all of which suggest that the old distinctions between man, woman, nature and technology need to be radically reassessed.

4th Estate

Intelligence and Spirit

Reza Negarestani

A critique of both classical humanism and dominant trends in posthumanism that formulates the ultimate form of intelligence as a theoretical and practical thought unfettered by the temporal order of things. In Intelligence and Spirit Reza Negarestani formulates the ultimate form of intelligence as a theoretical and practical thought unfettered by the temporal order of things, a real movement capable of overcoming any state of affairs that, from the perspective of the present, may appear to be the complete totality of history. Intelligence pierces through what seems to be the totality or the inevitable outcome of its history, be it the manifest portrait of the human or technocapitalism as the alleged pilot of history. Building on Hegel's account of Geist as a multiagent conception of mind and on Kant's transcendental psychology as a functional analysis of the conditions of possibility of mind, Negarestani provides a critique of both classical humanism and dominant trends in posthumanism. The assumptions of the former are exposed by way of a critique of the transcendental structure of experience as a tissue of subjective or psychological dogmas; the claims of the latter regarding the ubiquity of mind or the inevitable advent of an unconstrained superintelligence are challenged as no more than ideological fixations which do not stand the test of systematic scrutiny. This remarkable fusion of continental philosophy in the form of a renewal of the speculative ambitions of German Idealism and analytic philosophy in the form of extended thought-experiments and a philosophy of artificial languages opens up new perspectives on the meaning of human intelligence and explores the real potential of posthuman intelligence and what it means for us to live in its prehistory.

MIT Press

Intelligence and Wisdom

Bing Song

This book centers on rethinking foundational values in the era of frontier technologies by tapping into the wisdom of Chinese philosophical traditions. It tries to answer the following questions: How is the essence underpinning humans, nature, and machines changing in this age of frontier technologies? What is the appropriate ethical framework for regulating human–machine relationships? What human values should be embedded in or learnt by AI? Some interesting points emerged from the discussions. For example, the three dominant schools of Chinese thinking–Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism– invariably reflect non-anthropocentric perspectives and none of them places humanity in a supreme position in the universe. While many Chinese philosophers are not convinced by the prospect of machine intelligence exceeding that of humans, the strong influence of non-anthropocentrism in the Chinese thinking contributed to much less panic in China than in the West about the existential risks of AI. The thinking is that as human beings have always lived with other forms of existence, living with programs or other forms of “beings,” which may become more capable than humans, will not inevitably lead to a dystopia. Second, all three schools emphasize self-restraint, constant introspection, and the pursuit of sage-hood or enlightenment. These views therefore see the potential risks posed by frontier technologies as an opportunity for the humanity to engage in introspection on the lessons learned from our social and political history. It is long overdue that humanity shall rethink its foundational values to take into account a multi-being planetary outlook. This book consists of nine leading Chinese philosophers’ reflections on AI’s impact on human nature and the human society. This is a groundbreaking work, which has pioneered the in-depth intellectual exploration involving traditional Chinese philosophy and frontier technologies and has inspired multidisciplinary and across area studies on AI, philosophy, and ethical implications.