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  • In the second part of Melinda Cooper's interview about her new book Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism, she discusses America's present moment. Revist part one here.

    It’s interesting to note in your work the many instances of American policy makers working across party lines to achieve legislation in a way that is impossible to imagine in the US at the present momentMoynihan and Nixon in the 1970s, Clinton and Gingrich in the 1990sbut do you think their work in some ways led to the gridlock and complete polarization we see today?

    I think the idea of “polarization” assumes that there are two poles. Really what you have is a center right (mostly represented by Democrats and a few pragmatic Republicans) and a far right that seems intent on jamming the parliamentary machine and sabotaging the whole process by which government decisions might be taken or funded. This is happening everywhere. And it tends to lead to the kind of far right authoritarianism of a Donald Trump, as executive power is the only way to unjam the machinery.

    Posted at 10:51 am on Wed, 22 Mar 2017 in political science
  • Innovating is for doers: you don’t need to wait for an earth-shattering idea, but can build one with a hunch and scale it up to impact. Luis Perez-Breva discusses his new book, Innovating: A Doer's Manifesto for Starting from a Hunch, Prototyping Problems, Scaling Up, and Learning to Be Productively Wrong. Catch his talk at the MIT Press Bookstore on Tuesday, March 21st at 5:30pm to hear more.

    Your book is a “doer’s manifesto.” Who are “doers”?

    There are many ways to look at them. A doer is anybody who thinks about trying something first before stressing out about whether this will be a dramatic multibillion dollar enterprise at the end of the day.  These are people who fix stuff when they see it’s broken (at your home or somewhere else), people whose first instinct when they see a problem is to put a few pieces together and see if they can make it make sense. It’s people who can only understand things when they connect their brain and their hands. We call them hackers, hobbyists, nerds, DIY enthusiasts.

    Posted at 04:12 pm on Fri, 17 Mar 2017 in business, Innovation, management
  • What do computers, cells, and brains have in common? Computers are electronic devices designed by humans; cells are biological entities crafted by evolution; brains are the containers and creators of our minds. But all are, in one way or another, information-processing devices. The power of the human brain is, so far, unequaled by any existing machine or known living being. In our final post celebrating Brain Awareness Week, Arlindo Oliveira discusses how advances in science and technology could enable us to create digital minds

    The field of Artificial Intelligence was started more than six decades ago, with the work of Alan Turing about computers and intelligence, in 1950, and a famous conference, in 1956, in Dartmouth College, where many well-known researchers met, including John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, Allen Newell, Arthur Samuel, and Herbert Simon. Before these events, the idea that computers could display intelligent behavior had been only addressed in very vague, abstract, and philosophical terms. During the ensuing decades, Artificial Intelligence has seen several Springs of hope and Winters of discontent, as positive results alternated with negative ones. At times, artificially intelligent systems looked just around the corner, while at other times the whole enterprise seemed doomed by its sheer complexity.

    Posted at 09:00 am on Fri, 17 Mar 2017 in artificial intelligence, neuroscience, science
  • In honor of Brain Awareness Week, we revisit "The Brain Through the Decades, or Evolution of Design at The MIT Press" video, which illustrates design trends at the Press and showcases some of our most memorable, creative, and influential covers featuring this MIT Press-iconic image.

    Posted at 09:00 am on Thu, 16 Mar 2017 in design, neuroscience
  • In the first of a two-part interview, Melinda Cooper discusses her new book Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism, an investigation of the roots of the alliance between free-market neoliberals and social conservatives.

    Family Values shows how welfare policy in the US in the late 20th century doesn't fall easily along the obvious party lines as we understand them today: i.e. Democrats in favor and Republicans against. For instance, why did Milton Friedman call Nixon “the most socialist of the Presidents of the US in the 20th century?”

    It’s hilarious to think that Republicans and Tea Party-ers were calling Obama a “socialist.” Nixon—and even Milton Friedman in the 1960s—were much more “socialist” than Obama has ever been, in the sense that they supported the expansion of social welfare commenced by Johnson and were actively involved in designing a basic guaranteed income. These were social democratic rather than socialist policies but they appear extremely radical today. We forget how much consensus there was around the principle of social insurance and how powerful the extraparliamentary left was at this time, powerful enough to force both Democrats and Republicans to the left. Of course, a lot of this was pure pragmatism—Milton Friedman called Nixon the “most socialist president of the United States” because he was outraged that Nixon refused to adopt his monetarist policies of tightening the money supply. Instead, Nixon used loose monetary policy and tolerated inflation so that he could sustain social spending at a high level. Friedman was willing to compromise with the zeitgeist to a certain extent, but he thought that Nixon's pragmatic concessions to the left went too far. Today, pragmatism pushes all politicians to the right. It is the extraparliamentary far right that is the real undertow shaping political tides.

    Posted at 12:00 pm on Wed, 15 Mar 2017 in political science
  • Our latest post for Brain Awareness Week is an excerpt from Neuroplasticity by Mo Costandi. This book, part of the Essential Knowledge series, is the real story of how our brains and nervous systems change throughout our lifetimes—with or without “brain training.”

    Posted at 10:15 am on Wed, 15 Mar 2017 in neuroscience
  • It's Day Two of Brain Awareness Week, the Dana Foundation's global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.  Yesterday, we looked at the unlikely intersection of Zen and the brain. Today, we're tackling brain connectivity.

    Posted at 12:30 pm on Tue, 14 Mar 2017 in brain awareness week, neuroscience
  • Welcome to Brain Awareness Week! We're happy to be part of the Dana Foundation's global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.  Brain research is something that we know about, having published dozens of books in cognitive science, neuroscience, and related disciplines that all aim to uncover just how the human brain works so miraculously.

    Posted at 01:22 pm on Mon, 13 Mar 2017 in neuroscience
  • Vivian Thomson, former member of Virginia’s State Air Pollution Control Board and current Professor in the Departments of Environmental Sciences and Politics and Director of the Environmental Thought and Practice BA Program at the University of Virginia is the author of the forthcoming Climate of Capitulation. The book is about how power is wielded in environmental policy making at the state level, and how to redress the ingrained favoritism toward coal and electric utilities. Here she writes about the consensus among Americans over the issue of climate change and what that means for us under the current administration. 

    Posted at 11:15 am on Thu, 02 Mar 2017 in current affairs, environment
  • We note, with sadness, the passing of William R. Uttal, on Feb. 9 at the age of 83. Uttal received a PhD in experimental psychology in 1957 and went on to a long and distinguished academic career that's difficult to confine to any single academic field, though "cognitive science" probably best covers his areas of interest.

    Posted at 04:46 pm on Wed, 01 Mar 2017 in
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Books, news, and ideas from MIT Press

The MIT PressLog is the official blog of MIT Press. Founded in 2005, the Log chronicles news about MIT Press authors and books. The MIT PressLog also serves as forum for our authors to discuss issues related to their books and scholarship. Views expressed by guest contributors to the blog do not necessarily represent those of MIT Press.