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General Interest

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The future is like an unwritten book. It is not something we see in a crystal ball, or can only hope to predict, like the weather. In this volume of the MIT Press’s Essential Knowledge series, Nick Montfort argues that the future is something to be made, not predicted. Montfort offers what he considers essential knowledge about the future, as seen in the work of writers, artists, inventors, and designers (mainly in Western culture) who developed and described the core components of the futures they envisioned.

Music of the Hemispheres

Polyphony—the interweaving of simultaneous sounds—is a crucial aspect of music that has deep implications for how we understand the mind. In Polyphonic Minds, Peter Pesic examines the history and significance of “polyphonicity”—of “many-voicedness”—in human experience. Pesic presents the emergence of Western polyphony, its flowering, its horizons, and the perspective it offers on our own polyphonic brains.

Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World

"Brilliant and practical, just what we need in these techno-human times." —Jack Kornfield, author of The Wise Heart

The Creative Partnership of Humans and Technology

In this book, Edward Ashford Lee makes a bold claim: that the creators of digital technology have an unsurpassed medium for creativity. Technology has advanced to the point where progress seems limited not by physical constraints but the human imagination. Writing for both literate technologists and numerate humanists, Lee makes a case for engineering—creating technology—as a deeply intellectual and fundamentally creative process.

The dream of a universal translation device goes back many decades, long before Douglas Adams’s fictional Babel fish provided this service in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Since the advent of computers, research has focused on the design of digital machine translation tools—computer programs capable of automatically translating a text from a source language to a target language. This has become one of the most fundamental tasks of artificial intelligence.

Brian Hayes wants to convince us that mathematics is too important and too much fun to be left to the mathematicians. Foolproof, and Other Mathematical Meditations is his entertaining and accessible exploration of mathematical terrain both far-flung and nearby, bringing readers tidings of mathematical topics from Markov chains to Sudoku. Hayes, a non-mathematician, argues that mathematics is not only an essential tool for understanding the world but also a world unto itself, filled with objects and patterns that transcend earthly reality.

The Future of the Car and Urban Mobility

The twentieth century was the century of the automobile; the twenty-first will see mobility dramatically re-envisioned. Automobiles altered cityscapes, boosted economies, and made personal mobility efficient and convenient for many. We had a century-long love affair with the car. But today, people are more attached to their smartphones than their cars. Cars are not always the quickest mode of travel in cities; and emissions from the rapidly growing number of cars threaten the planet.

Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead

“Smart, wide-ranging, [and] nontechnical.”
—Los Angeles Times

“Anyone who wants to understand what's coming must read this fascinating book.”
—Martin Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Robots

The Shaping of Modern Knowledge

A system can describe what we see (the solar system), operate a computer (Windows 10), or be made on a page (the fourteen engineered lines of a sonnet). In this book, Clifford Siskin shows that system is best understood as a genre—a form that works physically in the world to mediate our efforts to understand it. Indeed, many Enlightenment authors published works they called “system” to compete with the essay and the treatise.

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