Dana H. Ballard

Dana H. Ballard is Professor in the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has appointments in Psychology, the Institute for Neuroscience, and the Center for Perceptual Systems. He is the author of An Introduction to Natural Computation (MIT Press).

  • Brain Computation as Hierarchical Abstraction

    Brain Computation as Hierarchical Abstraction

    Dana H. Ballard

    An argument that the complexities of brain function can be understood hierarchically, in terms of different levels of abstraction, as silicon computing is.

    The vast differences between the brain's neural circuitry and a computer's silicon circuitry might suggest that they have nothing in common. In fact, as Dana Ballard argues in this book, computational tools are essential for understanding brain function. Ballard shows that the hierarchical organization of the brain has many parallels with the hierarchical organization of computing; as in silicon computing, the complexities of brain computation can be dramatically simplified when its computation is factored into different levels of abstraction.

    Drawing on several decades of progress in computational neuroscience, together with recent results in Bayesian and reinforcement learning methodologies, Ballard factors the brain's principal computational issues in terms of their natural place in an overall hierarchy. Each of these factors leads to a fresh perspective. A neural level focuses on the basic forebrain functions and shows how processing demands dictate the extensive use of timing-based circuitry and an overall organization of tabular memories. An embodiment level organization works in reverse, making extensive use of multiplexing and on-demand processing to achieve fast parallel computation. An awareness level focuses on the brain's representations of emotion, attention and consciousness, showing that they can operate with great economy in the context of the neural and embodiment substrates.

    • Hardcover $58.00
    • Paperback $50.00
  • An Introduction to Natural Computation

    An Introduction to Natural Computation

    Dana H. Ballard

    This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the computational material that forms the underpinnings of the currently evolving set of brain models.

    It is now clear that the brain is unlikely to be understood without recourse to computational theories. The theme of An Introduction to Natural Computation is that ideas from diverse areas such as neuroscience, information theory, and optimization theory have recently been extended in ways that make them useful for describing the brains programs. This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the computational material that forms the underpinnings of the currently evolving set of brain models. It stresses the broad spectrum of learning models—ranging from neural network learning through reinforcement learning to genetic learning—and situates the various models in their appropriate neural context.

    To write about models of the brain before the brain is fully understood is a delicate matter. Very detailed models of the neural circuitry risk losing track of the task the brain is trying to solve. At the other extreme, models that represent cognitive constructs can be so abstract that they lose all relationship to neurobiology. An Introduction to Natural Computation takes the middle ground and stresses the computational task while staying near the neurobiology.

    • Hardcover $11.75
    • Paperback $50.00


  • The One Best Way

    The One Best Way

    Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency

    Robert Kanigel

    The definitive biography of the first "efficiency expert."

    Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) was the first efficiency expert, the original time-and-motion man—the father of scientific management, the inventor of a system that became known, inevitably enough, as Taylorism. "In the past the man has been first. In the future the System will be first," he predicted boldly, and accurately. Taylor bequeathed to us, writes Robert Kanigel in this definitive biography, a clockwork world of tasks timed to the hundredth of a minute. Taylor helped instill in us the obsession with time, order, productivity, and efficiency that marks our age. His influence can be seen in factories, schools, offices, hospitals, libraries, even kitchen design. At the peak of his celebrity in the early twentieth century, Taylor gave lectures around the country and was as famous as Edison or Ford. To organized labor, he was a slave driver; to the bosses, he was an eccentric and a radical. To himself, he was a misunderstood visionary whose "one best way" would bring prosperity to worker and boss alike. Robert Kanigel's compelling chronicle takes Taylor from privileged Philadelphia childhood to factory floor to international fame, telling the story of a paradigmatic American figure whose influence would be felt from the New Deal to Soviet Russia and remains pervasive—even insidious—today.

    • Paperback $55.00