Edward Ashford Lee

Edward Ashford Lee is Distinguished Professor (Emeritus) in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, where he runs iCyPhy, a research center focused on industrial cyber-physical systems. He is the author of Plato and the Nerd (MIT Press) and other books.

  • The Coevolution

    The Coevolution

    The Entwined Futures of Humans and Machines

    Edward Ashford Lee

    Should digital technology be viewed as a new life form, sharing our ecosystem and coevolving with us?

    Are humans defining technology, or is technology defining humans? Richard Dawkins famously said that a chicken is an egg's way of making another egg. Is a human a computer's way of making another computer? Certainly, digital technology has changed the way we interact with one another, the way we work, and even the way we think. The machines serve as intellectual prostheses, helping us with arithmetic, spelling, and remembering (while also subtly manipulating our thoughts, directing us to click on ads or vote a certain way). Should the software systems that have taken over so much of our lives be viewed as living beings, defined by bits rather than DNA? In this book, Edward Ashford Lee considers whether these “living digital beings” will threaten humans with annihilation, fuse with them to create cyborgs, or coevolve with them.

    Lee presents the case for considering digital beings to be living, then offers counterarguments. What we humans do with our minds is more than computation, and what digital systems do—be teleported at the speed of light, backed up, and restored—may never be possible for humans. To believe that we are simply computations, he argues, is a “dataist” faith and scientifically indefensible. Digital beings depend on humans—and humans depend on digital beings. More likely than a planetary wipe-out of humanity is an ongoing, symbiotic coevolution of culture and technology.

    • Hardcover $34.95 £28.00
  • Plato and the Nerd

    Plato and the Nerd

    The Creative Partnership of Humans and Technology

    Edward Ashford Lee

    How humans and technology evolve together in a creative partnership.

    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. Explaining why digital technology has been so transformative and so liberating, Lee argues that the real power of technology stems from its partnership with humans.

    Lee explores the ways that engineers use models and abstraction to build inventive artificial worlds and to give us things that we never dreamed of—for example, the ability to carry in our pockets everything humans have ever published. But he also attempts to counter the runaway enthusiasm of some technology boosters who claim everything in the physical world is a computation—that even such complex phenomena as human cognition are software operating on digital data. Lee argues that the evidence for this is weak, and the likelihood that nature has limited itself to processes that conform to today's notion of digital computation is remote.

    Lee goes on to argue that artificial intelligence's goal of reproducing human cognitive functions in computers vastly underestimates the potential of computers. In his view, technology is coevolving with humans. It augments our cognitive and physical capabilities while we nurture, develop, and propagate the technology itself. Complementarity is more likely than competition.

    • Hardcover $29.95 £25.00
    • Paperback $17.95 £14.99
  • Introduction to Embedded Systems, Second Edition

    Introduction to Embedded Systems, Second Edition

    A Cyber-Physical Systems Approach

    Edward Ashford Lee and Sanjit Arunkumar Seshia

    An introduction to the engineering principles of embedded systems, with a focus on modeling, design, and analysis of cyber-physical systems.

    The most visible use of computers and software is processing information for human consumption. The vast majority of computers in use, however, are much less visible. They run the engine, brakes, seatbelts, airbag, and audio system in your car. They digitally encode your voice and construct a radio signal to send it from your cell phone to a base station. They command robots on a factory floor, power generation in a power plant, processes in a chemical plant, and traffic lights in a city. These less visible computers are called embedded systems, and the software they run is called embedded software. The principal challenges in designing and analyzing embedded systems stem from their interaction with physical processes. This book takes a cyber-physical approach to embedded systems, introducing the engineering concepts underlying embedded systems as a technology and as a subject of study. The focus is on modeling, design, and analysis of cyber-physical systems, which integrate computation, networking, and physical processes.

    The second edition offers two new chapters, several new exercises, and other improvements. The book can be used as a textbook at the advanced undergraduate or introductory graduate level and as a professional reference for practicing engineers and computer scientists. Readers should have some familiarity with machine structures, computer programming, basic discrete mathematics and algorithms, and signals and systems.

    • Paperback $50.00 £40.00