Godel, Escher, Bach - An Eternal Golden Braid
The book builds in a very approachable manner, for even the most uninitiated reader, from basic formal systems to DNA and artificial intelligence. Each step is presented first with a humorous take in the form of a dialog between characters like Achilles and Tortoise and then the idea is elaborated on in a more formal manner with intellectual exercises that should engage the reader. Also the progression is made with a great many analogies where things like music, memory, DNA, and other seemingly unrelated topics are woven together to give a purchase point from many angles and thus be accessible to a great many people with a variety of backgrounds. I can say that I personally, with those 40 years of hindsight, don't give much credibility to some of the future (current) prospects of AI, but non-the-less find the book interesting and a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the topics. Overall the book is funny, informative, and a great introduction to some topics that 40+ years later we are still grappling with.
The Analysis of Mind
After introducing the main views as that of the materialists; the idealists; and the newest, behaviorists; Russell starts in with the assumption that man is not much different than a protozoa, physically or mentally. While his stance is generally against Watsonian behaviorism, he dances around outright rejection when discussing things like memory as being more than habit. Physics (physiology) are later completely removed from his psychology and he asserts that both mind and matter, which he insists is a logical fiction (pointing toward the quantum), are both made of the same, neutral, substance. There is also discussion regarding language -whether we think in words or not- and truth; the latter is tacked on almost as an afterthought. All of this leads, (ill-)logically, to the denial of causality.
All this talk about the singularity, which is nothing more than the modern rendition of time-wave zero, which was nothing more than the rehashing of omega point theory, ultimately feels like a control mechanism. While it presents these changes as byproducts of the heralded new age, from where I am sitting the goal is to wreck communities (churches), families, and individuals with things like 'diversity' to make the vast majority of people isolated and easier to manage. Even if you take at face value all of this new age mumbo-jumbo - predictive programing, robots are coming to take your job, humans are going to become gods - do you really think the common man will live as a god or will, as the author explicitly states, there be a mega gap between the rich, who have access and control of the advanced tech, medicine, genetic editing, etc, and the poor, who have access and control of nothing. Put crassly, transhumanism is nothing more than code for: round up 99.99% of humanity in an electronic plantation, turn them gay or at least away from starting families, and then, once they are all dead and haven't left behind many children (who will be mostly autistic and/or braindead TV-landers), the oligarchy will have a much easier time dominating the world. If nothing else, this book is a good study in modern propaganda; this guy could give Cass Sunstein a run for his money.
God and Golem, Inc.
The main crux here is creator versus created; God playing a game with the Devil; man playing checkers with a computer. Where is the line between alive and not alive? If you go low enough, the molecules aren't alive. While these types of questions are philosophically interesting, the more pragmatic are already (circa 1960) using learning machines, often without understanding the potentially devastating consequences; the machines act completely literal, unapologetically producing monkey paw like results, with no wiggle room for nuances in input that are second nature to humans. These people, gadget-worshipers, see the learning machine as a slave, perfectly obedient, without recognizing the potential dangers that, in hindsight, we can see all around us today.
The Republic of Plato
It doesn't matter whether this work a serious, satire, or a warning because the take-away is that the ideal state (which looks communistic) is impossible in reality. Total control of the citizens of such a city would be necessary. From treating women and children as common goods of to men to maintain control of the family to the state sticktly censoring music, poetry, and theater to prevent individuals from being inspired by uncontrolled emotions and dreams, there would be little left but a robotic (slave) society. The lies (as in noble) and oppression of various kinds, like keeping people poor so they don't have time to plot, are probably the easiest, and thus common, way to rule. Ranking of the various regimes one might encounter, from best to worst, would look like: kingly, timocratic, oligarchic, democratic, tyrannic; history seems to suggest that the lowest common denominator societies devolve to is tyranny.
The History of Western Philosophy
The book is divided into three main sections. First the early ancient philosophy gives way to the middle Catholic philosophy, which acts as a connection to, lastly, modern philosophy. These three sections cover an enormous amount of history, but usually only scratches the surface. Each chapter, which briefly covers what could and is be a book in its own right, looks, usually, at a single philosopher. Overall I think the book is useful for not only its overview of the history of western philosophy, but as a look into Russell's thought process.
The Scientific Outlook
This propaganda cloaks itself in the history of science's big names and methods like induction and deduction. It openly promotes a one-world, soviet style, government predicated on a caste system that degenerates into haves/have-nots and finally two different species (Brave New World -> Time Machine). To bring this to fruition there needs to be some irresistible world fighting force (UN?, NATO?, who to fight?) and a system of propaganda, education, indoctrination, endless entertainment, and free sex. The issue of scarcity will be solved with artificial everything: food, wood, rubber, etc. Finally scarcity won't be a long term problem because of population control via sterilization, eugenics, embryology, family destruction, and fleeting hollow (LGBT) relationships.
Manifesto of the Communist Party
In short, communists unabashedly call for the abolishment of nothing short of everything. The final goal is to build one world, a global village without national distinction, ruled by the workers of the world; how this will function is conveniently omitted. The first step is to educate a new generation, to free the children from the education come indoctrination of the ruling class (and replace it with their own indoctrination). To accomplish their goal of world revolution, all other revolutionaries shall be supported in the name of solidarity. Finally, if push comes to shove, the employment of force to overthrow all existing structures is explicitly sanctioned.
Out of Control - The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World
It begins by describing various distributed natural ecology systems, like a swarm of bees and their beehive, as vivisystems that which can be the understood as the basis for designing artificial systems. The evolutionary systems of Darwin lead into the artificial evolution of Dawkins' Biomorph Land, computer viruses, and genetic engineering. Finally we get to see some of the ex-WIRED editors techo-utopia by exploring things like virtual worlds and e-money. While the title of the book leads you to believe one thing, the truth is that the entire book hints immodestly at cybernetic, bottom up, herded, predictive, Macy Conference inspired control. Overall it feels like a rough outline of all-too-likely technocracy of the future that employs novelty and pleasure to conceal its true oligarchical totalitarian control behind a smile.
Simulacra and Simulation
History is being rewritten, or more accurately recreated, through the eyes of film specifically and media in general. An exploration of Marshal McLuhan's 'the medium is the message', is taken to new heights. Age old concepts such as the shadow, doppelganger, and the mirror are reexamined in the modern terms of clones and holograms. Universities are claimed to be on the forefront of this implosion into hyperreality since they no longer facilitate a transmission of knowledge, but instead exist to dispense diplomas in a rote fashion. Lastly nihilism and Nietzsche are discussed in relation to the lack of meaning in the modern world, but seen to themselves have no meaning.
The Philosophic Corruption of Physics
After an initial review of Newton's numerous contributions to science, his rejection of the arbitrary is likened to modern objectivism. Next the corruption begins with Hume and then Kant rejecting the primacy of existence for the primacy of conciousness. This leads then to Mach and the positivism movement essentially rejecting reality. Einstein still wanted to test reality, but instead placed another nail in the coffin of objectivism with his interpretation of the Lorentz transforms. Lastly we reach the 'crowning achievement' of modern physics, quantum theory and its particle-wave duality triumphing over the little regarded pilot theory of de Broglie (now resurrected by Lewis Little).
A dense examination of such human characteristics and timeless questions including virtues, means, ends, friendship, happiness, justice, nature, and nurture among others.