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Beiträge von Craig Webster
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Craig Webster

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Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA
Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA
von Richard C. Lewontin
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 9,39

5.0 von 5 Sternen Sharpen your understanding of modern genetics research, 25. März 2000
If you are looking for a clear and critical overview of modern genetics research, one which cuts through all the hype and misinformation, then read this book. Lewontin, a Harvard University geneticist and skeptic, has collated six of his radio lectures given to increase public understanding of what research programmes like the Human Genome Project really mean. The Genome Project is a vast undertaking which aims to map every single gene in the human body. Claims, even by the experts, about what this will mean for humanity have been superlative to say the least. Medicine will essentially cease to exist since it will be far better to fix the gene causing a disorder than to prescribe drugs for it. Currently incurable diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, Huntington's and almost any other you care to mention will become curable. Cosmetic gene-replacement therapy for poor eye sight, hearing loss, and baldness are possible, and even social problems such as violent crime, alcoholism, and anti-social behaviour can be treated just as soon as we localise the relevant genes - or so the story goes. Lewontin dispels two myths central to the Human Genome Project and the gene-replacement paradigm. First the relationship between genes and disease is just not that simple, and second, there is no evidence whatever that every human ill has a corresponding gene or set of genes anyway.
The potential of the Human Genome Project to better our lives is substantial, but it is certainly no panacea. We must be aware of the risks and limitations as well as the benefits of any new technology, especially one which acts directly on the genes which make us all who we are.


The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media like Real People and Places (CSLI Lecture Notes)
The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media like Real People and Places (CSLI Lecture Notes)
von Byron Reeves
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen Media representations are people too!, 25. März 2000
This book presents a series of social psychology experiments which demonstrate that in almost all respects people treat media representations of people and places like the real thing. The rules and social cues which apply to interactions with other people subconsciously apply to interactions with a face on a screen, or a computer interface, or a disembodied voice. People interacting with a computer which praises them for their performance on a quiz will attribute the same characteristics to the computer as they would to a person who praises - the computer will be seen as more competent and its feedback will be more valued. Social attribution can even occur with an interface as technologically unsophisticated as text on a screen. Why we act this way can be explained by our brain's evolutionary past - during the evolution of the brain all entities which looked or behaved like people were exactly that, there were no artificial representations. Representations in media are therefore interpreted naturally, that is, as they would appear in the world. So while our conscious minds are sophisticated enough to tell the difference and may deny interacting in a social manner with media, our old subconscious does not make the distinction.


Out Of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World
Out Of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World
von Kevin Kelly
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 16,99

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A mind-expanding ride, 25. März 2000
This book is a fascinating roller-coaster ride through a host of emerging technologies which will no doubt have an influence on all our futures. Kevin Kelly demonstrates quite convincingly how the technological is becoming more biological. Artificial intelligence, robotics and our knowledge of ants and bees has produced insect-like robots capable of smart collective behaviour. Genetics, evolutionary theory and massively parallel connectionist machines (the fastest computers on the planet) are yielding emerging fields like evolutionary software design where the computer code is "bred" rather than being written. Open, closed, complex, self-organising, centrally controlled and distributed systems are all examined and contrasted, including everything from Borgian libraries to zero-sum games. Kelly tells us of his personal experience in Biosphere II, and contrasts the paradigmatic differences between the made and the born. What is made by us tends to be minimal, mechanical, predictable and maintenance intensive (even in our "autonomous" systems). By contrast, when we consider the different magnitudes of information in a blueprint compared with a DNA strand, we see that the born is vastly more complex, organic, unpredictable and constantly adapting to environmental changes.
The book on the whole is accessible and a real technological page turner. It will be of particular interest to anyone with some background in computing, artificial intelligence, biology, information theory or cognitive science.


Search of Ultimate Building Blocks
Search of Ultimate Building Blocks
von t Hooft
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 32,62

4.0 von 5 Sternen An interesting inside story of particle physics, 25. März 2000
This book is not for the timid or casual reader, but more intrepid readers who are familiar with some of the aspects of quantum mechanics will find it an interesting and personalised synopsis of the field from approximately 1970 to the present - a period co-inciding with the author's career to date. Quantum mechanics is certainly one of the most significant theory's of the 20th century and the period covered in this book is of particular interest because of the large number of new particles discovered during this time. But this is not a physics textbook - 't Hooft includes many personal insights and conversations with other important figures in the field - giving the reader a rare inside look into the process and motivations behind the breakthroughs. The book has a conversational tone and there are no complicated mathematics.


Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences
Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences
von Edward Tenner
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 16,99

5.0 von 5 Sternen Avoid getting trampled in the technology "improvement" race., 25. März 2000
This book is a well researched and enjoyable examination of some of the most perplexing outcomes of technological innovation. A well intentioned intervention that leads to unforeseen negative consequences is what Tenner calls a "revenge effect", and it seems that our modern world is full of them. An airline concerned with safety may require that all infant passengers have their own seat rather than travelling on the lap of an adult. However, since the seat will cost money, many families choose to travel by car which is more dangerous than air travel, and so more injuries and deaths result. Thus, the airlines' safety intervention has resulted in the revenge effect of a net increase in passenger injury and death.
Tenner claims, that the answer to many of these technological revenge riddles involves a deintensification of our technologies, and a better understanding of the greater system in which technological innovation takes place. Every new release of our technological products purports to be better, faster and stronger than the last, but hitting the problem harder with a more intense version of the same technology is not sustainable. Often this "improvement" race succeeds only in increasing the number and severity of revenge effects. Even in computing where advances have been exponential there is no hard evidence of anything more than a minimal increase in the efficiency of the average computer user. Better system understanding, coupled with technological deintensification will allow a more subtle, lasting, and better integrated solution to many problems.


Release 2.0
Release 2.0
von Esther Dyson
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 22,52

2.0 von 5 Sternen Dyson chats about the internet., 25. März 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Release 2.0 (Gebundene Ausgabe)
In this book Dyson presents us with her view of how society will be changed by the power of computers, the internet and the ubiquitous information they offer. Distance is of no consequence to on-line communities, neither are time differences. On the net, everyone's just a mouse-click away and so to some extent hierarchies are flattened and decision making tends to be more distributed and communal.
I found some of the book a little self-satisfied - Dyson drops the names of a lot of important people she knows without always making the relevance of this obvious. Also some of her enthusiasm for free-markets and how they are transforming the Russian economy seems a little overstated considering Russian economics is now even more corrupt and dysfunctional than it was under communism.
These criticisms aside, Dyson is at her best when discussing issues of privacy, intellectual property, anonymity, encryption, communication and advertising and how these will be changed and challenged by wide-spread internet access. Her discussion in these chapters makes reading the book worthwhile and introduces many fascinating ideas which may become standard features of internet communication in the near future.


The Clock of Ages: Why We Age, How We Age, Winding Back the Clock
The Clock of Ages: Why We Age, How We Age, Winding Back the Clock
von John J. Medina
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen A journey into the mechanics of aging, 25. März 2000
Reading this book reminded me of a ride I once took at Disneyland where everything gets bigger and bigger so that you feel as if you are being reduced to microscopic size. You then travel into the human body, then a cell and then see the molecules that make them up. Medina starts with the human face of ageing - the final moments in the life of his aged mother - and then takes us on a journey from the outward signs of ageing to the molecular machinery which makes what he calls the "clock of ages" tick.
Despite our anxieties of "getting old" ageing starts long before we see wrinkles or grey hair. In fact, ageing is a complex developmental process which starts at conception. Despite taking such a biological view Medina never loses sight of the individual. The effects of ageing on the lives of many famous people are interspersed through the book with amazing facts about the body: Florence Nightingale was a hypochondriac who spent most of her adult life in bed and each of us contains about 60,000 miles of blood vessels!
Some in the field claim that our exploding knowledge of the mechanics of cellular renewal and DNA will see us living twice or three times our current life spans in approximately 30 years.


Research in Medicine: Planning a Project - Writing a Thesis
Research in Medicine: Planning a Project - Writing a Thesis
von George Murrell
  Taschenbuch

4.0 von 5 Sternen A common-sense, practical guide to research., 25. März 2000
Anyone contemplating research in medicine for the first time would be likely to find this book very useful. It is a common-sense, practical guide to the entire research process, from the beginning of thinking about doing some research to your job prospects once you have finished and published. Much of the book is in the form of check-lists which makes reading quick and easy. Although the book is specifically aimed at medical doctors (it contains much detail of medical degree structures and when it is best to fit research into your career), it would also be useful for those considering para-medical careers in research. Degree structures from different countries are compared, and useful advice is given on how much research needs to be done to qualify for a Masters versus a PhD.
Many may feel that the last thing they need when starting a programme of research or a graduate research degree is another book to read. Accordingly this book is short, to the point, has cartoons, and warns of most of the pitfalls that the novice researcher may fall into.


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