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Computer Science

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  1. 11.8 hrs • 4/19/2016 • Unabridged

    A fascinating exploration of how computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives, helping to solve common decision-making problems and illuminate the workings of the human mind. All our lives are constrained by limited space and time, limits that give rise to a particular set of problems. What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? What balance of new activities and familiar favorites is the most fulfilling? These may seem like uniquely human quandaries, but they are not: computers, too, face the same constraints, so computer scientists have been grappling with their version of such problems for decades. And the solutions they’ve found have much to teach us. In a dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, acclaimed author Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths show how the simple, precise algorithms used by computers can also untangle very human questions. They explain how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal with overwhelming choices and how best to connect with others. From finding a spouse to finding a parking spot, from organizing one’s inbox to understanding the workings of human memory, Algorithms to Live By transforms the wisdom of computer science into strategies for human living.

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    Algorithms to Live By

    11.8 hrs • 4/19/16 • Unabridged
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  2. 18.1 hrs • 2/9/2016 • Unabridged

    Microsoft commands the high ground of the information superhighway by owning the operating systems and basic applications programs that run on hundreds of millions of computers around the world. Beyond the unquestioned genius and vision of Bill Gates, what accounts for Microsoft’s astounding success? Drawing on almost two years of on-site observation at Microsoft headquarters, eminent scientists Michael A. Cusumano and Richard W. Selby reveal many of Microsoft’s innermost secrets. This inside report, based on forty in-depth interviews by authors who had access to confidential documents and project data, outlines the seven complementary strategies that characterize exactly how Microsoft competes and operates, including the “Brain Trust” of talented employees and exceptional management; “bang for the buck” competitive strategies and clear organizational goals that produce self-critiquing, learning, and improving; a flexible, incremental approach to product development; and a relentless pursuit of future markets. Cusumano and Selby’s masterful analysis successfully uncovers the distinctive way in which Microsoft has combined all of the elements necessary to get to the top of an enormously important industry—and stay there.

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    Microsoft Secrets by Michael A. Cusumano, Richard W. Selby

    Microsoft Secrets

    18.1 hrs • 2/9/16 • Unabridged
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  3. 3.9 hrs • 11/1/2015 • Unabridged

    The history of computing could be told as the story of hardware and software, or the story of the Internet, or the story of “smart” hand-held devices, with subplots involving IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter. In this concise and accessible account of the invention and development of digital technology, computer historian Paul Ceruzzi offers a broader and more useful perspective. He identifies four major threads that run throughout all of computing’s technological development: digitization—the coding of information, computation, and control in binary form, ones and zeros; the convergence of multiple streams of techniques, devices, and machines, yielding more than the sum of their parts; the steady advance of electronic technology, as characterized famously by Moore’s Law; and the human-machine interface. Ceruzzi guides us through computing history, telling how a Bell Labs mathematician coined the word digital in 1942 (to describe a high-speed method of calculating used in anti-aircraft devices), and recounting the development of the punch card (for use in the 1890 US Census). He describes the ENIAC, built for scientific and military applications; the UNIVAC, the first general purpose computer; and ARPANET, the Internet’s precursor. Ceruzzi’s account traces the world-changing evolution of the computer from a room-size ensemble of machinery to a “minicomputer” to a desktop computer to a pocket-sized smart phone. He describes the development of the silicon chip, which could store ever-increasing amounts of data and enabled ever-decreasing device size. He visits that hotbed of innovation, Silicon Valley, and brings the story up to the present with the Internet, the World Wide Web, and social networking.

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    Computing by Paul E. Ceruzzi
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  4. 6.2 hrs • 9/1/2015 • Unabridged

    The idea that human history is approaching a “singularity”—that ordinary humans will someday be overtaken by artificially intelligent machines, cognitively enhanced biological intelligence, or both—has moved from the realm of science fiction to serious debate. Some singularity theorists predict that if the field of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to develop at its current dizzying rate, the singularity could come about in the middle of the present century. Murray Shanahan offers an introduction to the idea of the singularity and considers the ramifications of such a potentially seismic event. Shanahan’s aim is not to make predictions but rather to investigate a range of scenarios. Whether we believe that singularity is near or far, likely or impossible, an apocalypse or utopia, the very idea raises crucial philosophical and pragmatic questions, forcing us to think seriously about what we want as a species. Shanahan describes technological advances in AI, both biologically inspired and engineered from scratch. Once human-level AI—theoretically possible but difficult to accomplish—has been achieved, he explains, the transition to superintelligent AI could be very rapid. Shanahan considers what the existence of superintelligent machines could mean for such matters as personhood, responsibility, rights, and identity. Some superhuman AI agents might be created to benefit humankind; some might go rogue. Is Siri the template, or HAL? The singularity presents both an existential threat to humanity and an existential opportunity for humanity to transcend its limitations. Shanahan makes it clear that we need to imagine both possibilities if we want to bring about the better outcome.

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    The Technological Singularity by Murray Shanahan
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  5. 8.5 hrs • 8/11/2004 • Unabridged

    Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? sums up Lou Gerstner’s historic business achievement: bringing IBM back from the brink of insolvency to lead the computer business once again. Offering a unique case study drawn from decades of experience at some of America’s top companies—McKinsey, American Express, RJR Nabisco—Gerstner’s insights into management and leadership are applicable to any business at any level. Writing in an exciting, fast-paced narrative style, Gerstner takes listeners through his experiences at IBM—from the high-powered recruiting pressure to take the chairman’s position, to first days on the job learning the strengths and weaknesses of IBM, to formulating and successfully implementing a turnaround strategy. Filled with Gerstner’s personal insights as he explores the company, institutes changes, and rebuilds IBM for the twenty-first century, listeners will have unprecedented access to the mind of the CEO. Refreshing and candid throughout, Gerstner pulls no punches as he reveals what he did and why he did it.

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    Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?

    8.5 hrs • 8/11/04 • Unabridged
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  6. 10.1 hrs • 3/28/2002 • Unabridged

    Here’s some of what just happened: millions of ordinary, sensible people came into possession of computers. These machines had wondrous powers, yet made unexpected demands on their owners. Telephones broke free of the chains that had shackled them to bedside tables and office desks. No one was out of touch, or wanted to be out of touch. Instant communication became a birthright. A new world, located no one knew exactly where, came into being, called “virtual” or “online,” named “cyberspace” or “the Internet” or just “the network.” Manners and markets took on new shapes and guises. As all this was happening, James Gleick, author of the groundbreaking Chaos, columnist for The New York Times Magazine, and—very briefly—an Internet entrepreneur, emerged as one of our most astute guides to this new world. His dispatches—by turns passionate, bewildered, angry, and amazed—form an extraordinary chronicle. Gleick loves what the network makes possible, and he hates it. Software makers developed a strangely tolerant view of an ancient devil, the product defect. One company, at first a feisty upstart, seized control of the hidden gears and levers of the new economy. We wrestled with novel issues of privacy, anonymity, and disguise. We found that if the human species is evolving a sort of global brain, it’s susceptible to new forms of hysteria and multiple-personality disorder. What Just Happened is at once a remarkable portrait of a world in the throes of transformation and a prescient guide to the transformation still to come.

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    What Just Happened

    10.1 hrs • 3/28/02 • Unabridged
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