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How to speak machine : computational thinking for the rest of us
2019
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A visionary designer and technologist defines the fundamental laws of how computers think, and why a person should care even if he or she isn't a programmer. - (Baker & Taylor)

Visionary designer and technologist John Maeda defines the fundamental laws of how computers think, and why you should care even if you aren't a programmer.

"Maeda is to design what Warren Buffett is to finance." --Wired


John Maeda is one of the world's preeminent interdisciplinary thinkers on technology and design. In How to Speak Machine, he offers a set of simple laws that govern not only the computers of today, but the unimaginable machines of the future.

Technology is already more powerful than we can comprehend, and getting more powerful at an exponential pace. Once set in motion, algorithms never tire. And when a program's size, speed, and tirelessness combine with its ability to learn and transform itself, the outcome can be unpredictable and dangerous. Take the seemingly instant transformation of Microsoft's chatbot Tay into a hate-spewing racist, or how crime-predicting algorithms reinforce racial bias.

How to Speak Machine provides a coherent framework for today's product designers, business leaders, and policymakers to grasp this brave new world. Drawing on his wide-ranging experience from engineering to computer science to design, Maeda shows how businesses and individuals can identify opportunities afforded by technology to make world-changing and inclusive products--while avoiding the pitfalls inherent to the medium. - (Penguin Putnam)

Author Biography

John Maeda is an American technologist, designer, engineer, artist, investor, author, and teacher. He was recently appointed Chief Experience Officer at Publicis Sapient, the technology marketing consulting and delivery arm of communications conglomerate Publicis. He has held positions with Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, led research at the MIT Media Lab, and served as president of the Rhode Island School of Design. Named as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st Century by Esquire, Maeda draws on his diverse background as an MIT-trained engineer, award-winning designer, and executive leader to bring people and ideas together at scale. He is the author of several celebrated books, including The Laws of Simplicity and Redesigning Leadership. He has appeared as a speaker all over the world, from Davos to Beijing to São Paulo to New York, and his talks for TED.com have received millions of views. He was born, raised, and lives in the United States of America. - (Penguin Putnam)

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Booklist Reviews

Maeda (Redesigning Leadership, 2012; Laws of Simplicity, 2006) shares his thoughts on the rules of machines and their algorithms in our lives. He briefly traces the histories of the computer and human-machine interactions, offering anecdotes from his experience working at MIT, visiting Japan, or interacting with his family. Focusing on the role that design can play in computation, Maeda also explores the evolving languages of machines. He cautions readers about the algorithmic biases and exclusions perpetuated by these programs and the tech industry and recognizes organizations and individuals who are adopting inclusive approaches for diversity in the workplace. Those unfamiliar with technical terms and programming concepts in AI and machine learning may take time to process this book, but Maeda's simplified analogies, diagrams, and illustrations help visualize his core arguments. Readers interested in computation, design, AI, and technology will find this book and the intricate computational design concepts it presents to be deeply engrossing and promising as the world embraces AI. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

PW Annex Reviews

Reminiscing on a 30-year career in technology and art, Maeda (Redesigning Leadership), former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, offers some worthwhile but scattered insights into navigating the digital age. To explain how to "speak machine," he uses classic mathematical graphics to illustrate computing's finer points; for instance, the Koch snowflakes are used to explain that "computation has a unique affinity for infinity, and for things that can be let to continue forever." To show "what digital consciousness can feel like," he describes his 1993 Kyoto art installation where people in a disco club posed as computer parts. Maeda chatters nostalgically about his first computer (an Apple II), the basic programs he wrote while in high school to help his parents manage their tofu shop in Seattle, and about attending MIT in the mid-1980s. He refers critically, but only glancingly, to the "despots and other power mongers" who would use social media "to impact millions of minds... with just a few destructive keystrokes." Perhaps most affectingly, he envisions a future populated by countless numbers of computers in windowless high-rises becoming "better collaborators with each other than we ourselves could ever be." Given Maeda's vast experience, readers may wish his fitfully intriguing ramble had more thoroughly anatomized the grim future he envisions. (Nov.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly Annex.

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