BOOKS AND ARTS

The evolution of music, algorithmic culture, and the cut and thrust of medicine: New in paperback

Mary Craig rounds up the highlights of this season’s releases.
Books jacket 'A Million Years of Music'

A Million Years of Music Gary Tomlinson MIT Press (2018)

“Musical expression is a universal characteristic of our species.” Musicologist Gary Tomlinson explores the reaches of that idea, and to what extent the traits essential to music-making can be seen as evolutionary behaviours, traceable across human history. Expertly interweaving humanities and science, Tomlinson demonstrates how the answers to philosophical questions surrounding modern music can be discovered in their ancient origins.

Books jacket 'How to Tame a Fox'

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog) Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut Univ. Chicago Press (2018)

Biologists Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut chronicle Trut’s extraordinary, long-running research with Dmitri Belyaev on the domestication of silver foxes — work that effectively shrank 15,000 years of evolution to decades.

Books jacket 'Darwin's Unfinished Symphony'

Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony Kevin N. Laland Princeton Univ. Press (2018)

How did the human potential for culture evolve from hominin behaviour and cognition? Evolutionary biologist Kevin Laland navigates the false leads and breakthroughs that led to his theory that culture is both a result of evolution, and a factor that has effectively shaped its progress.

Books jacket 'Capitalism without Capital'

Capitalism Without Capital Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake Princeton Univ. Press (2018)

In our new industrial era, business assets are mostly intangible, from software to research. Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake offer insight into this mass economic shift, and how to exploit the move towards immaterial capital.

Books jacket 'Hitler's American Model'

Hitler’s American Model James Q. Whitman Princeton Univ. Press (2018)

Early US eugenics policies infamously helped to inspire Nazi atrocities. Here, legal historian James Whitman examines how US Jim Crow laws, which enforced racial segregation from the 1880s to the 1960s, became a model for the Reich’s egregious anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws.

Books jacket 'The Dialogues'

The Dialogues Clifford V. Johnson MIT Press (2018)

Physicist Clifford Johnson aims to spark curiosity about science through discourse. In this thought-provoking graphic novel, he optimizes the rule of ‘show, don’t tell’, encouraging engagement with concepts from the multiverse to immortality in everyday social scenarios.

Books jacket 'Plato and the Nerd'

Plato and The Nerd Edward Ashford Lee MIT Press (2018)

Technology and creativity are irrefutably intertwined. Computer scientist Edward Ashford Lee explores both the potential impact of the digital revolution on human evolution and how technology’s “real power comes from partnership with humans”.

Books jacket 'Technically Wrong'

Technically Wrong Sara Wachter-Boettcher W. W. Norton (2018)

Technology permeates life, from grocery shopping to dating apps. Yet we rarely question its design or aims. Web consultant Sara Wachter-Boettcher proffers a damning critique of the ethical dilemmas it poses, and why we need to demand more accountability from tech creators.

Books jacket 'A Natural History of Human Thinking'

A Natural History of Human Thinking Michael Tomasello Harvard Univ. Press (2018)

Drawing on 20 years of comparative studies on humans and great apes, psychologist Michael Tomasello theorizes that human cognition arose from social cooperation. Language and culture, he posits, also grew from our ancestors’ need to work collaboratively.

Books jacket 'The New Ecology'

The New Ecology Oswald J. Schmitz Princeton Univ. Press (2018)

As we strive for sustainability amid unprecedented global transition, ecology is evolving to encompass the interdependence of human agency and nature. Ecologist Oswald Schmitz calls for careful stewardship and conservation of biodiversity to foster ecosystem resilience.

Books jacket 'Three stones make a wall'

Three Stones Make A Wall Eric H. Cline Princeton Univ. Press (2018)

Archaeologist Eric Cline walks us through the fascinating history of his discipline, traversing civilizations and the globe. From the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt to the future of excavation as technology advances, this is an engaging introduction to a gripping field.

Books jacket 'Under the Knife'

Under The Knife Arnold van de Laar John Murray (2018)

In this witty chronicle, surgeon Arnold van de Laar dissects thousands of years’ worth of remarkably gruesome stories. From anaesthetic-free amputations and bloodletting to Albert Einstein’s aneurysm, these are key insights into the cut and thrust of medicine.

Books jacket 'What Algorithms Want'

What Algorithms Want Ed Finn MIT Press (2018)

Algorithms saturate the digital universe, from Amazon book recommendations to Uber. Ed Finn will make you reassess how you think about these formulae: not as mere components of code and computations, but shaped by a philosophy, and shaping culture in their turn.

Books jacket 'The Great Leveler'

The Great Leveler Walter Scheidel Princeton Univ. Press (2018)

In this monumental, pessimistic study, historian Walter Scheidel examines anew an old social issue: economic inequality. As he reveals, disparities have burgeoned during times of peace, declining only during wars and revolutions. “Inequality never dies peacefully,” he notes.

Books jacket 'How to Fix the Future'

How To Fix The Future Andrew Keen Atlantic (2018)

The Internet has advanced from a communication device to an unstoppable force moulding societies. Andrew Keen, pioneer of the cyber-tsunami, uses lessons from the Industrial Revolution to envision a future relationship with life online that honours human values.

Nature 562, 336-343 (2018)

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