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The Social Brain - Michael S. Gazzaniga

(Relays a bunch of super interesting experiments done on 'split brain' patients with important consequences for normally functioning brains. Not at all gimmicky, doesn't read like a popularization—I think my dad said he read it in grad school for cognitive psych. But I read it as a teenager so it's generally accessible, and it'll likely change the way you think about people and their brains.)

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions - Thomas S. Kuhn

(Looks at large scale trends in scientific progress [as well as looking more closely at the notion of 'progress' in this context]. Probably the most important features he extracts have to do with distinct phases that scientific work can typically be classified under: 'normal' science and 'revolutionary' science. These concepts are easiest to understand in relation to the notion of a 'framework'. In revolutions, we are developing new frameworks and potentially abandoning lots of old work; during normal science, we are elaborating within an established framework. Phrases like 'the dominant paradigm' in this context are due to Kuhn [IIRC he uses 'paradigm' rather than 'framework']. The book isn't so long and his argument for and presentation of these ideas is well worth reading.)

Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution - Steven Levy

(Traces the major trends, personalities, and events leading to personal computing as we know it today, starting with IBM mainframes mediated by an IBM employ. Also describes the origin and meaning of the 'hacker ethic'. The hacker ethic, especially as exemplified by early MIT programmers in the book, was hugely influential on how I came to think about programming and creative work generally.)

The Varieties of Religious Experience - William James

(It's largely an attempt at a scientific account of the potential cognitive/emotional impacts of adopting various beliefs, though especially religious/philosophical beliefs. James was an early experimental psychologist and philosopher. The book is mostly a transcription of his Gifford Lecture series of the same name.)

The Philosophy of Physical Science - Sir Arthur Eddington (Got me thinking about deep issues where we still trip ourselves up by assuming that parts of our own mental makeup are parts of the objective universe instead. Also clarified my understanding of the notions of 'structure' and 'analysis'. Also gives an interesting example of using Group Theory for physics work. Not as scary (or long) as it sounds, though it takes some work.)

Also: Three Scientist's and their Gods, Metamagical Themas, The Society of Mind, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Chaos: Making a New Science, and Darwin's Dangerous Idea.




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