Recommended Reads

March 6, 2016

This is a curated list of books that I recommend to people coming from computer science, engineering or other quantitative backgrounds and looking to deepen their understanding of some important themes of knowledge.

I’ve organized the list using a bottom-up approach, starting with what I consider are building blocks (Themes 1-5) for thinking about more complex questions (Themes 6-10).

Under each theme I’ve used a double asterisk (**) to mark books which I think are absolute must-reads. Items marked with a single asterisk (*) I thought were interesting and/or important and those unmarked I thought were less important and therefore only recommend as supplementary (this is all very subjective, naturally).

I’ve found that many weak positions and widespread misconceptions about some of the big questions (Themes 6-10) are deeply rooted in a poor understanding of some fundamentals (Themes 1-5). I therefore recommend getting on top of the first half of these themes before venturing to the second.

Theme 1: Cosmology and Theoretical Physics

  1. The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality **
    Brian Greene
    Tags: Cosmology, Space and Time, Ontology
  2. The Elegant Universe *
    Brian Greene
    Tags: Cosmology, Theoretical Physics
  3. A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes *
    Stephen Hawking
    Tags: Cosmology, History of Science, Classic
  4. A Universe From Nothing
    Lawrence M. Krauss
    Tags: Cosmology, Theoretical Physics

Theme 2: Natural Selection

  1. The Selfish Gene **
    Richard Dawkins
    Tags: Natural Selection, Classic
  2. Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
    Nick Lane
    Tags: Natural Selection
  3. The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene
    Richard Dawkins
    Tags: Natural Selection

Theme 3: Epistomology and the Scientific Method

  1. The Fabric of Reality **
    David Deutsch
    Tags: Epistomology, Pancomputationlism
  2. The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World **
    David Deutsch
    Tags: Epistomology, Pancomputationlism
  3. Bad Science *
    Ben Goldacre
    Tags: Epistomology
  4. A Short History Of Nearly Everything *
    Bill Bryson
    Tags: History of Science, Classic
  5. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition
    Thomas S. Kuhn
    Tags: Epistomology

Theme 4: Neuroscience

  1. In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind **
    Eric R. Kandel
    Tags: Neuroscience, History of Science
  2. The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat *
    Oliver Sacks
    Tags: Neuroscience
  3. Fundamentals of Computational Neuroscience
    Thomas Trappenberg
    Tags: Computational Neuroscience

Theme 5: Cognitive Science

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow **
    Daniel Kahneman
    Tags: Cognitive Science, Classic
  2. Irrationality **
    Stuart Sutherland
    Tags: Rationality, Epistomology, Cognition, Cognitive Biases
  3. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind *
    Yuval Noah Harari
    Tags: Anthropology

Theme 6: Strong AI and Functionalism

  1. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid **
    Douglas R. Hofstadter
    Tags: Intelligence, Functionalism, Strong AI, Classic
  2. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies **
    Nick Bostrom
    Tags: Artificial Intelligence, Strong AI
  3. How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed *
    Ray Kurzweil
    Tags: Artificial Intelligence, Strong AI

Theme 7: Philosophy of Mind

  1. Brain-wise: Studies in Neurophilosophy **
    Patricia Smith Churchland
    Tags: Philosophy, Neuroscience
  2. Consciousness Explained
    Daniel C. Dennett
    Tags: Consciousness, Functionalism

Theme 8: Theology

  1. The Invention of Religion **
    Alexander Drake
    Tags: Cognitive Science, Theology
  2. Cognitive Science, Religion, and Theology: From Human Minds to Divine Minds *
    Justin L. Barrett
    Tags: Cognitive Science, Theology

Theme 9: Morality

  1. The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values **
    Sam Harris
    Tags: Morality

Theme 10: Ontology

  1. Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality **
    Max Tegmark
    Tags: Ontology, Pancomputationalism

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