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Posted By Peter Bentley
A month or two ago I was asked to give a list of my favourite books to be featured in the Expert Bookshelf in BBC Focus Magazine. It's part of the publicity we're drumming up for my new book Digitized. It was a difficult task to choose. I get most pleasure from reading science fiction, but here I decided to focus (mainly) on non-fiction. Although I'm a computer scientist my favourite books are not really just about computers - the books that I think have been most influential in my research and in my field tend to be those that give us a new perspective on what we do. After some thought, I came up with this list:

The Blind Watchmaker - Dawkins inspired a whole generation of computer scientists and artists with this work, which even included output from a computer program he had written to evolve forms.

Evolutionary Art and Computers - William Latham and Stephen Todd showed just how powerful evolution in computers can be. This book inspired me personally through my early career.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives. David Eagleman. A quirky but fascinating view of life and death, which includes some science fiction and computer-enabled afterlives.

Cambrian Intelligence: The Early History of the New AI (Bradford Books). Rodney Brooks helped change the way we approach Artificial Intelligence by thinking about emergence, bottom up processes instead of engineered, top down intelligence.

The Unnatural Nature of Science. Lewis Wolpert - Like all his books, this is a joy to read. It's also a fascinating exploration of what science is and is not. To a computer scientist this is essential reading, for Lewis explores the difference between science and technology - a topic often confused in my field!

In their wisdom, the BBC Focus folks decided to focus on three. They rang me for an interview (my words may be online somewhere as a podcast as well). This article was the result:


 
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