Vote on the next books for the Numlock Book Club!

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Hello! Thanks for your patience, after a little summer vacation the book club is back. As always, you select the books we read through a vote. Take a look, the email announcing the winners and the schedule will come out Sunday August 8, 2021, voting wraps at noon Sunday.

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If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future by Jill Lepore, 432 pages

The Simulmatics Corporation, launched during the Cold War, mined data, targeted voters, manipulated consumers, destabilized politics, and disordered knowledge―decades before Facebook, Google, and Cambridge Analytica. Jill Lepore, best-selling author of These Truths, came across the company’s papers in MIT’s archives and set out to tell this forgotten history, the long-lost backstory to the methods, and the arrogance, of Silicon Valley.

Blockchain Chicken Farm And Other Stories of Tech in China's Countryside by Xiaowei Wang, 256 pages

In Blockchain Chicken Farm, the technologist and writer Xiaowei Wang explores the political and social entanglements of technology in rural China. Their discoveries force them to challenge the standard idea that rural culture and people are backward, conservative, and intolerant. Instead, they find that rural China has not only adapted to rapid globalization but has actually innovated the technology we all use today. From pork farmers using AI to produce the perfect pig, to disruptive luxury counterfeits and the political intersections of e-commerce villages, Wang unravels the ties between globalization, technology, agriculture, and commerce in unprecedented fashion.

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The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking) by Katie Mack, 240 pages

Dr. Katie Mack has been contemplating these questions since she was a young student, when her astronomy professor informed her the universe could end at any moment, in an instant. This revelation set her on the path toward theoretical astrophysics. Now, with lively wit and humor, she takes us on a mind-bending tour through five of the cosmos’s possible finales: the Big Crunch, Heat Death, the Big Rip, Vacuum Decay (the one that could happen at any moment!), and the Bounce. Guiding us through cutting-edge science and major concepts in quantum mechanics, cosmology, string theory, and much more, The End of Everything is a wildly fun, surprisingly upbeat ride to the farthest reaches of all that we know.

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Driven: The Race to Create the Autonomous Car by Alex Davies, 304 pages

The story starts with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which was charged with developing a land-based equivalent to the drone, a vehicle that could operate in war zones without risking human lives. DARPA issued a series of three “Grand Challenges” that attracted visionaries, many of them students and amateurs, who took the technology from Jetsons-style fantasy to near-reality. The young stars of the Challenges soon connected with Silicon Valley giants Google and Uber, intent on delivering a new way of driving to the civilian world.

True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee by Abraham Riesman, 416 pages

Abraham Riesman is a veteran culture reporter who has conducted more than 150 interviews and investigated thousands of pages of private documents, turning up never-before-published revelations about Lee’s life and work. Lee’s most famous motto was “With great power comes great responsibility.” Stretching from the Romanian shtetls of Lee’s ancestors to his own final moments in Los Angeles, True Believer chronicles the world-changing triumphs and tragic missteps of an extraordinary life, and leaves it to readers to decide whether Lee lived up to the responsibilities of his own talent.

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Full Spectrum: How the Science of Color Made Us Modern by Adam Rogers, 336 pages

In Full Spectrum, Rogers takes us on that globe-trotting journey, tracing an arc from the earliest humans to our digitized, synthesized present and future. We meet our ancestors mashing charcoal in caves, Silk Road merchants competing for the best ceramics, and textile artists cracking the centuries-old mystery of how colors mix, before shooting to the modern era for high-stakes corporate espionage and the digital revolution that’s rewriting the rules of color forever. 

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Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass by Mary L. Gray and Siddharth Suri, 288 pages

In the spirit of Nickel and Dimed, a necessary and revelatory expose of the invisible human workforce that powers the web—and that foreshadows the true future of work. Hidden beneath the surface of the web, lost in our wrong-headed debates about AI, a new menace is looming. Anthropologist Mary L. Gray and computer scientist Siddharth Suri team up to unveil how services delivered by companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Uber can only function smoothly thanks to the judgment and experience of a vast, invisible human labor force

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Some Assembly Required: Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNAby Neil Shubin, 288 pages.

We have now arrived at a remarkable moment—prehistoric fossils coupled with new DNA technology have given us the tools to answer some of the basic questions of our existence: How do big changes in evolution happen? Is our presence on Earth the product of mere chance? This new science reveals a multibillion-year evolutionary history filled with twists and turns, trial and error, accident and invention. In Some Assembly Required, Neil Shubin takes readers on a journey of discovery spanning centuries, as explorers and scientists seek to understand the origins of life's immense diversity.

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