Newly published by MIT Press, written by Ed Finn, looks promising.
Ed Finn is Founding Director of the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, where he is also Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the School of Arts, Media, and Engineering and the Department of English.
It also somehow costs just about the same at Amazon for the Kindle version and the Hardcover. $27. One can however order the audio book version MP3 CD for $17.
The Kindle version has of course no printing or shipping or retail store costs, as the hard cover does. Where is all that “savings” and “efficiency” going? Not to the individual buyer, clearly. Is there an algorithm we can apply to ferret out where those digital prices come from, and who is the beneficiary of such leaps forward in technology, if it isn’t the reader?
Perhaps the greatest power in our society today — computation — remains unexamined in a cultural way. Ed Finn calls it our magic; what is present, powerful but unseen. Finn will help you see it.
~Kevin Kelly, Senior Maverick, Wired magazine
From Amazon’s book listing page:
We depend on — we believe in — algorithms to help us get a ride, choose which book to buy, execute a mathematical proof. It’s as if we think of code as a magic spell, an incantation to reveal what we need to know and even what we want. Humans have always believed that certain invocations — the marriage vow, the shaman’s curse — do not merely describe the world but make it. Computation casts a cultural shadow that is shaped by this long tradition of magical thinking.
In this book, Ed Finn considers how the algorithm — in practical terms, “a method for solving a problem” — has its roots not only in mathematical logic but also in cybernetics, philosophy, and magical thinking.
Finn argues that the algorithm deploys concepts from the idealized space of computation in a messy reality, with unpredictable and sometimes fascinating results. Drawing on sources that range from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash to Diderot’s Encyclopédie, from Adam Smith to the Star Trek computer, Finn explores the gap between theoretical ideas and pragmatic instructions.
He examines the development of intelligent assistants like Siri, the rise of algorithmic aesthetics at Netflix, Ian Bogost’s satiric Facebook game Cow Clicker, and the revolutionary economics of Bitcoin. He describes Google’s goal of anticipating our questions, Uber’s cartoon maps and black box accounting, and what Facebook tells us about programmable value, among other things.
If we want to understand the gap between abstraction and messy reality, Finn argues, we need to build a model of “algorithmic reading” and scholarship that attends to process, spearheading a new experimental humanities.