Fossil Men: The Quest for the Oldest Skeleton and the Origins of Humankind by Kermit Pattison ’90 (William Morrow)
In this vast and vivid debut, Pattison starts with the story of Ardi, the 4.4-million-year-old fossil remains of an Ardipithecus ramidus woman found in Ethiopia’s Middle Awash in 1994. Ardi was uncovered by a team led by University of California, Berkeley, paleoanthropologist Tim White, known for his intensity and huge personality, and is thought to be the earliest human relative ever found. The discovery upended decades of orthodoxy about human evolution and led to academic fisticuffs—a tangled weave of disputes and failed friendships that Pattison dramatically chronicles. The result is a scientific adventure saga with a mystery at its core.
The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values by Brian Christian ’06 (Norton)
With the odds increasing daily that the first read of your mortgage application or even your medical tests is not being carried out by a human, the question is now how to make sure artificial intelligence understands what we want—with all the nuances that implies. Christian (Algorithms to Live By)—a computer science and philosophy concentrator at Brown and now a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley—gives readers a compelling mix of history and reporting, ranging from the birth of machine learning in the late 1950s to how computer scientists are working to resolve these risks.
Launched: Start Your Career Right After College Even During A Pandemic by Rob Feinstein ’81
While the pandemic has short-circuited internships and upended countless job searches, Feinstein, a former executive at CareerPath and MonsterTRAK, the recent-grad division of Monster.com, has put together a helpful and even optimistic guide to landing a first job. There is plenty of familiar step-by-step advice here, about the importance of corporate internships, starting early, and developing a narrative, but there are also useful pandemic-era tips, like making sure that if your internship is cancelled by COVID you remember to point out on your résumé that you accepted the offer.