L. Felipe Perrone. Illustration by Joel Kimmel

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. This book got a lot of attention when it was first released, in 2011. RPO is a dystopian science fiction story set in a future characterized by massive poverty and energy deprivation. The protagonist is a young man engaged in a treasure hunt in a sprawling, complex virtual-reality world. This book is a feast for ’80s video-gaming geeks like me. More important, RPO is rife with topics I discuss in my classes, such as Life, Computers and Everything; Computers and Society; and Time/Machine, which explore the intersection of society and technology.

Consciousness and the Social Brain, Michael S. A. Graziano. Prompted by a visit to a robotics lab in Japan in 2016, I have been reading about consciousness and its possible emergence in artificial intelligence. A web search for modern theories on how our species achieved consciousness led me to Graziano’s articles in The Atlantic. This Princeton neuroscientist claims that the brain’s circuitry, which enables us to relate to others, is also responsible for our self-awareness.

Culture and Technology in Modern Japan, Ian Inkster and Fumihiko Satofuka (editors). I’m interested in what may predispose a society to adopt or to reject a specific technology. My appointment to the Rooke Chair has allowed me to turn this intellectual curiosity into the topic of an investigation focused on Japan. This book provides a starting point in studying Japan’s relationship with cutting-edge technologies. It covers the impact of culture and history in design, creativity, engineering and public policy.