The Recursive Universe: Cosmic Complexity and the Limits of Scientific Knowledge , by William Poundstone
Looks at the development of cellular automata and John Conway’s Game of Life.
A New Kind of Science , by Stephen Wolfram
The physics of Galileo and Newton seeks to describe nature through mathematics. Wolfram contends that it is better described by simple programs.
The world as computation and an expansion of some of Wolfram’s ideas.
Proposes that the universe is a quantum computer.
NANOTECHNOLOGY AND FABRICATION
Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology by Eric Drexler
The pioneering work that presented molecular nanotechnology. A popular presentation.
Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation , by Eric Drexler
A more technical presentation of nanotechnology.
Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems, Eric Drexler et. al., editors
How molecular manufacturing can happen.
Architects and designers are familiar with rapid prototyping or 3D printing. Gershenfeld expands the idea to the point where he can go anywhere with a minimum of equipment and make anything from a bicycle to a water pump to a cellphone.
Looks at quantum dots that make designer atoms possible.
The Pattern On The Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work , by W. Daniel Hillis
Presents the basics of computing in understandable terms.
Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse: The Quest for the Quantum Computer , by Julian Brown
Describes quantum computing, but more importantly, provides the latest on information theory, which has had tremendous developments in the past twenty years.
DNA: The Secret of Life , by James D. Watson and Andrew Berry
The whole story of understanding heredity and DNA. Focuses on biology and medicine, but presents the principles that we now apply to generative genomics.
A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life , by J. Craig Venter
Venter’s story of his role in sequencing the human genome.
An overview of the race between Venter and the government’s project in sequencing the human genome.
Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics , by Nick Herbert
Although now over twenty years old, this is the clearest basic presentation of quantum theory available.
Presents a new view of reality based on Hugh Everett’s many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, Karl Popper’s epistemology, Alan Turing’s theory of computation, and Richard Dawkins’s refinement of Darwinian evolutionary theory.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND SOCIETY
Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible, by Arthur C. Clarke
Old but never dated, instructs us on how to think about the future.
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man , by Marshall McLuhan
The essential book on the influence of technology on culture and consciousness.
The New Humanists: Science at the Edge , by John Brockman
Brockman proposes that scientists today are the new humanists, doing the work of understanding psychology and society.
Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution In Economics And Technology, by George Gilder
Gilder observes that in the macrocosm (the realm of big industrial machines), when a device become more powerful, it becomes larger, more prone to breaking down, more expensive, and more energy consuming. But in the microcosm (the realm of the computer chip), when a device becomes more powerful, it becomes smaller, less prone to breaking down, less expensive, and less energy consuming.
The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century , by Thomas L. Friedman
The guide to understanding economics and society in a world of globalization.
The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer , by Neal Stephenson
Imaginative science fiction by a master. Covers issues a world of nanotechnology and genomics might face.
The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology , by Ray Kurzweil
Starts by showing how technology expands exponentially. By 2020, a computer chip will match the human brain in circuitry, and by 2047 a computer chip will have as much circuitry as all of the brains of all of the people who have ever lived.
Presents an argument for progress, and looks at those who oppose it.