Webb provides a logical way to sift through today’s onslaught of events and information to spot coming changes in your...

THE SIGNALS ARE TALKING

WHY TODAY’S FRINGE IS TOMORROW’S MAINSTREAM

How to forecast emerging technological tends.

Don’t confuse the trendy with trends, warns Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute. Unlike hip, shiny objects, trends persist and can change everything. They include self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, and other phenomena that will deeply affect our lives. “Too often,” writes the author, “leaders ignore the signals [of emerging trends], wait too long to take action, or plan for only one scenario.” In this useful guide, she offers a systematic way to interpret events and foresee how they will shape the future. In brief: watch fringe areas, where new ideas emerge; uncover hidden patterns; determine whether a pattern is a trend; calculate its arrival time; plan scenarios to act on the trend; test your scenarios. Her detailed explanation of these simple-seeming steps is based on many years of experience advising organizations and will undoubtedly help leaders contemplate what lies ahead. The author makes clear how difficult it is to recognize forthcoming changes in an era when change is commonplace. Also, we “tend to underplay the significance of something when it is not significant to our immediate frame of reference.” Companies like Nintendo have listened to the signals, adapted to change, and lasted since the late 1800s. Digital Equipment Corporation, once a leading vendor of computer systems, failed to anticipate personal computing, with disastrous results. Similarly, BlackBerry failed, its products eclipsed by new trends. Webb’s stories of these companies and her close examination of current trendiness help readers understand how certain fringe thinking is shaped by diverse external forces (wealth distribution, education, government, etc.) into genuine trends. “We know Uber represents a trend because it leverages our basic human needs and desires in a meaningful way and aligns our human nature with emerging technologies and breakthrough inventions,” she writes.

Webb provides a logical way to sift through today’s onslaught of events and information to spot coming changes in your corner of the world.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61039-666-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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