A cautionary, cohesively delivered update on the scope and science of human quantification.

DATA FOR THE PEOPLE

HOW TO MAKE OUR POST-PRIVACY ECONOMY WORK FOR YOU

How you can collect, use, and control your own data.

Technology expert Weigend (co-editor: Time Series Prediction: Forecasting the Future and Understanding the Past, 1993) believes we are all immersed in a “social data revolution” that will benefit everyone better if it is monitored and managed by each of us. As social data is disseminated and gathered at increasingly exponential rates, having control over all aspects of that data sharing is key to a fair exchange. The author’s research encompasses the risks and dangers of sharing personal information “because data can be used against us,” as he personally attests to in an anecdote about his father, who was arrested and jailed for six years in 1949 based on accumulated data that led Soviet intelligence to assume he was an American spy. That ordeal forms the foundation for a fascinating discussion on the nature of data mining and how individual privacy is routinely and often unknowingly compromised. Weigend examines the innovative collection methods of corporations, the predictability of algorithms, and the “signals of interest” that consumers dispatch with each click. From facial recognition software to targeted advertising to legions of networked cameras monitoring our every move as a “default condition of life,” these modern advances should spur individuals to re-evaluate their concepts and expectations of privacy. The legwork is up to us, writes the author—to first realize our inherent fears and reservations about data gathering and then investigate ways to stem the tide of personal information flowing in and out of the technological grid. Weigend offers a four-pronged strategy aimed at those who choose to limit their data sharing and achieve true transparency. The author maintains the intellectual complexity of his subject while remaining accessible to readers searching for the truth about the salability of their privacy, the nuances of data sharing, and the ways to cloak their digital footprints.

A cautionary, cohesively delivered update on the scope and science of human quantification.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-04469-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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