Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how technology is changing American policing.

THE RISE OF BIG DATA POLICING

SURVEILLANCE, RACE, AND THE FUTURE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

A survey of predictive policing: how data makes it possible, its benefits and pitfalls, and what it may portend for American law enforcement and race relations.

In an important book that goes to the heart of issues at the forefront of contemporary life, Ferguson (Law/Univ. of the District of Columbia; Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action, 2012) examines how police departments are now using supposedly “objective” data-driven surveillance technologies to work more effectively in a budget-cutting era and to avoid claims of racial bias. In this engaging, well-written narrative, based on studies and a deep understanding of policing, the author describes the growing police use of shared data (the National Crime Information Center database is “reportedly accessed 12 million times a day by authorities”), its effects on how and where police work, and its usefulness in predicting future criminals (just as Amazon uses data to identify repeat shoppers). Some uses of data are surprising, as in Chicago, New Orleans, and other cities, where police maintain “heat lists” of individuals likely to be involved in crimes and then write to and visit the listed suspects, warning them to avoid criminal activity. The data used in predictive policing is prone to bias and error, warns Ferguson, and it includes “black data,” which is opaque, hidden in complex algorithms deemed proprietary by software vendors who work with police. Using erroneous data can lead to “aggressive police presence, surveillance, and perceived harassment” in poor communities of color. In fact, “big data policing reifies many of the systemic inequalities of traditional policing,” writes the author, who is candid in his assessment of the role of implicit bias in law enforcement. He concludes with questions he urges police departments to ask about racial bias, error, and accountability in data-driven policing.

Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how technology is changing American policing.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4798-9282-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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