Provocative reading for futurists, investors, and inventors.

MACHINE, PLATFORM, CROWD

HARNESSING OUR DIGITAL FUTURE

Science fiction? Your wallet is soaking in it, as this textbook-ish look at the “second machine age” tells us.

It’s a highly disrupted world out there, and we have plenty of indexes to show it. Shopping malls used to open all the time; in the last decade, more than 20 percent have closed. Two-thirds of millennials don’t have landline phones. The hotel business is down, and cab drivers are suffering, all thanks to “gig economy” innovations like Airbnb and Uber, both of which offer a line to MIT School of Management researchers McAfee and Brynjolfsson’s (The Second Machine Age, 2014) thesis that “platforms”—organizations without inventory and sometimes without much of an organization—are likely to be more competitive than brick-and-mortar companies in the future economy. Among the components of that economy, the technological will be dominant. Machine learning, AI, and robotics will have further disruptive effects, sometimes displacing humans, while the winning firms of the near-term future will leverage these shifts to “bring together minds and machines, products and platforms, and the core and the crowd very differently than most do today.” Among the facets of this different world are algorithmically driven “automatic decisions,” by which Amazon cross-recommends products to shoppers and airfare prices respond to the laws of supply and demand; in time, machines will be coming up with proposals and projects “that people can extend and improve.” In chapter-closing exercises, the authors invite readers to ponder how all this applies to them (“which do you think are generally more biased: algorithms or humans”). The authors appear less interested in sociology than finance and to favor profits over the attendant human costs. On that note, fans of Citizens United will be relieved to hear that the corporation will endure. “The leading companies of the second machine age may look very different from those of the industrial era,” write the authors, “but they will almost all be easily recognizable as companies.”

Provocative reading for futurists, investors, and inventors.

Pub Date: June 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-25429-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

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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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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