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SMART CITIES

BIG DATA, CIVIC HACKERS, AND THE QUEST FOR A NEW UTOPIA

Authoritative, information-packed must-read for urban policymakers.

A leading guru on technology and urban life describes how electronic devices are creating a “historic shift” in the way we build and run cities.

Townsend—research director at the Institute for the Future, in Palo Alto, and a senior research fellow at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy—presents a cohesive view of developments that most urbanities have noticed only in bits and pieces: sensors that monitor traffic speeds, self-flushing toilets, and technologies that optimize heating and cooling systems in buildings, balance the flow of electricity through power grids and keep transportation networks moving. Since 2008, numerous metropolitan areas have experienced a “smart-cities gold rush,” fueled by advances in information technology, mayors seeking answers to urban problems, and corporations like IBM and Cisco eager to provide the infrastructure for “efficient, safe, convenient living.” In the next decade, more than $100 billion will be spent globally on smart infrastructure. His examples of smart-city building range from Zaragoza, Spain, which has used smart technology to completely reinvent its landscape, economy and government, to San Francisco and other large American cities, which have adapted technologies to meet local needs. Townsend especially focuses on the clash between industry’s cookie-cutter approach to smart-city building and the quirky local approach of civic hackers pushing decentralized and democratic alternatives. The author, who has been personally involved in creating free public Wi-Fi, sympathizes with young people, who have been weaned on the mobile Web and social media and are experimenting with human-centered designs based on grass-roots smart-city technologies—e.g., mobile apps, community wireless networks and open-source microcontrollers. Townsend covers topics from mass urban surveillance to how the poor can benefit from smart technologies, and he offers his own principles for creating human-centered smart cities.

Authoritative, information-packed must-read for urban policymakers.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-08287-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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