SKUNK WORKS

A PERSONAL MEMOIR OF MY YEARS AT LOCKHEED

A top-flight aerospace engineer's engrossing reminiscences of an eventful career in the service of the CIA and US military at the height of the Cold War. With a graceful assist from Janos (co-author of Chuck Yeager's best-selling 1985 autobiography, not reviewed), Rich offers an episodic (probably vetted) account of his nearly 40 years with Lockheed's Advanced Development Projects, an ultrasecret operation better known as the Skunk Works (a name borrowed from the Dogpatch still in Al Capp's ``L'il Abner'' comic strip). During his apprenticeship, the author (who headed ADP from 1975 until his retirement at 65 in 1990) helped design, build, test, and launch the U-2 and the SR-71 Blackbird, America's enviably successful spy planes. On his watch, the Skunk Works produced the first jet fighter-bomber to employ stealth technology, the oddly configured F-117A, which earned its wings in the unfriendly skies above the Persian Gulf. In addition to Rich's own recital, the text includes commentary from colleagues, intelligence agents, Pentagon brass, test pilots, and others, which puts the narrator's knack for advancing the state of the aerospace art into clearer perspective. While he accentuates the positive, the author does not shy from recalling certain of his unit's turkeys, including a remote- controlled reconnaissance drone that seldom returned from missions over enemy territory; an aircraft fueled by liquid hydrogen (whose explosive power could have blown its users to bits); and a stealth picket ship (eventually sunk by the Navy's missile frigate lobby). Nor does Rich fail to settle old scores with, among others, pols more concerned with their next election than national security. Not one to hold a grudge, however, he closes with some uncommonly sensible suggestions on how US taxpayers could get more bang for their procurement buck in the parlous times ahead. An insider's accessible, informative take on what's needed to get futuristic hardware to contemporary flight lines and launching pads. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 1994

ISBN: 0-316-74330-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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 declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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