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DATA AND GOLIATH

THE HIDDEN BATTLES TO COLLECT YOUR DATA AND CONTROL YOUR WORLD

An accessible, detailed look at a disturbing aspect of contemporary life.

A jeremiad suggesting our addiction to data may have made privacy obsolete.

Prolific technological writer Schneier (Fellow/Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School; Carry On: Sound Advice from Schneier on Security, 2013, etc.) clearly examines how technology has transformed every interaction, noting how our intimate communications are now "saved in ways we have no control over." He suggests that most Americans remain unconcerned about the relationship between data and surveillance, due to the attraction of “free” products like Gmail. He focuses on the social costs of surveillance, which "puts us at risk of abuses by those in power…exacerbated by the fact that we are generating so much data and storing it indefinitely.” He also argues that this "pervasive mass surveillance" will inevitably chill progressive movements—e.g., gay rights and cannabis decriminalization. The problem is more sprawling than most realize: Edward Snowden's revelations clarified "how much the NSA relies on US corporations to eavesdrop on the Internet,” and corporations are using such technologies for their own ends. Yet both the NSA and corporations are blithe about how they treat the fruits of this nonstop spying. “From the military’s perspective,” writes the author, “it’s not surveillance until a human being looks at the data.” Such strange pronouncements about the common good are hard to counter, since whistleblowers such as Snowden are prohibited from explaining their actions in court. Schneier argues that all this invasion of privacy is unlikely to succeed in its alleged goal: “Even highly accurate terrorism prediction systems will be so flooded with false alarms that they will be useless.” He concludes this grim catalog of privacy erosion with a set of prescriptions for governments, corporations and “the rest of us,” advocating a mix of legal framework, incentives for fairer business models and a more realistic understanding of the current moment’s potential for harm.

An accessible, detailed look at a disturbing aspect of contemporary life.

Pub Date: March 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24481-6

Page Count: 380

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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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