A smartphone full monty that will appeal mostly to the device’s users—all 1.75 billion of them.

THE SMARTPHONE

ANATOMY OF AN INDUSTRY

An intricate dissection of the smartphone from technology reporter Woyke.

Even if you are not a smartphone user, the author’s comprehensive examination of the beguiling device is worth the effort. The author, a former Businessweek and Forbes staff writer, begins with the Motorola DynaTAC, which figures prominently in movies circa 1973 and looks as though someone is talking into a boot. Woyke then makes a quick jump from the cellphone to the smartphone, which runs on an open operating system and can host applications, with displays, browsers, email, cameras, and music and video players. All things considered, they are modern-day marvels, but Woyke maintains a serious, information-driven and no-nonsense tone in her writing. After a walk down Memory Lane—Simon, Palm Pilot, Handspring’s Treo 600 as the height of fashion—Woyke gets to the meat of the matter: “The smartphone wars are intense because the market is large and lucrative. Estimates of its size range between $250 billion and $350 billion, which is larger than the PC market and more than twice as large as the Internet advertising market, although both of those markets existed years before smartphones.” The author does a good job explaining the relationships among the makers, carriers and developers, and she delivers an engrossing chapter on design trends. Woyke also scrutinizes the working conditions of those employed to assemble smartphones, as well as the studies of health issues related to radiofrequency energy and the ever present problem surrounding privacy. The author presents an informed and intelligent “Smartphone Bill of Rights,” which includes such tenets as transparency, choice regarding software, keeping data collection to a minimum, squelching planned obsolescence and being fully apprised of the “makers’ policies toward laborers and the environment.”

A smartphone full monty that will appeal mostly to the device’s users—all 1.75 billion of them.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59558-963-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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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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