A thoughtful and well-balanced prognostication of what lies ahead.

THE NEW DIGITAL AGE

RESHAPING THE FUTURE OF PEOPLE, NATIONS AND BUSINESS

Two Google executives examine how emerging technologies will change the future of foreign affairs.

“Forget all the talk about machines taking over,” write Schmidt and Cohen (Children of Jihad: A Young American's Travels Among the Youth of the Middle East, 2007, etc.). “What happens in the future is up to us.” The pair met in Baghdad in 2009 while working on a memo for the State Department. While there, they found that Iraqis not only valued technology, they believed in its potential to improve their lives and their country. With that in mind, the authors look at our increasingly networked world and speculate on what new global connections could bring, particularly as it will change foreign affairs in a future that “will be more personal and participatory than we can even imagine.” The authors encapsulate a vast sweep of ideas, including personal citizenship online and off, censorship of electronic information as national policy (e.g., in China), and even what future revolutions (similar to the Arab Spring) will look like in years to come. The ability of technology to change the world for the better sometimes comes across as either excessively optimistic or bordering on science fiction. In one passage, the authors surmise that witch doctors, false holy men and procurers of child brides could all soon change their ways, since “[w]ith more data, everyone gains a better frame of reference.” Conversely, the chapter on the future of terrorism is especially chilling, offering such possibilities as mobile explosive devices made from parts easily bought online or a well-coordinated, simultaneous bomb explosion in multiple American cities, followed by cyberattacks to cripple emergency services. The likelihood that technology could create a future that is both better and worse, in different ways, is probably the book’s most accurate prediction.

A thoughtful and well-balanced prognostication of what lies ahead.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-95713-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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