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WORLD WITHOUT MIND

THE EXISTENTIAL THREAT OF BIG TECH

A spirited renunciation of the machine and not just for Luddites in favor of such radical thoughts as private ownership of...

A capably argued if perhaps too familiar criticism of things as they are in this intermediated, technological swirl of a world.

There may be some Ayn Rand–worshipping libertarians in Silicon Valley, writes Foer (How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, 2004, etc.), but the governing ethos of what the Europeans call GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) is to aggregate us into a big data collectivity and manage our every desire, memory, taste, and everything else that makes us individuals. In an essay/manifesto driven by righteous indignation at having been fired from his job as New Republic editor by one of those wandering techies, Foer fires back with, among other things, the charge that the tech billionaires’ forays into media “have eroded the integrity of institutions…that supply the intellectual material that provokes thought and guides democracy.” (Never mind that the Jeff Bezos–owned Washington Post has taken the lead in resisting the current administration.) Foer aims broadly and fires buckshot. Sometimes he hits the target, sometimes not. When he does, it’s a doozy: he notes, for instance, that our democratic revolution is now running up against our technological revolution, and “we’re nearing the moment when we will have to damage one of our revolutions to save the other.” The most profound insights in the book usually come from other thinkers on whom Foer draws, such as the economist Herbert Simon, who observed that the true cost of information was its sapping of the information consumer’s attention—which is why things come to us in sound bites and bullet points these days. Many of Foer’s arguments will be familiar to readers who critique technology, such as Jaron Lanier, Ellen Ullman, and Clay Shirky, but his proposed remedy is pretty much his own, perhaps by way of John Prine: blow up the TV and computer and read a (printed) book.

A spirited renunciation of the machine and not just for Luddites in favor of such radical thoughts as private ownership of one’s own data and the nonalgorithmic shopping experience.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-98111-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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