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UNWIRED

GAINING CONTROL OVER ADDICTIVE TECHNOLOGIES

Mixing expertise and passion, the author sets an agenda to rein in the tech behemoths that have run rampant for years.

A respected legal academic takes aim at the tech giants that are promoting isolation, division, and addiction.

Bernstein is a professor specializing in the laws around privacy and technology, but she notes that the motivation for this book was her experiences as a “mother of three children who grew up in the era of smartphones, screens, and social media.” Online technology, she writes, has metastasized from a public good into a problem threatening to unravel American society. She nominates 2007 as a turning point, when smartphones became ubiquitous and Facebook pushed aside its competitors. For a long time, the author believed that tech abuse was a personal problem (as well as a problem for parents), but as she dug into the research, she realized that tech companies were deliberately fostering addiction to boost their profits. She sees parallels between social media companies and cigarette manufacturers. Both knew that their products were addictive and harmful, but they suppressed evidence of that. Equally, some of the actions taken to combat big tobacco, from class-action suits to regulations requiring warning labels, could be applied to big tech. This has already begun, notes the author, and momentum is building. The tech companies, for their part, argue that the level of use of social media is an individual choice and to restrict it runs against notions of freedom and liberty. Bernstein replies that the tobacco firms used to make the same argument, but eventually the dangers posed by their products became too obvious to ignore. She makes clear that her goal is not to ban social media but to see it used in a balanced, honest, and responsible way, and she presents several workable policy options. But it will be arduous. “The tech industry is unlikely to submit to change without a fight,” writes Bernstein. “But knowing all we know now, neither should we.”

Mixing expertise and passion, the author sets an agenda to rein in the tech behemoths that have run rampant for years.

Pub Date: March 31, 2023

ISBN: 9781009257930

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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