Uneven, but the quirky characters and the magazine’s skyrocket trajectory keep it compelling through the final page.

WIRED--A ROMANCE

Unconventional business saga about the founding of Wired magazine and its related online empire.

Journalist Wolf, himself a Wired contributor, opens the story in 1985 with its dominant character, 35-year-old Louis Rossetto, living in Amsterdam and dreaming about starting a magazine that would capture not only the promise of online technology, but also the accompanying lifestyle. In Paris, Rossetto met Jane Metcalfe, another youngish American expatriate, who became part of his personal life and eventually his business partner. By the end of the ’80s, Rossetto and Metcalfe had worn out their welcome in Europe with both employers and social acquaintances; they decided to return to the US, hoping to raise money for a new magazine. The author devotes the first five chapters to the rootless wanderings of the oddly magnetic, ethereal Rossetto and the somewhat more realistic Metcalfe, chronicling every kick in the teeth they suffered before launching the first issue of Wired from a San Francisco workspace in 1993. The failures, told in excruciating detail and with oddly flat affect, pile on top of one another until the journey becomes extremely depressing. The Wired launch provides brief uplift, but Rossetto was so contrary with anybody who preached the conventional wisdom of the magazine business that soon the narrative is filled again with relentless contentiousness. Wolf knows his use of the word “romance” is unorthodox; he insists it’s appropriate because it hints at the supernatural, tracing “the effect of a fantastic idea—the idea that computers will make every existing authority obsolete—as it worked through and upon the man who conjured it up.”

Uneven, but the quirky characters and the magazine’s skyrocket trajectory keep it compelling through the final page.

Pub Date: July 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-50290-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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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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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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