An engrossing look at the eye-tracking wizardry of Google Glass that doesn’t quite bear out its own alarmism.

Google Glass Can Read Your Mind

A hot new digital device could let sinister—or at least annoying—forces read your mind according to this intriguing if overwrought exposé.

Google Glass, a tiny computer worn like eyeglasses, projects an optical display into the user’s eye. It has already been accused of everything from welding people even more closely to the Internet to violating privacy by enabling wearers to surreptitiously take photographs and videos. The author adds an ominous new possibility: Google Glass, he contends, could divine its wearer’s conscious and even unconscious thoughts, emotions, “temptations, cravings and strong urges” and reveal them to third parties. Wedam, working from a close if sometimes-disorganized exegesis of Google patent filings, explains that Google Glass meticulously tracks its wearer’s eyes and, possibly, pupil dilation; it knows when you are gazing at a fashion ad and how aroused you are by the pretty dress you see (or the model wearing it). It can also, he notes, detect “saccades”—the tiny, rapid eye movements that give away mental preoccupations we aren’t consciously aware of, although he doesn’t explain how the computer could differentiate the myriad possible subconscious states. Written in straightforward prose that makes technical issues accessible to laypeople, Wedam’s brief account of the eye-tracking technology that makes Google Glass possible, and the neuro-cognitive science behind it, is lucid and compelling. It also raises timely and unsettling questions about the subtle intrusions of digital technology. Unfortunately, while he harps on the menace of Google Glass to privacy and autonomy, he fails to actually demonstrate it. He invokes the specter of marketers sussing out and manipulating our secret desires and makes dark references to “nefarious hackers,” but he never explains what harm will come of all this other than, say, an augmented bombardment of pop-up ads. The incursions Wedam spotlights seem more tiresome than threatening, as inevitable in the digital age as death and taxes.

An engrossing look at the eye-tracking wizardry of Google Glass that doesn’t quite bear out its own alarmism.

Pub Date: May 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496173720

Page Count: 56

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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