BREAKPOINT

WHY THE WEB WILL IMPLODE, SEARCH WILL BE OBSOLETE, AND EVERYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TECHNOLOGY IS IN YOUR BRAIN

Brain scientist and entrepreneur Stibel (Wired for Thought: How the Brain Is Shaping the Future of the Internet, 2009) offers a provocative view of the future of the Internet.

Drawing on an understanding of the behavior of natural networks ranging from ant colonies to the human brain, the author notes that all successful networks develop in the same way. After a period of enormous growth, they reach a breakpoint, or pivotal moment, when they have overgrown and begin to decline. They then enter a state of equilibrium, in which the network grows not in quantity but in quality: Ant colonies exhibit greater intelligence; the brain grows wiser. Arguing that the Internet mirrors the brain (in effect, it is a kind of brain), Stibel writes that the Internet is approaching, but has not yet reached, a breakpoint; instead, its carrying capacity has been extended with broadband technology. To continue expanding at its current meteoric pace, it will have to evolve to use different energy sources, such as a chemical system, to increase the amount of information it can handle. In time, the Internet will hit the breakpoint, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. “Just as the brain gains intelligence as it overshoots and collapses,” writes Stibel, “so too may the Internet.” The author conjures a future online world that is smarter, denser and more relevant, relying on links with depth and dimensionality—the same kind found in a brain at equilibrium. Stibel applies his approach to a consideration of many issues, arguing that forced growth caused MySpace to collapse and may yet do the same with Facebook; that specialized apps will eliminate the need for search engines; and that eventually, there will be a unity of mind and machine, with two networks coming together as one.

Lucid and authoritative.

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-137-27878-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more