Slowly paced, familiar narrative of tech dreams and youthful hubris.




Journalistic account of an ambitious, ill-fated attempt at creating a privacy-oriented alternative to Facebook.

New York Times columnist Dwyer (co-author: 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, 2004, etc.) lays out the improbable narrative of Diaspora, a project hatched by four New York University students that too quickly gained attention worldwide among digital cognoscenti and “shot like a comet through the venture capital wings of Silicon Valley, but flamed out.” The author explores the strong personalities behind it, quintessential millennials with an intense focus on the virtual world (and quirky pursuits like Burning Man). Unfortunately, the most idealistic of the four became so overwhelmed that he committed suicide at age 22, a looming tragedy that checks Dwyer’s tone of futurist optimism. At first, Diaspora’s bright prospects were due to its open-source software code and a promise of user-controlled data. Suspicious about how Facebook “hoarded and peddled personal information without so much as asking,” the founders attracted supporters worldwide. An initial Kickstarter campaign allowed them to set up shop in San Francisco and spend a year coding; however, the four principals thwarted their own ambitions, starting with a disastrous meeting with a venture capital firm that they alienated with a $10 million “ask.” As Dwyer notes, “Diaspora did not fall under the standard rubric for evaluating startups.” Despite his positive spin (he followed the project from its early days as a columnist), the project never seemed close to practicality. As the rambling narrative follows the crew through many tech-geek happenings and increasingly tense board meetings, the author chronicles how Diaspora’s most promising components were ruthlessly emulated by competitors: “Google came out with circles months after Diaspora had introduced the aspects settings, each of them a digital corral…it was a perfect example of how quickly digital innovation could lose its novelty.” Ultimately, the increasingly estranged partners entered a venture-capitalist incubator program and were advised to abandon the project, though volunteers continue to develop its source code.

Slowly paced, familiar narrative of tech dreams and youthful hubris.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-02560-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


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 timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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