An optimistic vision of how new technologies can be reimagined to increase productivity and personal growth.

HACKING HAPPINESS

WHY YOUR PERSONAL DATA COUNTS AND HOW TRACKING IT CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

Mashable and Guardian contributing writer Havens provides a detailed defense of how developing technologies in augmented reality and wearable devices can increase happiness.

According to the author, advances in technology do not have to lead to a dystopian future of government/corporate surveillance and loss of privacy. Rather, they can be used to promote a greater sense of well-being by helping us to better understand ourselves, control our personal data and connect to others. Havens envisions individuals owning their data, which they can choose to share and even sell. Why, he asks, should corporations make money off the data we are currently giving away for a few coupons or rewards points? Furthermore, this data, garnered through the use of wearable devices and apps, can provide individuals with quantifiable information about their habits, preferences and emotional states. This will help people make decisions that will lead to a happier life. Havens spends much of the book discussing positive psychology, including the research that shows one’s happiness increases with altruistic activities. By creating a more “connected world,” he imagines a future in which people are judged not by their words but by their deeds, both personally and professionally. Since our actions will be visible to others, our reputations will no longer be built on superficial attributes but on our behaviors. Havens even imagines the decline of the GDP and the rise of indicators that will measure happiness as a means for gauging wealth and value on a worldwide scale. While the book certainly opens up an important conversation about how individuals can, and should, manage their data in an age of rapid advancements in personal technology, the assumption that we will be able to profit from our data, much less control its use (and then use it to better ourselves and the world), is a rose-colored view.

An optimistic vision of how new technologies can be reimagined to increase productivity and personal growth.

Pub Date: March 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-16531-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

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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