This exhilarating and authoritative book actually makes sense of our incredibly fast-paced, high-tech society. A standout...

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HOW TO SURVIVE OUR FASTER FUTURE

Two cybergurus offer a “user’s manual to the twenty-first century.”

“Our technologies have outpaced our ability, as a society, to understand them,” write MIT Media Lab director Ito and veteran Wired writer Howe (Media Innovation/Northeastern Univ.; Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business, 2008). “We need to catch up.” In this heady, immensely rewarding book, they expand on the nine principles animating the celebrated MIT Lab to craft a blueprint for success in a world undergoing revolutions in technology and communications. As a result of Moore’s law—everything digital gets faster, cheaper, and smaller at an exponential rate—and the rise of the internet, “the very nature of innovation” has changed, “relocating it from the center (governments and big companies) to the edges (a twenty-three-year-old punk rock musician and circuit-board geek living in Osaka, Japan).” New products are produced “at great scale and little cost in a matter of weeks, if not days.” The authors devote a chapter to each of their tools for using the world’s new operating system. For example, they encourage crowdfunding and using resources as needed rather than stockpiling them to exploit the reduced cost of innovation. They discuss the value of undirected discovery, the need to accept risk and experimentation (“and a willingness to fail and start again from scratch”), and the importance of maintaining “a culture of creative disobedience.” They emphasize that planning is costlier than improvisation, that diverse aptitudes trump expertise, and that human systems are most resilient at their most diverse. They also argue that responsible innovation must focus on “the overall impact of new technologies.” They describe how leading MIT researchers work at the lab, which Ito, an entrepreneur and college dropout, joined in 2011.

This exhilarating and authoritative book actually makes sense of our incredibly fast-paced, high-tech society. A standout among titles on technology and innovation, it will repay reading—and rereading—by leaders in all fields.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4555-4459-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

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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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

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