A powerful argument for reducing inequality and revolutionizing how we use the Web for the benefit of the many rather than...

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MOVE FAST AND BREAK THINGS

HOW FACEBOOK, GOOGLE, AND AMAZON CORNERED CULTURE AND UNDERMINED DEMOCRACY

When American representative democracy collapses, blame it on Facebook.

The internet can be used for immoral purposes, writes tech pioneer Taplin, director emeritus of USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab, from selling drugs and pornography to enabling the piracy of intellectual property. It can also be used to do good, enhancing the economies of remote places by linking them to the world. But if it is largely amoral, that, by Taplin’s account, owes little to those who are making fortunes on the Web by controlling and selling information and ransoming eyeballs. Among Taplin’s heavies are Facebook, Google, and PayPal, as exemplified by founders and executives Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Peter Thiel, the last of whom emerges as a kind of dark lord of the Hobbesian, libertarian internet (a characterization echoed by other observers). Google enables piracy, guiding readers to sites where albums and movies can be downloaded. Though hiding behind a do-no-evil mantra, Google could simply stop listing pirate sites just as it stopped listing illegal drug sites—“after it paid a $500 million fine for linking” to them. What does all this have to do with democracy? For one thing, it promotes inequality—and, as Taplin notes, with Robert Bork’s “protrust” view of antitrust laws now dominant in legal and governmental circles, monopolies are often encouraged rather than prohibited. For another, it narrows choice despite the seemingly endless offerings of Amazon, Wal-Mart, et al. The author offers a modest program of resistance, among whose planks is the interesting notion that creators, especially musicians, would do well to follow the Sunkist model, forming cooperatives to control their works just as citrus growers banded together in common interest. “I have no illusion that the existing business structures of cultural marketing will go away,” he writes, “but my hope is that we can build a parallel structure that will benefit all creators.”

A powerful argument for reducing inequality and revolutionizing how we use the Web for the benefit of the many rather than the few.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-27577-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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