Scholarship, timeliness, and an informed psychological perspective set this book apart from other Silicon Valley critiques.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SILICON VALLEY

ETHICAL THREATS AND EMOTIONAL UNINTELLIGENCE IN THE TECH INDUSTRY

A well-researched evaluation of how the tech industry represents itself as a panacea for all the world’s problems.

In the mid-1960s, William Cannon and Dallis Perry, two psychologists, decided the “two key profile characteristics” of computer programmers were “an interest in solving puzzles and a dislike of or disinterest in people.” And so, a stereotype was born. Cook, who holds a doctorate in clinical, educational, and health psychology from University College London, traces Silicon Valley’s current dysfunctions to its early valorization of logic over social awareness and of analytical skill over emotional intelligence. A fundamental lack of empathy in the tech sector, Cook argues, has allowed Silicon Valley’s most influential players to hoard consumer data and repurpose it as fuel for their hypercapitalist profit machines. Various social problems, she says, can be linked to this economic arrangement, including job displacement, a loneliness epidemic, diminishing privacy rights, housing shortages in the San Francisco area, political polarization, and the controversial Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom. This unique psychology-based approach to the digital economy is a valuable, scholarly achievement. Many other authors have made these same connections over the past few years, but Cook offers a meticulously well-sourced compilation of these critiques. Big tech has held tightly to a prosocial self-conception—so much so, Cook notes, that Facebook’s “move fast and break things” motto takes on a new interpretation: “Moving fast and breaking things in the name of growth has been accomplished to startling effect; unfortunately, what has been broken are communities, trust, and informed discussion, along with the evolution of a new brand of tribalism, which spreads more easily and is more difficult to immobilize.” Ultimately, the author calls for increased regulation, systemic changes, and “values reformation.”

Scholarship, timeliness, and an informed psychological perspective set this book apart from other Silicon Valley critiques.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-3-03-027363-7

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more