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

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Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

MASTERY

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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A riveting look inside the human brain and its quirks.

HALLUCINATIONS

Acclaimed British neurologist Sacks (Neurology and Psychiatry/Columbia Univ.; The Mind’s Eye, 2010, etc.) delves into the many different sorts of hallucinations that can be generated by the human mind.

The author assembles a wide range of case studies in hallucinations—seeing, hearing or otherwise perceiving things that aren’t there—and the varying brain quirks and disorders that cause them in patients who are otherwise mentally healthy. In each case, he presents a fascinating condition and then expounds on the neurological causes at work, drawing from his own work as a neurologist, as well as other case studies, letters from patients and even historical records and literature. For example, he tells the story of an elderly blind woman who “saw” strange people and animals in her room, caused by Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a condition in with the parts of the brain responsible for vision draw on memories instead of visual perceptions. In another chapter, Sacks recalls his own experimentation with drugs, describing his auditory hallucinations. He believed he heard his neighbors drop by for breakfast, and he cooked for them, “put their ham and eggs on a tray, walked into the living room—and found it completely empty.” He also tells of hallucinations in people who have undergone prolonged sensory deprivation and in those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease, migraines, epilepsy and narcolepsy, among other conditions. Although this collection of disorders feels somewhat formulaic, it’s a formula that has served Sacks well in several previous books (especially his 1985 bestseller The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), and it’s still effective—largely because Sacks never turns exploitative, instead sketching out each illness with compassion and thoughtful prose.

A riveting look inside the human brain and its quirks.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-95724-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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