Fine inspirational material for aspiring tech moguls, but far too propagandistic.

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INSANELY SIMPLE

THE OBSESSION THAT DRIVES APPLE'S SUCCESS

Steve Jobs’ longtime advertising guru weighs in with a memoir/extra-long promotional brochure about the secret to Apple’s success: Simplicity with a capital S.

Inveterate copywriter Segall’s goal is to sell readers on the idea of how the ruthless but noble Jobs beat his Silicon Valley competition into submission using his “Simplicity Stick.” Like an inescapable mantra throughout the book, the author constantly reiterates the idea of Apple’s colossal struggle against Simplicity’s worst foe: Complexity. When Jobs left NeXT to head up Apple, he went on a mission to streamline his products to make them simpler to use than those of complexity-loving rival brands such as Intel and Dell. In relating Jobs’ monomaniacal mission to make the world of handheld technology a simpler place, Segall employs an unsettling combination of militaristic language and softer terms that suggest humanist sensitivity in Apple’s quest for global domination. Describing Jobs’ commitment to brutal honesty with his employees, the author writes, “Being straight with people alone does not make you a heartless bastard.” Of course, having well-documented ties to sweatshop labor doesn’t exactly make you a paragon of virtue. Readers should not expect to find unpleasant facts that undermine the deification of the author’s subject. Although Segall fully discloses Jobs’ well-known tendency to steal ideas from competitors, this dubious characteristic doesn’t stop the author from painting a broader portrait of Jobs as a tirade-prone earthbound god ruling his Apple kingdom with fear, while generously dispensing technological convenience to the grateful masses. “Steve’s greatest achievement wasn’t a Mac, iPod, iPhone, or iPad,” writes the author. “He accomplished something that no one had even contemplated before. Steve Jobs built a monument to Simplicity. That monument is Apple itself.”

Fine inspirational material for aspiring tech moguls, but far too propagandistic.

Pub Date: April 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59184-483-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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