by Kevin Kelly ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 7, 2016
Kelly’s arguments ring true, and his enthusiasm is contagious. Readers will enjoy the ride provided they forget that he has...
That futurists have a terrible record hasn’t discouraged them, and this delightful addition to the genre does not deny that predictions have been wildly off-base.
The reason that futurists are often wrong is that people assume the future will resemble the present except for improvements or decay. Three decades ago, relevant observers assumed that the Internet would become “five thousand TV channels”—paradise for the couch potato. Few saw that viewers would take over, sucking up (but rarely paying for) traditional journalism, art, and entertainment and producing their own. Unfathomable technological changes are in the works, writes Wired founding executive editor (and current “senior maverick”) Kelly (What Technology Wants, 2010, etc.), who proceeds to tell us what they will be. While readers will encounter hints of robotic doctors and clothes that give the washing machine cleaning instructions, the author’s 12 ingenious chapters eschew high-tech spectaculars in favor of their driving forces. All the chapter titles are verbs in the present participle form: flowing, cognifying, tracking, accessing, sharing, etc. “Sharing” and instant “Accessing” will make possession irrelevant. If a self-driving car appears as soon as you summon it, owning one is a hassle. “Access is so superior to ownership in many ways that it is driving the frontiers of the economy,” writes Kelly. Eventually, we will live in the world’s largest rental store. In the 19th century, inventors added electricity to tools (fans, washers, pumps, etc.); in the 21st, they will add intelligence: cognifying. “There is nothing as consequential as a dumb thing made smarter,” writes the author. “Even a very tiny amount of useful intelligence embedded into an existing process boosts its effectiveness to a whole other level.”Kelly’s arguments ring true, and his enthusiasm is contagious. Readers will enjoy the ride provided they forget that he has disobeyed his warning against assuming that today’s trends will continue.
Pub Date: June 7, 2016
Page Count: 336
Review Posted Online: April 29, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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More About This Book
SEEN & HEARD
A quirky wonder of a book.
A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.
Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.A quirky wonder of a book.
Pub Date: April 14, 2020
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Jan. 1, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020
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