Kelly’s arguments ring true, and his enthusiasm is contagious. Readers will enjoy the ride provided they forget that he has...

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THE INEVITABLE

UNDERSTANDING THE 12 TECHNOLOGICAL FORCES THAT WILL SHAPE OUR FUTURE

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

ISBN: 978-0-525-42808-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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