A footnote to Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, but not a minor one.

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TO PIXAR AND BEYOND

MY UNLIKELY JOURNEY WITH STEVE JOBS TO MAKE ENTERTAINMENT HISTORY

Pixar’s former chief financial officer turns in an insider’s account of one of the world’s most influential digital media companies.

Steve Jobs had made and lost a fortune by the time Levy showed up, having founded and then been ejected from Apple and gone to NeXT. In 1994, his new Pixar digital film company had chewed its way through $50 million of Jobs’ money “with little to show for it.” In part thanks to Levy’s legal skills and analytical powers, Jobs turned that around to become one of the wealthiest people in the world, controlling billions of dollars. The author’s account of his dozen years with Jobs follows an unsurprising, almost by-the-numbers trajectory: new guy comes to embattled company, helps company face and then overcome challenges, and finds himself wealthy and powerful but unfulfilled—with the twist that, instead of becoming a celebrity chef or an around-the-world adventurer, Levy winds up a student and then teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. In between the cut-to-standard scaffolding, though, Levy’s account offers some pleasant moments and insights, including anecdotes on how Toy Story came into being pixel by pixel, a process that helped lure Levy into the company to begin with. (“How do I know I’m not simply falling for the allure of a high-tech company making a film?” he asked a mentor, to which the response, in so many words, was, “Don’t be a schmuck and go for it.”) No mere technocrat, Levy is also good on the details of digital filmmaking, as when he writes of the considerable difficulties involved in rendering skin so that it doesn’t look like painted rubber: “These are nuances we never think about,” he observes, “but they are glaringly obvious when they are missing.” That’s just so, and there’s not much missing here—although there isn’t much in the way of news about Jobs himself, the star of the show.

A footnote to Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, but not a minor one.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-73414-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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 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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