A refreshing, cogently argued book that will hopefully make the rounds at Facebook, Google, Apple et al.

THE INNOVATION DELUSION

HOW OUR OBSESSION WITH THE NEW HAS DISRUPTED THE WORK THAT MATTERS MOST

A potent challenge to “the superiority of the innovation mindset.”

As professors Vinsel and Russell write in this vibrant, sure-footed argument, the digital economy rests, in part, on the “demand for rapid growth that disrupts the com­fortable incumbents of the status quo.” For many, this attitude, characterized by creative disruption, has spread from the economy to become a way of life. Innovation is important, of course, but the concept of “move fast and break things…can be lousy guidance for anyone who builds or designs actual things.” The authors argue that it is time to challenge the unholy marriage between Silicon Valley’s ideology of change for change’s sake and Wall Street’s insatiable appetite for immediate profit; instead, we must attend to the areas of infrastructure and maintenance. Vinsel and Russell point out that innovation—the profitable combination of new and existing knowledge—is not the enemy. The problem is “innovation-speak,” a misleading “sales pitch about a future that doesn’t yet exist.” Innovation-speak flourishes in a society that values the individual accumulation of wealth above the common good. Maintenance, though essential to any functioning society, is often neglected, thus disrupting order in a variety of forms, whether it’s the physical infrastructure of roads and bridges or the simple ability to maintain a healthy populace. The authors guide readers with clear and contemporary examples of when deferred maintenance led to either slow or fast disaster, both of which are dangerous. “A slow disaster…is the accretion of harm from incremental neglect,” they write. “It happens when children ingest chips from lead paint or when a potholed road becomes unsafe for traffic.” The authors also thoroughly expose the unjust hierarchy that leaves maintenance workers at the bottom of the pay scale. We need a systematic approach, they argue, to monitoring and caring for our resources, encouraging sustainability and shared skill sets. Maintenance sustains success, and an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.

A refreshing, cogently argued book that will hopefully make the rounds at Facebook, Google, Apple et al.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-57568-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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