An excellent, much-needed contribution to the constant battle to sort truth from falsity.

THE INTERNET OF US

KNOWING MORE AND UNDERSTANDING LESS IN THE AGE OF BIG DATA

How the Internet and “Google-knowing” can aggravate our tendency to be unreasonable.

Lynch (Philosophy, Director of the Humanities Institute/Univ. of Connecticut; In Praise of Reason: Why Rationality Matters For Democracy, 2012, etc.) takes issue with the widely accepted notion that the Internet is a net benefit because it makes more information available to more people more quickly and easily. He is concerned with the consequences of a growing confusion between our receptivity to information and informed understanding as well as the advantages taken by data companies based on surveillance and systematic invasions of privacy. Lynch fears the growing impact of rumors and false information through what he calls “information cascades.” Social media and the Internet in general, he writes, “are particularly susceptible” to a phenomenon comparable to “mob mentality.” After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, a photograph of a man and wounded woman were circulated, along with the story that the man had been about to propose marriage. However, the story was made up. Lynch argues that the trust people give to their sources of information can be both misplaced and abused. The Internet gives us more to disagree about and more sources to choose from. Given that many people limit whom they talk to and trust, those they agree with and think are authorities, the author is concerned that the Internet is increasing group polarization and the emergence of what he calls “isolated tribes.” For him, reasonableness can go by the wayside when people begin to discuss the different principles on which their views are based. However, the Internet did not cause people to act this way. Lynch effectively presents the case for rationality against factional loyalties and insists that there should be vigorous promotion of scientific methods and thinking in public discourse. This activity would encourage the positive habits of evaluating authority and sources.

An excellent, much-needed contribution to the constant battle to sort truth from falsity.

Pub Date: March 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-87140-661-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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