Readers may not be any less confused about the actual workings of Bitcoin, which remain murky, when finished with this book,...

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DIGITAL GOLD

BITCOIN AND THE INSIDE STORY OF THE MISFITS AND MILLIONAIRES TRYING TO REINVENT MONEY

In which all that glitters is not gold—but the usual crowd of crooks and speculators is still part of the package.

What is digital gold? Easy: it’s a kind of electronic money that permits its users to conceal their identities from even the nosiest hacker—or government agency. As New York Times reporter Popper notes in this oddly entertaining if eminently geeky narrative, the vision of that digital gold comes to us courtesy of dystopian sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson, whose 1999 novel Cryptonomicon glossed over the practical difficulties of getting such a currency accepted at stores and restaurants everywhere, especially when jealous banks and governments wanted nothing to do with it. Of particular interest are Popper’s notes on how China, that land of the enshrined command economy, wrestled with whether to declare the manifestation called Bitcoin legal or illegal. Eventually, the government decided that the “virtual currency exchanges needed to register with the Ministry of Information,” with all the ominousness that phrase entails. Popper deftly traces the growth of Bitcoin from experiment (complete with a mysterious, elusive inventor) to open-source technology and from easily dismissed plaything to something that the world’s leading banks were alternately studying, trying to thwart, and trying to leverage—says one champion, sagely, “I think whatever Jamie [Dimon, of JPMorgan Chase] does or doesn’t do will be as relevant as what the Postmaster General did or didn’t do about email.” The story acquires urgency when the crooks come a-calling, hacking into the hackers’ digital dream world to make off with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of coins that had actual value in the real world.

Readers may not be any less confused about the actual workings of Bitcoin, which remain murky, when finished with this book, but they will certainly know enough to make intelligent choices about whether to buy in or steer clear.

Pub Date: May 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-236249-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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