Thorough, practical and optimistic—stress relief for the info deluged.

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INFORMATION BOMBARDMENT

RISING ABOVE THE DIGITAL ONSLAUGHT

Bontis (Business/McMaster University) offers a broad overview of the information explosion and intelligent advice on how to avoid being suffocated by it.

As a technophile, Bontis feels the pain of those suffering from the excessive, indiscriminate need to consume today’s flood of information because he knows that information contains knowledge and in our knowledge-worker economy, knowledge is what we have to sell as employees. Still, too much information can be debilitating physically, emotionally and in our social and familial lives. The trick is to filter the important stuff from the noise. Bontis, who writes in what is essentially a comfortable speaking voice, takes a leisurely and anecdotal approach to the issue of information bombardment. He paints the historical and technological background of the problem; draws attention to its manifestations on individual, group, organizational and institutional levels; provides numerous examples of his points; and then tenders quality prescriptions to control and facilitate the gathering of applicable knowledge. Readers could simply jump to the last few chapters for Bontis’ toolkit, but his tour of the information highway is entertaining and instructive, gently meandering into neuroanatomy, Anglophonic pitfalls and more—at one point offering a dramatization of how a car crash might play out in the techno-soaked future—as he explores the reasons behind such knowledge-management snafus as the response to Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. “In essence, we need to refine the amount and type of information pulled to us and pushed toward us at every instance…. Choosing which information arrives at your mental desktop is a conscious choice.” He achieves his goal through a combination of software and social networking. The software includes e-mail-rule wizards, push alerts that garner targeted information and Wikinomics tools. He combines these with the human interactions of knowledge cafes (something like show-and-tell), knowledge auctions (rewards for sharing information) and alumni networks to keep all that accumulated knowledge capital in the flow after retirement. As a final piece of advice, he suggests learning to speed read.

Thorough, practical and optimistic—stress relief for the info deluged.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0986794506

Page Count: 382

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2011

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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 deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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