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FOUR BATTLEGROUNDS

POWER IN THE AGE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

A solid, well-organized account of the military applications of AI and of the race to take the lead global position.

An intriguing study of how artificial intelligence is the new frontier for the rivalry between the U.S. and China.

AI is reaching into every part of our lives, but one of its most widespread applications is largely unseen to ordinary American citizens. The U.S. military is incorporating AI into nearly every aspect of their operations, from piloting jet fighters to optimizing logistical support. At the same time, other countries, especially China, are advancing their own systems. In fact, China has made no secret of its intention to become the leading player in AI by 2030. Scharre, a former Army Ranger and vice president and director of studies for the Center for a New American Security, understands the realities of war as well as the tech side, so he is well positioned to examine this field. He has already covered some of this ground in his significant 2018 book, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War. The author identifies four crucial areas: data collection, computing hardware, talent, and institutions. Currently, the U.S. holds the lead, but it is steadily deteriorating. Scharre delves deeply into each area, noting that fundamental differences between authoritarian China and democratic U.S. China’s government-driven model provides unity of purpose and unlimited funding but restricts innovation. The American system is disaggregated and somewhat chaotic, but it attracts the best talent and is capable of radical breakthroughs. Scharre also examines how AI might change the nature of future conflicts, which may feature swarms of drones and supersmart targeting. A weakness of AI systems is that they do not respond well to changes of conditions, but this is gradually being overcome with new-generation machine learning. It is difficult to know whether to feel confident or disturbed by all this information, but Scharre effectively shows where military AI currently stands and where it is going.

A solid, well-organized account of the military applications of AI and of the race to take the lead global position.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-393-86686-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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