The history and theory and practice of the business of science in business are presented in some detail. The lab coats beat...

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ENGINES OF TOMORROW

HOW THE WORLD'S BEST COMPANIES ARE USING THEIR RESEARCH LABS TO WIN THE FUTURE

Technology maven Buderi (The Invention That Changed the World, 1996) tips his reporter's fedora to the corporate laboratories that promise increasingly better living through the wonders of science. His descriptions of futuristic gee-whiz projects are enough to make next year's sci-fi look unimaginative and old-hat.

Research and development are badges of major corporate powers, but R&D is, by nature, an ambivalent enterprise. Corporate bigwigs often alternate like semiconductors between pure science and business application. Buderi emphasizes basic research, not product development, as the important part of the equation, and he maintains that (despite downsizing, and after the flush years of the Cold War) industrial innovation now in vigorous health (albeit with less interest in innovation for which there is no foreseeable commercial future). To demonstrate, he provides enticing histories and current sketches of the research operations of several corporate models from Princeton to Palo Alto to Munich to Tokyo. We visit the historic General Electric and Bell Labs (now Lucent Technologies), as well as Siemens and NEC (rehabilitated from their unfortunate WWII alliances and cited as prime employers of productive corporate research). Then there's Xerox, IBM, DuPont, Microsoft, Intel, and Hewlett Packard. The story of technology transfer is traced from the aniline dyestuffs and aspirin of 19th-century Germany to tomorrow's high-temperature superconductivity, intruder detecting paint, and atom-sized computers. From Edison at Menlo Park and Steinmetz at GE to Penzias at Bell Labs and Myhrvold at Microsoft, the story is much more than new widgets and improved gimmicks being developed by commercial wizards working three shifts around the clock and spending shareholders' billions. Buderi's research included interviews with some 375 individuals worldwide and the result is extensive and largely laudatory. He likes what he saw and what he heard.

The history and theory and practice of the business of science in business are presented in some detail. The lab coats beat the suits every time.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-83900-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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