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



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...


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 declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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