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THE FUTURE NORMAL

HOW WE WILL LIVE, WORK, AND THRIVE IN THE NEXT DECADE

An intriguing and cheerful look at ways that innovation may reshape society.

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Entrepreneur Bhargava and consultant Coutinho-Mason predict new patterns for work and society in this debut nonfiction work.

The future is already here—it just hasn’t gone mainstream yet. That’s the philosophy undergirding the work of the two authors of this book, who make it their business to know where, in the present, the seeds of the future are already beginning to sprout: “What is happening on the edges of most industries or in society—the technological marvels, the ambitious innovations, the bold social agendas—hold the potential to become mainstream in the future, to change how we’ll live and work and what we’ll value,” they write in their introduction. Some of these ideas have already filtered into the popular consciousness, even if they haven’t become routine for everyone, such as remote work, the medical use of psychedelics, and plant-based meat. Others will likely strike readers as completely novel; in the future, the authors assert, children may get a substantial portion of their education passively by playing video games embedded with stealth learning technology. If one lives alone, they say, one may rely on Siri-like virtual assistants, trained to offer people emotional support and companionship. Large companies, in order to better integrate themselves into the community, may invite nonprofits, local businesses, and artists to share their office space, the authors note, and one’s city may be redesigned so that all the places one needs to go daily—work, home, school, parks—are within a 15-minute commute. The new urban center may feature vertical forests—skyscrapers filled with trees and plants to relegate their temperature and muffle noise—and vertical farms, and biotechnology may replace plastic, making products waste-free. This might sound like the stuff of SF, but with each chapter, the authors introduce readers to concepts that make the future seem less dystopian—and right around the corner.

This present-is-future philosophy is why Bhargava and Coutinho-Mason jokingly refer to themselves as “now-ists” rather than futurists. Their prose reflects the optimism and enthusiasm they feel for each new idea, as when they discuss the pre-owned clothes marketplace Depop: “Digital secondhand marketplaces also allow people to flaunt their entrepreneurialism as a key source of status too. If eBay is the Goodwill of the digital secondhand fashion world (huge, functional, but unsexy and hard to navigate) then fashion marketplaces like Depop are its younger, more creative, cooler cousin.” Chapters generally introduce an emerging trend or technology and then highlight an organization or company that’s currently putting it into practice. If there’s a knock on Bhargava and Coutinho-Mason’s method, it’s that they sometimes come across as a bit too rosy in their assessments. For example, the authors choose to focus on how much time artificial intelligence technologies can save artists—highlighting a movie trailer that was made in hours instead of weeks—without addressing how that saved time will likely mean a smaller paycheck. In general, however, these now-ists succeed in making the future a little less scary and a lot more exciting.

An intriguing and cheerful look at ways that innovation may reshape society.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781646870653

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ideapress Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2023

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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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