An engaging new perspective on human networking.

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HIVEMIND

THINKING ALIKE IN A DIVIDED WORLD

A guardedly optimistic examination of the impact of social media suggests a reconsideration of its pros and cons.

With wit and curiosity, Cavanagh (Psychology/Assumption Coll.; The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom With the Science of Emotion, 2016, etc.) explores the notion that human beings are not so much solitary individuals as profoundly social creatures, perhaps, like honeybees, “at least partly a collective species.” And that's not a bad thing. We are born with the ability to tune into the feelings of others, and we develop that ability through the telling and, more recently, the reading or writing of stories, all of which makes us more likely to empathize with other human beings and members of other species rather than seeing them as “other.” Now, “with the advent of social media and smartphones,” writes the author, “we have an entire new medium through which we can connect, synchronize with, and influence one another.” Rather than isolating individuals, as popular opinion might suggest, social media gives us “an ever-present awareness of our friends and lovers moving through their separate real-life space, eating and creating and thinking and feeling.” Though Cavanagh doesn’t overlook the possibly detrimental effects of new media, which include political polarization and the proliferation of conspiracy theories, her general outlook is hopeful. She grounds her more abstract speculations in particular examples, from her experiences and those of others, in a way that makes her ideas easy for readers to grasp. She chronicles her discussions with beekeepers, a talk with a religious historian about zombies, a weekend with old friends, and the interactions of young women as they wait outside a hotel where someone has seen a pop star. After raising questions about forms of technology we take for granted, she offers sensible, workable suggestions as to how we can navigate the gap between the individual and the collective in everyday life.

An engaging new perspective on human networking.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1332-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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