A pleasing excursion into the daunting terrain of computer-driven information.
British comedian and writer Harkness debuts with an anecdote-laden account of our propensity for making a data set out of anything that can be turned into numbers. “Routinely collected, stored, shared, linked together and analysed,” big data, writes the author, are now used to monitor diseases, predict crime, shape our elections, surveil our private moments, and track our purchases at supermarket checkouts—an extraordinary reach for a term coined in 2006. With a focus on how this enormous information-gathering has affected each major area of our lives, Harkness visited experts in places from Brooklyn to Silicon Valley and engaged in lucid conversations about numbers-crunching, from early recording-keeping (death and census data) to Alan Turing’s use of mechanized reasoning to break secret World War II codes to our present widespread use of big data in business, science, politics, and other realms. “Basically any interaction between man and machine, or machine and machine, these days is being logged,” one researcher told her. The author confesses her appreciation of big data’s benefits—its ability, for example, to trace links between behavior, environment, and health outcomes—but also her wariness of its growing intrusiveness. “Our most personal information, our private exchanges, our network of friends, are used by others without our consent,” she writes. Since the invention of the filing cabinet, governments have tried to run society by watching data, warned a privacy advocate: “If only we had more data we could control things better!” Harkness’ style is light and conversational, but she makes clear her serious concerns about a society in which it is now possible to predict the likelihood of a person’s future involvement in homicide or other serious crime based on the police records of friends and acquaintances. “I’m not a data point, I am a human being,” she writes. “And so are you.”
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)