Sunday, February 26, 2023

Review of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (04/15/2023)

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Eventually, companies began to explain these violations as the necessary quid pro quo for “free” internet services.  Privacy, they said, was the price one must pay for the abundant rewards of information, connection, and other digital goods when, where, and how you want them.  These explanations distracted us from the sea change that would rewrite the rules of capitalism and the digital world.” – Shoshana Zuboff, Chapter 2: August 9, 2011: Setting the Stage for Surveillance Capitalism, Page 62

“Surveillance capitalism lays claim to these decision rights.  The typical complaint is that privacy is eroded, but that is misleading.  In the larger societal pattern, privacy is not eroded but redistributed, as decision rights over privacy are claimed for surveillance capital.  Instead of people having the rights to decide how and what they will disclose, these rights are concentrated within the domain of surveillance capitalism.  Google discovered this necessary element of the new logic of accumulation: it must assert the rights to take the information upon which its success depends.” – Shoshana Zuboff, Chapter 3: The Discovery of Behavioral Surplus, Page 101

“The theory and practice of dispossession were developed and refined as the company learned how to counter and transform public resistance as an essential condition for the protection and expansion of its behavioral surplus franchise.” – Shoshana Zuboff, Chapter 5: The Elaborate Of Surveillance Capitalism: Kidnap, Corner, Compete, Page 154


Review

Overview:

Within surveillance capitalism, digital users provide their experiences as data to be used to modify their behavior.  Data used by digital firms, to change user behavior for financial reward.  Data used to be used to enhance user experience, but has become the source of profit.  Not just profit, but also political power.  As the data can be used to find people that need persuading.  Power is held with those who hold the data.  The way the data is gathered and used threatens what it means to be human, democracy, and people’s sovereignty.  

Data is sold to other businesses, and rendered into behavioral predictions.  The way they get user data, is through covert means.  Spying on everyday lives without consent.  Gathering and modifying personal data.  Claimed to be anonymous, but can be used to identify the person.  Digital firms claim that privacy is the cost of using the seemingly free products.  Privacy violations that are enabled through legal terms of agreement.  Without a way to opt out of the privacy violations, especially because society has become dependent on using digital means to communicate and engage with others.  Privacy for use of products is not a legitimate choice anyone should make.  Especially because the privacy violations are not actually needed to run the applications. 

 

Dependency On The Digital Realm:

Digital interactions have become ubiquitous and familiar, but without much reflection on what these interactions mean.  The digital realm created a networked world that enabled capabilities and prospects, but came with negative psychological consequences.  Life has become dependent on the services that the internet provides, but to use the internet requires destruction of various human values.  Cognitive dissonance occurs with the use of the digital realm, for it provides a lot of value, but at a very large personal and social cost.  An illegitimate choice that has become normalized.

Applications have purposely found ways to become addictive.  As people engage with them in higher frequencies, and for longer durations.  Becoming a compulsion.  Meant for relief, but generates anxiety.  Technology has accelerated various socialization developments, become a necessity for social participation, and are used for the sake of connection.  Social pressure generates a tendency to over-share. 

 

Data, Security, And A Choice:

Earlier digital applications acknowledged the data the was being produced, with the data usage being in control of the user.  Data initially was used for the user.  Emphasizing the sovereignty of the individual, and places of sanctuary within private domains.  Data that did not cost the customers anything, while the data enabled better experiences of products and the expansion of available products.

Data has become a tool of oppression.  Individuals no longer have privacy or security with their personal information.  There is a lack of accountability for data security.  Data that is being used and sold for predictive analysis.  Refusal to adhere to individual data use, means risking service and product functionality.  Risking the safety of the individual.

The products and services provided by surveillance capitalism do not have a value exchange.  Their producer-consumer reciprocities are not constructive.  Those who use free products are not customers, for there is no economic exchange, nor are the users working for the firm.  Unlike workers who are paid for their efforts, users of free digital products are not paid for their efforts.  Users are not customers, nor the product, they are raw material used to create surplus.  The products and services are created to tempt users, who then become part of the program to extractive user personal experiences for other peoples wants.  The products made are meant to predict behavior.  People are the source of raw-material supply of the data used to make the predictions.

Privacy violations have become explained as necessary for the free internet services.  Privacy is the price for access to information and other products.  Explanations that distract from the even further violations within the digital realm.  A dispossession developed and refined to better able counter and transform public resistance into protection and expansion of the behavioral surplus operations.  The way digital services change behavior is by the cycle of incursion, habituation, adaptation, and redirection. 

Privacy is redistributed rather than eroded.  Rights over privacy are now concentrated with digital providers.  These rights are what enable surveillance capitalism’s success.  Using language to hide how they are using the rights over privacy.  This means the loss of individual’s sovereignty, for they do not have control over their own data. 

Whether or not an individual chooses to engage with digital application, digital firms will engage with them.  People will go to other people’s private homes, to engage with the digital application. 

 

Surveillance Capitalism:

Surveillance capitalism claims the right to use human experience as a free raw material, for the purpose of behavioral data and modification.  Outcomes of the data use are proprietary behavioral surplus, used to predict what the individual will do. 

The competitive process with surveillance capitalism pressures the firms to continuously obtain more data, from more sources.  Then use that data to modify behavior towards profitable outcomes.  A digital framework that knows and shapes behavior at scale.  An attempt to automate individuals, and society.  What the digital firms want, is to know the individual better than they know themselves.

Surveillance capitalism does not come about due to technological inevitabilities, but because of capitalistic logic.  The firms make surveillance appear inevitable, when it is actually just a means for commercial ends that favors the firms.  

Surveillance capitalists exploitation of the data they gathered, is explained in terms of emancipation to sway the generated anxieties.  But the processes they use to obtain the data, is hidden.  They keep power through ignorance.  Surveillance capitalism’s power comes through information asymmetry.  They know everything about the individual, but their operations are not made know to others.  They have gathered information from each individual, to use not for the individual, but for someone else. 

Digital firms found ways to legitimize and legalize their incursion into user experiences.  They legitimate their claims with obscure and incomprehensible terms-of-service agreements.  Even reading the abusive contract would require far longer than people actually read the contract.  Without accepting terms of service, would mean loss of updates for functionality and security.  Accepting some apps, gives them permission to collect and modify sensitive information.  Such as calling private numbers, and accessing the camera for identification purpose. Calls are recorded, and given to third-party firms to review how the voice renders into text.  To improve the voice system algorithms.  The recordings are claimed to be anonymous, but people are sharing very sensitive information, that can be used to identify them.  Apps collude with other apps covertly.  Activating an app, triggers a variety of other tracking apps.

Application creates choice architecture to elicit specific behavior.  To experiment on behavior modification for profit, and without human awareness.  Academic and government experiments need to comply with set rules to prevent abuses.  Which includes review boards.  While private digital firms go beyond what is acceptable under the rules, and are more likely to have conflicts of interest.  Digital firms behavior goes beyond established law and social norms.

 

Legal Status:

Google has a patent for targeted advertising.  That they have the rights over users’ personal information.  Rights that were held by users in the original social contract.  The patent made Google an active agent in data gathering.  Google’s digital targeted advertising led to financial success, but was also transformed into an automated auction.

The expropriation of experience depends on the laws making sure it is legal.  Changing the laws of surveillance, would make the surveillance capitalism model unsustainable.  Surveillance firms fight hard prevents laws that threaten their access to free behavioral surplus.

Content distributors and publisher are under different legal systems.  While publishers are liable for defamation posts, distributors are not.  Applications that do not review content posted, tend to be seen as a distributor.  Companies that did set standards for the content and removed posts that violated the standards, were deemed to take responsibility for the content and therefore considered a publisher.  This created a no-win situation.  The more a company would protect the users from malicious content, the more responsibility for the content the company would have.  Either benefiting free speech or scoundrels.  Section 230 was meant to resolve that contradiction, by allowing some control over content, without the risk of legal repercussions.  This contradiction does not much apply to surveillance capitalism.  The content providers data is now being used to render into behavioral data that leads to product sales.  Section 230’s protection of intermediaries now protects the surveillance operations from examination.

 

Technology Leaders, And Politicians:

Politicians have chosen to attach themselves to internet providers leaders to appear as willing to make a change.  But that proximity is a threat to every other internet provider.  Google’s leadership’s contact with the presidency, threatened Google’s competitors.  Providing technical support and taking part in the electoral cycle.  With the help of the digital realm, the campaigns knew everyone who they needed to persuade, and along with their personal and private social data. 

Tech industry, specifically Google, is a major contributor to political lobbying efforts.  They use their efforts to prevent legislation that would impede their extraction of behavioral surplus. 

Surveillance capitalism can be used by governments as well.  For political purposes, rather than market ones.  A forfeiture of freedom, for knowledge that is used by the state.  

A technology of behavior has the potential to reject the idea of freedom.  Technology that can harmonize human behavior.  Giving up freedom for guaranteed outcomes.  Freedom requires the individual’s to choose how to develop themselves, not behavioral modification programs.

 

Caveats?

The book can be difficult to read, especially because of the ideological origins of the ideas.  Simplifying and misdirecting some of the ideology unto wrong targets.  The author uses language in the same way the author claims the digital firms use language to persuade people to give up their privacy rights. 

The focus of the book is about the wrongs of behavioral modification.  But behavioral modification is not always against the individual.  As the author makes the case, what makes behavioral modification acceptable is a legitimate choice made by the user.  While the way behavioral modification occurs is through covert means.  What is limited in this book, are practical ways to identify the covert means that firms use.  Practical ways to identify the inappropriate behavioral modification.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is surveillance capitalism?  
•How has data use changed?
•How is data used by digital firms?
•How is data used by politics? 
•Who has rights of data?
•Who has rights over privacy? 
•Why are there privacy violations? 
•How are free products paid for?
•Why do people use digital products?
•What patent enables the use of personal information for behavioral modification? 
•What is the Aware Home?  How did Aware Home initially consider their data?  How did their data usage change? 
•How do digital firms make their privacy violations legal?
•What is the different between content distributors and publishers?  
•How is surveillance capitalism used for politics?
•What are the common rules that academic and government experiments required to comply with? 
•How did Pok√©mon Go influence behavior? 
•Do you have anything to hide? 
•What is instrumentarian power?  How is it different from totalitarianism?  
•What are declarations?
•What does it mean to render data?

Book Details
Publisher:             PublicAffairs [Hachette Book Group]
Edition ISBN:      9781610395700
Pages to read:       546
Publication:          2019
1st Edition:           2018
Format:                 eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall          4






Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Review of A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = History
Book Club Event = Book List (06/03/2023)

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Some planets were believed to bring good luck, others misfortune: Mars meant war and Venus, Love.  To each of the five planets known to them they dedicated a day, and with the sun and moon, that made seven” – E.H. Gombrich, Chapter 4: Sunday, Monday, Page 39

“Knowing how to die like that isn’t easy.  But knowing how to live is perhaps, even harder.  And this is what the Athenians aimed to do.  They weren’t looking for an easy, comfortable life, but one which had meaning.  A Life of which something remained after one’s death.  Something of benefit to those who came after.  You shall see how they succeeded.”  – E.H. Gombrich, Chapter 9: Two Small Cities in One Small Land, Page 62

“It’s a bad idea to try to prevent people from knowing their own history.  If you want to do anything new you must first make sure you know what people have tried before.” – E.H. Gombrich, Chapter 14: An Enemy of History, Page 97


Review

Overview:

This is a history of humanity.  A diverse and global history of humanity.  Even though the book was directed for an audience of children, this book does not shy away from the complexity of history.  Acknowledging the limits to history, the lack of information, and explaining how information survived.  The controversies and the political power struggles.  The rise, fall, diffusion, and assimilations of various peoples, and empires.  The way states gained and lost their sovereignty.  How individuals gained sovereignty.  The way philosophies and religions shaped power.  How technological changes shaped society. 

Having an understanding of history means knowing alternative ways of being and thinking.  To know what has been tried, and avoid the mishaps.  History provides a direction for future actions.  History is full of peoples who have had an impact on forthcoming generations.  Knowing history gives meaning to choices currently being made, for they have the power to shape how future generations live. 

 

Caveats?

The audience for this book was children.  To introduce children to history.  For parents to read to their children.  Even though the book does not avoid the complexities of the topics, the way in which the book was written might not be appropriate for mature readers.

The book provides an introduction to various critical topics and junctures in history.  Tempting the reader into searching for more information about the topics.  To understand each topic, would require more research. 

The author acknowledged the potential for making discoveries that provide more information on the details of the topics.  As such, there have been historical discoveries.  Changing how those historical topics are interpreted, and falsifying some details. 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What topics interested you?
•What is the purpose of history?
•What is the use of books?
•What is prehistory?
•How were political struggles handled?
•How did states gain sovereignty?
•How did people gain sovereignty?
•What peoples, regions, and states are represented in the book?
•How did religion shape history?
•What philosophies were represented?
•How did people use money?

Book Details
Translator:            Caroline Mustill
Publisher:             Yale University Press
Edition ISBN:      9780300132076
Pages to read:       279
Publication:          2008
1st Edition:           1936
Format:                 eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          3
Overall          3






Saturday, February 18, 2023

Review of Why Societies Need Dissent by Cass R. Sunstein

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (09/23/2023)
Intriguing Connections = 1) To Cooperate Or To Defect?, 2) How To Have A Conversation?

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“For all these reasons, it is often reasonable to conform.  The problem is that conformity can lead individuals and societies in unfortunate and even catastrophic directions.  The most serious danger is that by following others we fail to disclose what we actually know and believe.  Our silence deprived society of important information.” – Cass R. Sunstein, Preface, Page v

“When a law no longer reflects citizen’s values, people are unlikely to obey it without a great deal of enforcement activity.  And when a law is so inconsistent with people’s values that it cannot, in a democracy, be much enforced, it loses its legitimacy.  It has no claim to regulate conduct at all.” – Cass R. Sunstein, Chapter 2: Obeying (and Disobeying) The Law, Page 53

“In an information cascade, people cease relying, at a certain point, on their private information or opinions.  They decide instead on the basis of the signals conveyed by others.  Once this happens, the subsequent actions, made by a few or many others, give society no new information.  It follows that the behavior of the first few people can, in theory, produce similar behavior from countless followers.” – Cass R. Sunstein, Chapter 3: Traveling in Herds, Page 55


Review

Overview:

Decisions made by people, inform others what to do.  Conformity has advantages, but also consequences.  Conformity can signal good choices, with positive social feedback, while nonconformity can be punished.  Those who dissent from accepted opinions and make different decisions take a risk that they will be socially stigmatized, lack financial opportunities, or even death.  There are consequences to the individual for nonconformity, but there are consequences to society for conformity.  The danger of conformity is depriving the society of valuable information, for conformity can prevent the individual from sharing their information and believes.  Without the information, society and individuals have increased potential to make wrong decisions with undesirable outcomes.  By rejecting pressure to conform, those who dissent take a risk in providing the potentially needed information. 

Conformists free ride on the information of others, without adding their own information.  While dissenters provide information in which the community benefits.  Dissent is not always helpful, for dissenters can speak nonsense, or even take people in bad directions.  Dissent is less needed when the conformists are making correct choices.  But under uncertainty about the appropriateness of decisions and their potential outcomes, a group’s influencing power can prevent productive disagreement. 

 

Conformity and Dissent:

Even those who consider themselves independent and show independence, are influenced by the beliefs and decisions of others.  Individual beliefs and behavior are influenced by other people’s decisions, and for want of social approval.  Conformity can be an aid to decision making.  Lacking information on decisions, the decisions others make provides information on what to do.  That is why people follow the crowd.  That is why people pay attention to the decision of those they trust.  With different groups, coming up with different behaviors and beliefs, because each used the decision of someone else to make their own decisions. 

As more people believe something as true, there is more reason to believe it.  Much of individual’s thought comes from what others thought and did, rather than tacit knowledge of the topic.  Although not all views are held equally, for some are trusted more such as those in authority or with special expertise.  If others seem to agree on something, there is social pressure not to disagree with them, at least in public.  Wanting to be accepted into a group and have social approval, leads to a conformity that discourages conflict and disagreement that prevents the disclosure of information.  Lack of information that leads to poorer group performance. 

Conformity tends to increase with difficult tasks.  Difficult tasks contain more uncertainty.  Therefore, people defer their thoughts to others who appear to be more reliable sources of information. 

Even with extremely obvious solution, in experiments, people choose to conform to the claims of others about the solution.  Peer pressure can induce knowledge falsification, in which public statements misrepresent what the people actual information.  Deferring to the crowd perpetuates group errors.

Widespread conformity is a problem, for it deprives the public of valuable information.  Conformists not only follow others, but also silence themselves.  They do not disclose knowledge that might benefit others.  Conformity can prevent people from acknowledging what they see.  Perpetuating terrible acts, because of their silence. 

Few people might not speak out against a dominant view that is false but thought to be true, because they might not correct the dominant view while risking reputational damage.  Although, even a single dissenter can dramatically alter decision making for a group.  Reducing conformity and errors.

Conformist tend to be thought of as favoring social cohesion.  Dissenters tend to be thought of as being selfish individuals.  Although in reality, dissenters provide valuable information for the public, while conformists protect themselves.  Those who dissent take various personal risks, sometimes even risking their lives.  Dissenters can have valuable information, but might not voice the information due to lack of incentives for the dissenter, or because of potential repercussions.  Dissenters do need to be rewarded for them to voice their information. 

Groups that prioritize social cohesion over valuable discussions with dissent, have worse performance.  To create quality outcomes, a culture needs to be developed in which disagreement is welcomed without punishing dissenters.  A method for doing that is with anonymous sources of information. 

Contrarians are not meant to be celebrated.  They are rewarded not for providing appropriate information, but for simply disagreeing.  There is more to dissent than just a willingness to disagree.

 

Social Cascades:

Social cascades start with few people’s behavior which causes others to follow their behavior.  Other follow because they believe the behavior is appropriate, or want social approval.  As more and more people follow the behavior, they no longer rely on their private information, and do not share information with the group.  Lack of information that can lead to catastrophe.

Within an information cascade, people stop replying on their private information at some point.  They rely on signals sent by others.  Following those that are following others, yields no new information.  Without private information, participation in a cascade is reasonable.  Benefiting the individual when following others.  People might not reveal appropriate information because they can fear that the information can either hurt the group’s internal or public situation, or might even help adversaries.  Disclosing information can hurt others, such as by sending the wrong signals.

Cascades occur when deferring to the information of others, when predecessors have expert knowledge, and when individuals are rewarded for conforming rather than correct decisions.  Cascades can be reduced when people are rewarded for correct group majorities rather than individual decisions.

Information cascades can be broken by those with enough private information to reject the accumulated wisdom of others.  But even experts can fall into information cascades.   More informed people rely less on other peoples’ signals, and can influence other more.

Within a reputational cascade, people withhold appropriate information to maintain a favorable opinion from others.  Individuals silence themselves to prevent the disapproval of others even though the private information held is more appropriate.  Self-censorship is a social loss. 

Civil liberties such as freedom of speech, insulate people from pressure to conform.  To protect private and public rights from self-silencing.  Free speech prevents government from punishing those who do not accept popular opinions.  A crucial protection that provides a monitoring method on leaders by the citizens.  That are rare cases for legitimate reasons for restricting free speech, when claims can lead to imminent lawless action intent on hurting others.

Conformity coming from good decisions reduces costs of decision making without costly errors.  With high costs to errors, more dissent is needed to provide the diverse information needed to reduce the errors.  There are various ways groups can be diverse, and have conflicts.  Not all of them promote better performance.  Social ties are weaker with dissent.  Disapproving of other group members can lead to lower productivity.  Dissenters can have wrong information, and create conformity pressures of their own which can lead to bad information cascades.  Appropriate group dynamics needs to manage conformity and dissent. 

 

Polarization:

With group polarization, group decisions tend to become more extreme after discussion.  Decisions become amplified in magnitude within group polarization. 

Having dissent corroborated provides validation and self-confidence.  Unanimous confirmation within those who think alike, gives them more confidence in their views which promotes extremism. 

 

Laws and Compliance:

While some laws rarely violated, others are widely disobeyed.  Some laws are not violated, even though violating the law would not be visible or known to others.  Deterred by the potential unpleasant encounters with strangers.  Alternatively, unfair law might be complied with for social approval. 

Laws can be complied with simply by them being made public, rather than through enforcement of laws through punishment of violations.  The expressive function of the law enables people to find out what to do, and that others are complying with the law.  Compliance can come about though reminders of the law, that many others are complying with the law.  The more visible violations of the law, the more compliance there is with the law, to prevent the wrath of others. 

The expressive power of the law depends on whether the law is perceived to be a good source of information about behavior, or what others think about the appropriate behavior.  Laws need to reflect citizen’s values to be legitimate.  Without that legitimacy, the laws are going to be difficult to enforce.  Arbitrarily imposed laws by self-appointed elite, such as dictatorships, signal no information about behavior and must be enforced through terror. 

People consider six factors about laws which are the likelihood of enforcement, severity of punishment, reputational costs of violations, reputational benefits of violations, intrinsic benefits of compliance, and intrinsic costs of compliance. 

 

Caveats?

The book focuses on the consequences of conformity.  The author acknowledges that dissenters are not always beneficial and can lead groups into terrible directions.  But there is very little information on how to recognize and prevent inappropriate dissent.


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What are the advantages and disadvantages of conformity?
•Why do people conform to others?
•Why delegate decision making to others?
•What is the value of a dissenter?
•What risks do dissenters take?
•Is there bad dissent? 
•How does uncertainty influence group decisions? 
•If someone knows what is true, why would they not voice their information? 
•What is knowledge falsification?
•How does conformity and dissent adjust the productivity of the group?
•What are contrarians? 
•What is an information and reputational cascade? 
•Why are there civil liberties like freedom of speech? 
•What are the outcomes of group polarization?
•Why are laws complied with?
•How to increase compliance with the laws?
•What is the law’s expressive power? 
•How does the fable of The Emperor’s New Clothes apply to conformity? 
•How does political correctness effect group decisions? 
•What is group think? 
•What is pluralistic ignorance? 

Book Details
Publisher:             Harvard University Press
Edition ISBN:      9780674017689
Pages to read:       215
Publication:          2003
1st Edition:           2003
Format:                 Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          5






Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Review of The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Novel
Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“I think back to the dream, and how it was snowing when I looked out the window in the girl’s bedroom.  Missy?  Is that the name?  Yes, snow was falling outside the window in Missy’s room.  I wonder that I can remember such a detail from a dream, that my mind can create entire snowscapes for my viewing pleasure while I am asleep.” – Cynthia Swanson, Chapter 2, Page 15-16

“Besides the joy of teaching a child to read, there is another benefit: for more than a week now, the dreams have disappeared.  Each night of that week, I sleep well, solidly, like a stone, without any dreams.” – Cynthia Swanson, Chapter 8, Page 86

“I bite my lip.  I cannot change the mistakes of the past.  All I can do is move forward with whatever future my new reality holds” – Cynthia Swanson, Chapter 31, Page 314


Review

Overview:

Kitty has always wanted a family, but circumstances prevented that realization.  One day, Kitty starts to have dreams, in which Kitty has what appears to be a family that Kitty has always wanted.  Dreams in which Kitty has full awareness in.  Lucid dreams.  The dreams are both very seductive, but also very troubling.  Within the dreams, Kitty discovers startling information.  Information that Kitty uses to find real references to while Kitty is awake.   Changing the way Kitty behaves, and engages with others. 

Kitty knows that the dream family is just that, a dream.  But Kitty cares for them.  Kitty also finds out that the ideal dream family, is not without their complications.  That there are difficulties and struggles that Kitty would have needed to go through to have this family.  The sacrifices Kitty would have needed to make.  This is a story of a coping mechanism that the mind creates to deal with trauma. 

 

Caveats?

The book has a slow pace, until close to the end.  Showing the daily routines, and how they change, to create a psychological twist.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What kind of dreams is Kitty having?
•Why is Kitty having the dreams?
•Who is Kevin?
•Who is Lars?
•How is Kitty’s relationship with Kitty’s parents?
•Is the dream family like?
•How is Kitty’s relationship with Frieda?
•What is a true companion? 
•What are the differences between the worlds Kitty dreams of and the real world? 


Book Details
Edition:                First Edition
Publisher:             HarperCollins
Edition ISBN:      9780062333001
Pages to read:       336
Publication:          2015
1st Edition:           2015
Format:                 Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          2
Overall          2






Friday, February 10, 2023

Review of Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming by McKenzie Funk

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (08/19/2023)
Intriguing Connections = 1) How To Allocate Resources?

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“In retrospect, this was the moment that we began to believe in global warming – not in the abstract science of it, which most could already passively accept, but in the fact that there were money and power to be won and lost.” – McKenzie Funk, Chapter 1: Cold Rush: Canada Defends The Northwest Passage, Page 20

 “As a barrier to such an insurgent threat, most scientists agreed, a phalanx of green was largely futile.  As a symbol, however – of the protective crouch the world was beginning to adopt in the face of warming, of Africa’s particularly lonely position, of how much money rich, high-emissions countries would pay to save themselves from warming’s effects versus how little they would pay to save poorer countries – the Great Green Wall was much more potent.” – McKenzie Funk, Chapter 8: Green Wall, Black Wall: Africa Tries To Keep The Sahara At Bay; Europe Tries To Keep Africa At Bay, Page 163

“The hardest truth about climate change is that it is not equally bad for everyone.  Some people – the rich, the northern – will find ways to thrive while others cannot, and many people will wall themselves off from the worst effects of warming while others remain on the wrong side.  The problem with our profiting off this disaster is not that it is morally bankrupt to do so but that climate change, unlike some other disasters, is man-made” – McKenzie Funk, Epilogue: Magical Thinking, Page 288


Review

Overview:

Climate change has become a business.  From technology companies, to financial firms trying to profit from the changing environmental conditions.  Society is preparing for the very climate change that society is creating.  Adapting to the climate change, rather than mitigating climate change.  Climate change is changing the political structure of the world.  Challenging the sovereignty of states.  For some nations, climate change is providing access to more resources.  For others nations, their lands are threatened.  Climate change is exacerbating the maldistribution of resources.  There are winners and losers of climate change. 

Innovations are developed to take on the effects of climate change, but technology tends to have negative consequences for the environment it is trying to ameliorate.  The wealthier nations tend to not only be the biggest producers of greenhouse emissions, but also have the most resources to respond to the detrimental effects of climate change.  Those with the resources can protect themselves against the detrimental effects. 

 

Caveats?

As the author acknowledges, this is not a book about the science of climate change.  This is a book about the responses to climate change.  Following a diverse set of perspectives as they share their responses to climate change.  There is a lack of systematic analysis on the problems, but does express what the problems are, and provides hints of complexity.  The book is an introduction to understanding the changing environmental, economic, and political structure of climate change. 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is climate change?
•What does climate change effect? 
•How do people respond to the changes in the climate?
•How has climate change become a business?
•Who are the emitters of greenhouse gases?
•Who are the ones being punished most by climate change?
•What is the difference between adaptation and mitigation of climate change?
•Why does Shell believe in climate change?
•Why do financial firms seek climate related investments?
•How does climate change effect insurance?
•How does climate change effect state sovereignty? 
•What are the technological responses to climate change? 

Book Details

Publisher:             The Penguin Press [Penguin Random House Company]
Edition ISBN:      9781594204012
Pages to read:       289
Publication:          2014
1st Edition:           2014
Format:                 Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall          3






Monday, February 6, 2023

Review of The Arch of Knowledge: An Introductory Study of the History of the Philosophy and Methodology of Science by David Oldroyd

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Intriguing Connections = What Makes Science A Science?

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“A knowledge of the history of ideas concerning the nature and methods of science is a valuable component of philosophical education.  By the same token, knowledge of the history of general philosophy can assist greatly towards an understanding of the ways in which scientific inquiries are carried out and the kind of thinking that is characteristically employed by scientists in their investigations.” – David Oldroyd, Preface, Page 3

“The information that we can acquire through our sense organs – knowledge of appearances – is deceptive and illusory, according to Plato.  Also, though one may happen to form a ‘true judgment’ correctly, this can be fortuitous.  So merely being ‘right’ about something doesn’t mean that one has knowledge.  To have knowledge, Plato argued, one much apprehend the forms or Ideas of things.” – David Oldroyd, Chapter 1: The Ancient Tradition, Page 8

“Positivists generally unite in their desire to eliminate ‘essences’ from science, and they take the nominalist view of language.  Moreover, they believe it possible to distinguish between facts and values, and maintain that values should be kept out of science.  They usually repudiate the claims of traditional theology and hold that there is no transcendent world of value.” – David Oldroyd, Chapter 5: Nineteenth-Century Positivism, Page 169


Review

Overview:

Science has a history, and a philosophy.  From philosophical origins of logic, categorization, and abstract mathematical language, to systematic methodological experimentation.  Those who would attempt to improve an understanding, utilized scientific tools and ideas, but they also came across their limitations.  Knowing epistemology, knowing how knowledge is acquired, means knowing the relationships between the ideas and nature of reality.  Knowing the history of philosophy and methodology of science means becoming a better judge of how scientific inquiry is carried out and how scientists think about their investigations. 

Knowing the limitations of science means being able to find ways to potentially overcome the limitations.  Limitations such as the deceptive ways of how information is acquired, the problem of induction, the scientists’ prior ideas, the social interaction of the ideas, and that all knowledge is subject to doubt.  This is a book about the individuals who developed the scientific foundations.  Developed when trying to apply prior concepts to obtain an understanding.  

 

Philosophy and Science:

Within the ancient tradition, abstract math was meant to train the mind.  An understanding of abstract math that would result in the production of practice knowledge.  Even during this era there was a distinction between practical and theoretical knowledge, but with a different meaning.  The free individual would consider the theoretic aspects of a problem, while the slave would be doing the practical aspect of measurements. 

Science depends on logical statements, on syllogistic logic.  Which is concerned with forms of arguments, the validity of an argument.  Syllogistic logic is not concerned with whether the premises and conclusions are true or false. 

Science depends on induction, but induction is a logically invalid method.  Induction is how general claims are made from particular knowledge.  Deductive method is an application of general statements to the particular claims.  Deduction required testing the claims.  With new science philosophy seeking knowledge through experimentation.  Trying to falsify the theories made.  A scientific philosophy of positivism even claims to be able to separate facts and values.  That values could be kept out of science.  As more empirical claims are made, the claims require less empirical evidence and become true by convention. 

 

Caveats?

This book is very difficult to read.  Frequently focusing on the technical science, the ideas produced, rather than the method and process of science.  Although the book is meant to be an introduction to epistemology, the book is more valuable to those who already have an understanding of epistemology, and have background information on the various philosophers and scientists discussed.  For those with an interest in epistemology, the book can be a source reference.

The philosopher and scientist represented are primarily European, and American.  This is problematic because much of science was developed elsewhere, such as the Middle-East. 

 

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is epistemology?
•Why try to understand the philosophical aspects of science?
•What is science?
•How did philosophy shape science?
•What are the limitations of science?
•How was math used in ancient societies?
•What is syllogistic logic?
•What is the induction?
•Why experiment?
•What is scientific positivism?

Book Details
Publisher:             Methuen
Edition ISBN:      0416013414
Pages to read:       371
Publication:          1986
1st Edition:           1986
Format:                 Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    1
Content          2
Overall          1






Friday, February 3, 2023

Review of Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   



Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Political decisions helped to create the super-elite in the first place, and as the economic might of the super-elite grows, so does its political muscle.  The feedback loop between money, politics, and ideas is both cause and consequence of the rise of the super-elite.” – Chrystia Freeland, Introduction, Page xiv

“George’s popularity is an example of the appeal of the rentier critique – a vision of capitalism without the cronies.  That’s something we can all subscribe to.  It is also one reason coming to terms with today’s super-elite is trickier than it was in the age of the robber barons.  The crony class is, of course, still alive and well.  But one of the striking characteristics of modern-day plutocrats is that, in contrast with their nineteenth-century predecessors, they are largely the working rich.  Even today’s rent-seeking plutocrats work for a living.” – Chrystia Freeland, Chapter 2: Culture of the Plutocrats, Page 42

“We are all familiar with the Matthew effect in pop culture, where it is so apparent that it seems as inevitable and unremarkable as gravity.  Celebrities are famous for being famous.  And fame is its own achievement and currency.” – Chrystia Freeland, Chapter 3: Superstars, Page 123


Review

Overview:

Politics facilitated the creation of the super-rich, the plutocrats.  As the super-rich become wealthier, they obtain political power.  Plutocrats were called robber barons during the industrial revolution.  Plutocrats are the cronies of capitalism.  Unlike the historical robber baron counterpart, plutocrats are the working rich.  Their wealth was generated through effort, rather than inherited wealth.  They are economic meritocrats, who not only consume wealth but create it.  Plutocrats utilized technology and globalization to reach more people than ever.  Plutocrats compete with each for more money, and have redefined what it means to be rich. 

The rich and poor work very long hours, but better to be the plutocrat.  Plutocrats have better benefits with better severance packages.  Wealth impacts life satisfaction for everyone, not just the plutocrats.  Although people are making more money, they are generally more frustrated with their income source.  Economic growth at the expense of life satisfaction.  Even behavior changes as people become wealthier.  The affluent tend to behave more unethically.  Tending to prioritize themselves over others. 

The wealthy can self-tax through charities.  Some claim that they prefer charities of their own selection, rather than government using their money through taxation.  Some plutocrats tend to see themselves as victims, and claim that they should be respected because they provide the jobs and have created a lot of value. 

An interesting relationship between government and the private sector exists, because of a revolving door.  There are many who work as regulators and then as the regulated, or vice versa.  A relationship that creates a conflict of interest when engaging with each other. 

Labor market has become polarized.  With better and highly paid jobs at the top, without much change for the bottom.  The middle-income jobs have been hollowed out.  Knowledge workers have become higher paid because technology used has become personal to each individual.  The worker is able to take their tools with them and apply their knowledge elsewhere.  Silicon Valley figured out how to make their system be more egalitarian, by contracting out the lowest paid jobs.  Thereby they do not count as employees. 

There are workers who are famous.  Being a celebrity means being famous, for the fact that the person is famous.   Firms need to pay more for those celebrities.  Not because of talent, but because they are famous.  A celebrity surcharge. 

 

Caveats?

The quality of claims and counterclaims varies.  While there are claims that are given a complex understanding, with the implications and consequences of the claims.  There are claims which are standalone, without much analysis.

There is a survivorship bias.  Few plutocrats are analyzed, and they appear to be representatives of the group.  The plutocrats referenced have been wealthy for some time.  But the group of plutocrats have changed, which means that not all plutocrats had effective political power.

The book prioritizes showing the way the system operates, and lacks potential resolutions to the inequality problem.  The problem is expressed as more complex than the historic inequality era’s.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is a plutocrat?
•What was a robber baron?
•What are the consequences of a plutocracy?
•How do plutocrats become wealthy?
•Are the rich happier?
•How is the rich behavior compared ethically to poorer people?
•What is a self-tax?
•How should the plutocrats be thought of?
•What is the revolving door?
•Why is the labor market polarized?
•How did Silicon Valley become more egalitarian?
•What happens to plutocrats who are in the government but dissent?
•Who was Henry George and what were George’s ideas?
•What is the celebrity surcharge? 

Book Details
Publisher:             The Penguin Press [Penguin Group]
Edition ISBN:      9781594204098
Pages to read:       294
Publication:          2012
1st Edition:           2012
Format:                 Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          3