Tag Archives: technology

@FTThum #BookReview ‘everybody lies: What the internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are’ by Seth Stephen-Davidowitz

I am intrigued by the impact of internet on human lives. This book is about an aspect of it.

Title:      everybody lies: What the internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are
Author:  Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Publishers: Bloomsbury Publishing, UK (2018)
Format: Paperback
Pages:   338
Genre: Non-fiction, Science, Technology, Psychology, Sociology

 

 

What’s it about?

As Steven Pinker(cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author) states in the foreword, “this is a book about a whole new way of studying the mind” and, I would add, human behaviour.

This book is less about big data science than about the new innovative ways of thinking, of designing, and of approaching the questions we ask of our life.

Stephens-Davidowitz makes his points by regaling the reader with early Big Data collected through Google searches and clicks, predominantly. Facebook also features as with other Silicon Valley data companies.  “everybody lies” gives new and interesting insights into matters such as the effect of assassination of leader on a country’s economy, or going to a great university equates to a better career or larger paycheck.

Stephens-Davidowitz provides a definition of “data” which is no longer limited to numbers or words. For a data scientist such as he, Big Data has four virtues. First, Big Data as “digital truth serum” as people are most honest without an apparent audience leading to honest data on say, sexual preferences or racial discrimination. It provide honest data.  Second, it offers a way to run large-scale randomized controlled experiment through the click of the mouse. Third, Big Data allows us, through the large scale sample, to zoom in on subsets of people and with greater accuracy. Fourth, Big Data provides new types of data.

What’s logical and rational before is no longer enough nor are the experiment results accurate enough. The scope of our sample size has significantly increased withe the internet, so why think small?

That is not to say, as Stephens-Davidowitz points out, that Big Data is the answer but it is a valuable resource which we are ill-advised to ignore. Information is king or queen, and this is truer than before. Social science is becoming real science, Stephens-Davidowitz says. Why? Read the book.

Stephens-Davidowitz encourages us to approach this field with curiosity and creativity when contemplating how we use and manage data. Data however is neither good or evil; it is powerful.  In “everybody lies”, he cautions against what Big Data cannot do and what we shouldn’t do with Big Data.

Would I recommend it?

Reading this book is a pleasurable journey. Highly recommended.

My rating:                 4/5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2018 LitWorldInterviews

@FTTHUM #BOOKREVIEW ‘HOMO DEUS’ BY YUVAL NOAH HARARI

The sub-title “A Brief History of Tomorrow” caught my attention, and as my daughter said, “of course! You are a nerd”.  🙂

Title:          Homo Deus:  Brief History of Tomorrow
Author:        Yuval Noah Harari
Publishers:     Vintage Arrow (3 April 2017)
Format:          Paperback
Pages:             400 pages
Genre:           Non-Fiction – Literary

What’s it about?

What is the meaning of life?

What is the purpose of life?

What compels human evolution?

What motivates human society?

What is the future of humankind?

Yuval Noah Harari attempts to answer these questions and provides, as indicated in the sub-title, a possible future based on human history. It is a book about an apocalyptic future in which technology plays a major role.

Harari is a history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, whose widely-acclaimed 2014 book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” plotted the history of human activity. “Homo Deus” (literal translation to Latin, man-god) is thus a sequel, if you like, to “Sapiens” in charting what the future will hold.

Harari is quick to qualify his hypotheses, that should this book enlightens and thus changes the future away from the trajectory which he predicts then he has done his job. Ominous, doesn’t it?

It is Harari’s proposition that for this century, humans’ search for meaning will be directed at playing God – to create new life forms and as intelligent designers of our own Utopia – that is to achieve bliss, immortality and divinity. This is contrasted with historical human activity geared towards merely meeting our basic needs of overcoming sickness, hunger and war.

“The entire contract [between humans and modernity] can be summarised in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power.” And for this, there will be a price to pay.

Against the backdrop of rapid technological advancement, Harari suggests we will live in the age of data-ism, in which our faith in data and algorithms will be sacrosanct, as our faith in God was. And with the accelerating rise of technology and machines, long-term future is not imaginable nor predictable. Thus, his initial qualification.

The book does not envisage the end of humanity, rather humanity as we know it.  It perhaps serves as a warning against mindless and unconscious reliance on technology and data, and it begs the question: which would you choose – consciousness or intelligence?

And let me end with this – quoting Harari:

The rise of AI and technology will certainly transform the world, but it does not mandate a single deterministic outcome. All the scenarios outlined in this book should be understood as possibilities rather than prophecies. If you don’t like some of these possibilities you are welcome to think and behave in new ways that will prevent these particular possibilities from materialising.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, especially to readers interested in alternate or different perspectives,  and willing to explore diverse conceptions of human civilisation.

My rating:                  4/5

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2017 LitWorldInterviews

Book Review. The Martian by Andy Weir.

The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian by Andy Weir

Title:   The Martian
Author:   Andy Weir
ISBN-10: 0091956145

ISBN-13: 978-0091956141

ASIN: B00FAXJHCY

Although I’m not much of an engineer and my knowledge of physics and chemistry is by now rusty at best, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s a story of survival of the human spirit, creativity and problem solving at its best.

In previous reviews I have commented on how usually we put ourselves in the place of the protagonists of the books we’re reading and wonder what we would do. I can honestly say if I had been in Mark Watney’s place (abandoned alone in Mars), I’d be dead.

Of course he’s an engineer, a botanist and an astronaut, so he’s not your usual Joe. Even by those standards, he seems like an extraordinary human being as he never (or very seldom) gets downtrodden and keeps trying and going, no matter what. Resilience should be his second name.

I cannot comment on how accurate many of the suggestions or situations in the book are (and I’m sure people will have as reference other stories, books and movies), although I know whilst I was reading it, it seemed well constructed, plausible, and to my untrained eye the story felt true.

I found the epistolary (logs) style appropriate and suited to the content (this is not somebody trying to write a novel or a confessional), the book thrilling, and the adventures of this modern day Robinson Crusoe gripping and impossible to put down.

Do we get to know much about Mark? Probably not, other than his steel determination, his sense of humour (somewhat infantile, but hey, whatever helps) and his resourcefulness. There is no much character development, but maybe survival is far too consuming an activity to allow for much of anything else. We know the other characters more through their actions than through deep psychological insights, but this is an adventure book and it focuses on doing.

We can’t help but ask ourselves if in real life the team around him and the whole world would have been so generous. One seriously wonders, but there are wonderful examples of human generosity and we can only hope so.

Having had a quick look at the negative reviews I observed that many people said it read like an instructions manual and it was boring. Although it’s not the most emotionally engaging book I’ve ever read, I didn’t find it slow or boring, just the opposite. But maybe it’s me. And it seems a few other people. I’d recommend it to anybody who finds the premise interesting, but just in case have a look inside and read a sample, as the style does not change much and if you don’t like the beginning you might not get along with the book.

Book Highlights: The sheer amount of detail and technical knowledge.

 Challenges of the book: As above. From reading some reviews people found the science part of it a bit hard to stomach. Also, I got the sense that the main character is somebody writing a log for posterity, but not somebody who wanted to discuss his feelings or philosophical insights, rather an eminently practical person. Also, at some point in the book somebody mentions he coped with situations by using humour. Sometimes he appears too upbeat, but then…when you’re alone you have to get on with it.

 What do you get from it: A story of endurance of the human spirit and determination to hang on to life. And a lot of details about life (or the absence of it) on Mars.

 What I would have changed if anything: I would have liked to know more about the life of the character before he was in the situation he is in, but he does not linger on thoughts about his life or himself much and in such circumstances, maybe keeping busy would be the best defence mechanism. Also, we only get what’s written, not the truly alone and unrecorded moments. Taken at face value the form and the content appear suited to each other.

 Who Would I recommend this book to?: People interested in survival stories, and with a certain background or tolerance for lengthy explanations about technical matters. As I comment in the body of the review I don’t think I’m particularly up-to-date in engineering or technical matters, but I’ve always loved solving puzzles and problems and the whole book is a big puzzle.

 

The Martian (Paperback cover)
The Martian (Paperback cover)

 

Ratings:
Realistic Characterization: 3.5/5
Made Me Think: 4.5/5 (more about technical issues than about life in general)
Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5
Readability: 4/5
Recommended: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5
 

Buy it at:  Amazon
Format & Pricing:
Paperback:  $15.48
Kindle:  $5.35

Audio:  $30.99

 

Olga Núñez Miret

@OlgaNM7

http://OlgaNM.wordpress.com

http://www.OlgaNM.com