The System: Who Owns the Internet, and How It Owns Us
Review from Book Depository:
Seaweed is so familiar and yet its names - pepper dulse, sea lettuce, bladderwrack - are largely unknown to us.
The internet is a network of physical cables and connections, a web of wires enmeshing the world, linking huge data centres to one another and eventually to us. All are owned by someone, financed by someone, regulated by someone.
We refer to the internet as abstract from reality. By doing so, we obscure where the real power lies.
In this powerful and necessary book, James Ball sets out on a global journey into the inner workings of the system. From the computer scientists to the cable guys, the billionaire investors to the ad men, the intelligence agencies to the regulators, these are the real-life figures powering the internet and pulling the strings of our society.
Ball brilliantly shows how an invention once hailed as a democratising force has concentrated power in places it already existed - that the system, in other words, remains the same as it did before.
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Q. Do you have a favourite smart thinking book (and why that book)?
It's a very tough choice, but if I had to pick just one favourite it would probably be Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. It's immensely rare to read any book so deeply researched and yet so readable and gripping. It absolutely upended my views on effective and ineffective interventions on low income, and is just consistently fascinating from beginning to end, and stayed in my head for years after reading. Plus the subject matter could hardly be more important: what do we do for the billions of people living on subsistence wages or below?
Review From Book Depository:
Why would a man in Morocco who doesn't have enough to eat buy a television? Why do the poorest people in India spend 7 percent of their food budget on sugar? Does having lots of children actually make you poorer?
This eye-opening book overturns the myths about what it is like to live on very little, revealing the unexpected decisions that millions of people make every day. Looking at some of the most paradoxical aspects of life below the poverty line - why the poor need to borrow in order to save, why incentives that seem effective to us may not be for them, and why, despite being more risk-taking than high financiers, they start businesses but rarely grow them - Banerjee and Duflo offer a new understanding of the surprising way the world really works.
Science Fictions: Exposing Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science
Review From Book Depository:
So much relies on science. But what if science itself can't be relied on?
Medicine, education, psychology, health, parenting - wherever it really matters, we look to science for guidance. Science Fictions reveals the disturbing flaws that undermine our understanding of all of these fields and more.
While the scientific method will always be our best and only way of knowing about the world, in reality the current system of funding and publishing science not only fails to safeguard against scientists' inescapable biases and foibles, it actively encourages them. Many widely accepted and highly influential theories and claims - about 'priming' and 'growth mindset', sleep and nutrition, genes and the microbiome, as well as a host of drugs, allergies and therapies - turn out to be based on unreliable, exaggerated and even fraudulent papers. We can trace their influence in everything from austerity economics to the anti-vaccination movement, and occasionally count the cost of them in human lives.
Stuart Ritchie has been at the vanguard of a new reform movement within science aimed at exposing and fixing these problems. In this vital investigation, he gathers together the evidence of their full and shocking extent and proposes a host of remedies to save and protect this most valuable of human endeavours from itself.
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Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book?
Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, which I still re-read perhaps every other year, and still find something new. They just absolutely took me to multiple new worlds and remain a heartbreaking delight.
Review From Book Depository:
This special collection features all three titles in the award-winning trilogy: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.
Lyra Belacqua lives half-wild and carefree among the scholars of Jordan College, with her daemon familiar always by her side. But the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle - a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armoured bears.
The Subtle Knife
Lyra finds herself in a shimmering, haunted otherworld - Cittagazze, where soul-eating Spectres stalk the streets and wingbeats of distant angels sound against the sky. But she is not without allies: twelve-year-old Will Parry, fleeing for his life after taking another's, has also stumbled into this strange new realm.
On a perilous journey from world to world, Lyra and Will uncover a deadly secret: an object of extraordinary and devastating power. And with every step, they move closer to an even greater threat - and the shattering truth of their own destiny.
The Amber Spyglass
Will and Lyra, whose fates are bound together by powers beyond their own worlds, have been violently separated. But they must find each other, for ahead of them lies the greatest war that has ever been - and a journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned
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Q. Do you prefer reading on paper, Kindle or listening to an audiobook?
It absolutely has to be a paper book for me – it might be the only area in which I'm something of a luddite. I've tried twice with Kindles and failed (though both my parents love theirs), while audiobooks just don't feel like reading to me.
Q. Do you have a favourite bookshop (and why that shop)?
I am physically incapable of walking past a bookshop without going in and don't think I could ever pick a favourite – there's a real joy to the discovery you can do in a physical bookshop that just can't be matched online. Whether it's a chain or an independent, I'll happily buy from any.
Smart Thinking Books was born to shine a spotlight on books that can fuel your mind! Many smart thinking books have changed the way I look at the world for the better, so I started this site to help spread the word. - Daryl Feehely
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