I went to the library the other day and picked up a copy of Stephen Baker’s The Numerati, which I first wrote about here.
The book is organized into seven chapters which describe ways that data is being analyzed in mass quantities: Worker, Shopper, Voter, Blogger, Terrorist, Patient, and Lover.
You’d think that Lover would be the most interesting but it had the least substance; Voter (about Josh Gotbaum of Spotlight Analysis) was by far the most interesting chapter.
The Numerati was such a quick read that I finished it in just a few short disappointing hours.
I felt Baker was stretching to fill out his book with examples of how mathematicians are dangerously invading our privacy by quantifying and analyzing our lives.
Still, it was entertaining; just keep your expectations low.
Whether you were for or against the bailout bill, these three essays by David Cay Johnston, written for The Plank (a blog for The New Republic) are worth reading:
I’ve been a long-time fan of Johnston’s investigative reporting for The New York Times and after recently reading two of his books — Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich – and Cheat Everybody Else (click here to read an excerpt of the book or click here to read my entries on this book) and Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill) (click here to read my entries on this book or click here to read excerpts and view the table of contents on the author’s website for this book) — I’ve come to trust Johnston as an advocate for the common person.
It seems to me that instead of doing concrete research into how the bailout bill might affect Americans and the global economy, most media sources were simply fear-mongering about the chaos that we were doomed to if the bailout failed to pass. I’m also disappointed that Congress appears not to have considered alternatives to the bailout bill initially proposed by Hank Paulson and instead just worked to improve it.
It couldn’t have hurt them to talk to some of the world’s economists who had differing opinions.
Absent that, we can trust Johnston to speak up for us.
Got more recommendations from friends this week:
Gender equality seems to be on people’s minds — maybe it has to do with Sarah Palin? — and a friend recommended Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever to learn about why women don’t earn the same amount as men. Using research and interviews, this book answers these questions and more:
- Why do most women see a negotiation as an automatic fight instead of a chance to get what they deserve?
- Why are women afraid to ask for what they want in the workplace?
- And perhaps most importantly, why don’t women feel entitled to ask for it?
MIT earns a so a friend who knows I’m an alum of MIT recommended University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education by Jennifer Washburn. Washburn argues that American universities have discarded the very values and practices that have made them so successful asthey have made secretive connections with private industry that have begun to “undermine the foundation of public trust on which all universities depend.” Janet Rae-Dupree quotes Washburn and mentions this book in this September 6, 2008 New York Times article “When Academia Puts Profit Ahead of Wonder,” which I found to be an interesting critique of unversity technology licensing.
So much to read…