Book Bits: 13 March 2021

Futureproof: 9 Rules for Humans
in the Age of Automation

Kevin Roose
Adaptation excerpt via New York Times
White-collar workers, armed with college degrees and specialized training, once felt relatively safe from automation. But recent advances in A.I. and machine learning have created algorithms capable of outperforming doctors, lawyers and bankers at certain parts of their jobs. And as bots learn to do higher-value tasks, they are climbing the corporate ladder.
The trend — quietly building for years, but accelerating to warp speed since the pandemic — goes by the sleepy moniker “robotic process automation.” And it is transforming workplaces at a pace that few outsiders appreciate. Nearly 8 in 10 corporate executives surveyed by Deloitte last year said they had implemented some form of [robotic process automation] R.P.A. Another 16 percent said they planned to do so within three years.

Stronger: Adapting America’s China Strategy in an Age of Competitive Interdependence
Ryan Hass
Summary via publisher (Yale University Press)
Ryan Hass charts a path forward in America’s relationship and rivalry with China rooted in the relative advantages America already possesses. Hass argues that while competition will remain the defining trait of the relationship, both countries will continue to be impacted—for good or ill—by their capacity to coordinate on common challenges that neither can solve on its own, such as pandemic disease, global economic recession, climate change, and nuclear nonproliferation.
Warren Buffett: Inside the Ultimate Money Mind
Robert G. Hagstrom
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
In Warren Buffett: Inside the Ultimate Money Mind, Hagstrom breaks new ground with a deep analysis of Buffett’s essential wisdom, an intricate mosaic of wide-ranging ideas and insights that Buffett calls a Money Mind. What exactly is a Money Mind? At one level, it’s a way of thinking about major financial issues such as capital allocation. At another level, it summarizes an overall mindset for successfully investing in today’s fast-paced stock market, a mindset that depends on a commitment to learning, adapting, and facing down irrelevant noise.
The Flip Side of Free:
Understanding the Economics of the Internet

Michael Kende
Summary via publisher (MIT Press)
The upside of the Internet is free Wi-Fi at Starbucks, Facetime over long distances, and nearly unlimited data for downloading or streaming. The downside is that our data goes to companies that use it to make money, our financial information is exposed to hackers, and the market power of technology companies continues to increase. In The Flip Side of Free, Michael Kende shows that free Internet comes at a price. We’re beginning to realize this. Our all-purpose techno-caveat is “I love my smart speaker,” but is it really tracking everything I do? listening to everything I say?
Another Big Lie: How the Government Stole Billions From The American Dream Of Home Ownership. And Got Caught!
Tim Pagliara
Press release for book via publisher (Forbes Books)
In Another Big Lie, Tim Pagliara details the events leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, regulatory reactions, and the hard lessons learned. Pagliara shares his experience of being an activist investor in Washington, creating a historical account that gives readers a deeper understanding of one of the most significant financial events of the 21st century. From our country’s largest lenders’ improbable rebound against vigorous lobbying, to a business model seemingly weighted against investors, Pagliara strives to make sense of a story that is still unfolding.
Lying for Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of the World
Dan Davies
Summary via publisher (Simon & Schuster)
Financial crime seems horribly complicated, but there are only so many ways you can con someone out of what’s theirs. In Lying for Money, veteran regulatory economist and market analyst Dan Davies tells the story of fraud through a genealogy of financial malfeasance, including: the Great Salad Oil swindle, the Pigeon King International fraud, the fictional British colony of Poyais in South America, the Boston Ladies’ Deposit Company, the Portuguese Banknote Affair, Theranos, and the Bre-X scam. Davies brings new insights into these schemes and shows how all frauds, current and historical, belong to one of four categories (“long firm,” counterfeiting, control fraud, and market crimes) and operate on the same basic principles. The only elements that change are the victims, the scammers, and the terminology.
One Day Stronger: How One Union Local Saved a Mill and Changed an Industry–and What It Means for American Manufacturing
Thomas M. Nelson
Review via Kurkus Reviews
A fight to keep a Wisconsin paper mill open helps to rejuvenate labor politics in this impassioned nonfiction work.
Nelson was the county executive of Wisconsin’s Outagamie County in 2017 when the Appleton Coated paper mill was forced into receivership by its creditor PNC Bank—one of several mill shutdowns in the Fox River Valley paper-manufacturing region. Appleton Coated was the economic mainstay of the town of Combined Locks, providing it with 620 high-paying jobs and tax revenue, and its managers insisted it would be profitable after it weathered a rough patch of high wood-pulp prices and depressed markets and introduced new product lines. Nelson recounts that PNC claimed otherwise and that it used provisions in a loan agreement to take control of the mill and auction it to another company that planned to shutter and scrap it.

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