Book Bits | 16 March 2019

The Billionaire Boondoggle: How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Bigwigs Steal Our Money and Jobs
By Pat Garofalo
Summary via publisher (Thomas Dunne Books)
The first comprehensive look at how politicians let the entertainment industry bilk taxpayers, hijack public policy and hurt economic investment, starting and ending with Trump. From stadiums and movie productions to casinos and mega-malls to convention centers and hotels, cities and states have paid out billions of dollars in tax breaks, subsidies, and grants to the world’s corporate titans. They hope to boost their economies, create new and better jobs, and lure well-known events such as the Super Bowl–not to mention give their officials the chance to meet celebrities. That Big Entertainment drives bigger economies is a myth, however. Overwhelming evidence shows catering public policy to its promises results in a raw deal for the taxpaying public.

A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms Are Shaping Our Lives and How We Can Stay in Control
By Kartik Hosanagar
Q&A with author via VentureBeat
Q: What sort of steps do you feel like individuals can take in their personal lives to wrestle control from these sorts of algorithms?
A: A lot of people express this viewpoint that we are as individuals somewhat helpless against powerful technology and the algorithms unleashed on us. But I’m of the view that while individual effort alone will not solve this problem, we actually do have some amount of power here, and that power is in the form of our knowledge, our votes, and our dollars.
In terms of knowledge, the idea is somewhat straightforward, but I think it’s under appreciated, which is becoming aware of the technologies we’re using and what’s happening behind the scenes with them. Instead of being very passive users of technologies and algorithms, more deliberate choices should be made. We have to ask ourselves how algorithms change the decisions we’re making or that others are making about us.

The Algorithmic Leader: How to Be Smart When Machines Are Smarter Than You
By Mike Walsh
Excerpt via SmartBrief
Work is changing. Not just because we have new technology to drive efficiency and automation, but also because the nature of business itself is becoming more complex, unpredictable, and dynamic.
Strangely enough, the more we automate work and decision making, the more important it becomes to thoughtfully manage and support the remaining human-based activities. Underestimate the creativity and agility of the human mind at your own risk! Even as AI improves, there will always be tasks, decisions, and activities that machines cannot accomplish and that humans must take on. And in fact, as everything else becomes automated, the human- reliant tasks actually increase in importance.

● The Importance of Small Decisions
By Michael J. O’Brien, et al.
Summary via publisher (MIT Press)
Humans originally evolved in a world of few choices. Prehistoric, preindustrial, and predigital eras required fewer decisions than today’s all-access, always-on world of too much information. Economists have largely discarded the idea that agents act rationally and the market follows suit. It seems that no matter how small or innocuous a decision might seem, there’s almost no way to guess the effect it might have. The authors of The Importance of Small Decisions view decisions and their outcomes from a different perspective: as key elements in the evolution of culture.

Into the Tempest: Essays on the New Global Capitalism
By William I. Robinson
Summary via publisher (Haymarket Books)
In this critical new work, sociologist William I. Robinson offers an engaging and accessible introduction to his theory of global capitalism. He applies this theory to a wide range of contemporary topics, among them, globalization, the trans- national capitalist class, immigrant justice, educational reform, labor and anti-racist struggles, policing, Trumpism, the resurgence of a neo-fascist right, and the rise of a global police state. Sure to spark debate, this is a timely contribution to a renewal of critical social science and Marxist theory for the new century.

Macroeconomics for Professionals: A Guide for Analysts and Those Who Need to Understand Them
By Leslie Lipschitz and Susan Schadler
Summary via publisher (Cambridge University Press)
Understanding macroeconomic developments and policies in the twenty-first century is daunting: policy-makers face the combined challenges of supporting economic activity and employment, keeping inflation low and risks of financial crises at bay, and navigating the ever-tighter linkages of globalization. Many professionals face demands to evaluate the implications of developments and policies for their business, financial, or public policy decisions. Macroeconomics for Professionals provides a concise, rigorous, yet intuitive framework for assessing a country’s macroeconomic outlook and policies. Drawing on years of experience at the International Monetary Fund, Leslie Lipschitz and Susan Schadler have created an operating manual for professional applied economists and all those required to evaluate economic analysis.