Book Bits | 18 November 2017

Who Can You Trust?: How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart
By Rachel Botsman
Review via Kirkus Reviews
At a time when trust in institutions—Congress, the church, the media, etc.—is in great jeopardy, another form of trust is quickly becoming the glue that keeps society together. It is called distributed trust, and it involves “people trusting other people through technology,” writes business consultant Botsman (co-author: What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, 2010). Later in the book, she continues, “the rise of multi-billion-dollar companies such as Airbnb and Uber, whose success depends on trust between strangers, is a clear illustration of how trust can now travel through networks and marketplaces.” In an absorbing, story-filled narrative that will leave readers with a new understanding of the phenomenon that drives life in our digital age, the author makes clear that distributed trust—a “confident relationship with the unknown”—now powers such disparate enterprises as Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites; social media platforms; peer-to-peer lending; online education courses; and Wikipedia and other information-sharing sites. In the case of self-driving cars, we now trust “our very lives to the unseen hand of technology.”

Zero Hour: Turn the Greatest Political and Financial Upheaval in Modern History to Your Advantage
By Harry S. Dent Jr. and‎ Andrew Pancholi
Summary via publisher (Portfolio)
The turn of the 2020s will mark an extremely rare convergence of low points for multiple political, economic, and demographic cycles. The result will be a major financial crash and global upheaval that will dwarf the Great Recession of the 2000s—and maybe even the Great Depression of the 1930s. We’re facing the onset of what Dent calls “Economic Winter.”

The President and American Capitalism since 1945
Edited by Mark H. Rose and Roger Biles
Summary via publisher (University Press of Florida)
This volume describes the many ways presidential actions have affected the development of capitalism in the post–World War II era. Contributors show how, since Harry S. Truman took office in 1945, the American “Consumer-in-Chief ” has exerted a decisive hand as well as behind-the-scenes influence on the national economy. And, by extension, on the everyday lives of Americans.

2020: World of War
By Paul Cornish and Kingsley Donaldson
Summary via publisher (Hodder & Stoughton)
With the world already struggling to contain conflicts on several continents, with security and defence expenditure under huge pressure, it’s time to think the unthinkable and explore what might happen. As former soldiers now working in defence strategy and conflict resolution, Paul Cornish and Kingsley Donaldson are perfectly qualified to guide us through a credible and utterly convincing 20/20 vision of the year 2020, from cyber security to weapons technology, from geopolitics to undercover operations. This book is of global importance, offering both analysis and creative solutions – essential reading both for decision-makers and everyone who simply wants to understand our future.

Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality
By Jaron Lanier
Review via The Economist
Virtual reality will never be as widespread as the smartphone, but it will be influential. Its promise is to make experiences in computer-generated environments feel as visceral as those in the real world. It has philanthropic potential and may improve medicine and aid education. But it can also be dangerous if virtual worlds are designed to manipulate users. Mr Lanier worries that VR may go down the same route as social networks, becoming, as in another of his definitions, “the ultimate way to capture someone inside an advertisement”.