Book Bits | 2 February 2019

Downhill from Here: Retirement Insecurity in the Age of Inequality
By Katherine S. Newman
Review via The Washington Post
“Downhill from here” is an exquisitely ambiguous phrase for the state of retirement security in America. It might suggest a restful and well-earned glide down the back of the mountain that one has climbed in a lifetime of hard work. But the same phrase can mean nearly the opposite — a descent into hardship or suffering.
It is the latter, darker meaning that sets the tone for Katherine S. Newman’s excellent new book, “Downhill From Here: Retirement Insecurity in the Age of Inequality.” But Newman’s title also evokes the contrast between what retirement means in today’s America and what it is supposed to mean.

Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe
By Roger McNamee
Review via The New York Times
A tech company founded on creating human connection is now ripping American society apart and compromising our civic foundation, though not because it has overtly wicked intent. As McNamee elucidates, our “democracy has been undermined because of design choices.” Choices including the platform’s pleasurable, frictionless interface, which encourages users to stay and return. It’s no stretch to posit that because human neurotransmitters respond to the platform’s iconic use of a certain shade of blue, and spark with dopamine upon receiving a “like” or “tag” notification, desperate children are now living in cages and a raving madman occupies the Oval Office. Not even Orwell, after a feast of psilocybin, could have predicted this dystopia. This one’s all ours.

The Secret to Cybersecurity: A Simple Plan to Protect Your Family and Business from Cybercrime
By Scott E. Augenbaum
Summary via publisher (Forefront Books) and Simon & Schuster
Cybercrimes are a threat and as dangerous as an armed intruder—yet millions of Americans are complacent or simply uninformed of how to protect themselves. The Secret to Cybersecurity closes that knowledge gap by using real-life examples to educate readers.
According to author Scott Augenbaum, between 80 to 90 percent of students say they do whatever they want on their smartphones—and their parents don’t have a clue. Is that you? What about your online banking passwords, are they safe? Has your email account or bank/debit card ever been compromised? In 2018, there were data breaches at several major companies—If those companies have your credit or debit information, that affects you.

The Energy Disruption Triangle: Three Sectors That Will Change How We Generate, Use, and Store Energy
By David C. Fessler
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
The Energy Disruption Triangle is a treatise on the energy revolution’s real-world impacts, and a handbook for anyone looking to weather the storm. Three major technologies are already changing the energy paradigm: solar energy, electric vehicles, and energy storage. As technology continues to evolve and become more accessible to the masses, the nation’s energy habits will experience a dramatic upheaval; this book provides actionable guidance to help you adapt. We are already in the beginning stages of this black swan event, and most people don’t know what’s coming—but it will come much sooner and much faster than anyone thinks. This book reveals the revolution happening right before our eyes, and shows you how to thrive in this new era.

Seven Centuries of Unreal Wages: The Unreliable Data, Sources and Methods that have been used for Measuring Standards of Living in the Past
Edited by John Hatcher and Judy Z. Stephenson
Summary via publisher (Palgrave Macmillan)
The quality of life experienced by people in the past is one of the most important areas of historical enquiry, and the standard of living of populations is one of the leading measures of the economic performance of nations. Yet how accurate is the information on which these judgments are based? This collection of essays, written by renowned scholars in the fields of labour, wage and welfare history, cogently undermine the validity of the data that have for decades dominated the measurement of these phenomena in Britain, Europe and Asia, and provided the statistical backbone for countless descriptions and analyses of economic development, welfare and many other prime subjects in economic and social history.