Book Bits: 24 September 2022

The Invention of Tomorrow: A Natural History of Foresight
Thomas Suddendorf, et al.
Review via Psychology Today
Human foresight obviously has its flaws, and try as we might, we can’t predict the future with certainty. However, the fact that we can even imagine and speculate about the future is nothing short of extraordinary. This ability is what has allowed humans to achieve the seemingly unachievable. The Invention of Tomorrow: A Natural History of Foresight by Suddendorf, Redshaw, and Bulley (out now, from Basic Books) delves into foresight, exploring how it works, how it develops, and how it evolved. The book is meticulously researched, thought-provoking, and engrossing, and I highly recommend it.

You’ve Been Played: How Corporations, Governments, and Schools Use Games to Control Us All
Adrian Hon
Review via The New York Times
When did daily life come to feel so much like a competition? In “You’ve Been Played,” Adrian Hon traces how and why gamification — the application of video-game principles like experience points, streaks, leader boards, badges and special challenges — has come to suffuse nearly every aspect of human existence in the digital era. Examples range from exercise (Nike, Strava), housework (Chore Wars) and brushing your teeth (Pokémon Smile), to — more disturbingly — going to school (ClassDojo) or work (Amazon warehouses’ PicksInSpace).

Overtime: America’s Aging Workforce and the Future of Working Longer
Lisa F. Berkman and Beth C. Truesdale (editors)
Summary via publisher (Oxford U. Press)
America is at a crossroads in its approach to work and retirement. Many policymakers think it’s logical–almost inevitable–that Americans will delay retirement and spend more years in the paid labor force. But it’s an assumption that doesn’t match the reality faced by a large and growing proportion of Americans. Though in many ways today’s middle-aged adults are less financially prepared for retirement than today’s retirees, precarious working conditions, family caregiving responsibilities, poor health, and age discrimination will make it difficult or impossible for many to work longer.

Capitalism: The Story behind the Word
Michael Sonenscher
Summary via publisher (Princeton U. Press)
What exactly is capitalism? How has the meaning of capitalism changed over time? And what’s at stake in our understanding or misunderstanding of it? In Capitalism, Michael Sonenscher examines the history behind the concept and pieces together the range of subjects bound up with the word. Sonenscher shows that many of our received ideas fail to pick up the work that the idea of capitalism is doing for us, without us even realizing it.

Cannibal Capitalism: How our System is Devouring Democracy, Care, and the Planetand What We Can Do About It
Nancy Fraser
Summary via publisher (Verso Books)
Capital is currently cannibalizing every sphere of life–guzzling wealth from nature and racialized populations, sucking up our ability to care for each other, and gutting the practice of politics. In this tightly argued and urgent volume, leading Marxist feminist theorist Nancy Fraser charts the voracious appetite of capital, tracking it from crisis point to crisis point, from ecological devastation to the collapse of democracy, from racial violence to the devaluing of care work. These crisis points all come to a head in Covid-19, which Fraser argues can help us envision the resistance we need to end the feeding frenzy.

Buyer Aware: Harnessing Our Consumer Power for a Safe, Fair, and Transparent Marketplace
Marta L. Tellado
Comment by author via Consumer Reports
CR members like you understand the importance of being aware and informed consumers. But today, there’s actually more of a burden on all of us to uncover the hidden threats in the marketplace, from misuse of our personal data to products endangering our lives and the planet. In my upcoming book, “Buyer Aware: Harnessing Our Consumer Power for a Safe, Fair, and Transparent Marketplace,” we offer the trusted advice you’ve come to expect from CR and show how each of us can be a force in creating a marketplace that puts people first.

Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America
Joan Donovan and Emily Dreyfuss
Review via
Memes have been used to target marginalized groups for at least a decade now. A new book by researchers at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy documents how memes and the online communities that produce them sow disinformation and erode trust in the government and the mainstream media. Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America explains how the “Stop the Steal” movement — the false idea that the 2020 election was “stolen” from former president Donald Trump — started online and resulted in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and used examples from Gamergate, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency to develop its playbook.

Seeing the Unseen: Behind Chinese Tech Giants’ Global Venturing
Guoli Chen and Jianggan Li
Excerpt via
You could say last year was a good year for China’s internet titans. E-commerce behemoths Alibaba and notched a record US$139 billion in sales on Single’s Day, the world’s largest shopping event. Social media phenomenon TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, was the world’s most downloaded app, overtaking previous favourite WhatsApp. Tencent, the biggest social networking and gaming company in China, reported a 16 percent year-on-year rise in revenue, to 560 billion yuan.
Behind the glittering numbers, however, dark clouds loom.

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