Book Bits | 29 September 2018

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order
By Kai-Fu Lee
Q&A with author via Recode
Former Google China president Kai-Fu Lee is betting heavily on artificial intelligence; his investment firm Sinovation Ventures has invested more than $600 million in computer vision, machine learning and other forms of automation. And he’s confident that soon this technology will dramatically change the job landscape.
“If we look at what AI cannot do, there are really two main things,” Lee said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “One is creative jobs. Jobs like scientists, storytellers, artists and so on. And the other are the compassionate people who really have created a human-to-human connection, trust.”
And what about the jobs that require low creativity and compassion?
“All those jobs will be taken by AI,” he said.

Can American Capitalism Survive?: Why Greed Is Not Good, Opportunity Is Not Equal, and Fairness Won’t Make Us Poor
By Steven Pearlstein
Review via Kirkus Reviews
Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post economics journalist Pearlstein examines our dominant economic system and finds it sorely wanting.
It is a foundational myth that anyone with a good idea and a strong will can make it in America, that one generation will do better than the next. If that were ever true, writes the author, then it is true no longer, not given the evolution of our peculiar form of capitalism with American characteristics, a spectacularly dog-eat-dog system. “The only thing exceptional about America,” he writes, “is that it is now less mobile than many other societies with long histories of rigid social and class structures.”

This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America
By Jeff Nesbit
Summary via publisher (Thomas Dunne Books)
The world itself won’t end, of course. Only ours will: our livelihoods, our homes, our cultures. And we’re squarely at the tipping point. Longer droughts in the Middle East. Growing desertification in China and Africa. The monsoon season shrinking in India. Amped-up heat waves in Australia. More intense hurricanes reaching America. Water wars in the Horn of Africa. Rebellions, refugees and starving children across the globe. These are not disconnected events. These are the pieces of a larger puzzle that environmental expert Jeff Nesbit puts together. Unless we start addressing the causes of climate change and stop simply navigating its effects, we will be facing a series of unstoppable catastrophes by the time our preschoolers graduate from college.

The Internet Trap: How the Digital Economy Builds Monopolies and Undermines Democracy
By Matthew Hindman
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
The internet was supposed to fragment audiences and make media monopolies impossible. Instead, behemoths like Google and Facebook now dominate the time we spend online—and grab all the profits from the attention economy. The Internet Trap explains how this happened. This provocative and timely book sheds light on the stunning rise of the digital giants and the online struggles of nearly everyone else—and reveals what small players can do to survive in a game that is rigged against them. Matthew Hindman shows how seemingly tiny advantages in attracting users can snowball over time. The internet has not reduced the cost of reaching audiences—it has merely shifted who pays and how. Challenging some of the most enduring myths of digital life, Hindman explains why the internet is not the postindustrial technology that has been sold to the public, how it has become mathematically impossible for grad students in a garage to beat Google, and why net neutrality alone is no guarantee of an open internet.

The Forgotten Americans: An Economic Agenda for a Divided Nation
By Isabel Sawhill
Summary via publisher (Yale University Press)
One of the country’s leading scholars on economics and social policy, Isabel Sawhill addresses the enormous divisions in American society—economic, cultural, and political—and what might be done to bridge them. Widening inequality and the loss of jobs to trade and technology has left a significant portion of the American workforce disenfranchised and skeptical of governments and corporations alike. And yet both have a role to play in improving the country for all.

Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World Is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways
By Thomas J. Bollyky
Summary via publisher (MIT Press)
Plagues and parasites have played a central role in world affairs, shaping the evolution of the modern state, the growth of cities, and the disparate fortunes of national economies. This book tells that story, but it is not about the resurgence of pestilence. It is the story of its decline. For the first time in recorded history, virus, bacteria, and other infectious diseases are not the leading cause of death or disability in any region of the world. People are living longer, and fewer mothers are giving birth to many children in the hopes that some might survive. And yet, the news is not all good. Recent reductions in infectious disease have not been accompanied by the same improvements in income, job opportunities, and governance that occurred with these changes in wealthier countries decades ago. There have also been unintended consequences. In this book, Thomas Bollyky explores the paradox in our fight against infectious disease: the world is getting healthier in ways that should make us worry.

The Facts of the Matter: Looking Past Today’s Rhetoric on the Environment and Responsible Development
By David Parish
Interview with author via C-Suite Network
David Parish, author of The Facts of the Matter: Looking Past Today’s Rhetoric on the Environment and Responsible Development refers to the void he feels currently exists in regards to climate change and responsible development. Parish says there is a disconnect which can be resolved by having a real conversation about the causes of climate change and what are we doing about it. He wants to avoid the “bumper sticker rhetoric” as the message can get hijacked by both activists and big businesses intent on influencing the issue with a rally cry rather than by actual data and concrete answers. Parish advises people to be critical thinkers, push back and ask questions because conversations should be starting points, not end points.

Dynamics of Financial Stress and Economic Performance: Insights and Analysis from the World Economy
By Ramesh Babu Thimmaraya and M. Venkateshwarlu
Summary via publisher (Emerald Publishing)
The financial stress of 2008 propelled the world into the most severe recession since the great depression. Despite the significant risk that it poses to the real economy, the complex interaction between financial stress and economic performance is not well understood due to the crucial gaps that remain in our understanding of this critical and dynamic relationship. Dynamics of Financial Stress and Economic Performance: Insights and Analysis from the World Economy attempts to understand the complex non-linear dynamics between financial system stress and economic performance on a global level. An analytical approach is taken to examine twelve major countries, and provide a detailed understanding of the crucial financial and economic issues faced in light of financial stress; including interest rate bottoms, inflation asymmetries, financial health of households, money supply bubbles, fiscal issues, trade dynamics, over leveraging of the financial markets, behaviour of housing prices, debt problems, potential for economic growth, or a complex combination of any of the above.