Category Archives: Book Bits

Book Bits | 6 April 2019

An Economist Walks into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk
By Allison Schrager
Review via Bloomberg
To learn how to manage risks in your life, don’t consult office-bound economists or actuaries. Ask the real experts: prostitutes, gamblers, magicians, paparazzi, big-wave surfers, movie producers, horse breeders, and soldiers. Their careers require them to take risks. They succeed by doing so smartly—deriving as much benefit as possible per unit of risk taken. Allison Schrager, herself an economist, though not of the office-bound variety, interviewed all of these exotic professionals for an intriguing new book, An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk.
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Book Bits | 30 March 2019

Consumer Expectations: Micro Foundations and Macro Impact
By Richard Thomas Curtin
Summary via publisher (Cambridge University Press)
Richard Curtin has directed the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment surveys for more than four decades. His analyses of recent trends in consumer expectations are regularly covered in the worldwide press. In this book, Curtin presents a new theory of expectations. Whereas conventional theories presume that consumers play a passive role in the macro economy, simply reacting to current trends in incomes, prices, and interest rates, Curtin proposes a new empirically consistent theory. He argues that expectations are formed by an automatic process that utilizes conscious and nonconscious processes, passion and reason, information from public and private sources, and social networks. Consumers ultimately reach a decision that serves both the micro decision needs of individuals and reflects the common influence of the macro environment. Drawing on empirical observations, Curtin not only demonstrates the importance of consumer sentiment, but also how it can foreshadow the cyclical turning points in the economy.
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Book Bits | 23 March 2019

The Knowledge Economy
By Roberto Mangabeira Unger
Summary via publisher (Verso)
Adam Smith and Karl Marx recognized that the best way to understand the economy is to study the most advanced practice of production. Today that practice is no longer conventional manufacturing: it is the radically innovative vanguard known as the knowledge economy. In every part of the production system it remains a fringe excluding the vast majority of workers and businesses. This book explores the hidden nature of the knowledge economy and its possible futures.
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Book Bits | 9 March 2019

The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity
By Amy Webb
Review via
A future built on artificial intelligence is already here. It’s in the way Netflix chooses the next show for you to binge, how your Gmail account suggests simple email replies, in the technology that protects your credit card purchases. And if we continue to let AI develop the way we do now, says futurist Amy Webb, we’re probably not going to like where it takes us.
She says the future of AI is increasingly divided between the work done by six American companies — Google, IBM, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple — and three Chinese ones — Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba. But neither country has a technology policy that “puts humans at the center and puts the future of humanity at the forefront.”
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Book Bits | 9 February 2019

The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work
By Richard Baldwin
Review via The Times
The robots are coming for white-collar jobs. Just as millions of manufacturing jobs were lost in the 1970s and 1980s, the next phase of automation — what the author calls the “globotics” upheaval, a portmanteau of globalisation and robotics — will make between one in six and one in ten jobs obsolete.
The impending Globotics Revolution will leave professionals in the West competing with zero-wage thinking computers (white-collar robots) and lower-wage graduates in the developing world (tele-migrants). Engineers, accountants, lawyers, most service-sector jobs, office workers and middle managers — all are under threat from the globots.
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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.
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Book Bits | 19 January 2019

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power
By Shoshana Zuboff
Review via Los Angeles Review of Books
Silicon Valley’s Phoenix-like resurrection is a story of ingenuity and initiative. It is also a story of callousness, predation, and deceit. Harvard Business School professor emerita Shoshana Zuboff argues in her new book that the Valley’s wealth and power are predicated on an insidious, essentially pathological form of private enterprise — what she calls “surveillance capitalism.” Pioneered by Google, perfected by Facebook, and now spreading throughout the economy, surveillance capitalism uses human life as its raw material. Our everyday experiences, distilled into data, have become a privately owned business asset used to predict and mold our behavior, whether we’re shopping or socializing, working or voting.
Zuboff’s fierce indictment of the big internet firms goes beyond the usual condemnations of privacy violations and monopolistic practices. To her, such criticisms are sideshows, distractions that blind us to a graver danger: By reengineering the economy and society to their own benefit, Google and Facebook are perverting capitalism in a way that undermines personal freedom and corrodes democracy.
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Book Bits | 24 November 2018

Fast Forward Investing: How to Profit from AI, Driverless Vehicles, Gene Editing, Robotics, and Other Technologies Reshaping Our Lives
By Jon D. Markman
Summary via publisher (McGraw-Hill)
Our lives are on the verge of being reshaped by advanced technology. Fast Forward Investing provides the knowledge and insight you need to build and maintain your portfolio accordingly. Author Jon D. Markman is a veteran tech investor, money manager, and author of the daily newsletter Tech Trend Trader. Markman describes what to expect, when to expect it, and how to profit in impending technological and economic revolution. Revealing the most important companies in the industry that are right now building platforms and competitive advantages that will disrupt and transform their markets, he shows which trends are important and provides detailed guidance for staying ahead of the curve.
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Book Bits | 25 November 2017

Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite
By Jake Bernstein
Summary via publisher (Henry Holt)
A hidden circulatory system flows beneath the surface of global finance, carrying trillions of dollars from drug trafficking, tax evasion, bribery, and other illegal enterprises. This network masks the identities of the individuals who benefit from these activities, aided by bankers, lawyers, and auditors who get paid to look the other way. In Secrecy World, the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Jake Bernstein explores this shadow economy and how it evolved, drawing on millions of leaked documents from the files of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca—a trove now known as the Panama Papers—as well as other journalistic and government investigations. Bernstein shows how shell companies operate, how they allow the superwealthy and celebrities to escape taxes, and how they provide cover for illicit activities on a massive scale by crime bosses and corrupt politicians across the globe.
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Book Bits | 17 June 2017

A History of the United States in Five Crashes: Stock Market Meltdowns That Defined a Nation
By Scott Nations
Review via Publishers Weekly
Nations (The Complete Book of Option Spreads and Combinations), a CNBC contributor, offers a fascinating look at five major stock market crashes: the Panic of 1907, Black Tuesday, Black Monday, the Great Recession, and the Flash Crash. Nations observes that stock market crises mean more than just tanking investment accounts. They also stop people from investing, impacting job availability and the economy as a whole. While these failures don’t have a single cause that is easy to recognize beforehand, he asserts that all five studied here share important indicators.
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