James Gleick in “The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood” seeks to place information in historical context. To accomplish that he opens the book by discussing the advent of drumming, signals, telegraph, telephone and the computer. A most interesting section contains an explanation of how Babbage invented the first computer and how it worked. In the subsequent portion he relates how information theorists worked on the coding, decoding, and re-coding of information. The final chapters link such as DNA , and quantum mechanics to information. It is this last portion of the book that was the most thought provoking for me. This book is wonderful as history, stimulating as philosophy, and a fine introduction to theoretical aspects of the topic. The reading of Rob Shapiro is excellent.
Gabor Maté has done a great service in generating his new book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Anyone with an addicted friend or family member, persons concerned about the War on Drugs, and just ordinary citizens concerned about the drug culture will be well rewarded for reading Maté’s new book. Also the author of When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts starts out with a series of anecdotes introducing the reader to real drug addicts. Each has been under the care of Maté who is an MD practicing in Vancouver. These chapters are revealing, but not the meat of the book. In a later section, Maté details the neuroscience behind addiction and relates it to his own addictions (which are not drug related). In another, which I found the most helpful personally, he discusses drug policy. In particular, he distinguishes between decriminalization of drugs and making drug legal. He also approaches the issue of drug addiction as disease which has always troubled me. This is one fine book. It makes current thought on drug addiction and drug policy available to the concerned citizen. The book will be of value to the novice and professional alike. Please don’t pass this book by – it has important implications for everyone; tax payer, concerned citizen, law enforcement officer, social worker, and family member touched by addiction. It softened my heart – if I might add that. If you want to understand, this book is a good start. The reading of the text is well done.
Margaret Hefferman makes visible a human failing in “Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril.” In this book she approaches answers to why we willfully ignore what we need to acknowledge the most. The subject is important, according to the author, because we fail to see dangers right before our eyes. From marrying the wrong person, to the Enron fiasco, to the housing bubble, Hefferman alerts the reader to how the persons involved had the requisite information before them all the time and how the situations may have been avoided. Of course, hindsight is better than foresight, but her observations and presentation of research is informative. Hefferman is strongest when applying research to specific situations. She is weakest when she digresses into preaching about current events. She is most informative when she is explaining why organizations and individuals have willful blindness and lacking when she is on a soap box. All of it is valuable, but some of the book is more helpful than others. Her analysis of organizational structure and how it influences the decisions of large organizations is worth the price of the book. She details, for example, the problems of BP in Texas as well as the Gulf spill and explains why top management was blind to what was taking place. Willful blindness afflicts us all. Now, Hefferman has shown light on this timely subject. She reads her own text and does it well.