This book in a talkative-colorful style tours through many creators and applications in various sub-fields of this big, emerging part of our lives. It shows in a general and non-tech way how a set of ideas or a body of knowledge is mapped onto a high-speed decision system. (Sometimes, the system is building knowledge as it goes.) The story about the evolution of call centers, and how a "bot" quickly reads the caller's personality from a few word usages and sentence structures, to route the call to the right type of response (and responder) was very telling. It is typical of the way our interactions with business (even fleeting ones) are increasingly mapped from the first milliseconds, to improve the customer service experience (or manipulate us, or introduce a ruthless efficiency to reduce the call center workforce, etc., there being many dimensions, depending on how one might like to look at it). That data is, of course, stored and continuously analyzed. This book is pretty friendly toward the purveyors of these changes. Other audios loosely in this genre include "Super Crunchers" and "Dark Pools."
This is a wide-ranging tour of ideas and history that have been capturing Mr Greenspan's attention since he left the Fed, and he thereafter admitted before Congress as the Great Recession unfolded, that some big assumptions and models he was using hadn't worked. I like to listen to his mind working, as, for example, he loosely cobbles together an economic model in front of the reader, or walks through a stretch of history, lucidly pointing out big salient features of how we got here. Like many very smart people I know, he shows a gift sometimes for displaying (what seem to me glaring) gaps in his reasoning, or for ignoring a 900-pound factual gorilla looming in the situation. (This is the reputed libertarian Ayn Rand disciple who yet worked in and around government much of his adult life, openly disliked government's solutions, yet became arguably the most powerful individual inside government, whereupon he showered cheap credit into the banking system for a very extended period (meanwhile refusing to exercise his statutory powers to regulate various mortgage finance practices) as a vast unstable housing bubble heaved up and (soon enough after he left the job) collapsed into the worst mess since the Great Depression.) This wouldn't be the first time models worked well until they didn't. But, aside from some sidestepping perhaps, he intrepidly wrestles with some big questions. For example, he tackles why this recovery was seemingly this tepid and slow. I don't agree with all the answers he finds, but along this journey I find this book has helped me clarify and sharpen and update my own views and opinions. And for that, I give Mr Greespan credit and thanks. In that light, I think this work is a success.
I've seen reviews that complain about the wide range of sub-topics. But all of them are interesting to me, and I like the way the guy describes things.
This is an illuminating and enjoyable survey of how computers are transforming the way we live. Most importantly, it is written for the layperson--it's free from jargon and takes a balanced, journalistic approach to the subject.
The chapters are alternately frightening (the one showing how computer code can produce music as moving as that of the world's greatest composers) and exciting (the one showing how greatly pharmacies and medical diagnoses can be improved).
Walter Dixon's narration is first-rate: he has an unusually mellow tone that does not prevent him from inflecting every sentence in such a way that you feel he's connected the book to your brain with an invisible cord. I hope to hear him again in other books.