I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
The Numerati examines the bright side, the dark side, and most importantly the human side, of big data.
Having read Big Data, Super Crunchers, The Signal the Noise, Naked Statistics and The Numerati somewhat recently I liked The Numerati the best by a significant margin.
The author is not a supercruncher, which I think was a good thing. Baker keeps humanity always in scope while investigating the details of big data. Even though Baker is not a supercruncher, I found this the most technically interesting of the books, delving into multivariate vector spaces without getting bogged down in equations or just telling stories. Each time a bit of technical information was presented, how that technology would impact people was also thoughtfully considered. I also felt I learned more about the subject from The Numerati than all the other books combined.
Baker uses examples that are more realistic and representative than several of the other books on the subject. The narration is clear and good, adding emphases or emotion quite nicely, but for some reason the frequency range of the reader’s voice grated on me at first and took some getting used to but after a few hours it was fine.
An excellent book well worth the listen. Not very technical, and a lot is left out. The most frustrating is the almost total lack of discussion of feedback, neuron death, and connectivity changes. I never found this tedious, indeed I would love two more volumes. Even if the authors theories are utterly wrong, anyone interested in intelligence or AI would benefit from reading this book. The author is a bit of a salesperson, a bit conceited, but may very well be correct, and is, in any case, quite interesting.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
According to some viewpoints, life on Earth is getting worse, with more and more people competing for fewer and fewer resources. However, Peter Diamandis and Stephen Kotler are here to make the case for optimism, arguing that innovations in technology, communication, information access, energy production, medicine, agriculture, methods of learning, and entrepreneurship are likely to have vast, transformative effects on human society in the near future. Key to understanding this is the authors’ belief that technological progress tends to follow an exponential curve, rather than a linear one, with inventions that seem to be of limited use at first quickly evolving to become crucial, productivity-enhancing features of everyday life. We’ve already seen this happen with airplanes, cars, computers, and the Internet, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t happen with solar and nuclear energy, better batteries, smart agriculture, gene therapy, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence. If you’re familiar with techno-optimists like Ray Kurzweil, then you know the cloth that Abundance is cut from.
The authors also focus some attention on the so-called “bottom billion”. As they point out, even small improvements that reach the very poor have a marked effect on their quality of life. Simple access to clean water, basic medicine, cell phone communication, a little electricity, and other small conveniences liberates people from their harshest struggles, enabling them to reach for better lives, including more education. This also reduces the rampant population growth and environmental strain associated with poverty, as people find that they no longer need to be subsistence farmers or have as many children as possible to ensure a comfortable future for themselves.
As a guy who works in technology, I think the book’s optimism in that department is well justified. Never underestimate what can happen when millions of very smart individuals, who can share knowledge easily, attack interconnected problems. The middle chapters contain a short who's-who catalog of inventors, thinkers, and entrepreneurs whose work is pushing the envelope in different areas. In fact, I took the artificial intelligence course taught by one of the researchers mentioned in the AI section, and offered for free online by Stanford University. How’s that for abundance? As Diamandis points out, even the President of the United States didn’t have so much expertise at his fingertips twenty-five years ago. Now a kid in India with a cheap laptop does.
On the social front, there seems to be a little more wishful thinking. The authors are hopeful that improved resource efficiency and slowing population growth will bring humanity’s rapacious levels of consumption and environmental impact down to sustainable levels, and I’m sure they’re right to some degree, but will they be right *enough*? Also, while I admire what certain billionaire philanthropists are doing with their money to solve real problems, the authors seem to discount the other side of concentrated wealth and power, the one that hasn’t always cared about humanity’s best interests. And I still have my concerns about the fate of people who no longer have skills that are useful in a technology-based economy -- what will they get paid to do?
But, even if Abundance doesn’t fully address all those questions, it’s still a hopeful, positive book, directing attention towards all the ways that human beings are applying their ingenuity for real good.