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.
I am admittedly a bit biased, being a fan of space exploration since childhood, but this is a terrific book. It thoughtfully lays out the political underpinnings on both sides of the Cold War that detoured the race for the 1st effective ICBM into a race to put the first artificial satellite in orbit. Likewise, it exposes the technical hurdles and how each group sought to overcome them. It is amazing to consider that mere years after the invention of the transistor and a little over a decade after WW2, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union were actually capable of putting an artificial satellite in orbit. I blinked in disbelief reading how after launch a technician hurredly worked a slide rule, manually calculating during flight when to press a button to start the 2nd stage of a rocket in flight. The Soviets in particular showed an amazing practicality and sang froid which allowed them to overtake the U.S. and score the historical first. There are many details which flesh out and enrich the story of the nascent U.S. and Soviet satellite efforts. Even being familiar with the outlines of the story, I learned many fascinating and disturbing details - and Brzesinski isn't afraid to show Korolev and Von Braun's many personal and professional faults - and demons lurking in their respective pasts. His account of the struggle to all important primacy and especially the launch sequences are written grippingly. This is an excellent book and I highly recommend it not only to those interested in the space race, but those interested in U.S. and Soviet politics and history of the period.
Narration was fine but, as mentioned elsewhere, the dramatic music, emphatic countdown in Russian, and rocketlift off sound at the beginning of each half were a little jarring. :-)