Excellent book about a terrible era! When horrors are so pervasive as to become commonplace….what happens to our compass? One Audible review says that the book was confusing, which it wasn’t. The reviewer incorrectly summarizes that the book is about Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. But it’s about Poland, Hungary and EAST GERMANY, which is almost impossible to get wrong if he actually read this book.
I recommend digging into this one…dial back the clock to 1945-1956 and bear witness to goings on behind the Iron Curtain. Socialist societies do not die at the onset of failure…they live on, they limp forward, unable by ideology to see how deformed they have become. Most of our understanding about communism and socialism is waning as The 20th Century drifts into history, along with all its hard fought lessons. We may be forgetting why our free market system is superior to the brutal alternatives.
The book shows us that to ‘free’ humanity, you must first eliminate the enslavers. To eliminate the enslavers, you must have control of the society. To control society, you must have power. To maintain power, you must control the political system. To control the political system, you must control public opinion. To control public opinion, you must control what people think. In order to control what people think, you must control humanity. Such is the paradox of idealism and reality.
But ‘Iron Curtain’ does not discuss this philosophically. (Thank you!). Anne gives us her best effort here…she painstakingly illustrates with documentation, interviews, quotes, facts, figures, raw data, and real stories just what the human experience behind the Iron Curtain was like. Her details come at us like the planes of the Berlin airlift….one after the other in an unbroken chain. She reminds us that Poland, Hungary, and East Germany were once rich and vibrant cultures, as unique and flowering as France and Italy…yet these eastern counterparts have been somehow erased from our thoughts; they are simply ‘Eastern Bloc’ countries or ‘former Soviet satellites.’ Poland, Hungary, and East Germany seem blank and sterile, almost clones of anonymous nations. Not true. They were made that way. Clicking play will show you how, and remember....this all actually happened.
I am beginning to realize that privacy in the digital age will perhaps become THEE topic of the 21st Century. The author succeeds at illustrating the odd optimism that surrounds the powerful new technologies of our time. The story itself falls a little flat because the drama is often captured in boring details....how many new 'likes'...a tally of new followers....a random IM conversation....a change in a personal score. These figures become almost meaningless. One funny thing is a customer service rating that goes from 0 to 100...but who would ever give someone a rating of 47 or 16? Even the author got stuck hovering within 96 to 100. That said, a big thumbs up to the author for tackling this subject matter.
It is almost impossible to read The Circle without asking ourselves tough questions. How do I feel about TOTAL transparency? Is a lack of privacy just a part of progress? Is a society with 'mass access-mass surveillance' better off? What are the real dangers? Will preventing certain crimes only open us up to new ones? And what is so great about average citizens who crave the power of dictators?
So, why is privacy so important?
The answer is CONTEXT. Surveillance may show or record factual information. However, who interprets that information becomes the key factor. Even in court rooms where all the facts are presented, two attorneys will explain those facts is WILDLY different ways and come to wildly different conclusions. One attorney interprets the facts as proof that someone is a brutal killer, while the other re-interprets the same facts to describe an innocent victim. So it will go with us. Total transparency leaves us in the hands of people who have the time and desire to interpret the facts of our lives in any manner they want. If we oppose powerful people, then we can be targeted and discredited with personal details and information. People whose full-time job is to gather or interpret the meta-data will have a dangerous advantage over anyone who makes a living doing something else.
Privacy is vital to human freedom. That is why the Constitution protects the right to private property...so that a government or any other group cannot invade your freedom. Privacy is a boundary line. Our 'digital self' is becoming a new type of property that is not yet protected. Just where are the new boundaries?
Definitely check out the book if this kind of debate inspires you!
I am a Byzantine enthusiast and had higher expectations. This is a very difficult period of history to write about so I'll give the author some credit. Extinct religions were mainstream back then, yet the author managed that tricky exposition rather well. Some of the historic elements were mostly researched and well organized. But the book seems to summarize characters and events rather than penetrate that world. The people and places are very much at arms-length. Also, the author decides to just invent a modern lesbian spin on Theodora that seemed dreadfully forced and out of place. Ah well, average all around.
The book is great. But I couldn't get through it. The narrator whistles on his S's and it became unbearable. There were times my shoulders popped up to my ears as I tried to follow sentences like "some soldiers in the service of Caesar were sent to Sicily...." OUCH lol. I'll just have to read this one the old fashion way.
This book is disguised as a low budget 'get rich' read. It's NOT.
Personally, I eschew how-to-make-money books because they are too much like how-to-write-the-next-great-American-novel type books. You read several hundred pages, you think it all makes sense, then BAM, the book is over and nothing much changes. In this comparison, Thou Shall Prosper is akin to the timeless Elements of Style. The real deal.
This book is not truly about getting rich or even just money. This is about PROSPERITY. The book addresses human nature in a grounded and genuine way. How we relate to each other, to money, to our jobs, to ourselves, and to our community all play a part. Each one of these relationships is profound, distinct, and interrelated. Gaining wealth is less about the physical money and more about knowing how to be valuable to other people.
Get the book! Allow yourself to revisit your view of money...not as an evil or mysterious object....but as a intellectual and abstract tool for human beings to use in our pursuit of serving each other and ourselves in a symmetrical way. Value, after all, is rooted in human belief. Therefore, creating value, recognizing value, sharing value, and measuring value are all part of a fundamental self expression. Others will grow with you. Prosperity is simply the net result.
While reading the book, I was struck with a rare clarity. I sensed that I was truly reading something worth reading, something that would allow me to construct the exact life I had always envisioned. No other book has quite had that impact. All of my life experiences reinforced what the author discusses.
We all heard about McCarthyism and Alger Hiss and the Communist Spy Rings, but I always thought that stuff was all hype. With the fall of Soviet Union and access to Soviet archives we NOW know that the Soviets penetrated almost every tier of American government. To be honest, this revelation is almost TOO big to wrap my head around. In many ways, it changes my entire understanding of postwar American history....
Venona is a code name given to the NSA's Soviet code-breaking project. Once cracked, Americans could start translating secret spy cables between the Soviet Union and their agents in America. We only had half the story. With the REST of Venona....available only since the mid 1990's...we now have the other half.
The narrator is awful, but the content of the book is amazing. I am now reading other books on the topic just to be sure I understand the subject matter. There were high-level government officials, particularly in Treasury and State Departments who took ORDERS from their handlers in Moscow....who in turn took their orders from the brutal Joseph Stalin. Really?
This entire four hour audiobook is merely a transcript of a conversation between four activists (with the exception of a short intro by Julian Assange). The narrator literally has to cite who is speaking as each speaker changes. Believe it or not, that didn’t harm the book or pace. However, as I listened to these guys talk amongst themselves about the future of the Internet, I felt like I could overhear the exact same conversation at the corner Starbucks. These four activists are essentially of the same mind, so they lob each other softball questions and go on long-winded anti-government and anti-American rants.
The conversation began to just sound like stoner talk.
Nevermind the MAJOR paradox they embody…a crusade for transparency by a group called ‘Anonymous.’ Nevermind that we have not elected then. Nevermind that we have no idea who they are.
These so-called cypherpunks are not unintelligent people. They are simply passionate about digital privacy in an irresponsible (and illegal) way. Luckily, I have faith that men and women of intelligence have the ability to self-correct, to recognize their contradictions, to evolve in a more constructive way. They just need to stop romanticizing their role as a “high tech rebel elite” and subject themselves to the laws of society, to be a part of society not apart from it.
Still, this is probably the great debate of our time. Hearing their point of view is critical in understanding the nature of problem. We regular people, the general public, are all in the middle. On one side we have a large central government invading our privacy and/or spying on its public, while on the other side we have these guys….a secret network of digital hackers who steal information and target businesses and groups that oppose them. We regular people really have no protection from either group.
If cypherpunks believe in transparency, then they themselves must be transparent. Otherwise, their strict culture of secrecy and their militant use of digital espionage is, in itself, the very antithesis of what they claim to fight for.
I couldn't get through ten minutes of what is probably a great book. The narrator takes loud, almost wheezing deep breaths every couple of sentences. It made ME feel suffocated. Click the 'Sample' button before you buy just to make sure you can handle the narrator....
Wow. I had mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I admired the authors’ bold imagination on complex global issues. The idealism was almost childish, but I kept reminding myself that “these are the Google guys” and gave them the benefit of the doubt.
The allure of the book revolves mainly around its passionate and revolutionary tone. More and more, the physical world is casting a kind of digital shadow where almost all human activity can be recorded. This data is a new metric available to those with access to it. However, the authors seem almost blinded by their own imagination. There is some bizarre detachment to some of their solutions. They paint pictures of Somalis running around with cell phones and snitching on war lords using a form of cyber-bullying. Let them eat cake! Or more, appropriately, let them have cell phones and data plans!
Instead of an Orwellian police state, where the government spies on its citizens…..we can have a Democratic Police State, where citizens spy on their government and each other. By stripping away privacy, the authors envision a kind of transparent super-state in which each citizen has the technological power to expose any wrong-doing. Each citizen is a reporter, a photojournalist, a spy, and vigilante. Through a system of total surveillance, we will apparently have a world of total transparency, and thereby a world where no one does anything wrong. Why? Because everyone is watching. Instead of Big Brother, we get Big Neighbor.
To justify this digital anarchy, you’ll notice the authors’ heroic image of a digital super-state in action. Citizens would cyber-bully bad governments until they topple while NGO’s [non-governmental organizations] are deployed around the world to distribute food, commodities, and technology. NGO’s replace governments by distributing resources wherever needed thereby ending poverty and dictatorships. The Digital Age apparently is one of distribution….not free trade. The role of the citizen is as an informer working “together with the State” against undesirables. Digital mob actions would keep everyone in check. The authors’ literally suggest public tribunals and community policing programs. We would have a decentralized fascist public equipped to expose wrong-doers and undermine any central authority at will. Therefore, the main ‘revolution’ of the Digital Age appears to be radicalism against…ourselves.
These are not new ideas. This policing and distribution model for society is simply getting new life because of new technology. This time, we are assured, the power will be used for good. This time, only bad people will be targeted.
If anything, this book got me thinking. Instead of destroying privacy because we can, we should focus more on how to better protect it. Privacy is a barrier between us, the public, and the government. Our lives are our own record of experiences, a secret patent to our personal belief system, a trademark for our self-image, and our very own brand of personality. Our digital self is our own intellectual property. You, Inc. The government’s role should be in protecting your privacy….and NOT in protecting the rights of the intruders.
Google isn’t sharing its secrets with the world. Why are they asking us to share ours?
Once I got used to Clancy’s writing style I became deeply engrossed in this story’s universe. The characters are cardboard thin, but stand as reminders of a Cold War American point-of-view in action. The good guys are tough, no-nonsense, risk-taking, and politically righteous. In fact, listening to these characters troubleshoot international threats made me realize how different America is today.
Despite that, the middle of this novel is just PACKED with shocking and compelling strategies used by the Chinese to truly threaten our comfortable modern society. There is serious (and scary) creativity here….the kind that makes you wonder just how vulnerable the U.S. may be against cyber warfare. From corporate espionage in Silicon Valley, to dogfights above the South China Sea, to action in the neon backstreets of Hong Kong, the book truly goes all in. I felt the sensation of being convinced that the bad guys had finally figured out how to beat America. They had us. The escalation of events teased me with a peak at an epic digital war that threatened to engage all branches of the U.S. Military in a desperate fight for survival. The largest fighting force in the history of world, the American Military, seemed on the verge of actually becoming obsolete….
Then, the nightmare just ends. Right when the gloves are about the come off, the book folds up into a neat ‘Mission Accomplished.’ This should have been Book 1 to what would have been a breathtaking series.
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