This book unfolds the last four decades in the United States using stories of people who lived it. They include the rich, the poor, the obscure, the famous, and the stories weave through the America experience in a way that explains where we've been and what has happened. Well-read.
This is not like any outlaw story I've ever read. It is told from Ned's own lips and a short way in you've forgotten there's a narrator or an author. These are Ned Kelly's own writings, damn it, and told in his own voice.
The story is engaging, taut and utterly authentic. It is peopled with a humanity that oozes with veracity. The good and the bad are hardly imagined in this tale. There is the living and the loves, the family, the life under someone's thumb. And through it all, I felt like I was there and found myself sneering once or twice, 'adjectively.'
When I was ten, eleven, twelve, I used to stop by the Scientology storefront in Hollywood occasionally and grab one of their questionnaires. I'd take it home, answer it, and bring it back in. They'd analyze it very quickly (as I recall) and sit me down with someone who would talk about what my answers revealed. It was my first exposure to personal analysis of any kind and was surprisingly useful and telling for me.
But I never went beyond that, never paid, never read a book, never considered believing.
Then, many years later, I realized I had a very dark view of the organization and I wanted to reconcile my various naievetes. This book, certainly slanted to the negative side of the story, provides some hints to the positive side, and gave me an excellent understanding of why I have seen the organization with such dark lenses. It also helped me better understand how I could explore the positive and effective areas of Hubbard's work.
Working for a robotic-oriented firm, and with peers moving into other robotic fields, I wanted to get at least a sense of the military aspect of robotics. Singer, however, gave me exactly what I wanted and so much more. The book is a history of robotics, technology in warfare, and military robotics. But it also delves into the legal, moral, and cultural issues around robotics and robotic warfare, and reveals the very real ties between the military and modern science fiction. The book is a view into our modern world, and into our future, in a surprising and compelling way. I was surprised by how avidly I wanted to listen to this book. I know I will listen again.
This telling of Coolidge's life, career, presidency, and after is tonic for the times. This was a principled individual who sought to steer in a sensible way, and in small ways. Well-written, well-researched, and well-read. The book flows and feels complete. There were aspects of the era I missed in this book, though, too. Prohibition is hardly mentioned among other large influences and events of the era. But overall, excellent.
Richard Poe, narrator of this book, pauses for from 1 to 3 seconds between every sentence. I listen while I ride my bike to work, while I walk the dog, while I drive and I find it impossible to retain any continuity with the subject. Constantly rewinding to figure out who or what is being covered. The book itself sounds fascinating. But after chipping away at an hour of it, I admitted defeat.
Who is George Wilson and why is he reading this book? He enunciates words likes he is explaining to three-year-olds, but back in the 1950s when boredom was considered a just punishment of the young. I listened to an hour and realized that I had paid attention to maybe 20 minutes of it. CANNOT continue.
Very interesting material, but written and performed as though for sixth graders. A list of these musicians' works would be a welcome addition.
As a reader, as a historian, I wanted to love this book. I even took it on a long flight. But the book mires itself too much in a narrow view of politics that could have been dispensed with (and made clearer) in a tenth of the space.
The book delivered on the designer and the design, and on the construction (if skewed a bit heavily to the caissons). If that were the whole book and the politics were winnowed down, I would have given this a 4. To get the big five, because McCullough is a good writer, I would have also gotten a lot more about what was going on in the world of the 1860s to the 1880s. Carnegie is in the book as a potential steel supplier, and the different types of steel are discussed, but these things were big pendulums in the world, and even a paragraph about the force and direction of that pendulum would have made this story connect in a vibrant way to a lot of history. There were a whole host of missed opportunities like this.
Not the big glorious flowing history that fires all the synapses that I wanted.
Hawkins shows up with such great credentials - inventor of the Palm, neuroscience researcher - and with such big promises - a model of intelligence. The first real model ever invoked. And, yes, he delivers. But the concept is simple, and perhaps it is earth-shattering to some. But he continually offers very simple examples and extends them to boredom. He could have gone into greater detail, could have offered more complex examples, could have compared small mammalian brains to larger, to humans. To precortical brains. (He does, but like everything else in the book, quite briefly and lightly.)
He debunks Artificial Intelligence (AI) and neural networks, but then his examples of the future possibilities following his model are often already in existence. Maybe formulated in a different manner, but HOW is it different? He also does not address the transformation of the web from a network of links to a data-driven decision-making entity, further along the path of intelligence than AI. This data model has moved voice recognition, one example of failed AI efforts he bemoans in 2005, to a fair level of functional success.
The book just seems tepid. Not the tome that incites you to think and then rethink that I thought and then unthought it might be...
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