This is a daring and provocative book which speculates about a wide range of topics from an elevator into space to colonizing and mining asteroids to...moreThis is a daring and provocative book which speculates about a wide range of topics from an elevator into space to colonizing and mining asteroids to mind-enhancing drugs. The first two sections are about privacy, technology and online business.This is extended on with discussions of the future of crime and law enforcement. Next comes a discussion of biotechnologies. And finally a serious of five chapters highlight "the real science fiction" - topics such as the future of biowarfare, nanotechnologies and space.
The author clearly has a broad mind and a lot of experience on different topics but even so the author is a law professor with economics background and much of the analysis - particularly on the internet - has a legal and economic slant to it. There are many interesting discussions and ideas but overall I think there is a bit too much focus on the internet and electronic technologies instead of other topics.
The treatment for instance of green technologies and global warming is rather limited. In the last chapter the author expresses skepticisim about global warming as a problem. Part of this is based on economics - the scares about population explosion and food shortages from two decades ago turned out not to be a problem because of responses. Part of this is based on the idea that there are also positive consequences from warming for some regions in the world and for things such as photosynthesis. But the main point the author makes is that the impact is rather far into the future and there are many things we simply do not know - but these are exactly the sort of topics covered by the book.(less)
There are brilliant sections of this book. There is an interpretative history of modern China. There is insight into some of the key personalities. Th...moreThere are brilliant sections of this book. There is an interpretative history of modern China. There is insight into some of the key personalities. There is history of the relationship between the US and China which Kissinger personally developed and played a key role in over a long period of time.
What is strange though is that for someone who was always very cautious in his views, this is a strangely opinionated book without original opinions. There is a very clear point of view and it almost reads like the China Daily. I was expected a book which was more balanced and thoughtful with more of Kissinger's original thinking.
There are two problems with the book:
- There is a fawning respect for the leaders of China -- Mao is related to Qin Shihuang and the the Chinese government point of view of Tiananmen incident is presented in a sympathetic light. There is mention of the horrific cost of some of Mao's campaigns but at the same time there is some pain to explain things from Mao's point of view.
- There is far too little about the future and overall on what Kissinger himself thinks about the issues.(less)
This book argues that US policy and business involvement in China has been predicated on a fantasy - that China over time will become more democratic...moreThis book argues that US policy and business involvement in China has been predicated on a fantasy - that China over time will become more democratic and therefore follow a model like South Korea or Taiwan. The book - written in 2007 before the Olympics - predicts a crackdown before the Olympics and lack of tolerance for dissent which was strikingly like what actually happened.
The book argues that the dynamics in China are much different than elsewhere. The middle class in the cities has little interest in democracy because of the predominant rural population who would outvote them. One by one the author tears down other arguments that China will move towards democracy. Instead of China evolving towards a democracy, the book argues that it could be a continuing model of a repressive state which is successful economically. The author is particularly critical of China hands and specialists in the US who have "spun" a story about China changing which is not true.
What do I make of this book? It is certainly true that there is not a Western concept of individual liberty in China but instead a concept of greater social good. If you go to remote rural areas there may be electricity or other developments you would not likely see in some democracies at similar levels of development. A lot of the investments are long-term in nature, investments you would not see in parliamentary democracies. In such an ideology, opposing the state is seen as morally wrong. The core point is that there are two different systems and there is no reason for the Chinese system to evolve towards the US/European ones. It is certainly important to understand this is a different model. On the other hand, I thought the author was overly critical of the political philosophy - it has brought a generation out of poverty and has had many successes and despite its weaknesses, it has strengths.
It is difficult to evaluate this book. The narrative is broad, covering history in all regions of the world and on topics ranging from love to politic...moreIt is difficult to evaluate this book. The narrative is broad, covering history in all regions of the world and on topics ranging from love to politics. The overall thesis, though, that Western historians look at global history through a European lens and periodisation, is somewhat obvious. Chinese historians look at global history or even that of North and Inner Asia through the lens of Chinese history and its concepts. For while Goody is surely right that European historians have a Eurocentric bias in their focus and periodisation, he does not present alternative periodisations. The author is clearly widely read and I found the book fascinating -- but for someone so critical of history for being Eurocentric, almost all the sources are European. For Chinese history there is Elvin (I am not a fan of Elvin's work) and Needham rather than Chinese historians themselves. (less)
Robert Middlekauff's, the Glorius Cause, is a volume of the Oxford History of America dealing with the revolutionary war area (1763-1787 or so) (it is...moreRobert Middlekauff's, the Glorius Cause, is a volume of the Oxford History of America dealing with the revolutionary war area (1763-1787 or so) (it is available on the Kindle). This good book provides a lot of context particularly on the "thinking" on both sides of the Atlantic about the relationship prior to the Declaration of Independence. And it provides good discussion of the distrust of government and the consequent need for both strong representation and checks and balances that characterise the American system to this day. The book is not short (760 pages) but it covers a lot of ground and some parts of it are truncated. It has less on military battles and social history than other books will -- it is more about political history, broadly defined but it does have a fair amount of coverage on other topics as well. (less)
This is a fascinating book which relies extensively on oral history of defectors to describe life in North Korea. It focuses on the lives/experiences...moreThis is a fascinating book which relies extensively on oral history of defectors to describe life in North Korea. It focuses on the lives/experiences of only few defectors from the Chongjin in the Korean north. I found myself nearly in tears at some points at the description of the hunger and pain that the people encounter as well as the difficulties that defectors faced. One of the weaknesses here is that by far the most defectors are in China properly and therefore researchers in China are better placed to put a book like this together. The actual description though in the book is excellent -- there is a lot of poignant descriptions of feelings from love to betrayal -- and the descriptions seem to capture the psychology of the moment very well.(less)
The book is entertaining and easy to read. It is a good exposition of the shortcomings of epidemological evidence on weight loss and as such is intere...moreThe book is entertaining and easy to read. It is a good exposition of the shortcomings of epidemological evidence on weight loss and as such is interesting. But when it does to answering the question "Why we get fat", Taubes' analysis is also subject to a large number of shortcomings in terms of the evidence. The juxtaposition of a harsh critique with a theory subject to many of the same criticisms is not an attractive mix in terms of content. On the other hand, the excellent writing and the clear passion the author has for the subject makes this a book well worth reading. (less)
This is a well-written discussion about the issues with cyber security and in particular the vulnerability of the United States. It is difficult to kn...moreThis is a well-written discussion about the issues with cyber security and in particular the vulnerability of the United States. It is difficult to know for sure about vulnerabilities as much of it will depend on information/knowledge not in the public domain. Still the author does raise important issues, reviews them well and provides some guidance to the policy debate. I think it is too US-focused - why for instance is cyberwar not also an issue for European and other governments. And for that I deduct one star.(less)
This is a reasonably credible and balanced discussion of the controlling role of the Chinese communist party in all major aspects of the Chinese econo...moreThis is a reasonably credible and balanced discussion of the controlling role of the Chinese communist party in all major aspects of the Chinese economy, including large state enterprises. Nothing in it is much of a surprise to those really familiar with China. However it is a good read for those who are not and have illusions that the Chinese system is somehow going to drift/move towards a Western system. MacGregor highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of the Chinese approach.(less)
This is a nicely written synopsis of the problems the incoming Obama administration faced in 2009 when it entered office. I think it underestimated ec...moreThis is a nicely written synopsis of the problems the incoming Obama administration faced in 2009 when it entered office. I think it underestimated economic issues (especially in light of the financial crisis) and did not emphasize enough areas of progress during the Bush administration but it reads well and is engaging.(less)
This book is about leading change by example. It's largely focused on individual projects and therefore is better aimed at how individuals can contrib...moreThis book is about leading change by example. It's largely focused on individual projects and therefore is better aimed at how individuals can contribute to change things. It's less of a book on leadership of multiple projects.(less)