Tag Archives: sociology

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Habit 6: Synergize

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

This is a self-development book with a huge success since it was released in the 1989. Like many self-development books, you are right both if you think it works or of you think it doesn’t.

The author encourages the reader to divide its life into personal and public spheres and try to improve both by using the good habits he describes. There is no study or research behind the results, except the author’ personal experience and common sense. His Christian belief and principles, clearly confessed in a short paragraph at the end of the volume, is the basis of his philosophy.

While now synergize and proactive are overused, back in the day they were innovative concepts. Much in vogue in the business schools, the book was popular with managers and people who just want to improve.

There is nothing new or exceptional in the author’s advice, but just common sense for an active and fulfilling life. The relationship with family, kids, relationships at work are important. Being humble and organized are vital in Stephen Covey’s philosophical system.

At times, the book seems to force the reader into buying more; being too commercial and aggressive. The advice seems shallow sometimes, without research to back the statements. The arguments appear exaggerated in some circumstances.

The author passed away in 2014, after an accident, unfortunately.

Overall, an interesting book, useful for those who want to find their way in life or who are at cross roads.

 

The New Digital Age – Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen

There are an untold number of cultural similarities that have never been fully explored because of the difficulty of communication; in a future revolutionary setting, seemingly random connections between distant populations or people will entail knowledge transfer, outsourcing certain types of duties and amplifying the movement’s message in a new and unexpected way.

The book is written by the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, and Jared Cohen, former CEO of Google Ideas, and presents a vision of the future.

This future is largely dominated by digital, including in the medical field, in house appliances, with driverless cars, new ways of a state to govern, all interconnected.

There are information privacy concerns, a discussion on Assange’s Wikileaks motives and Navalny’s corruption exposures.

The media is in the era of instant information. Trust is important to determine the veracity of news. News become instant and losses quickly it’s value. As anyone can become a source of news, veracity becomes more important.

An important point made repeatedly by the book is that anything written online remains forever. There is no erase button. No privacy settings or even deleting emails can block that [the book was written in 2013, before the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation].

States are much interested in the use of data and a fragile equilibrium is set between security concerns and individual privacy.

The book is very forward-looking and opens a few delicate debates. However, while putting forward many interesting ideas, I felt that I am reading nothing new. I struggled since 2016 to finish the book.

The Great Acceleration: How the World is Getting Faster, Faster – Robert Colvile

The greatest impact will be felt in the east. Today, there are 28 cities with a population of more than ten million people. By 2030, the UN predicts there will be 41 – and more than half of them will be in Asia. In India, as ambition pulls and poverty pushes, urban populations will almost double over the next 20 years, with some 240 million people moving from country to city. China recently announced a plan to build another mega-city around Beijing, containing a third as many people as in the entire United States. In just a decade’s time, China will have 221 cities of more than a million people. There are only 35 such cities in the EU today.

The book discusses the changes in society, considering them increasingly fast. The author, Robert Colvile,  divides the book in several chapters that analyze separately the evolving human society: friendships and relationships, news, logistics, politics, culminating with environment.

Colvile argues that humans are more impatient, news are faster, sometimes lacking substance, logistics are incredibly well-timed, politics focus more on the news cycle rather than long-term strategies, cities are growing and become the nodal societal points, and we slowly damaging the environment.

The book is extremely entertaining, well-written, full of quoted studies and gems of wisdom. The arguments are purposely well-balanced, rather on the optimistic side of technology. It is generally highly recommended by readers of all tastes.

Robert Colvile is a journalist, writing for various US and UK newspapers, such as Politico, Financial times or The Wire. He was previously news director at BuzzFeed and comment editor at the Daily Telegraph.

Overall, it’s a good book, entertaining, well-written, exploring the current societal trends. A nice book to have in a train or on a beach.

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other – Sherry Turkle

Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. And as it turns out, we are very vulnerable indeed. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.

This is a very thought engaging book, looking how communication technology changes our social interconnections. It is more than social media, the book looks at how people text instead of talk, hide behind an avatar, interact in video games, comment anonymously, have virtual pets and number hundreds of online friends.

In the first part, the book focuses more on social robots and how they help people: the elderly, to deal with attachment, loss of friends and isolation, children being in other countries or cities; and the children, for whom social robots are virtual pets. In the second part, the book looks at social networks and how mobile communication technologies are affecting human communication today.

An insightful book on social robots and the effect of mobile communication technologies and social media on human communication

The book is a well-researched, well-reasoned account, much based on interviews, of the changes that communication technology brings on social level. Some things are well-known, such as the profundity of the communication diminishes with the distance and complexity. For example, text says less than a phone call, and both less than a video. But there is more to that: a letter takes time and thought, while a quick SMS, which is also a text, gives much less information to receiver.

The author, Sherry Turkle, is an MIT technology and society professor, specialized in the effects of these new communication technologies and social robots on humans. She writes in consecutive books on these topics and the results of her interviews. You can watch some of her ideas on TED Talks as well.

In a way, the author long anticipated the problems with fake news, cognitive bias and confirmation bias that we are confronting today. She looks systematically at what could be the root causes of these dangerous symptoms.

This is a book that I  really recommend reading for the insightful conclusions that her interviews show.

[Feature photo by Fraser Smith]

Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke

Man was, therefore, still a prisoner on his own planet. It was much fairer, but a much smaller, planet than it had been a century before. When the Overlords abolished war and hunger and disease, they had also abolished adventure.

Childhood’s End is a good scifi from the accomplished author Arthur C Clarke. It starts with a sudden arrival of some aliens, just after the second world war. They bring peace and prosperity, but never disclose their reason to come to Earth. The book ends somewhat surprisingly, into a kind of transcendence for humankind.

childhoods-end
Quality scifi writing

Although written in 1953, the book keeps pace with current development and innovations, which shows the, what proved to be correct, vision of the author for the future.

The plot has several twists, a couple of stories being intermingled, but the narrative is kept straight and easy to follow. The anchor of the book are the aliens and the slow progress towards the inevitable end. It reminded me of the more recent series of Harry Turtledove (Colonization – also on this website).

The book is an easy read and imaginative enough to be an entertaining scifi almost 70 years after writing.

While I enjoyed reading the book, I think it could have explored more the excellent plot lines developed. A solid reading overall.

[Featured picture by ITU Pictures]

The Future of Almost Everything – Patrick Dixon

Over $5.3 trillion of currencies are traded every day, yet nations like the Philippines, Peru, Poland or the UK hold less than $80bn in reserves to defend against speculators. Enough to last only a few days.

The book is trying to identify future trends, developments that human society might take. Dixon considers that there are six main future trends, conveniently named: Fast, Urban, Tribal, Universal, Radical and Ethical (FUTURE).

Patrick Dixon has a lot of guessing and the arguments he shows are shallow. There are so many statements that some will certainly turn true.

future-of-everything
Guessing the future

Nonetheless, he is intriguing and has a good grasp of what is happening in the world. It makes a good overall read and challenges the reader. However, I did not feel that he bring anything new, all being trends that exist already and are extrapolated into the future.

Patrick Dixon is a professional futurologist, having a company specialized in this niche, with many reputable international clients. He writes often, on various subjects.

The style of reading is very fluid and it follows very neatly the logic of each chapter or trend. It make a good read overall, but not exceptional.

[Feature photo by Kristian Bjornard]

Shadow work-the unpaid, unseen jobs that fill your day – Craig Lambert

Shadow work will grow. It rewards businesses and organizations in ways that are irresistible. No capitalist can refuse a chance to cut those heavy personnel costs by transferring jobs to customers who work for free. As shadow work merges into our daily routines, it will affect social habits, economic patterns, and lifestyles.

This amazing book by Craig Lambert discusses the many small jobs that fill the day, uselessly tiring a person and keeping it in constant stress. From the self-check out to cleaning your own table , from the meaningless coupons and small reduction cards to freely creating content by posting reviews (TripAdvisor, GoodReads), the author gives many examples of work that keeps us busy, without actually creating significant value-added.

The phrase that I loved most was: if you are not paying for the product, you are the product. Think of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others.

shadow-work
Is your time precious?

The book has some parts where the author rather rants and does not make clear that some of this work is to save money. Nonetheless, it is often forgotten that time is the most precious resource and the author correctly notes that people prefer giving time for money rather than money for time.

Craig Lambert makes the reader think of how much content and personal information, he/she is giving for free. Reviews, grading, customer experience surveys, likes, are all commercial information freely given. It has a huge success: Facebook, Uber, AirBnb, Quora, Booking.com thrive on the free work done by customers, giving their own time.

The book is a good read for everyone tired at the end of the day and wondering why. Some enjoy doing the volunteering job, others just get caught in a whirlpool of small tasks.