What We Are Reading Today: The Chaos Machine

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Updated 04 September 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Chaos Machine

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Author: Max Fisher

This is a terrifying, well-argued polemic against the power of social media to turn the average apolitical person into a hate spewing warrior or worse.
Building on years of international reporting, Max Fisher tells the gripping and galling inside story of how Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social networks, in their pursuit of unfettered profits, preyed on psychological frailties to create the algorithms that drive everyday users to extreme opinions and, increasingly, extreme actions.
As Fisher demonstrates, the companies’ founding tenets, combined with a blinkered focus maximizing engagement, have led to a destabilized world for everyone.
Traversing the planet, Fisher tracks the ubiquity of hate speech and its spillover into violence. Through it all, the social-media giants refused to intervene in any meaningful way, claiming to champion free speech when in fact what they most prized were limitless profits.
The result, as Fisher shows, is a cultural shift toward a world in which people are polarized not by beliefs based on facts, but by misinformation, outrage, and fear.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Microfinance and Its Discontents by Lamia Karim

What We Are Reading Today: Microfinance and Its Discontents by Lamia Karim
Updated 26 November 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Microfinance and Its Discontents by Lamia Karim

What We Are Reading Today: Microfinance and Its Discontents by Lamia Karim

In 2006, the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh won the Nobel Peace Prize for its innovative microfinancing operations.

This path-breaking study of gender, grassroots globalization, and neoliberalism in Bangladesh look critically at the Grameen Bank and three of the leading NGOs in the country.

Amid euphoria over the benefits of microfinance, Lamia Karim offers a timely and sobering perspective on the practical, and possibly detrimental, realities for poor women inducted into microfinance operations.

In a series of ethnographic cases, Karim shows how NGOs use social codes of honor and shame to shape the conduct of women and to further an agenda of capitalist expansion, according to a review on goodreads.com

These unwritten policies subordinate poor women to multiple levels of debt that often lead to increased violence at the household and community levels, thereby weakening women’s ability to resist the onslaught of market forces.


What We Are Reading Today: Tracers in the Dark

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Updated 26 November 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Tracers in the Dark

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Author: Andy Greenberg

This is a great book from an amazing technology journalist — specifically covering the tools and procedures used to trace cryptocurrency transactions (e.g. bitcoin) for law enforcement purposes.
With unprecedented access to the major players in federal law enforcement and private industry, veteran cybersecurity reporter Andy Greenberg tells an astonishing saga of criminal empires built and destroyed.
Greenberg is an award-winning senior writer for Wired, covering security, privacy, information freedom, and hacker culture.
While there are countless cryptocurrencies, the book focuses on the most famous one, bitcoin. The book focuses on the mechanics of crypto, and while it has revolutionized financial services, it has spawned a massive opportunity for illicit activities.
“His previous book Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hackers, reads like this one. Stories that sound like they are out
of a Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum novel, but are very nonfiction, and reflect a more significant problem facing society,” said a review on goodreads.com.

The story Greenberg tells so well encompasses a mixture of technology, international law enforcement, financial forensics, greed, and more.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Neuropedia: A Brief Compendium of Brain Phenomena

What We Are Reading Today: Neuropedia: A Brief Compendium of Brain Phenomena
Updated 24 November 2022

What We Are Reading Today: Neuropedia: A Brief Compendium of Brain Phenomena

What We Are Reading Today: Neuropedia: A Brief Compendium of Brain Phenomena

Author: Eric H. Chudler

Neuropedia journeys into the mysteries and marvels of the three pounds of tissue between your ears—the brain.

Eric Chudler takes you on a breathtaking tour of the nervous system with dozens of entries that explore the structure and function of the brain and cover topics such as the spinal cord and nerve cells, the methods of neuroscientific research, and the visionary scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding what makes each of us who we are.

The brain has fascinated and puzzled researchers, physicians, and philosophers for thousands of years and captivated us with each new discovery.


What We Are Reading Today: A Passion for Ignorance

What We Are Reading Today: A Passion for Ignorance
Updated 23 November 2022

What We Are Reading Today: A Passion for Ignorance

What We Are Reading Today: A Passion for Ignorance

Author: Renata Salecl

Ignorance, whether passive or active, conscious or unconscious, has always been a part of the human condition, Renata Salecl argues.

What has changed in our post-truth, post-industrial world is that we often feel overwhelmed by the constant flood of information and misinformation.

It sometimes seems impossible to differentiate between truth and falsehood and, as a result, there has been a backlash against the idea of expertise, and a rise in the number of people actively choosing not to know. 


What We Are Reading Today: The Global Rules of Art: The Emergence and Divisions of a Cultural World Economy

What We Are Reading Today: The Global Rules of Art: The Emergence and Divisions of  a Cultural World Economy
Updated 23 November 2022

What We Are Reading Today: The Global Rules of Art: The Emergence and Divisions of a Cultural World Economy

What We Are Reading Today: The Global Rules of Art: The Emergence and Divisions of  a Cultural World Economy

Author: Larissa Buchholz

Prior to the 1980s, the postwar canon of “international” contemporary art was made up almost exclusively of artists from North America and Western Europe, while cultural agents from other parts of the world often found themselves on the margins.

The Global Rules of Art examines how this discriminatory situation has changed in recent decades.

Drawing from abundant sources—including objective indicators from more than one hundred countries, multiple institutional histories and discourses, extensive fieldwork, and interviews with artists, critics, curators, gallerists, and auction house agents—Larissa Buchholz examines the emergence of a world-spanning art field whose logics have increasingly become defined in global terms.