In a world dominated by analytics, algorithms, and models, this is a welcome call for reclaiming our common humanity.

THE EYE TEST

A CASE FOR HUMAN CREATIVITY IN THE AGE OF ANALYTICS

How did we get to a society where numbers drive everything? This fascinating book provides helpful insight and a possible course correction.

Do the math. Crunch the numbers. Follow the model. Analytics has become the secret machinery of the modern world, grinding away behind the curtain. Once hailed as the answer to any number of social ills, analytics has become a pathway to dislocation, inequality, and outright weirdness. Jones, a former writer at large for Esquire and winner of two National Magazine Awards, began his journalistic career as a sportswriter in the era when quantitative analysis was taking over professional sports. While providing plenty of useful information, the method also took away much of what made a game interesting, including tension, surprise, excitement, and even joy. Once the idea of the math model was established, it infected everything, from the making of movies to the stock market. Algorithms appear to be based on impartial science, but they seek to predict the future by looking only at the past and are unable to handle variation, complexity, and outliers. Jones has a good time recounting examples of things going wrong, and he does so with a dry sense of humor. However, the topic becomes far more serious when analytics is applied to government and law enforcement. Facial recognition software, for example, has great difficulty reading Black faces (women even more than men), and the picture gets even darker when data is used to fit a narrative rather than reveal the truth. The author makes a convincing case that we should trust our intuition and creativity and treat others as individuals instead of mere aggregations of information. Yes, analytics and algorithms are useful in many ways, but ultimately, they should remain subordinate to a person with a stock of lived experience, empathy, and wisdom.

In a world dominated by analytics, algorithms, and models, this is a welcome call for reclaiming our common humanity.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3067-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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