MixedWall Street JournalBinge Times has its moments, as when the authors describe John Stankey, the AT&T lifer who engineered the Time Warner purchase and is now AT&T’s chief executive ... The story of Netflix barging into Hollywood’s china shop is one that cries out for a big, sweeping treatment that leverages the clash of outsize personalities. Unfortunately, Binge Times lurches from one company to another and one time period to another in a way that’s confusing, disjointed and strangely inert ... While the book can be good at pointing out less-than-obvious motivations—the role of executive bonuses in driving bad business decisions, for example—the authors show some peculiar lapses in judgment.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalThe rare volume that puts a name on a problem just as it becomes critical ... There are times when Ms. Zuboff seems melodramatic. Her case is stronger when she marshals facts than when she ratchets up the rhetoric. Yes, we stand to lose a lot. But this book’s major contribution is to give a name to what’s happening, to put it in cultural and historical perspective, and to ask us to pause long enough to think about the future and how it might be different from today.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIt’s short, it’s levelheaded and it tells you what you need to know. Among other things, the book answers the sometimes vexing question of what VR is actually good for.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. Lanier’s Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality is a highly eccentric memoir that traces the author’s quest for VR back to its roots, not as some sort of geeky engineering challenge but as a feeling he had as a child of being overwhelmed by the magic of the universe … What went wrong at VPL? Unfortunately, you won’t find out here. Mr. Lanier warns us he isn’t going to deliver a blow-by-blow; instead we get a disjointed sequence of half-remembered anecdotes. What does come through is his ambivalence about going into business at all, and his even deeper ambivalence toward writing about it.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalLucid and engaging, it has much to offer the general reader. Mr. Tegmark’s explanation of how electronic circuitry—or a human brain—could produce something so evanescent and immaterial as thought is both elegant and enlightening. But the idea that a machine-based superintelligence could somehow run amok is fiercely resisted by many computer scientists, to the point that people associated with it have been attacked as Luddites ... By failing either to refute or champion the bulk of these possible futures, Mr. Tegmark makes the whole exercise seem divorced from reality. But he means it as a challenge: Rather than our being told what is going to happen, he wants us to decide what we want to happen. This sounds quite noble, if a tad naive—until he invites us to debate the issue on a web site that is chockablock with promo material for the book. There’s a place for self-promotion, just as there’s a place for killer-robot movies—but does either really contribute to our understanding of what humanity faces?
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIt’s a remarkable tale, one that takes us well beyond the predictable panorama of late-night coding sessions and choreographed Apple product launches (though we see those as well). Instead, Mr. Merchant goes deep into the guts of the device that has made Apple the most valuable publicly traded company on the planet ... To his credit, Mr. Merchant doesn’t buy the myth of Steve Jobs as the lone genius. He highlights the men who actually made it happen, often working without Jobs’s involvement or even knowledge ... His focus is on the human side of the device—on the people who overcame engineering challenges to design it, who mine the metals that go into it, who put it together at a rate of one every 60 seconds. The One Device is not without problems: Its prose is uneven, its organization highly idiosyncratic. But the story it tells is compelling, even addictive—almost as addictive as the iPhone itself.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThe trouble begins when he stops observing emergent phenomena and starts pumping for them as the ideal solution to any given problem. He makes a good case that education would be better off without bureaucrats. But elsewhere he overreaches.