#BookReview: Meganets by David Auerbach

A Needed Conversation. As someone also in tech at a megacorporation (though to be clear, not the same ones Auerbach has worked for) that openly seeks to employ several of the technologies discussed in this book, and as someone who finished this book right as Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter was being completed and Facebook announced that it was open to colluding with Twitter regarding content moderation… this was an absolutely fascinating look at my field and where at least one part of it currently is. But it is also written in a very approachable manner, one such that anyone who so much as uses any social media even casually or who interacts with their government virtually at all (if you see what I did there 😉 ) will be able to follow along with reasonably well. Fear not! No Discrete Modeling, Statistics, Calculus, or any other high level collegiate mathematics Computer Science majors are forced to endure will be required here. 🙂

And yet, this is also a book that everyone *needs* to read and understand. Auerbach manages to boil his primary thesis of what meganets are and how they operate into three very simple yet utterly complex words: Volume. Velocity. Virality. And he repeats these words so *very* often that you *will* remember them long after you’ve read this text. (Though I note this writing this review just 24 hrs after finishing my read of it, and knowing I’ll read at least 30 more books before 2022 is done. So check back with me on that after this book actually publishes in about 4.5 months. :D)

Indeed, really the only problem here – potentially corrected before publication – is that at least in the copy I read, the bibliography only accounted for about 15% of the text, which is fairly light for a nonfiction book in my experience, where 20-30% is more normal and 50% is particularly well documented. Thus, the single star deduction.

Still, this truly is a book everyone, from casual readers uninterested in anything computer yet who are forced to use computers in modern life to the uber-techs actually working in and leading the fields in question to the politicians and activists seeking to understand and control these technologies, needs to read. Very much recommended.

This review of Meganets by David Auerbach was originally written on October 29, 2022.

#BookReview: Out Of Time by Matthew Mather

Freaking LHC / CERN *STILL* Trying To Destroy The World! One of the most important websites you can check every morning is HasTheLargeHadronColliderDestroyedTheWorldYet.com … and here, in this action-packed continuation of the Delta Devlin series, Matthew Mather gives yet another reason this is true. One I had never even considered – passing data backward through time – … and doing other things that are certain to go into spoiler territory to name (even without a description of this book to judge “spoiler” by) but which are truly, utterly terrifying. Mather attains the best of the creativity of a Jeremy Robinson type of science fiction writer with the “straight out of the headlines” level current/ near-future tech of a more Michael Crichton type science fiction writer – high praise indeed, considering that both of the aforementioned authors are among my all-time favorites – and he uses this skill to create a tale that can stand up against most any action-based science fiction tale out there. I for one can’t wait to see what tech he tackles next in this series! Very much recommended.

This review of Out Of Time by Matthew Mather was originally written on September 28, 2021.

#BookReview: A Brief History of Motion by Tom Standage

Interesting Overview. Needs Bibliography. It is actually somewhat interesting to me that of five reviews on Goodreads prior to this one, one of the reviewers specifically notes a lack of footnotes as a *good* thing… and this very thing is actually pretty well the only thing I could find to *ding* this text on. But I’m fairly consistent in that – no matter what, I expect a fact-based (vs more memoir-based) nonfiction title to include and reference a decent sized bibliography.

That noted, the substance of this text was well-written, approachable, at times amusing, and full of facts from a wide range of eras that this reader had not previously known. Even in the chapter on the development of driverless cars – much more thoroughly documented in DRIVEN by Alex Davies – there were a few facts that even having read that book and being a professional software developer (and thus more generally aware of tech than some), I genuinely didn’t know before reading this book. Preceding chapters tracing the development of transportation during the 19th and early 20th centuries in particular were utterly fascinating, as was later coverage of the potential future for a car-less society. Remarkably well balanced, the text tends to steer clear – pun absolutely intended – of various relevant controversies (climate change, Peak Oil, Peak Car, autonomous vehicles, car-less society, etc) even while discussing said controversies’ impact on society and future developments. Truly a solid examination of its topic, and very much recommended.

This review of A Brief History Of Motion by Tom Standage was originally written on July 1, 2021.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Pipe Dreams by Chelsea Wald

This week we’re looking at a book all about the history and development of an issue that was at the forefront of our minds one year ago during the Great Toilet Paper Outage of 2020. This week we’re looking at Pipe Dreams by Chelsea Wald.

Thought Provoking and Informative. I consider myself a well read guy, a guy that has thought through a lot of problems and who generally knows a lot about a lot. Admittedly, I did *not* know much about toilets and related plumbing, though I had read bits and pieces in other books. (Such as a more in-depth look at John Snow and his work during the 19th century London cholera outbreak in Dierdre Mask’s The Address Book.) But I had never read up on the general history of toilets – apparently because there are scant details about historical toileting beyond the last couple of hundred years or so – much less the bleeding edge issues and technologies of this field. And that is exactly what Wald provides here, a look at everything from the history to almost to-the-day bleeding edge issues, including the Great Toilet Paper Outage of 2020 during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Very well written and mostly reasonably documented (about 15% or so is bibliography), this truly is a fascinating read. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Meet Your Maker by Matthew Mather

Intriguing Possibilities. This is similar in its application of emerging tech to Michael Crichton’s Prey – a couple of the scenes here in particular brought that tale *immediately* to mind – while doing an excellent job of using real-world politics as an equally interesting backdrop to the science/ science fiction. Mather plays with the ideas of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in fascinating and terrifying ways – ways one hopes no one gets too many ideas from. Excellent story, and very much recommended.

This review of Meet Your Maker by Matthew Mather was originally written on July 20, 2020.