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Futurology


The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible (Sacred Activism)

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible (Sacred Activism) Lowest new price: $10.33
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Author: Charles Eisenstein
Brand: Brand: North Atlantic Books

In a time of social and ecological crisis, what can we as individuals do to make the world a better place? This inspirational and thought-provoking book serves as an empowering antidote to the cynicism, frustration, paralysis, and overwhelm so many of us are feeling, replacing it with a grounding reminder of what’s true: we are all connected, and our small, personal choices bear unsuspected transformational power. By fully embracing and practicing this principle of interconnectedness—called interbeing—we become more effective agents of change and have a stronger positive influence on the world.

Throughout the book, Eisenstein relates real-life stories showing how small, individual acts of courage, kindness, and self-trust can change our culture’s guiding narrative of separation, which, he shows, has generated the present planetary crisis. He brings to conscious awareness a deep wisdom we all innately know: until we get our selves in order, any action we take—no matter how good our intentions—will ultimately be wrongheaded and wronghearted. Above all, Eisenstein invites us to embrace a radically different understanding of cause and effect, sounding a clarion call to surrender our old worldview of separation, so that we can finally create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

With chapters covering separation, interbeing, despair, hope, pain, pleasure, consciousness, and many more, the book invites us to let the old Story of Separation fall away so that we can stand firmly in a Story of Interbeing.

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The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (P.S.)

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (P.S.) Lowest new price: $5.60
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Author: Matt Ridley

“Ridley writes with panache, wit, and humor and displays remarkable ingenuity in finding ways to present complicated materials for the lay reader.” — Los Angeles Times

In a bold and provocative interpretation of economic history, Matt Ridley, the New York Times-bestselling author of Genome and The Red Queen, makes the case for an economics of hope, arguing that the benefits of commerce, technology, innovation, and change—what Ridley calls cultural evolution—will inevitably increase human prosperity. Fans of the works of Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel), Niall Ferguson (The Ascent of Money), and Thomas Friedman (The World Is Flat) will find much to ponder and enjoy in The Rational Optimist.

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Who Owns the Future?

Who Owns the Future? Lowest new price: $8.29
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Author: Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier is the father of virtual reality and one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers. Who Owns the Future? is his visionary reckoning with the most urgent economic and social trend of our age: the poisonous concentration of money and power in our digital networks.

Lanier has predicted how technology will transform our humanity for decades, and his insight has never been more urgently needed. He shows how Siren Servers, which exploit big data and the free sharing of information, led our economy into recession, imperiled personal privacy, and hollowed out the middle class. The networks that define our world—including social media, financial institutions, and intelligence agencies—now threaten to destroy it.

But there is an alternative. In this provocative, poetic, and deeply humane book, Lanier charts a path toward a brighter future: an information economy that rewards ordinary people for what they do and share on the web.

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, May 2013: Jaron Lanier's last book, You Are Not a Gadget, was an influential criticism of Web 2.0's crowd-sourced backbone. In Who Owns the Future?, Lanier is interested in how network technologies affect our culture, economy, and collective soul. Lanier is talking about pretty heady stuff--the monopolistic power of big tech companies (dubbed "Siren Servers"), the flattening of the middle class, the obscuring of humanity--but he has a gift for explaining sophisticated concepts with clarity. In fact, what separates Lanier from a lot of techno-futurists is his emphasis on the maintaining humanism and accessibility in technology. In the most ambitious part of the book, Lanier expresses what he believes to be the ideal version of the networked future--one that is built on two-way connections instead of one-way relationships, allowing content, media, and other innovations to be more easily attributed (including a system of micro-payments that lead back to its creator). Is the two-way networked vision of the internet proposed in Who Owns the Future quixotic? Even Lanier seems unsure, but his goal here is to establish a foundation for which we should strive. At one point, Lanier jokingly asks sci-fi author William Gibson to write something that doesn't depict technology as so menacing. Gibson replies, "Jaron, I tried. But it's coming out dark." Lanier is able to conjure a future that's much brighter, and hopefully in his imagination, we are moving closer to that. --Kevin Nguyen

Q&A with Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier

Q. Years ago, in the early days of networking, you and your friends asserted that information should be free. What made you change your tune?

A. In the big picture, a great new technology that makes the world more efficient should result in waves of new opportunity. That’s what happened with, say, electricity, telephones, cars, plumbing, fertilizers, vaccinations, and many other examples. Why on earth have the early years of the network revolution been associated with recessions, austerity, jobless recoveries, and loss of social mobility? Something has clearly gone wrong.

The old ideas about information being free in the information age ended up screwing over everybody except the owners of the very biggest computers. The biggest computers turned into spying and behavior modification operations, which concentrated wealth and power.

Sharing information freely, without traditional rewards like royalties or paychecks, was supposed to create opportunities for brave, creative individuals. Instead, I have watched each successive generation of young journalists, artists, musicians, photographers, and writers face harsher and harsher odds. The perverse effect of opening up information has been that the status of a young person’s parents matters more and more, since it’s so hard to make one’s way.

Q. Throughout history, technological revolutions have caused unemployment but also brought about new types of jobs to replace the old ones. What’s different today?

A. Cars can now drive themselves, and cloud services can translate passages between languages well enough to be of practical use. But the role of people in these technologies turned out to be a surprise.

Back in the 1950s, the fantasy in the computer science world was that smart scientists would achieve machine intelligence and profound levels of automation, but that never worked. Instead, vast amounts of “big data” gathered from real people is rehashed to create automation. There are many, many real people behind the curtain.

This should be great news for the future of employment! Multitudes of people are needed in order for robots to speak, drive cars, or perform operations. The only problem is that as the information age is dawning, the ideology of bright young people and newfangled plutocrats alike holds that information should be free.

Q. Who does own the future? What’s up for grabs that will affect our future livelihoods?

A. The answer is indeed up for grabs. If we keep on doing things as we are, the answer is clear: The future will be narrowly owned by the people who run the biggest, best connected computers, which will usually be found in giant, remote cloud computing farms.

The answer I am promoting instead is that the future should be owned broadly by everyone who contributes data to the cloud, as robots and other machines animated by cloud software start to drive our vehicles, care for us when we’re sick, mine our natural resources, create the physical objects we use, and so on, as the 21st century progresses.

Right now, most people are only gaining informal benefits from advances in technology, like free internet services, while those who own the biggest computers are concentrating formal benefits to an unsustainable degree.

Q. What is a “Siren Server” and how does it function?

A. I needed a broad name for the gargantuan cloud computer services that are concentrating wealth and influence in our era. They go by so many names! There are national intelligence agencies, the famous Silicon Valley companies with nursery school names, the stealthy high finance schemes, and others.

All these schemes are quite similar. The biggest computers can predictably calculate wealth and clout on a broad, statistical level. For instance, an insurance company might use massive amounts of data to only insure people who are unlikely to get sick. The problem is that the risk and loss that can be avoided by having the biggest computer still exist. Everyone else must pay for the risk and loss that the Siren Server can avoid.

The interesting thing about the original Homeric Sirens was that they didn’t actually attack sailors. The fatal peril was that sailors volunteered to grant the sirens control of the interaction. That’s what we’re all doing with the biggest computing schemes.

Q. As a solution to the economic problems caused by digital networks, you assert that each one of us should be paid for what we do and share online. How would that work?

A. We’ve all contributed to the fortunes of big Silicon Valley schemes, big finance schemes, and all manner of other schemes which are driven by computation over a network. But our contributions were deliberately forgotten. This is partly due to the ideology of copying without a trace that my friends and I mistakenly thought would lead to a fairer world, back in the day.

The error we made was simple: Not all computers are created equal.

What is clear is that networks could remember where the value actually came from, which is from a very broad range of people. I sketch a way that universal micropayments might solve the problem, though I am not attempting to present a utopian solution. Instead I hope to deprogram people from the “open” ideal to think about networks more broadly. I am certain that once the conversation escapes the bounds of what has become an orthodoxy, better ideas will come about.

Q. Who Owns the Future seems like two books in one. Does it seem that way to you?

A. If all I wanted was sympathy and popularity, I am sure that a critique by itself—without a proposal for a solution—would have been more effective.

It’s true that the fixes put forward in Who Owns the Future are ambitious, but they are presented within an explicitly modest wrapping. I am hoping to make the world safer for diverse ideas about the future. Our times are terribly conformist. For instance, one is either “red” or “blue,” or is accepted by the “open culture” crowd or not. I seek to bust open such orthodoxies by showing that other ideas are possible. So I present an intentionally rough sketch of an alternate future that doesn’t match up with any of the present orthodoxies.

A reality-based, compassionate world is one in which criticism is okay. I dish it out, but I also lay my tender neck out before you.

Q. You’re a musician in addition to being a computer scientist. What insight has that given you?

A. In the 1990s I was signed to a big label, but as a minor artist. I had to compete in an esoteric niche market, as an experimental classical/jazz high prestige sort of artist. That world was highly competitive and professional, and inspired an intense level of effort from me.

I assumed that losing the moneyed side of the recording business would not make all that much of a difference, but I was wrong. I no longer bother to release music. The reason is that it now feels like a vanity market. Self-promotion has become the primary activity of many of my musician friends. Yuk.

When the music is heard, it’s often in the context of automatically generated streams from some cloud service, so the listener doesn’t even know it’s you. Successful music tends to be quite conformist to some pre-existing category, because that way it fits better into the automatic streaming schemes. I miss competing in the intense NYC music scene. Who keeps you honest when the world is drowning in insincere flattery?

So here I am writing books. Hello book critics!

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The Post-American World: Release 2.0

The Post-American World: Release 2.0 Lowest new price: $9.97
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Author: Fareed Zakaria

“A relentlessly intelligent book.” —Joseph Joffe, New York Times Book Review

“This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else.” So begins Fareed Zakaria’s blockbuster on the United States in the twenty-first century, and the trends he identifies have proceeded faster than anyone anticipated. How might the nation continue to thrive in a truly global era? In this fully updated 2.0 edition, Zakaria answers these questions with his customary lucidity, insight, and imagination.

Fareed Zakaria and Ian Bremmer: Author One-to-One
In this Amazon exclusive, we brought together authors Fareed Zakaria and Ian Bremmer and asked them to interview each other.

Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, the world's leading global political risk research and consulting firm. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Foreign Affairs, and other publications, and his books include Every Nation for Itself, The End of the Free Market, and The J Curve. Read on to see Ian Bremmer's questions for Fareed Zakaria, or turn the tables to see what Zakaria asked Bremmer.

Ian Bremmer: You made clear from the opening sentence of The Post-American World that you do not believe that America faces some kind of inevitable, irreversible decline. But how can U.S. policymakers ensure that the rise of the rest actually strengthens the United States?

Fareed Zakaria: If more countries thrive in the existing global system, it means a larger world economy--more consumers and producers, investors and inventors. That’s great for America. As Europe boomed after World War II, America boomed with it. The rise of Japan and Korea and Taiwan has not meant the decline of America. But the key has been that we have to be able to adjust and adapt. The US economy was enormously productive in the 1950s and 1960s--leading the world in almost every way, from technology to infrastructure to mass education. Our problem is that we no longer lead the world on many of these dimensions-- think of infrastructure or K-12 education--and the rest of the world has been hard at work catching up. So, the fault lies not in our competitors but in ourselves. The good news is, if we can rectify these mistakes, we should still do well in the emerging world.

Ian Bremmer

Bremmer: Given everything that has happened since 2008--the financial market meltdown, the Eurozone crisis, the Arab Spring--have you become more confident or less that the United States can successfully transition from its previous role as global hegemon to a new role as the most powerful among other powerful countries?

Zakaria: There are two distinct (though related) challenges for Washington in a Post-American World. The first is economic, which I outline above. The second is political. Here the structural challenge might seem daunting. Political power is not like economic power. In economics, others can grow and that can be good for you--win, win. In politics, power is relative. As China and India and Brazil and Turkey all prosper and gain strength and confidence, whose dominant influence are they cutting into? The U.S. But even here, the picture is actually quite hopeful for America. The truth is, only America has power along all dimensions – economic, military, political, cultural. And that gives it great strength, particularly as an agenda-setter. Also, the rise of these other countries creates uncertainty and anxiety in the international system. If the United States plays its cards well, it can be the crucial stabilizing force in the system. You can see that dynamic at work in Asia where China’s rise has unsettled many Asian countries and they look to America to play a stabilizing role. It’s a new diplomatic challenge for America, to be more of a catalyst and broker than hegemon and arbiter. It emphasizes brains more than brawn. Let’s hope we’re up to it.

Bremmer: How can policymakers overcome the polarization of American politics to get this right?

Zakaria: That’s the trillion-dollar question. America’s economy and society remain dynamic. It’s political system is broken. First, recognize the problem. Stop mouthing slogans about how we have the world’s greatest democracy. Our system is now highly dysfunctional and corrupt. We need to fix it.

Bremmer: Among rising states, which do you think have the most staying power and why? Will some of the rest be left behind?

Fareed Zakaria

Zakaria: China is in a league apart from every other rising power. It has the scale--in terms of sheer numbers--to have a huge global impact. It is also run by a competent elite, technocrats who plan for the long term and are moving China up the value chain. They are making huge investments in education and infrastructure, which will pay off over the long run. I agree with you that China continues to have a long-term political challenge, how to combine a vigorous and open economy with a closed and bureaucratic political system. But so far they have managed to balance it--I think they will need to make much larger political changes in the next decade than they have in the last decade.

Bremmer: How well do you think America is responding to China’s continued rise?

Zakaria: American business has been responding well to China’s rise, helping it but also benefitting from it. American society is more closed and parochial than American business and so there has been little contact, which is a pity because we can always learn from others. Washington, at a foreign policy level, has actually done quite well in its handling of China. It has encouraged the integration of China into the global economy, it has tried to get China to be more rule-based and more committed to producing (rather than consuming) global public goods. And it has carefully and systematically shored up its alliances with key Asian countries, from India to Japan to South Korea to Australia, which is an important hedge against Chinese expansion. All in all, a solid performance.

Bremmer: You devote a chapter to India’s growing prominence. Are you optimistic that India’s government will help spur the country toward the next stage of its economic development? Or is this still a country where progress will come mainly in spite of government?

Zakaria: China grows because of its government, and India grows in spite of its government. I don’t expect much improvement in India’s public policy. The infrastructure will continue to lag, the education system will be poor, the government will keep doling out subsidies, and tax and regulatory policy will be uncompetitive. But Indian businesses are world class. They manage under very difficult conditions to perform amazingly well. They manage capital efficiently, understand global markets and brands, and have high quality management. India has good demographics, with lots of young consumers. India’s story is a bottom-up story, rather than China’s top-down story. But don’t kid yourself. Ultimately, you need good government policy to go to the next stage. Unless there is massive and intelligent investment in human and physical capital, India will lag behind China substantially. Whether in India or America, bad government will be a huge limiting factor on a country’s success, no matter how dynamic the society and the economy.

Photo of Ian Bremmer © Marc Bryan Brown

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Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short

Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short Lowest new price: $14.87
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Author: David Archibald
Brand: Brand: Regnery Publishing

Baby boomers enjoyed the most benign period in human history: fifty years of relative peace, cheap energy, plentiful grain supply, and a warming climate due to the highest solar activity for 8,000 years. The party is over—prepare for the twilight of abundance.

David Archibald reveals the grim future the world faces on its current trajectory: massive fuel shortages, the bloodiest warfare in human history, a global starvation crisis, and a rapidly cooling planet. Archibald combines pioneering science with keen economic knowledge to predict the global disasters that could destroy civilization as we know it—disasters that are waiting just around the corner.

But there’s good news, too: We can have a good future if we prepare for it. Advanced, civilized countries can have a permanently high standard of living if they choose to invest in the technologies that will get them there. Archibald, a climate scientist as well as an inventor and a financial specialist, explains which scientific breakthroughs can save civilization in the coming crisis—if we can cut through the special interest opposition to these innovations and allow free markets to flourish.

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The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives (Vintage)

The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives (Vintage) Lowest new price: $8.84
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Author: Eric Schmidt

In the next decade, five billion new people will come online, posing for our world a host of new opportunities—and dangers. Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen traveled to thirty-five countries, including some of the world’s most volatile regions and met with political leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists to learn firsthand about the challenges they face. Packed with fascinating ideas, informed predictions, and prescient warnings, The New Digital Age tackles some of the toughest questions about our future: how will technology change the way we approach issues like privacy and security, war and intervention, diplomacy, revolution and terrorism. And how can we best use new technologies to improve our lives? More than a book about gadgets and data, this is a prescriptive glimpse of how technology is reshaping our world and the lives of the people who live in it.

With a new afterword.

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What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night

What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night Lowest new price: $6.99
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Author: John Brockman
Brand: Brand: Harper Perennial

Drawing from the horizons of science, today's leading thinkers reveal the hidden threats nobody is talking about—and expose the false fears everyone else is distracted by.

What should we be worried about? That is the question John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org ("The world's smartest website"—The Guardian), posed to the planet's most influential minds. He asked them to disclose something that, for scientific reasons, worries them—particularly scenarios that aren't on the popular radar yet. Encompassing neuroscience, economics, philosophy, physics, psychology, biology, and more—here are 150 ideas that will revolutionize your understanding of the world.

Steven Pinker uncovers the real risk factors for war * Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi peers into the coming virtual abyss * Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek laments our squandered opportunities to prevent global catastrophe * Seth Lloyd calculates the threat of a financial black hole * Alison Gopnik on the loss of childhood * Nassim Nicholas Taleb explains why firefighters understand risk far better than economic "experts" * Matt Ridley on the alarming re-emergence of superstition * Daniel C. Dennett and george dyson ponder the impact of a major breakdown of the Internet * Jennifer Jacquet fears human-induced damage to the planet due to "the Anthropocebo Effect" * Douglas Rushkoff fears humanity is losing its soul * Nicholas Carr on the "patience deficit" * Tim O'Reilly foresees a coming new Dark Age * Scott Atran on the homogenization of human experience * Sherry Turkle explores what's lost when kids are constantly connected * Kevin Kelly outlines the looming "underpopulation bomb" * Helen Fisher on the fate of men * Lawrence Krauss dreads what we don't know about the universe * Susan Blackmore on the loss of manual skills * Kate Jeffery on the death of death * plus J. Craig Venter, Daniel Goleman, Virginia Heffernan, Sam Harris, Brian Eno, Martin Rees, and more

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Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? Lowest new price: $8.92
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Author: Alan Weisman

A powerful investigation into the chances for humanity's future from the author of the bestseller The World Without Us.

In his bestselling book The World Without Us, Alan Weisman considered how the Earth could heal and even refill empty niches if relieved of humanity's constant pressures. Behind that groundbreaking thought experiment was his hope that we would be inspired to find a way to add humans back to this vision of a restored, healthy planet-only in harmony, not mortal combat, with the rest of nature.

But with a million more of us every 4 1/2 days on a planet that's not getting any bigger, and with our exhaust overheating the atmosphere and altering the chemistry of the oceans, prospects for a sustainable human future seem ever more in doubt. For this long awaited follow-up book, Weisman traveled to more than 20 countries to ask what experts agreed were probably the most important questions on Earth--and also the hardest: How many humans can the planet hold without capsizing? How robust must the Earth's ecosystem be to assure our continued existence? Can we know which other species are essential to our survival? And, how might we actually arrive at a stable, optimum population, and design an economy to allow genuine prosperity without endless growth?

Weisman visits an extraordinary range of the world's cultures, religions, nationalities, tribes, and political systems to learn what in their beliefs, histories, liturgies, or current circumstances might suggest that sometimes it's in their own best interest to limit their growth. The result is a landmark work of reporting: devastating, urgent, and, ultimately, deeply hopeful.

By vividly detailing the burgeoning effects of our cumulative presence, Countdown reveals what may be the fastest, most acceptable, practical, and affordable way of returning our planet and our presence on it to balance. Weisman again shows that he is one of the most provocative journalists at work today, with a book whose message is so compelling that it will change how we see our lives and our destiny.

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Statistics Alive!

Statistics Alive! Lowest new price: $79.94
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Author: Wendy J. Steinberg
Brand: Brand: SAGE Publications, Inc

Based on years of first-hand teaching experience, Wendy J. Steinberg has created Statistics Alive!, the most user-friendly statistics text for students in the social and behavioral sciences, now in its Second Edition. This textbook includes topics such as frequency distributions, hypothesis formation, and inferential statistics and bivariate regression. Effect size and power, often shortchanged in other textbooks, each get substantive treatment. Students are well prepared for a next course in statistics.

Key Features

  • Modular treatment allows students to master prescribed chunks of information.
  • Strong pedagogy throughout includes learning objectives, key terms, and “Check Yourself!” questions.

New to the Second Edition

  • Twice as many chapter exercises.
  • Final module on multiple regression and the General Linear Model.
  • SPSS point-and-click instructions and screen shots of the output for all in-text examples.
  • Descriptive dispersion solutions shown using both N and n-1 denominators, to accommodate any instructor’s preference.
  • A more comprehensive Student Study Guide and Instructor Resource Guide.

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The Next Decade: Empire and Republic in a Changing World

The Next Decade: Empire and Republic in a Changing World Lowest new price: $2.10
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Author: George Friedman

The bestselling author of The Next 100 Years sharpens his focus to the next ten years, specifically the political shifts that will take place, the decisions that will be made, the consequences of those decisions, and how the American president will acknowledge and manage the fact that the United States has become an empire.
 
In the long view, history is seen as a series of events—but the course of those events is determined by individuals and their actions. During the next ten years, individual leaders will face significant transitions for their nations: the United States’ relationships with Iran and Israel will be undergoing changes, China will likely confront a major crisis, and the wars in the Islamic world will subside. Unexpected energy and technology developments will emerge, and labor shortages will begin to matter more than financial crises. Distinguished geopolitical forecaster George Friedman analyzes these events from the perspectives of the men and women leading these global changes, focusing in particular on the American president, who will require extraordinary skills to shepherd the United States through this transitional period. The Next Decade is a provocative and fascinating look at the conflicts and opportunities that lie ahead.

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