Review: The Zero Marginal Cost Society

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Jeremy Rifkin

3.0 out of 5 stars Never Mind the Total Cost Terminal Society, April 13, 2014

Books like this would make me crazy if I took them seriously. This is a fad book for shallow minds that have no clue about holistic analytics, true cost economics, or anything remotely resembling the humanities (which is to say, the preservation of the good from one generation to the next). This book is the singularity cult on crack. Buy the book, by all means, to understand how seriously stupid is now in vogue.

There are some clever (which is to say, fad of the day) observations in this book but they vary from wrong (MOOCs have a 4% completion rate and are absolutely useless to 90% or more of the five billion poor who do not have the time to do MOOCs) to incomplete — who crowd sources against corruption and waste? Part of the answer is in this book, but no more than 20%. I’ve raised the book from one to three stars on a second pass, but I am still irritated.

The one place where Rifkin and I are 100% in harmony is on free energy…but he pulls his punches. Free energy is here now but the “system” is intent on keeping energy expensive and the 99% in rentier status. To truly understand the alternative energies now in hand, there is no book available, but if you search for Sepp Hasslberger @ Phi Beta Iota you will be on the bleeding edge of intelligence with integrity on this one topic that is so vital to all of us.

Marginal Cost is the cost at scale after all the FIXED COSTS (little things like water, fuel, child labor, tax avoidance, imposed disease) have been “accounted for.” The problem with Rifkin’s book, which would be a great riff at a late night show where everyone is smashed beyond cognition, is that it discounts reality by 99%. This book is the epitome of what Dr. Russell Ackoff would call “doing the wrong things righter instead of the right thing.

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Apr 13

Review (Guest): The Zero Marginal Cost Society

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Jeremy Rifkin

3.0 out of 5 stars BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Zero Marginal Cost Society’: Welcome to the Brave New Workerless World, April 1, 2014

ByDavid KinchenSee all my reviews
(REAL NAME)

“The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” –Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) First Leader of the Soviet Union

Marginal cost is the term used in the science of economics and business to refer to the increase in total production costs resulting from producing one additional unit of the item. Zero marginal cost describes a situation where an additional unit can be produced without any increase in the total cost of production. Producing another unit of a good can have zero marginal costs when that good is non-rivalrous, meaning that it is possible for one person to consume the good without diminishing the ability of others to simultaneously consume it as well. –Wise Geek.com

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Apr 13

Review: The Hard Thing About Hard Things

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Ben Horowitz

5.0 out of 5 stars ABSORBING – Requires Open Mind, March 16, 2014

I generally read all the reviews before writing my own, in part to see if anyone has already covered the ground the way I like to, with a summary evaluative review. There are only two reviews before mine that I consider world-class, please do read them if you have the time. I refer to the reviews by Mercenary Trader and Scott S. Bell, I salute both of them for providing substance useful to all.

This is not a comprehensive book in that it is a very personal perspective, brings together many specific snapshots, but never addresses “root” in relation to how the team went from great idea to source code to buzz to market share. As I read the book I thought often about a book I read in the 1980′s, still a classic, Tracey Kidder’s The Soul of A New Machine.

I would say this book is an absolutly priceless gem for the “hard knocks” at the CEO level perspective, and should be combined with any of several alternatives on start-ups such as Matt Blumberg’s Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, + Website, and, forthcoming, Peter Thiel of PayPal’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.

I’ve built two companies, both failures in that I never made the leap from one man with an obession to a movement (OSS.Net, Inc. and Earth Intelligence Network, a 501c3) and what I did not see in this book, or any other book I have found, is the roadmap for getting from a big idea to big marketshare. That book remains to be written, and it could be that it should be written by Marc Andressen and a team. Jim Clark’s Netscape Time: The Making of the Billion-Dollar Start-Up That Took on Microsoft is a fine but dated (1999) start but we need something now tailored to the Internet of Things (what everyone else is thinking about) and free individual access to and ability to leverage all information in all languages all the time (what I have been thinking about since 1986 — visit Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog to learn more). I am also reminded of Michael Lewis’s The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story.

All this by way of saying that you have no business reading or buying this book if you are expecting a holistic 360 degree soup to nuts outline of how to zero to Mach 2. The greatest value of this book for me was in learning that it is possible to keep flying when you lose power and both wings fall off at the same time.

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Mar 16

Review: Economics of the 1%

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John Weeks

4.0 out of 5 stars While Relevant and Pointed, Suffers from Hyperbole and Lack of Clarity, February 16, 2014

On balance, Lionel Tiger’s book The Manufacture Of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System is the better book, along with those by William Greider, John Bogle, and Matt Taibbi:

The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy

The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism

Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History

I found this book unclear and guilty of at least as much hyperbole as those the author seeks to criticize. I would have been much more impressed has the author taken the top ten canards (unfounded rumor or story) of fake economics as he calls it (in virtually every paragraph, an annoying pretense) and very simply made the case pro and con. Instead — I am not a rocket scientist — I found 70% of his words, graphics, and claims to be on a par with those he seeks to ciritize….unclear and unsatisfying.

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Feb 16

Berto Jongman: New book about Fukushima reveals details on the radiation disaster

Berto Jongman

Berto Jongman

New book about Fukushima reveals details on the radiation disaster

The Union of Concerned Scientists has published a new story about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant catastrophe that took place in 2011. Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster (The New Press) was written by David Lochbaum, head of the UCS’s Nuclear Safety Project; Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist in UCS’s Global Security Program; and journalist Susan Stranahan, who led the Philadelphia Inquirer’s coverage of the Three Mile Island Accident in Dauphin, Pennsylvania.

Learn more.

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Feb 14

Review (Guest): Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving Into Liquid War

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Pepe Escobar

5 out of 5 stars Tour de Force!

By Donald L. Conover

Tour de Force! That’s the only way to describe Pepe Escobar’s remarkable achievement with Globalistan: How the Globalized World Is Dissolving into Liquid War. In page after page, Mr. Escobar demonstrates his remarkable erudition gained in a peripatetic career, spanning the caves of Tora Bora to the slums of Sao Paolo and Mumbai; from the halls of venality to the palaces of the gluttonously wealthy; from conversations with forgotten Pentagon warlords to raps with Brazilian gang lords.

Our Neocon leaders seem to think the rest of the World is frozen in situ, waiting for them to hatch their nefarious schemes. Globalistan shows us the consequences of such a blindered [or should I say "blundered"] attitude.

Producers for the talking heads of “mainstream” media will have to have this book. It is the one volume necessary to make sense of our churning humanity in the 21st Century. A quick scan can provide the background on every crisis from Iran to “Chindia”; from Shiiteistan to the Gazprom Nation; from PetroEurostan to the Bush White House.

Escobar demonstrates why it is true that if we don’t find ways to spread our prosperity around the World, the have-nots will come and take it away from us with guns and bombs and box cutters. All of the walls and fences cannot protect the United States, Europe, and Saudi Arabia from overwhelming illegal immigration. Weapons and fences doom us, like the Texans at the Alamo. Eventually they will be overrun by 3 billion human beings living in abject poverty, but with access to the latest episodes of “24″ and “Sleeper Cell,” unless we help the Mexicans achieve their dreams of Texas in Mexico.

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Feb 9

Review: Occupy: Reflections on Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity

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Noam Chomsky

5.0 out of 5 stars Explosive Opening, Less Satisfying Conclusion, January 5, 2014

The book explodes on page one: no bankers arrested — none, zip, nada, rein — 7,762 Occupiers arrested from the first 80 in NYC on 24 September 2001 to the two arrested in SF on 15 June 2013. Talk about GRIFTOPIA — the police work for the thieves and arrest the owners!

There are a number of key insights within this book, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wishes to pulse the state of the union — Chomsky, who eulogizes Howard Zinn throughout, brackets our current situation with two trenchant observations early on:

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Jan 5

Review: Every Nation for Itself – Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World

cover every nation for itselfIan Bremmer

3.0 out of 5 stars Rooted in State Paradigm, Ignores Non-State World, January 5, 2014

I made a mistake buying this book. I let the marketing hype get to me. As soon as I got the book in my hands and saw that it had jacket blubs from Fareed Zakaria and Larry Summers, the sinking feeling in my stomach was plapable.

I’ve gone through the book, which is double-spaced without a single chart or map or table. This is a long essay by someone who is out of touch with the latest thinking, still in the nation-state / banks rule the world mode.

For someone that reads very broadly, as I do, virtually every page in this book is irritating. The author’s treatment of water, something I looked into for UNESCO (see my easily found review of fourteen books on water and water wars, < Water: Soul of the Earth, Mirror of Our Collective Souls >) the author considers the privatization of water and charging more for water to be a solution, never mind that fracking and Nestle-Coca Cola and all other predations on water by unregulated idiot practices (both individual and corporate) are wiping out hundreds of thousands of years worth of fresh water.

My sinking feeling grew stronger and stronger to the point of great dismay. This author clearly gets along with the powers that be, and he has a facile patter that suggests he has a very high elite social IQ, but from my point of view, that of an ethical 21st Century intelligence professional for whom transparency, truth, and trust are the bottom line, this book is lacking a holistic analytic model and not truly helpful to the public interest.

Most irritatingis the recognition that comes with the a reading of the author’s conclusions. It just makes me sick to my stomach to read any endorsement of the Trans-Pacific Partership (Trade) Agreement. The author is a smart man, so I have to conclude that he has chosen to embrace evil. The Trans-Pacific (Trade) Partnership Agreement is the most secretive, most convoluted, most unethical, most anti-public trade agreement in the history of modern civilization. The 15 Asian nations meeting in November 2012 kicked Obama’s ass out of town with good reason. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, will form a club and leave out the United States). The same thing is happening in South America (CELAC) and I expect it in Africa as well as South and Central Asia as well. Afghanistan has not signed the Bi-Lateral Security Agreement (BSA) in part because the US has blown the past twelve years, and in combination, a variety of non-ISAF nations are ready to step in with a focus on real trade instead of false terrorism (China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, among others).

This is a disappointing book that can be used as a measure of the elite hypocrisy, idiocy, and betrayal of the public trust as of today. In terms of substantive analytics and plausible sustainable solutions helpful to the 99% as opposed to the 1%, this book is not satisfactory.

Here are ten books whose summaries alone are worth more than this book (and free as well) — they are drawn from my broader collections of lists that are easily found at the Book page of Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog (“the truth at any cost lowers all others costs”):

The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits
The Leadership of Civilization Building: Administrative and civilization theory, Symbolic Dialogue, and Citizen Skills for the 21st Century
The Rise of Global Civil Society: Building Communities and Nations from the Bottom Up
Holistic Darwinism: Synergy, Cybernetics, and the Bioeconomics of Evolution
Designing a World that Works for All: Solutions & Strategies for Meeting the World’s Needs
Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
The People’s Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy
The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State
The Search for Security: A U.S. Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century

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Jan 5

Review (Guest) The Crash of 2016 – The Plot to Destroy America – And What We Can Do to Stop It

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Thom Hartmann

4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and Troubling Look at an Impending Economic Implosion, November 16, 2013

Book Shark

“The Crash of 2016″ is a provocative and troubling look at an economic implosion that will occur unless we take drastic measures to stop it. “A story of how America was dragged into the Crash of 2016.” Well-known progressive national and international radio and TV talk show host and accomplished author, Thom Hartmann places his focus on an economic crisis that may turn into the Fourth Great Crash since the Declaration of Independence in 1776. This stimulating 294-page book includes sixteen chapters broken out by the following five parts: 1. The Economic Royalists and the Corporatist Conspiracy, 2. Why We Crashed, 3. “Oppression, Rebellion, Reformation”, 4. The Great Crash, and 5. Out of the Ashes.

Positives:
1. A professional and gifted author Hartmann is a master at engaging the public with a well- balanced narrative of history, current events and foresight.
2. The book has great format and flow. It’s entertaining, enlightening and the pages turn themselves.
3. Hartmann is a great and passionate thinker. His knowledge of history, and his ability to identify patterns is only matched by the skill to convey his conclusions in a lucid, straightforward manner.
4. Troubling, straight-forward eye-opening conclusions. “This crash is coming. It’s inevitable. I may be off a few years plus or minus in my timing, but the realities of the economic fundamentals left to us by thirty-three years of Reaganomics and deregulation have made it a certainty. We are quite simply repeating the mistakes of the 1920s, the 1850s, and the 1760s, and we are so far into them it’s extremely unlikely that anything other than reinflating the recent bubbles to buy a little time here and there will happen.”

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Nov 27

Review: The Price of Inequality:How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future

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Joseph Stiglitz

5.0 out of 5 stars Ethical Economist Confronts Two-Party Tyranny — Defines 70% of the Way Forward, November 26, 2013

I have admired this economist, one of a tiny handful who are not bought and paid for by the banks, for quite a long time. I’d like to see him at Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), with a Deputy Director for Management that actually has authority for Whole of Government strategy and management. Of course that would require an honest president and an honest congress, so I am not holding my breath on this one.

In passing, I ran for President as an accepted candidate for the Reform Party in 2012 — it only took six weeks to recognize that neither Occupy nor any of the other candidates (there are EIGHT accredited parties in the USA, only 2 of which are allowed to actually run for office) were in the least bit interested in a universal demand for electoral reform and a coalition cabinet. See the six big ideas at bigbatusa.org, where you will also find the author of this book listed as the ideal member of the Cabinet for the OMB function.

There are so many other excellent reviews, I am using my contribution to list his specific recommendation for economic reform, and point to a few other related books that support this extraordinary work. My comments added below are in brackets.

THE ECONOMIC REFORM AGENDA

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Nov 26