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: Guinea Pig B – The 56 Year Experiment

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Buckminster Fuller

5.0 out of 5 stars 6 Star Starting Point for Life Work of a “First Thinker”, March 21, 2014

I’ve read a number of books by Buckminster Fuller, but it was not until this one that I realized he is the only person that writes longer sentences than I do. He is also, as his daughter notes in the preface, a man who uses words with great precision, and invents words when he is certain none already exist. So many words in fact, that he has his own dictionary, Synergetics Dictionary, the Mind of Buckminster Fuller: With an Introduction and Appendices (4 Vols.).

I drew three big ideas from this slim volume:

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Mar 21

Worth A Look: Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

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It’s no secret that college doesn’t prepare students for the real world. Student loan debt recently eclipsed credit card debt for the first time in history and now tops one trillion dollars. And the throngs of unemployed graduates chasing the same jobs makes us wonder whether there’s a better way to “make it” in today’s marketplace.

There is—and Dale Stephens is proof of that. In Hacking Your Education, Stephens speaks to a new culture of “hackademics” who think college diplomas are antiquated. Stephens shows how he and dozens of others have hacked their education, and how you can, too. You don’t need to be a genius or especially motivated to succeed outside school. The real requirements are much simpler: curiosity, confidence, and grit.

Hacking Your Education offers valuable advice to current students as well as those who decided to skip college. Stephens teaches you to create opportunities for yourself and design your curriculum—inside or outside the classroom. Whether your dream is to travel the world, build a startup, or climb the corporate ladder, Stephens proves you can do it now, rather than waiting for life to start after “graduation” day.

Author Biography

At 20, Dale Stephens founded UnCollege.org because we’re paying too much for college and learning too little. It’s no secret that college doesn’t prepare students for the real world. Student loan debt recently eclipsed credit card debt for the first time in history and now tops 1 trillion dollars. And the throngs of unemployed graduates chasing the same jobs makes us wonder whether there’s a better way to “make it” in today’s marketplace.Stephens is a sought-after education expert appearing on major news networks including CNN, ABC, NPR, CBS, Fox, and TechCrunch. His work has been covered by the New York Times and New York Magazine to Fast Company and Forbes.

Stephens’ interest in education comes from his background in unschooling, the self-directed form of homeschooling with which he was raised. He left school at age eleven and self-educated instead of going to middle and high school.

He has spoken around the world at high-profile events, from debating Vivek Wadhwa onstage at TED 2012 to lecturing at the New York Times to speaking to C-level executives at NBC Universal. He works frequently with universities who realize their model of education must change to survive in the 21st century.

In May 2011 Stephens was selected out of hundreds of individuals around the world as a Thiel Fellow, a program recognizing the top twenty-four entrepreneurs around the world under the age of twenty. In addition to leading UnCollege, Stephens advises education and technology companies.

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Nov 4

Review (Guest): The House of Wisdom – How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization

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Jonathan Lyons

5.0 out of 5 stars A Few Inconvenient Details about Western History, October 29, 2013

Herbert L. Calhoun

For centuries after the fall of Rome, Western Europe was unaccountably still locked in the dark ages, a period referred to as “dark” for good reasons. Despite the rich intellectual heritage from both Greece and Rome, it is not well known that little of it had seeped into the medieval feudal and violence-torn Western European veins before the thirteenth century. Even less well known is that what little did seep in came by way of the rich history and cultural institutions of the Arab dominated Near East, a region that drunk the intellectual wines of both Greece and Rome nearly a millennium earlier than the West did.

Although Western Europeans were ever ready to fight each other, most of them could not read, write or tell time. There were only a handful of libraries. Neither streets nor people had unique names or numbers. Violence and instability were the order of the day. Even as the Kingdom and the Catholic Church viciously vied for power, Europe was essentially a region being run by “outlaws,” the equivalent of petty warlords that we see today in places like Afghanistan.

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Oct 29

Review: Lee Camp Moment of Clarity – The rantings of a stark raving sane man

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Lee Camp

5.0 out of 5 stars SIX Stars — A National Enema with Champagne, October 17, 2013

Ten percent of the books I have reviewed here at Amazon make it into my six star group. This is such a book. I have been a fan of Lee Camp’s outrageously spirited, funny, and profane social commentaries for years, through his videos. This book was given to me as a gift, and I have been laughing all morning with occasional tears of sadness for society.

Amazon’s Look Inside the Book provides the Table of Contents, look at that if you have any doubt.

HUGE PLUS: Each short chapter has the YouTube URL at the top. Amazon also sells two audios for Lee, great for the car, but personally I value the combination of Lee’s face and live delivery with his words, for now found only on YouTube.

The subtitle says it all: Lee is a stark raving sane man. Others have compared him to Carlin, I would go a step further, Lee is Carlin with class (smile). He’s like a giant-sized Irish elf armed with an intelligence flame thrower capable of skewering any lie, any pretense, any crime against humanity — his book covers most of them.

I would certainly like to see a Lee Camp: The Movie but until that comes available, this book is a sane person’s salvation. We who are sane are labeled crazy by the 1% and the sheep that listen to the 1%, this book is life-affirming, mind-altering, soul-strengthening righteous good stuff.

God Bless Lee, God Bless America, and as Winston Churchill once said, NEVER GIVE UP.

Radical idea: buy as many of these books as you can, and either put the books in toilets where the willing might still be saved, or cut the spine off and sprinkle Lee’s individual stories around. This book is pixie dust for humanity.

Ten books, none funny, that reinforce Lee’s sanity parade:

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Oct 18

Review: Lessons of History (First Edition)

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Will and Ariel Durant

5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond 6 Stars, So Fundamental as to be Priceless, October 10, 2013

When I donated my 2500 volume library to George Mason University (down from 5000 in earlier years), this is one of a tiny handful of books I held back, along with Buckminster Fuller’s Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure.

This edition is the FIRST edition. The reprinted currently in stock version The Lessons of History is more readily available, but if you can get the first edition, it is priceless at multiple levels.

This is the first book that I discuss in my national security lecture on the literature relevant to strategy & force structure. It is a once-in-a-lifetime gem of a book that sums up their much larger ten volume collection which itself is brilliant but time consuming. This is the “executive briefing.”

Geography matters. Inequality is natural. Famine, pestilence, and war are Nature’s way of balancing the population.

Birth control (or not) has *strategic* implications (e.g. see Catholic strategy versus US and Russian neglect of its replenishment among the higher social and economic classes).

History is color-blind. Morality is strength. Worth saying again: morality is strength.

They end with “the only lasting revolution is in the mind of man.” In other words, technology is not a substitute for thinking by humans.

See my various lists. Other books I recommend:

The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
The Age of Missing Information
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution
Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition

And of course the nine books I have published, all but the last free online as well as within Amazon.

Robert Steele
THE OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING MANIFESTO: Transparency, Truth & Trust

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Oct 11

Review (Guest): The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy: The Revolution in Higher Education

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Charles Hugh Smith

Publisher’s Overview: With the soaring cost of higher education, has the value a college degree been turned upside down. College tuition and fees are up 1000% since 1980. Half of all recent college graduates are jobless or underemployed, revealing a deep disconnect between higher education and the job market. It is no surprise everyone is asking: Where is the return on investment? Is the assumption that higher education returns greater prosperity no longer true? And if this is the case, how does this impact you, your children and grandchildren? We must thoroughly understand the twin revolutions now fundamentally changing our world: The true cost of higher education and an economy that seems to re-shape itself minute to minute. The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy clearly describes the underlying dynamics at work – and, more importantly, lays out a new low-cost model for higher education: how digital technology is enabling a revolution in higher education that dramatically lowers costs while expanding the opportunities for students of all ages. The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy provides clarity and optimism in a period of the greatest change our educational systems and society have seen. The Nearly Free University and the Emerging Economy offers everyone the tools needed to prosper in the Emerging Economy.

Smith has the genius to find the words to distill observations which become clear to all when he reduces them to the succinct text that others seem not to have managed.

Smith opens with the observation that education is a dinosaur of an industry. It is delivered the same way it was in Aristotle’s day, by assembling the students in the physical presence of a teacher. That was necessary when there were no books, and when books were too expensive for individuals to own. The reason that the situation perpetuates itself has more to do with the rich benefits which accrue to teachers and administrators in the University itself rather than any benefits to the students.

Education is a protected cartel. The right to accreditation is controlled by the state, and it is doled out to institutions which conform to the traditional mold. All participants in the industry have an interest in and its perpetuation, except students. Students are powerless and not very well informed, so the system continues as it is.

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Oct 9

Review: The Technology of Nonviolence

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Joseph G. Bock

5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneering Work, Deserves a Great Deal of Attention, April 29, 2013

I am shocked that there are no reviews of this book. Brought to my attention by Berto Jongman, one of the top researchers in Europe with a special talent at the intersection of terrorism and related violence (e.g. genocide) and Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), he knew this is an area that is of very high interest to me.

The book passed my very first test, with more than ample references to Dr. Patrick Meier, a pioneer in crisis mapping, SMS translations and plotting by diasporas, and humanitarian ICT generally. I strongly recommend his blog and expect him to produce a book of his own soon.

The primary focus here is on social media via hand-held devices. It assumes a working Internet and does not have a great deal of focus on the urgency of achieving an Autonomous Internet, and more fully exploiting Liberation Technology and Open Source Everything (OSE), the latter my special interest along with M4IS2 (Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making).

Use Inside the Book to see the chapters and appendices. The author makes clear two major points early on:

01 Grassroots is where its at, not top down macro

02 Technology alone is not enough, organizing — the hard long road of grassroots organizing — is essential.

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Apr 29

Review (Guest): 1996 The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School

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Neil Postman

Book Description

Postman suggests that the current crisis in our educational system derives from its failure to supply students with a translucent, unifying “narrative” like those that inspired earlier generations. Instead, today’s schools promote the false “gods” of economic utility, consumerism, or ethnic separatism and resentment. What alternative strategies can we use to instill our children with a sense of global citizenship, healthy intellectual skepticism, respect of America’s traditions, and appreciation of its diversity? In answering this question, The End of Education restores meaning and common sense to the arena in which they are most urgently needed.

Table of Contents

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Apr 27

Review: Born To Learn: Unschooling In the New Paradigm

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Kytka Hilmar-Jezek

5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond 5 Stars – Elegant Manifesto & Wake-Up Call for New Parents, April 6, 2013

This slim but extremely coherent and pointed book goes into my best of the best list, 6 Stars, where the top 10% and especially gifted books go.

Unschooling, the author makes clear, is not the same as homeschooling, and this may unnerve some, including those who are pre-disposed toward breaking away from the Prussian educational model intended to create obedient factory workers and soldiers rather than actually educate.

The author is acutely aware that neither homeschooling nor unschooling are remotely possible for most families as we approach the final collapse of a very corrupt ecnomic system optimized to concentrate wealth for the 1% at the expense of the 99%. For this reason her ideas are best embraced as part of a total transformation that includes a return to a one-income family economy in which the family is placed ahead of all other considerations in every policy domain.

Having said that, while the author herself avoids specifics, this book is for me priceless at three levels:

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Apr 6