Before we head further into July, here are a few ‘missed’ reviews..
First up, The Patient Will See You Now. This book was part of the “Rebuilding Towards the Future” series, in which I read books about ways that ideas and work of regular people, as well as technology, are allowing us to make a better life for one another. This particular book argues that smartphones and big data will (1) give control of their medical data to people by making them the originators of it, and (2) use that data in conjunction with everyone else’s to fight big diseases like cancer. He documents the incredible functionality of apps and sensors that can turn smartphones into diagnostic scanners taking all measure of readings. I was suitable awed, but so poorly-read in the area of medical technology that I can’t comment too much. I was introduced to this book by EconTalk, as Russ Roberts interviewed its author back in May 2015.
Next: Edward Abbey’s Black Sun. Abbey opens with a character very much like himself, a disgusted ex-professor who has found solace in the wilderness. For half the year, Will Gatlin lives by himself in the southwest wilderness, manning a fire tower. His chief human contact is the radio, and a friend of his who writes letters entreating him to come to town and chase skirts like a normal human being. A girl shows up, and seduction follows; he is seduced by her despite having twenty years on her, and she is seduced by the wilderness. In terms of content it’s much like Hayduke Lives! — nature writing mixed with utter randiness. Unlike Hayduke, I finished this one, as it was rather short.
Lastly, this past week I read Who Controls the Internet, an interesting mix of internet history and law. The author begins by reminding readers of a time when cyberspace was a discrete thing, not part of our everyday life, and as an imagined world, people hoped the usual rules would not apply. They imagined a border-less new world, where people could be who they wanted, without regard to culture or the states in power. The book then goes on to explain and document how borders re-asserted themselves. Because the internet originated as a military research project, the US did not want to lose control of it, and other governments have no interest in losing control of their people. China, for instance, aggressively pursues internet connectivity in order to propel itself forward economically, but also works with manufacturers of internet hardware like Cisco to block ‘undesirable information’ from entering the Chinese web. Much of the borderization was driven on by people themselves, however: as more ‘common’ people started using the internet, they began congregating with like-minded people (fellow Chinese speakers, for instance) and when they began using the internet for goods and services, businesses like Yahoo found that having region- or language-specific portals a necessity.
As Tuesday is the Fourth of July, expect some American lit and a dash of American history or biography this week. More internet books to come as the summer progresses, too!