Book – Weapons of Math destruction

In every way we live our lives today we are targeted by algorithms, and we are mostly totally oblivious of the consequences. Which is well very dangerous. In the book weapons of Math destruction , mathematician Cathy O’Neil explores the world of modeling , algorithms and their effects on us humans.

The algorithms are programmed by humans and therefore contain much of their biasses , ideas and expectations. The algorithms when they scale up , and most do, generate hugh feedback loops which amount to self fulfilling prophecies. This goes from education, finance , policing our streets and disturbing our democracy.

In a very clear way Cathy O’Neil explains the different effects of these models and their feedback loops, fueled by entire industries who ‘help’ beat the models in turn reinforcing their outcomes. The worst part ? Their is no appeal , no legislation , no regulation and no transparency. Scary ? Yes? Simply a must read for anyone.

Northern Monkeys by William Routledge

William Routledge has done an excellent job with his book Northern Monkeys. If your into music, fashion and the evolution of youth culture this is your book.

It’s about the different styles in music , fashion and trends that swept across Great Britain from the 60’s right up to the 90’s. And the underlining cement is the Football terrace. But it’s not a hooligan memoir. So everybody who’s expecting a season by season tail of violence better leave this book alone.

It’s way better than that. The story’s will ring a familiar bell with everyone who has lived in those days and discovering new music , cloths or went to their first rave or concert. Remember this was the pre internet era, when you someone had new music from let’s say New York or Belgium even , you couldn’t look the artist or label up and place an order in a web shop. If you were lucky, you got the phone number or location of the record store and you could travel there. If it was in a city nearby that is.

Or if you saw some new brand polo or jacket you had figure out where they got it. And most didn’t tell you when asked.

This discovery, search and excitement of the adventures surrounding all these encounters told by various people are a lot of fun to read. I have had the book for a while now but once I started I couldn’t put it done.

This is truly one of the best books on British youth cultures I have read so far. Hats off to William for making this book happen.

northernmonkeyswr

The Secret History of the Mossad

Since finishing this book I have been thinking that spy movies and novels are too constraint. Gordon Thomas wrote this very voluminous book on the Mossad , for those who don’t know. The Israeli secret service.

The book details the history from the beginning of the state Israel until the day it was published, with all the highs and lows.

He has done so by talking to al lot of people involved , ex spies, Mossad directors and people who have become involved somehow. Bankers, publishers.

It reads like a spy novel. With a lot of typo’s , which can be annoying. Some stories are a bit far fetched I think. But overall you will get a good sense of how the world of espionage works. And how different country’s approach the gathering of information.

The book is a long read but well worth your time.

operatiemossad

Stalin the court of the red tsar

Well this was quite the read, this was one that was on the reading list for a long time. Finally I got round to reading this voluminous book about one of the most controversial figures in history. Stalin.

The book is focused on the time when Stalin was at the height of his power, so it’s not a full account of his life. It’s a bloody one for sure.

It tells a lot about all the people around him , his family and allies who by no exception all fell victim to the infamous terror, with the help of the people in his entourage who he gave a lot of power.

That power led to a lot of murders , even Stalin’s own family. What surprised me was the numbers of people who were killed and the damage it did not only to all the victims but to the country as well. When Hitler started operation Barbarossa the Red Army almost had no officers with any experience , they were all murdered.

To make matters worse a lot of very bad mistakes were made by the Politburo before the red army generals got a bit of authority back. By then off course Hitler overreached as well and the tide started to shift.

He controlled everyone around him by instilling the fear in people that by making just one slight mistake you could become an enemy of Stalin. The way he did this and kept control over such a large empire with no opposition is remarkable. It feels like he planned and orchestrated everything from start to finish.

It’s a bit of a hard read sometimes with all the different people but after a few chapters you’ll find it gets easier. A very solid book on Stalin. For people who like to read biography’s and are interested in Stalin or that part of history.

Stalincourtredtsar

McMafia

One thing I am planning to do more is reading, used to do that a lot, but over the past few years less and less. Which isn’t a good thing.

So I picked up a book I started reading a few years ago but never finished. McMafia by Misha Glenny.

McMafia

It covers the rapid rise of global crime after the fall of most of the communist regimes at the end of the eighties. The fast pace in which money started to move around the globe and the connections between the underworld and politicians , banks and other legal entities.

The book is very well written and travels the globe to tell the story from different continents. It’s fascinating in how little time the criminal organizations seized the opportunities presented to them. The outcome however are very sad, people who fall victim of human smugglers is among one of the most saddening.

One of the main sources of income is still the drug trade, money made from it is invested not only in the ‘upper world’ but also in the arms trade , human trafficking and so on. A lot of people are beginning to realize the start to stop a lot of drug related crime is legalizing.

Because the war on drugs cannot be won , whatever you do.
Recommended reading.

The Churchill factor

I have read the book The churchill factor by Boris Johnson. I somehow never read a biography on Winston Churchill before. When you go to the bookstore and view the enormous amount of books about Churchill I never could pick one.

Until now, and it’s been a very good choice. He writes about his success and failures. He was not very popular most of his political career and made many mistakes, mostly because of the fact he acted more than others.

Lot’s of nice anecdotes are described and when you finish the book you get the feeling you know Churchill not just the facts but the person he was.

A very inspirational man and one who never gave up fighting. A must read.

Winston Churchill