Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


Antisocial Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation

By: Andrew Marantz

Narrated by Andrew Marantz

Andrew Marantz (American author, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine)

Marantz researches social media trolls in his book “Antisocial”.

For those who are not familiar with the meaning of media trolls, they are people who use the internet to create discord by writing or saying something that is controversial. 

Of course, what is said in the media does not have to be true.  The difference is, the measure of success on the internet is an increase in the number of clicks one receives and the number of follower’s gob smacked by the messenger.  It has zero to do with truth.

The internet lists 8 of the greatest internet trolls of all time.  Their media names are irrelevant, but their followers are legion.  All hide behind the rubric of a free press.  

What makes internet trolls a societal cancer is their distortion of truth.  Some trolls believe “buyer beware”. Like in any sale of product, the truth of speech (to a troll) is the responsibility of the individual.  If a viewer or listener cannot separate the truth from fiction, that is the audience’s problem. A troll feels no compunction for lying, misleading, or stretching the truth.  A committed troll argues that everyone should have the choice to believe or not believe.

Trolls argue truth is fungible because of inherent bias in the messenger.  At best, trolls view their role is to mitigate corporate and government brain washing; at worst, they create a forum for massing hate and discrimination.

Say anything is the terrifying thing about social media.  The irony of America’s free speech is its only defense is free speech. 

Marantz interviews numerous trolls that believe all media communication is good, or at least useful communication.  Marantz explains trolls argue media has historically distorted the truth. 

Marantz notes the fallacy of the Troll’s argument is in the release of white supremacist and hate-filled speech that aims at changing the norms of society.

Trolls say the unsayable for wealth and notoriety; not for the betterment of humanity, or the search for truth. 

White supremacy becomes a flag around which a small minority of society can join to become a political force. 

The drive for wealth is nothing new in American society.  However, the monetization of lies and overt discrimination are licensed by media that reaches the worst prejudices of society. 

The risk to the American electorate from media trolls is that they create a disillusioned and apathetic public that doesn’t know who or what to believe.

In the book “1984” Orwell showed how media control is dangerous. Marantz shows how no control is equally dangerous; particularly in the internet era. 

Marantz makes listeners realize how dangerous internet trolls are to America, and any nation trying to improve the quality of life for their citizens. 

Twenty first century American democracy seems particularly at risk.  Americans believe in the critical importance of freedom, but American freedom has always been qualified by rule of law in “doing no harm” to others. 

The infancy of the internet needs regulation.  The government must fight the hijacking of the American electorate by internet trolls.  The internet is driven more by popularity and money than morality and truth.

Marantz convinces a listener that American freedom of speech is not a license for anarchy.

2 + 2 Makes 5

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough



By George Orwell

Narrated by Simon Prebble

George Orwell (1903-1950, Author born in India, a British Citizen)

Orwell published “1984” in 1949.  Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism, technology, and thought-control match today’s fears and failures in America.

Technology (then and now) is a threat to everyone’s privacy and self-determination.

However, technology has a much wider; more intrusive role today than in 1949

Advances in social media through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others–with the help of Google, Amazon, and Apple, are encroaching on everyone’s right to privacy and personal thought.

Jingoism, war threats, and propaganda fill newspapers, television reports, and the Internet to influence and manipulate indigenous and exogenous populations. 

7/31/2019-China blames America for Hong Kong demonstrations. .

American, Chinese, Iranian, Syrian, Russian and Turkish governments tell the world that their internal turmoil is caused by outside influences.

Some leaders lead by falsehood. The truth is hidden by leader’s divisive diversions and subversion.

Yesterday it was gangster-ism in Ukraine; today it is abandoning Kurdish allies who fought by the side of Americans in Syria.

History reveals murders, imprisonment, and rigged elections caused by malignant use of the internet. Though the victim/hero of “1984” is tortured to say “2 + 2 make 5”, the use of the internet gives forum to lies and hate that make the unwary believe “2 + 2 makes 5”.

Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism and population indoctrination in “1984” is more direct than today’s media manipulations. Google argues that search-engine’ clicks are meant to customize consumer searches for information, but how far is that from thought control?

The inherent subtlety of social media seduces rather than tortures people into thinking in a particular way. 

People are killed by media manipulation of the truth. Media manipulations cause conflict, but rarely cause death on a mass scale.  (Of course, it is a mass scale to the mother, father, grandparent, sibling or friend who loses someone they love.) Orwell is saying there are no ideological differences between a media-manufactured war and a real war when people die.  Is the American government out of control?

Ukrainian Airlines Crash from Iranian missile launch mistake

Orwell points to media-manufactured wars that are not really wars between nation-states. Thought diversions and public-conflict misinformation spread by the government and the media make indigenous populations endorse, obey, and follow their leaders.

Add private sector big data use to government sector misinformation, and individuals lose both privacy and independence.

Acquisition of nuclear weapons to foment a war is a fiction. It is a fiction designed to manipulate public opinion.

The concern over nuclear proliferation is about fear of mistakes and nuclear accidents; not nuclear war.

This is not to say nuclear proliferation is not a danger to the world. It is a danger, but more because of its use as a political weapon than a tool of war.

The fact is, nuclear accidents occur; for example, Russia’s recent nuclear-weapon’s failure in August 2019.

Iran and North Korea incite their people to expand nuclear weaponry to gain status in the world. It is not an irrational move in the real politic of public affairs. A former Israeli spy master (Meir Dagan) noted on national television that Iran’s government officials are rational; mutual nuclear destruction is not rational.

Orwell characterizes nation-state populations as three tiered; e.g. upper, middle, and lower.  The upper class conception is a ruling class that controls a nation; the middle class strives to become a part of the upper class, and the lower class (estimated at 25% in the U.S.) is suppressed by both the upper and middle class to maintain the three tiered structure. 

Orwell suggests the upper class becomes a kind of collective with a particular ideology that usurps capitalist ambition by trading wealth for collective power. This is the concern one has over the widening gap between rich and poor.

Today’s Moneyocracy is the upper class described in “1984” and the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters are Orwell’s revolutionary hero/victims

One might say that the “collective” concept has more relevance in a socialist country but money is power in America so Orwell’s upper class definition is equally relevant in a largely capitalist country.   The difference is a matter of degree; i.e. rather than an oligarchy of socialists, America has an oligarchy of wealthy corporations and multi-millionaires.

A striking parallel between Orwell’s “1984” and today is western culture’s 21st century “Occupy Wall Street” movement.  The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has protesters but they cannot articulate actions that can practically actualize their revolution.

All revolutionaries cannot be subverted, imprisoned, or murdered. One might argue Orwell’s “1984” torture of revolutionaries is being replaced by corporate use of private data and government propaganda to achieve the same purpose.

Orwell is as prescient today as he was in 1949.

42 or 37?

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


Written by: Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths

Narrated by: Brian Christian





“A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” explains that the ultimate answer to the meaning of life is 42; however, Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths tell us it is 37 in “Algorithms to Live By”.

Griffiths and Christian argue that if you want to have an optimum answer to a complex question, it will take 37% of an allotted amount of time to study the known and unknown details of a question to come up with an optimum answer.  Keep in mind, this is not a perfect answer but a probabilistic optimum answer; i.e. an answer based on what is known and unknown.



Christian and Griffiths outline what they argue is an explanation of human decision-making.  The implication of their conclusion suggests AI is unlikely to improve human cognition because it only adds information to complex human questions.

If you sit at a poker table for three hours, the first hour should be used to gather information about your competition.  You will never know everything you need to know to win a hand of poker.  But, you will improve your chances of winning by taking slightly more than 1/3rd of your time gathering information about the way your competitors play.  This is a simplistic way of looking at Christian’ and Griffiths’ explanation of human decision-making.

The authors identify the discoverer of this algorithm as Merrill Flood, an American mathematician who, with Melvin Dresher, came up with the Prisoner’s dilemma, a model of cooperation and conflict.





Everyone loses in “The Prisoner’s Dilemma”. Christian and Griffiiths note the game can be changed by one variable.  The example given is the introduction of a Mafia leader that says anyone who rats on another will be murdered.  The introduction of this new variable changes the probability of either robber ratting on the other.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma” is the story of two robbers that are placed in separate cells, interrogated independently, and offered a shorter sentence if one rats on the other.  The prosecutor does not have enough evidence for conviction without one ratting on the other. If both robbers rat on each other, they will serve the same sentence.  If only one rats on the other, he/she gets a shorter sentence.  If neither robber rats on the other, the robbers are convicted on a lesser charge.

The 37% factor offers truth but fails to give much comfort to one seeking knowledge about life.  It reminds one of the funny idea suggested by “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” with the number 42.  The authors suggest 37% is considerably better than knowing nothing but they imply the complexity of life makes outcomes entirely probabilistic.  One presumes–the more you know, the better your decisions will be. Christian and Griffith disagree with that presumption.  They suggest too much information skews the probability of truth.



With computers and the internet, one would think truth would be easier to find.  Christian and Griffith suggest computers only offer added complexity; not truth.  They argue computers are only tools for revealing complexity.

Christian and Griffith suggest 37% is the best one can do in getting to the truth.  The authors suggest there is a point of diminishing return with more information; i.e. too many accumulated facts distort the truth and take one farther away from a 37% probability. A recent example is statistical sampling concluding Hillary Clinton would be the next President of the United States.



There is much more in Christian and Griffiths exploration of algorithms, but it is disheartening to realize human search for truth is constrained by a 37% boundary. A logical extension of their argument is that artificial intelligence is as likely to mislead humanity as human intelligence. The authors argue–the nature of AI only increases information for answers to complex questions.  By adding too much information, more facts are known with less chance of knowing the truth.

This is an enlightening exploration of the world of algorithms and computer science.  On the one hand, it suggests human intuition is highly valuable; on the other, the authors explain it is unwise to rely on instinct alone.  Christian and Griffiths explain life decisions, even with complex computer driven algorithms are less; not more likely to be correct.


Some useful tools for life’s management are explained but there is a ring of truthiness in Griffiths’ and Christian’s conclusions.  Of course, at best, this review shows only a 37% chance of being true.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

The New Tsar

Written by: Steven Lee Myers

Narration by:  Rene Ruiz


Vladimir Putin is no Tsar.  Steven Lee Myers has written a highly polished and informative biography but fails to convince one that Putin is a Tsar.  Putin is more Richard Nixon than Catherine the Great.   Putin, like Nixon, is smart and thin-skinned.  Putin, like Nixon, makes personnel decisions based on loyalty, and views the world in real-politic terms.

Myers shows that Putin comes from a family of Russian patriots with a grandfather and father that fought in Russian armies in different generations.  Each lived during the Stalinist years of Gulags and terror but none rebelled against the power of Russia’s leadership.

Myers explains how Putin becomes interested in the KGB at the age of 16 and grooms himself for a life in the secret service.  Putin’s KGB-influenced’ career-path is to become an attorney.  He learns German and is assigned to East Germany in his first years as a KGB agent.

ANATOLY SOBCHAK AND VLADIMIR PUTIN (ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA) Sobchak is initially recognized as a representative of new Russia but the power of his position is diminished by the ineptitude of his administration.  In spite of Sobchak’s mistakes, Myers shows that Putin stands by him.

Myers explains how Putin’s steely disposition grows in East Germany, and later St Petersburg, Russia. Putin keeps a low profile but exhibits bravery, independence, and initiative when his country’s leaders are overwhelmed by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain.

Putin becomes the “go-to” guy for the Mayor of Leningrad (aka St. Petersburg).  Putin’s relationship to the Mayor of Leningrad, Anatoly A. Sobchak, is founded on loyalty.  Sobchak is initially recognized as a representative of new Russia but the power of his position is diminished by the ineptitude of his administration.  In spite of Sobchak’s mistakes, Myers shows that Putin stands by him.  Loyalty is a characteristic of Putin that is expected of all who work with him.  Eventually Sobchak is electorally defeated and Putin is left out of a job.

Russia is unlikely to be ruled by a Tsar again because its population is better educated; aware of the value of qualified freedom, insured by relative social stability and security.  Russia is equally unlikely to return to a repeat of U. S. S. R.’s hegemonic control because ethnic nationalism and the desire for greater freedom are unquenchable thirsts.  This is not to say Russia will not remain a major international power and influence in the world.  Nuclear capability and cybernetics guarantees Russia’s position in world affairs.

Russia is unlikely to be ruled by a Tsar again because its population is better educated; aware of the value of qualified freedom, insured by relative social stability, and security.

Forcing the Ukraine or Georgia to return to the Russian block or quelling Chechen resistance is beyond the military strength of Russia’s Putin or his successors.  Reassembly of a form of the U. S. S. R. is only conceivable based on political accommodation based on economic influence or volitional federation.  Neighboring countries can only be seduced; i.e. either by economics, or cybernetic influence.  A majority vote of neighboring countries; not military dominion, will be the “modus vivendi” for Russian expansion.

But what about the Crimea.  It is a part of the Ukraine.

An argument can be made that territory of the Crimea is not an exception; it is proof of the point.  Millions of dollars were spent by Russia to modernize Crimea for the Olympics.  Undoubtedly, a great deal of time was spent influencing Crimea’s population (which is ethnically 65% Russian).  It is conceivable that a majority of the Crimea residents voted to become part of Russia.

Of course, this sets aside the truth of Crimea’s territorial and nationalist connection with Ukraine.  One might argue this is analogous to Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia.  Hitler used the excuse that ethnic Germans were being abused in the Sudetenland.  In this view, Putin is no Tsar; i.e. he is more Stalinist.

(To make the Sudetenland the equivalent of the Crimea one might ask oneself if the majority in the Sudetenland were ethnic Germans, and was there a vote by Sudetenland residents.)

Undoubtedly, a great deal of time was spent influencing Crimea’s population. 65% of the population is ethnically Russian.  It is not inconceivable that a majority of Crimea residents voted to become part of Russia


Myers cogently reveals the strengths and weaknesses of modern Russian rule.  In a limited sense (limited by Myers’ independent research and fact checking), Myers’ corroborates the experience noted in William Browder’s book, “Red Notice”.  Putin is certainly capable of undermining the influence or action of any person in Russia who chooses to challenge his authoritarianism.

In spite of Putin’s great power, Myers shows there are chinks in his invincibility.  Putin’s sly manipulation for re-election after Medvedev’s only term as President fails to quell the desire for freedom of Russian citizens.  Just as Watergate exposed the hubris of Nixon, Putin will suffer from the sin of being a flawed human being.  Putin, like Nixon, is a great patriot of his country but neither exhibit the inner moral compass that make good leaders great leaders.  This is a reminder of today’s American President who is focused on the business of America; not its role as a beacon for freedom and equality of opportunity.

Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Myers creates a convincing portrait of a man who is subject to the sins of most who rise to power.  Putin believes he has become a god among men.  He rationalizes his greed by thinking the fate of Russia’s re-ascendance lies in his hands.  Even in the days of Stalinist governance, relationship to the leader was the sine ne quo of wealth and power.  Putin carries on that tradition.  Putin’s friends and associates from the KGB and his tenure in St. Petersburg are critical components of Putin’s control of the economy and government.

Putin is no Tsar but he could have been if education had not advanced society and freedom of expression  had not entered the internet age.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


Brain Myths Exploded-Lessons from Neuroscience

Brain Myth's

By Indre Viskontas



(AUTHOR) Indre Viskontas is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco.  With a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience, Viskontas has done research on neuro-degenerative diseases.

Indre Viskontas covers a broad area of knowledge and experience.  She offers many counter intuitive insights to human behavior and the brain in several recorded lectures.  She explains neuronal and behavioral functions of the brain.

Viskontas explains how and why the brain, though highly complex, and insightful, can be judgmentally weak, misleading, and health adverse.  A human brain can provide extraordinary insight to the nature of things and events while maintaining the body’s autonomic system.  On the other hand, that same brain can create appalling misinformation about things and events, distort the truth, and cause autonomic failures.

From regions of the brain to basic parts of neurons, Viskontas dissects what is known and unknown about brain function. She ties brain anatomy to our limited knowledge of consciousness and human behavior.

Viskontas explodes the myth of the brain as a perfectly designed organ.  

The brain is not perfect. She notes that the brain is a part of an evolutionary cycle.  Every cycle of life has the chance of improving or destroying some aspect of the brain’s design.  So far, the brain has adequately adapted to its environment, but some functions are inefficient, misdirected, and self-destructive.  Brain evolution is a matter of luck and circumstance.

Giant dinosaurs adapted in their generation, but most dinosaur species died because their physical evolution could not keep pace with environmental change.  Viskontas notes the human species follows the same evolutionary path.

Luck comes from adaptation to an evolutionary change.  Circumstance comes from the environment that compels change.  Only time will tell whether environmental change becomes too great for human adaptation.

Viskontas shows the perfect brain is a myth because evolution is an arbitrary and imperfect process.  Evolution can produce human gene improvements or replicate destructive gene changes.


Viskontas notes current measurement of intelligence slightly correlates with brain size.  But, size matters little. 

She notes that Einstein’s brain is found to be average in size.  However, it is noted to have some differences; i.e. like the number of glia cells (chemical “information transmission” cells) which were more numerous in Einstein than the average brain.  Also, Einstein’s brain had more interconnection between brain segments than the average brain.  Bigger is not necessarily better.

The Brain Chemistry Effect

Viskontas suggests chemical imbalance as a singular explanation for psychosis is misleading.

The many connections between brain segments suggest chemical imbalance is an oversimplification of psychiatric dysfunction. Viskontas acknowledges the success of drugs to mitigate aberrant behavior but she notes that neurotransmitters affected by a chemical imbalance are only one part of a healthy functioning brain.  Chemicals in the brain are always in flux.  Drug therapy is a scatter shot solution rather than precise treatment for negative psychological symptoms.

Another often-believed myth is that people who are left-brained are logical; while people who are right-brained are creative. 


Viskontas shows that both sides of the brain are activated when creativity or logic are drawn upon. The interconnections and malleability of brain hemispheres suggest logic and creativity come from both hemispheres and can (to a degree) come from one, if the other is damaged.


Viskontas notes that men’s and women’s brains are different. 

However, Viskontas concludes similarities far outweigh differences.  She notes double-blind experiments that show women have better memories than men when emotion is involved.  The region of the brain called the amygdala is larger for men than women.  Viskontas suggests the different sizes may account for differences in sexual behavior.

Parenthetically, she notes there is a medication bias in treatment for men and women because most experiments use men as the subject of investigation for drug trials.  Women are underrepresented in clinical trials.


Viskontas and other writers have exploded myths of accurate human memory. 

Human brains are not movie projectors.  Human brains recall memories as stories; not discrete facts.  Memories are recreations of what one has experienced (both in the distant past, near past, and present).  Facts are often added, and stories are embellished when memories are recalled.  The accuracy of memories is highly influenced by an individual’s past and present experience.

Viskontas goes on to explain that life experience creates conscious and sub-conscious bias.  When past experience is added to the memory of an event, the brain recalls memory for continuity, more than truth; i.e., facts change, and incidents are misrepresented, or misunderstood.  Recalled events are biased by experience.


We have five senses, but they focus on details that meld into a story that makes logical sense to the person recalling a memory. 

Viskontas notes that our senses mislead us because we do not see everything.  Like historians, we only report the facts we choose to include.  There are always more facts about historical events than can be reported by the most diligent historians.  Some facts are left out that change the accuracy of history.  That is why Ulysses Grant is an incompetent President to some and a great President to others.


Viskontas sites experiments that show neurons continue to grow throughout one’s life if they stay engaged with society and work on learning new things. Those over 50 need to get out of their cars and walk to the store or the local coffee shop whenever possible or practical.  Stand more; sit less.

Then there is the myth of old age and neuronal decay that begins after 50.  Viskontas sites experiments that show neurons continue to grow throughout one’s life if they stay engaged with society and work on learning new things.  An important caveat is that neuronal growth is improved with exercise.  So those over 50 need to get out of their cars and walk to the store or the local coffee shop whenever possible or practical.  Stand more; sit less.

There are more brain myths exploded by Viskontas, but a final example is the myth that we use only 10% of our brain.  All parts of our brain are interconnected.  Not all parts are necessarily engaged at once, but interconnections suggests 100% of our brain is used at one time or another.

Viskontas’s knowledge and experience suggest memory holds some truth but not all the truth.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


The Particle at the End of the Universe

the particle at the end of the universe

4 Star Symbol

By Sean Carroll

Narrated by Jonathan Hogan


Sean Carroll is a theoretical cosmologist and senior research associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology.    “The Particle at the End of the Universe”, published in 2012 is focused on the story of Higgs-boson, the widely and incorrectly termed “god particle”.  Higgs-bosun is discovered at CERN with the Large Hadron Collider’ experiments done between 2011 and 2013.

The LHC enables scientists to experiment with particle physics at the most minute level in the world; at least, presently possible.  The LHC offers a mechanism for proving physics’ theories with experimentation formerly un-available to science.  The wonder of the machine is its ability to identify the remains of particles never seen before.  It offers the opportunity to see skeletal remains of the elemental particles of life.  One presumes many physics theories will be experimentally proven true or false by the LHC.  More consequentially, the identification of a Higgs-boson like particle opens a whole new area of science research and theory. 

Carroll notes that the LHC is the largest machine in the world with a 17 mile circular tunnel built underground, below several Swiss towns.  It was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The LHC is a super cooled vacuum in a tunnel–designed to accelerate protons at near the speed of light for collisions that will reveal the remains of sub-atomic particles.  The acceleration is achieved by using giant magnets that accelerate protons trapped in the tunnel.  The LHC is in pursuit of the minutest elemental particles of the universe.  They are presumably undiscovered because the total energy of known particles does not match the calculated energy of a specific field.

LHC MAP SHOWING CERN SITE–When listeners finish “The Particle at the End of the Universe, they will understand why Higgs-boson is a magnificent discovery and the LHC is worth its nine-billion-dollar expenditure.

Carroll’s explanations of physics and the momentous importance of Higgs-boson are clear and understandable.  Early on, one finds Carroll explaining that particle physics is a misleading category of scientific research.  Carroll notes that Higgs-boson is not a particle.  It is a field.  Further, Carroll notes–all that humankind perceives in the world is made of fields, not particles.

With the advent of experimentally proven quantum mechanics, particle physics is transformed into field physics because of uncertainty. Every particle known to science is on the move.  In order for one to view a particle—a proton, neutron, electron, etc., it must be frozen in time, which is not its natural state.  Every particle exists within a field, a field in which particles are always in motion; always in one place or another.

Among many insights offered by Carroll, is the fundamental categorization of elemental particles.  All particles are broken into two categories.  One category is Fermion. The second is Boson. Fermions are elemental particles that are composed of matter. 

Bosons are elemental particles that are force fields like magnetism.
Electrons, neutrinos, and quarks are fermions, the matter of the universe.  Photons, gluons, W bosons, and Z bosons are forces acting on fermions within fields.  These elemental particles are massless.  All of these particles would remain massless without the Higgs-boson mechanism (field). The Higgs-boson field creates mass out of massless particles.

HIGGS-BOSON DISCOVERYA useful analogy reported by Carroll explains how a Higgs-boson field creates mass.  Imagine two people walking through a room filled with equally dispersed people.  The people-filled’ room is the Higgs-boson field. The two people walking through the room are added massless elemental particles.  However, one of the two people is famous.  The crowd congregates around the famous person to create a mass of people while the less famous person passes through the room (the field) unnoticed.

Carroll explains the experimental proofs of quantum mechanics are the reason Higgs-boson, or something like it, must exist.  That is why its discovery was so important.  Higgs-boson is the field in which known particles of the universe gain mass.  Higgs-bosun is the famous person that walks into the people-filled’ room.  Without Higgs-boson or something that works like Higgs-boson, life (matter and energy) would not exist.

Carroll offers other insights—about symmetry, super-symmetry, and breaking symmetry.  He touches on dark matter and string theory.  All subjects are interestingly presented.

In general, Carroll crystallizes the importance of theoretical and experimental science.


When listeners finish “The Particle at the End of the Universe, they will understand why Higgs-boson is a magnificent discovery and the LHC is worth its nine-billion-dollar expenditure.


Tech geeks are trending toward rule of the world but humans remain too complicated and diverse for this generation of code makers and breakers to dominate the world.

Audio-book Review

By Chet Yarbrough



Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World

By Christopher Steiner

Narrated by Walter Dixon


With the subtitle—”How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World”, Christopher Steiner’s Automate This is hyperbolic. Tech geeks are trending toward rule of the world but humans remain too complicated and diverse for this generation of code makers and breakers to dominate the world.

Social and political science have not reached a state of measurement and predictable outcome that reaches Karl Popper’s criteria for science. Popper’s requirement for empirical falsification is not achievable with social and political algorithms because falsification has little relevance.  Social and political analysis, even with the use of algorithms, is not science.

Taking Steiner’s word that a Quant predicted some of the Middle East conflicts is not enough evidence to suggest algorithms rule the world.

(Steiner notes that Mubarak’s ouster and Arab Spring were predicted in advance by a Quant.) Steiner also explains how algorithms are used for personality qualification of astronauts. The idea is to profile astronauts to mitigate conflicts between humans in confined quarters during space travel. The profile is to predict potential conflicts and wash out any astronaut candidate that might mutiny during a long voyage.

Profiling is not new.  It is a technique used by branches of the military, and by many governments, and corporations.  Certainly, it is more comprehensively done today with computers but a high degree of error remains.

 Steiner’s anecdotes of chess players, astronaut conflicts, and poker game predictions using algorithms suggests promise, but algorithm use remains a far cry from ruling the world.

Steiner’s history of algorithm growth is a cautionary tale. At one extreme, there is a vision of a brave new world where privacy is impossible and human manipulation inevitable.  At the other extreme, is Ray Kurzweil’s singularity where genetically enhanced humans gain algorithmic capability through a meld of humans and robots.

Steiner offers examples of algorithms that have enhanced good and bad behavior in humans. Algorithms have improved customer service for aggrieved consumers by customizing responses for defective products and services. When an automated voice receives a customer’s complaint, an algorithm analyzes the nature (words and demeanor) of the customer’s aggravation and forwards a customer’s call to a person that can help resolve the complaint.

QUANTS–COMPUTER TECHNICIANS WHO CREATED MORTGAGE BACKED DERIVATIVES. With the advent of computer technology, the added assets in derivative instruments became so complex that individual human judgement of value is clouded.

The 2007-2008 financial crash is caused by financial derivatives designed by Quants using algorithms that multiplied the effect of human greed; i.e. millions of people were financially destroyed by unregulated financial securities, created by financial analyst’ algorithms.

Of particular interest is Steiner’s explanation of algorithm impact on jobs. Like the industrial revolution, the world’s work force will dramatically change with continued automation.

 More product production will be automated through algorithms that manipulate machines to do the work formerly done by humans. Steiner believes primary growth industries will be ruled by technology. No jobs will be unaffected by algorithms.

Steiner notes that even medical services for common colds and routine visits will be served by algorithmic analysis and drug prescription services. Code hackers will be offered great job opportunities. Call centers will become bigger employers but even those jobs will be increasingly handled by algorithms that minimize employee involvement.


A conclusion one may draw from Steiner’s book is that middle managers of call centers, sales people for algorithmic products, teachers, personal service providers, and organization executives will be in demand but many traditional labor positions will disappear.

Steiner’s book is a recruitment tool for today’s and tomorrow’s code hackers. That is where new jobs will be created. Steiner suggests that young and future populations should plan to acquire basic math skills, learn code, and plan for a future of automation and exploration.