Adding his voice to other compelling critiques of present-day technology, Franklin Foer passionately and deftly goes after Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple for threatening our culture and individuality. He warns that these technology giants are doing nothing less than “reordering the production and consumption of knowledge” and becoming “the most powerful gatekeepers the world has ever known.” In World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech (Penguin Press, $27), Foer recounts the rise of the biggest tech players and examines how their vast efforts at data profiling and media control have come to influence much of what we do and think. To illustrate the difficulties of maintaining a cultural institution in the digital age, Foer writes as well about his own ill-fated experience at the New Republic, where he clashed with a new owner whose wealth derived from Facebook stock and who sought to turn what had been a little magazine into an engine of considerable social media traffic. Foer also offers some prescriptions, both large and small, for lessening the dangers he perceives.
In the genre of campaign memoirs Katie Tur's Unbelievable is destined to go down as a classic. Embedded with the Trump campaign from the very beginning, Katie Tur, an NBC correspondent, was a witness to all the lies, norm-breaking behavior and bizarre spectacle that surrounded Trump. She even became a target herself when Trump called her out at several of his rallies. But she persisted, without ever letting him get under her and writes a truly incredible account while also weaving in the story of her parents who were famous in LA for their innovative video news-gathering techniques.
Despite increasingly militarized borders, wealthy nations can’t keep out the real enemy: climate change. While Europe and the U.S. build more walls, design more sophisticated surveillance systems, and add more armed guards to protect national security, their focus on keeping out migrants misses the fact that what needs resolving is the high level of green-house gases that are making many parts of the world impossible to live in. Miller’s eye-opening humanitarian report takes us through the “dry corridor” of Central America, the post-typhoon Philippines, and the American Southwest, documenting the plight of today’s growing numbers of climate refugees. Calling the environment “the new human rights battleground,” Miller shows that we urgently need a legal framework for people displaced by droughts and floods, not more rigorous policing. Best of all would be diverting resources from borders to develop alternatives to the unsustainable consumer society that fueled climate change in the first place.