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tv   Edward Tenner The Efficiency Paradox  CSPAN  May 26, 2018 9:30am-10:31am EDT

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extraordinary guests given what we can. [applause] ♪ >> booktv is on twitter and facebook and we want to hear from you, tweet us twitter.com/booktv or post a comment on our facebook page, facebook.com/booktv. >> we are honored to have edward tenner for his latest book, "the efficiency paradox:
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what big data can't do". he has a three prior books, each for the last we for decades, 1986's text become a 1987's why things bite back in 2004's our own devices. and he has speaking engagements on behalf of microsoft and many others while publishing articles for outlets like the washington post, new york times and harvard magazine. he was once double npr, the philosopher of everyday technology and he is just as up for writing about our electronic gadgetry as he has been to tackle things like chairs, helmets and typewriters, showing how every invention no matter how mundane it seems has altered human history and in often profound raise. in the efficiency paradox he dives into contemporary digital culture. the success with speed and practicality. and what big data can't do, he questions, and assumptions this strive toward efficiency result in a net positive looking at how we jackson we chooses human
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beings will have unintended consequences but no grant algorithm can account for and examining what we use by imagining our decisions of a series of mathematical equations. and and invention and innovation. he can be joined in conversation tonight by none other than the founding director, welcome them both to politics and prose. [applause] >> good evening, everybody,
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welcome. we just heard that edward tenner is writing the definitive body of literature on unforeseen technological consequences. >> we are going far back into history. it began with the book why things bite back in 1997 or 1996. tell us something about the sequence of books in this subject. >> this book started in 2005. it calls for positive unintended consequences. this is a logical continuation.
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and and quite a few things happen. the hiding hand, at the institute of advanced study, a great economist, hirschman's idea of the hiding hand, people in society's begin projects without knowing how hard they are going to be. if they knew how hard they would be they would not have started but once they committed themselves, that was the case with me, it took me a while because of the changing environment. in 2008, everything that you know about happened in the economy and i thought this is an opportunity for me because i
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can study all of the positive things that happened during the panics of the 19th century and the great depression of the 20. it was a fertile time for invention in the 1930s. then i decided there weren't any progressive technological things coming out of this particular recession but there was a new technological world emerging, the world of the platform economy, a new developers of the internet-based on mobile communication, smart phones, the cloud, and companies that connected buyers and sellers more efficiently through the crowd. and this was promising and many things were more efficient but
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i also saw that this efficiency could be self-defeating and that is what this is about, not against efficiency but against -- based on the idea that too much efficiency can make us less efficient in the long run. >> you are not a contrary and. but -- >> as we were talking about. when i was an undergraduate, i had a history of ideas, this is a great concept. this is something that applies to everything, the way history works itself out through strange dialectical means, this could be applied to technology too. >> your book does a wonderful job of finding all of these unintended consequences many of
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us have not seen before. we don't just go over the obvious ones but the ones hidden in history and you talk about hidden inefficiencies of efficiency and it raises the question how do you define efficiency to begin with? if it determines the concept of time it comes and goes. >> there is a technical, economic -- remembering every equation you have by 50%. i did not go into that. there is the greatest possible output for resources. obviously the efficiency of
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18th-century and 19th-century technology which was a continuous process. it was made one sheet at a time. as it does today. in the early 19th century after a great deal of trial and error and a bankruptcy or two papermakers discovered how to make paper in continuous roles in the steel industry found out how to make steel in continuous roles and appliances and other things made of sheet steel typically are made when the steel is delivered in special machines, turn it into the outside of the washing machine or whatever. we have a society that is extremely efficient but things
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come off of assembly lines, the europeans were really impressed with the american stockyards. and they were enthralled as well as by the assembly line. the soviet system of efficiency, linen was a great admirer, he said so explicitly, based on the steelworks of 1908. the great soviet combinations. we have a different kind of efficiency, the efficiency of bringing buyers and sellers together with a minimum of cost. >> when i was growing up we talk about the efficiency experts. they don't exist anymore, what happened to them? >> it is not that they don't exist anymore but the
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politically correct terminology has changed. if you call a consultant from one of the big accounting firms that have efficiency experts, it would be a gross insult and probably leave the premises immediately. a different kind of vocabulary for the same thing, talk about optimization, flexibility, a different jargon now but the spirit is similar, getting more work as soon as possible. >> talk about efficiency experts, i get that. >> the efficiency, the rhetorical -- somebody calling someone an efficiency expert would be 23 to do. those are all men. >> we won't do that. one of the remarkable things, poking holes on efficiency. you are thinking of solutions
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to our problems. who speak of it as inspired efficiency. say something briefly about that. >> i call it inspired inefficiency. the philosophy of inspired inefficiency is not forgoing the advantages of platform technology but combining it with the right degree of serendipity, freedom to make mistakes, we need not to rely exclusively, one of my favorite examples is a trip i took to western virginia and on the trip i had three kind of maps, i had a road atlas and individual detail maps of suburban washington where i was passing through and i had ways,
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i decided to criticize i had to use it, i downloaded the apps and now i am a ways monarch. it really works and i try to rack up these points wherever i can. what i have also seen his ways is a very accurate, 99 point -- it is extremely inaccurate, it pointed me to nonexistent left turns, pointed me in the wrong direction at times. what i learned from that is there are some things the printed map can do very well. it gives you an idea of total terrain, an idea of what kinds of places you are passing through but if you turn off an
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interstate in the western suburbs of new york to reach the sushi place you read about you do not went to do that with the printed map, even a detailed city map because there's a tangle of roads. the turn by turn directions that a navigation program is superior. i use that as an example of how losing common sense we can combine the best of both kinds of thinking, inspired inefficiency. >> i am sure all of this had the experience, bringing up gps, losing our ability as humans to find our way around the normal way, giving in to the gps apparatus and making orinda's mistakes, my wife and i were down in tampa three or four years ago using the much maligned apple maps and we were
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looking for a beautiful state park to go to. apple maps took us directly into a junkyard. i can't think of anything more opposite than where we were going. isn't this a case of a larger phenomenon of human beings relinquishing control because we believe in numbers and algorithms and so on and just giving up to our own peril? >> it is not only that but the apps don't have local knowledge and every once in a while you will read in newspapers or online about the hapless truck driver who is going down a narrow street in england using one of these apps. it turned out at the other end the truck, the van got wedged
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in between two buildings because the apps generally, unless you are buying a special one for truck drivers don't give the heights of overpasses. in philadelphia there is an overpass that is regularly struck by trucks. >> efficiency and big data are the big those words of our time. another buzzword is innovation and creativity. i would like to explore how these terms faceup to each other. it seems to me efficiency may limit moments of creativity, serendipity, daydreaming and good ideas. these buzzwords of our time, creativity and efficiency seem to be opposing something. creativity does involve -- i really have to waste a lot of
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time. i find the outtakes are not really lost. and material i haven't been able to use. and taking the scenic route and innovation, the fact that innovation in apps and ridesharing, apartment sharing, that has taken up capital that might be used to make better batteries so my cell phone isn't running down as much as it is at the moment. i have given the book the example of the 20 years it took
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to get from the patent of photocopying that chester carlson filed in 1938 to the xerox 914 which is what clayton christensen, market creating innovation, not just process innovation. something that makes an existing thing work with fewer costs but also something that created thousands of jobs and led to the establishment of the xerox palo alto research laboratory park which developed an interface that steve jobs used to develop the map. 20 years ago, were a really discouraging time. if you had a public corporation today that was accountable to shareholders that was privately held, if you went through
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something like that there would be a rebellion. certainly analysts would not like it because to develop a working photocopier, at times the machine would burst into flames if there were too many 0s and os, some were sold with fire extinguishers. it was necessary to do that, to go through that and get something that was revolutionary not only for xerox which was one of the fastest growing companies in world history but for all the unintended consequences, for example staplers, the founders of swing line staplers which had a boom because there was more paper to staple, the founders had so much money, antique collectors, if you doubt this at the metropolitan museum in new york and see the
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galleries, the linsky galleries will be on view for a long fine because they had a great lawyer who specified that if anything was removed from the galleries, the whole collection would be taken back to another museum. they were smart people and got where they were partly because of the efficiency of the xerox copier and turning out all that paper. >> let's delve into a little bit of history. . and the 23rd century we had two ages of efficiency. beyond the digital age, back to the progressive era, one of the great efficiency experts of the time was winslow taylor and my
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question, taylor is objective for various reasons. why do people keep oppressing efficiency when we had an experiment at the beginning of the 23rd century that caused problems? >> because only historians of technology collect taylor is an. most people don't know about taylor so they don't know the lessons of taylor resume and are likely to repeat them but they give it different names. because they don't use the word efficiency they might use flexible income optimization. there is a whole management vocabulary and if i know it maybe i could have a new career but i have not been able to learn it. very often in spirit what they are doing is supervising people, doing desk jobs in the
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same way that taylor was talking about people who were shoveling coal for example. but in spirit it is not that different. one of the most interesting illustrations to me of the difference between the continuous process era and the platform era is in chicago the reuben donnelly printing plant which is one of the great architectural landmarks of the city originally was based on continuous production from rolls of paper to telephone books and sears roebuck catalogs. i was wondering how sears roebuck might be broken up. they were the walmart and amazon of 100 years ago but what is interesting is that building has been recycled as a server farm. is one of the places the plow resides. as a native chicagoan, it is interesting to see how one
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particular structure made the transition to two kinds of efficiency. >> one of your chapters is on education. a school of thought, concerned about computers and big data. and activities that are crucial for brain development. and by focusing only on that, moving the facility, losing the ability to physically
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manipulate, the issue -- we have a problem. any thoughts about that? >> one thing i found in writing the book, students in academic lectures learn more and remember more than those who have taken notes typing on a laptop. this is counterintuitive because you would think notes on a laptop would be more complete but there's something about not only motor activity of the hands but the way you have to actively because you can't take everything literate, paraphrase things, and extracting the most important
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points, the longhand forces to be your own interpreter and active learner. the best helps retention tremendously. >> distinguishing between fluency, you read something over electronically. it is familiar to them. that requires them to make use of their understanding, they are not able to do it, it was a flow for them, but not really
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internalized. >> we are familiar with the social media platform and the privacy function, despite the romance around social media, the incentive view is there is advertising. think about the consequences. >> i have been following the controversy with quite a bit of interest. one of the advantages of printed books is authors are not responsible for correcting and modifying everything continuously. it would be a terrible
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situation to reflect the latest news we were writing. from a very early point, i remember a conference in the 1990s the experts agreed the web was going to be all about advertising. it was not going to be about vague content or public service was that has been largely true. newspapers especially have been blaming facebook for actions that so far don't have identifiable victims except for people sense of privacy if it was violated. in the case of the aqua fax breach, untold millions of people were subject including many or most of the people in this room subject to identity theft.
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there is very little indignation remaining about that. aqua fax recovered what it originally lost. facebook and google decimated the advertising base newspapers. newspapers reached their peak in 2005 as far as profits are concerned. they are terribly indignant that was broken in that way. i don't know what to make of that but it was an anomaly of the situation. >> the big data, begging the question what the data is,
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facts put it that way. master all the big data, they don't believe data is a fact. they put a navigator on this. >> it is a revolution but a revelation. a lot of latent changes in attitude. we think technology is created and technology made it more intense or made it worse but if you look back to the 1990s there was a growing polarization in society. a lot of trends before social media that we attribute to social media. i don't think there is anything
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inherent in social media themselves that create extreme relativism about what truth is. there is a recent book by earl morris, the filmmaker, about thomas kuhn, who i knew in princeton. i haven't read the book but according to what i knew about it, i heard morris lecture actually so i know some of it directly. morris is blaming kuhn and his ideas about the scientific ideas attributing to undermining belief in the objectivity of science and belief in facts. i don't necessarily endorse that idea but it is true that if you look back in the 1980s and the 1990s it was the left-wing who were ridiculing
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objectivity and facts. they were saying everything is cultural. now that is come back to bite them and maybe bite all of us. we can go to that. .. >> an unintended consequence of your book is the rational rationalization is that when anybody is sloughing off on the job they can tell their boss that they're being creative. >> ice really hope so. i hope they will have my book at hand to quote chapter and verse.
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it will be essential in our current decade as the stapler became in the age of the xerox machine. >> thank you. it was very interesting. my question is one of clarification. it seemed as though early in your talk you pointed out the difference between the platform economy in earlier processes in the assembly line. you pointed out the great efficiency of one of the anticipated outcome was bringing buyers and sellers together in an efficient way. and thinking air b&b and ebay, and amazon. almost anything where sales take
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place at a very high rate. you seem to be saying that there is an unintended consequence of the long-term that is a sort of inefficiency. is that a general principle? is there a particular inefficiency in the long-term that comes from bringing buyers and sellers together in a very efficient when the short term? >> we are present here in one of the institutions that has been affected by this efficiency. to me, it is much more efficient to be able to browse and a great bookstore and buy a book and take it home immediately, then it is to look online. if the bookstore is at, as this one is, responsive to the community and alert to finding the most interesting books. i think my ideas not that there
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is anything inherently wrong with online bookselling, if it goes too far, this pursuit of efficiency goes too far people are only looking for the lowest price and not the total of services that institutions provide. then in the long run they become less efficient because it is really more efficient to browse in a story like this. >> whatever democracy is, could you elaborate on what this book implies for the health of democracy? >> i do not really explore the political side of social media here. partly because it takes so long,
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as you know is a political scientist to really say what went on in a critical election. that people spend a lot of time analyzing district by district, sometimes precinct by precinct. what motivated people for all of the things that they were saying, the issues that arose. i think it will take a while for us to sort out just what social media meant in our recent elections. i policy and writing books is a critical massive literature so that i, as a layperson, have an idea of what's really involved. not to speculate prematurely.
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i do not at all abandon the idea that social media can help make democracy better. i think we are still far from developing the right platforms for that. it's clear as they exist, the major social media companies are really not able to filter out the distraction and focus people constructively on issues. i do not give up hope for that. >> thank you. >> isn't big data only as good as the people who are using it understand it? in other words, trying to think whether not there some data from 100 years ago, that we don't
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need to understand but we just accept as true on which we build foundations on. i don't think we do. i think you clearly have to understand it. >> one of my teachers, william mcneil who wrote a book that is whose this book is dedicated to he wrote about the experience of his wife who is in charge of an american information service library in athens after the second world war. she felt her predecessor had been inflating the number of visitors and the number of books circulated. he said that affected his attitude towards quantitative history and data. that's an important point. there's another one about the frontiers of data science. that is, the statisticians critique of data science. i've been corresponding with the professor of statistics at
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harvard, they're working on something called simpson's paradox. how many people have heard of that? symptoms paradox is very relative because simpson's paradox is the statistical idea that if you combine a large number of statistical data results, for example different states or districts, the result of all of that will be less accurate than the individual one. it is very easy to get misled in the interpretation of data. data scientists are getting very high salaries. the paradox is that we still don't have big data about big data. we don't have a big empirical base and how effective big data techniques are. if you read business magazines you'll see success.
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who will tell a reporter from a business magazine that we just blew $10 million on a big data project that got us nowhere. there's survivorship bias. you need to bring a certain amount of skepticism. >> one other question, are we at the beginning of bad actors? what's your prediction on how bad actors will influence the space over time. >> i tend to regard things as self-correcting and self-limited. the controversy itself has produced an atmosphere of skepticism that is going to make the kinds of interventions that we have seen less likely to
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succeed. how much less likely, i'm not sure. people's confidence in what they see and how it served has been reduced. what i see that has been served to me i sometimes wonder about what profile is being built. on the same page i will see an ad for how seniors can save on their expenses. another ad about leasing a rolls-royce for $2995 per month. i don't know how the artificial intelligence is working. >> my question relates exactly to what you just said. there are people, historically people have looked at the future within a optimistic view. there are people like elon musk, who are saying that he's terrified at what big data can produce and i would like to know
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what you would think about not necessarily his view but the view that big data can be a tremendous threat for instance if we have self driving cars in the future, we will not be able to access some areas because the car won't take us to a certain part of town, or whatever. that decision will be taken away from us because a big data of the consequences. >> i deal with some of those issues and parts of the book. on self driving cars for example, there quite a few other issues, for example, very often a self driving car would not be able to execute certain emergency maneuvers. it would not be able to pull over when you see an antique store by the side of the road
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that you want to stop it. in order to have really effective self driving cars you need a road system with every parking lot that's optimized for self driving cars. also, we really don't know how a large number self driving cars will interact with each other. it's very possible with all the resources we have we can never really model that because there are some questions that the sun would burn out before the computer would solve them. i would think the a apocalyptic predictions that scientists -- again, i think it's certainly conceivable that badly programmed artificial intelligence with big data to do
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enormous harm. for example, russia reportedly has an installation that has software that will detect a nuclear strike against russia and retaliate. so who knows who program them, and how accurate that really is. this is the doomsday machine that we saw doctor strangelove. that sense, a threat to the world from artificial intelligence is already here. but it is here only if we allow ourselves to be mastered by to the extent that we do. we have a lot of choices. i have confidence in people using their common sense. my book is really about obvious things that people have not brought together. once you read them all you will see that it is obvious as they
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prevent study for the institute of the obvious. >> thank you. >> first, a comments as to the title. one thing that has occurred to me, i work in the general area, most of the really difficult problems we face as a species the answer is [inaudible] the date of the machine is not going to find it. it has to do with values and what you prioritize. right now, you people making decisions that for the greater good are pretty negative, in terms of leading us towards potentially globally genocide. so, you can have all of the machine intelligence you want but in the end it is human
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beings making the decision of harming good. this is a little off subject, i wonder if you have read jared lanyards book. >> i know about it. >> it is just a simple idea. he is saying our network economy is broken because what is happening now is what we know, our knowledge and the data about ourselves is being exploited by people who are making billions of dollars and using the information in insidious ways and we do not have control over that information that we should own. increasingly, as we see things like driving trucks where's the middle class going to make a
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living? people are looking at things like block change to change the network to allow people to own their own data and control it. there is this efficiency thing is efficient for home? a small number of people are getting wealthy at the expense of not only the individuals but the planet about if we will survive. >> that is an excellent question. about getting paid for the use of my data i'm looking forward to getting a big check every month from facebook and i can buy all the things that are advertised. because i'm getting all the money for the use of my data. that's wonderful. seriously, i agree that with the company snow a lot. the fascinating thing for me is
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the asymmetry of knowledge. it is not so much about what they know about for individuals, we have not really seen many cases of, for example blackmail or fraud as a result of facebook leaks as we have from predator leaks. what we do see is that these companies have social sciences who are studying the data, not so much on individuals, as to understand aggregate behavior. so much of the social science that exist is being done on a proprietary basis and not published. those academics who are working,
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they are working in the ways the company's approve of them. they are reaching conclusions the company's like. there are probably other studies that could be conducted if everybody had access to that aggregate data that would suggest other things. this is true in the heyday of at&t, i know people who work in the social science department of at&t research. they know a lot about people's behavior on the phone. for example, the same people who are paid next to have an unlisted number would also be interested in paying to have an enhance listing with a coat of arms in the phone book. they knew many really interesting things. which people really wanted an unlisted number. there is a whole side of social science that was private knowledge. you point at something important. so much of what we know about human behavior is not really the province, no longer professors and universities, or even market
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researchers, but the company supports of data and are recruiting a lot of prominent academics from their old teaching jobs to work with the data. this asymmetry, i think, is going to be a more more important issue. [inaudible] [inaudible] >> the iron is amazon just opened a bookstore --
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[inaudible question] >> the problem with barnes & noble's american chain should that there once the villains with the independent bookstores that amazon does what they do more efficiently. i still find that barnes & noble are browsable but they are not browsable in the same way as a good independent bookstores. for example, if barnes & noble had a strategy given their managers freedom to get another patrons and adjust their stock if they were able to work more is independent, then i think
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there be more viable. they're often in locations that command the highest threat. as development increases in rent increase, it's hard for a chain bookstore. in new york city a number of barnes & noble locations) not sure if it's because they're unprofitable but people told me it was because of real estate. i don't know what amazon has with prying. i don't know what they really have in mind. we don't know what the real agenda is. we don't know whether it's because they see this as a prophet center, or because they're using this to observe is a laboratory that the people coming in are really the guinea pigs.
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they are providing data in these cameras are monitoring which books they open and how they breath through them. all of this is being fed into this great big mission. we may never know this. we need a wikileaks or amazon. >> a question, often people use products in unanticipated ways. that is factored in innovation. i'm wondering if there's something inherently different with platforms that limits people's ability to use them in ways that the people who put them out do not intend? or have we just not had enough experience with platforms for people to break the will and use them in unexpected ways to create new innovations and
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creativity? >> i'll tell you who use twitter in an unexpected way, donald trump. i do not think the founders of twitter really conceived of the platform to be used as a replacement for the old radio broadcast. trump was really a great innovator there. now whether that makes him an unstable genius, not sure. he was certainly using it in a way that was not discussed in the early days of the platform. >> we have a few more minutes. of active pay complement to the book.
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[inaudible question] [inaudible question] >> they say bad books after idiots, small children and . sometimes i'm just lucky. i just see that cambridge analytic on the people around were utterly fascinating to me.
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i knew that there was going to be a big story there. i did not know what exactly it was going to be. i knew there was going to be more there because they had really worked for both sides. they also cultivate a certain image. when i read about them, it occurs to me that people would much rather be considered evil geniuses than harmless nerds. that is, we have to wonder what was going on very often people in the fields will claim to have the ability to do this or that, because in publishing and everything else in market hype is really impossible to avoid. one of the things i think it's
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that hype is actually healthy. the economy cannot flourish without it. the former librarian of congress once wrote that if there had been truth in advertising legislation in england in the 17th century the new world would never have settled. >> thank you very much. [applause] >> we have books behind the register to purchase if you like to purchase one. thank you,. [inaudible conversation] >> here some highlights from this weekend. tonight on c-span the monk
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debate. on book tv, on c-span2 at 11:00 p.m. eastern, jon meacham, author of the soul of america the battle for a better angels. then american history tv on c-span three at 10:00 p.m. eastern, unreal america, archival films of world war one. sunday at c-span at 6:30 p.m., from new jersey governor, chris christie at the university of chicago institute of politics. on c-span2 at 9:00 p.m. eastern on afterwards, james clapper. sunday on american history tv at 6:00 p.m. history, a tour of the battlefield, monuments and cemeteries in france. memorial day on c-span at 11:00 a.m., live coverage of the wreathlaying ceremony on the tomb of the unknow unknown sold.
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on c-span2, in depth with david bald archie. and beginning at 8:00 a.m. eastern, programs mark in the centennial of world war i. go to c-span.org for more details in time. >> here's a look at authors recently featured on afterwards. best-selling author, asked for the science of how the body ages. jerome argued how to throughout the -- of donald trump. in the coming weeks on afterwards, television and radio host will read trees the
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transition from progressive politics. this weekend, james clapper offer his insights on the u.s. intelligence community. >> new mention john brennan and myself, about speaking out. that in itself is controversial. acknowledge that. it's not a roll that i anticipated. i never would've thought of doing that. but were under different circumstances now. i started to try to defend the community. that's what i had in mind. it evolved. it is not when i planned on our desired. but, i felt after six years or so or more of defending institutions and values of this country that --
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>> this airs every sunday. all previous afterwards programs are available to watch on our website, booktv.org. >> this marks great skill is a grand strategist. they knew the advantages of shock and off. this is how he unified germany in the 1860s. he instigated wars ends with eventually france. then, having done that and having it achieved whose objective which is the unification of germany he stopped and became a consolidator rather than an instigator. the next 20 years in power as german chancellor was to build a web of alliances with all of
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germany's neighbors, so they would get use to the idea of a unified germany. it was the distinction between shock and on knowing when to stop and do something else. >> yell professor, in his book grand strategy sunday night at eastern on q&a. >> hello and welcome to what is new and aerospace from the smithsonian's national air and space museum. they possible with generous support from boeing. we are here with the authors of the new book "chasing new horizons", doctor alan stern is principal investigator of the new horizons

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