Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Audio Buzz, Past
Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

OCT 2013
by Jonathan Lowe

INSIDE APPLE attempts to decipher the highly secret management strategies which made Steve Jobs' company the biggest in the world.

For those looking for Apple's magic to rub off on them, the formula reveals both Apple's storytelling and hubris---a mix of innovation, iconic design, and obsessive control. Apple was never a fun place to work, but its goal was (and in ways still is) to change the world while keeping a tight lid on how. It is odd that Jobs pursued his goals with a religious fanatism and a fervency to defeat all rivals in order to gain ground on the gridiron of Silicon Valley competition, even while dismissing traditional, non-productive sports like baseball and football as a waste of time. Like Bill Gates, he had his own entrepreneurial games to play, and was not averse to creating new rules as he went along. But can the company continue to thrive and innovate without Jobs, who vetted all products? This is one big question the author asks while examining the life cycle of large companies and comparing the usual trajectory with that of Apple. Tim Cook may be able to bring a kinder, more spreadsheet friendly aspect, but how much "secret sauce" is left, and what happens if it runs out?

Adam Lashinsky, an editor at Fortune, narrates, and while not a professional reader nonetheless maintains listener attention with an ear for rhythm and tonal quality.

In THE UTOPIA EXPERIMENT, the latest Covert One novel to use the name of Robert Ludlum, author Kyle Mills imagines a doctor (once forced to attempt creating the perfect athlete for Hitler by experimenting on
children) who is now involved in a scheme to rid the world of certain undesirables by developing an implanted electronic technology that at first enhances the capabilities of its users. The military is the premium buyer of Merge, but also the public. Naturally, Americans are buying more of the units than countries like Iran or North Korea, which presents a problem for Christian Dresner and his secret plan. In the meantime, the protagonists must fight to survive in order to follow the clues supporting their suspicions, and their battlefield and training experiences make up much of the novel. Read by Jeff Woodman, whose delivery evokes more character empathy and combat familiarity than awe-struck suspense, this novel is well written, if not without padding. How much of its plot was conceived by Ludlum is unknown. Yet with this being volume #10 released after Ludlum's death, one may reasonably ask how many more are yet to come. Another novel on this theme, and with several other resemblances, is Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman, which won SF's Hugo award in 1997. My own favorite Ludlum audiobook is The Janson Directive, read by Paul Michael (who also narrated The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.)

Ever since Twitter and Facebook came along, society has been moving rapidly toward more rapidity. The end result is what Douglas Rushkoff calls PRESENT SHOCK, a "presentism" that is replacing the "futurism"touted in the 20th Century. Time-is-money was once the motto and goal of investors and employers. You did your time for a gold watch and a pension (or savings with time-based interest), and were judged and rated by peers with a stopwatch, while everyone obsessed with growth and a demanded increase in quarterly profit scores.

The result of this has been wild swings in the market, including bubbles and collapses, sustained by a competitive mania that makes a kill-or-be-killed sport out of every transaction. Rushkoff says that this old expansionist myth is unsustainable, and so we need to move toward less 'stuff' and more efficiency, toward craftspeople trading peer-to-peer instead of being employees in big box stores run by gun-ho, short-sighted capitalists (some of whom probably sit around in their shorts watching cage fighting.) Our focus has already shifted from the future to the present, Rushkoff says, as our culture only rewards what is happening right this instant. There will soon be no more future or time as we now live it, no more security in pensions or currencies, no more glorifying meaningless record books. We are being pinged and tweeted each change every moment in real time so much, now, that we've actually become anxious about having time's security blanket ripped out from under us. The book posits that the technological world we rushed to create twenty years ago has now arrived, with all its instant messaging and live-streaming...but the world we created is less livable than we imagined it would be. What's missing in all the data stream 'scoring' is meaning and story, which allows real people to actually be in the present instead of merely existing in a frenzied state prompted by a glut of ultimately meaningless information. "Our bodies are analog, not digital," Rushkoff says. That is important to keep in mind when bombarded by digital messages repeated over and over as if to robots...or to make us robotic to sustain some quarterly profit figure demanded by old school Mad Men. Narrated by Kevin T.Collins, this listenable and interesting audiobook calls into question the cultural imperative of 'winning at all cost' by defining those costs clearly so that past mistakes will not be repeated yet again.

2013 Past Columns