Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World

Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World - Bruce Schneier I love the topic. I love the details provided in this book. But, to tell a story you need more than a great topic and a bunch of facts. One needs a narrative and an attitude to tie the pieces together. This book lacked the story telling 'je ne sais quas" (literal: "I don't know what", but figuratively "elusive quality") though he does have the attitude.

I don't think there is any current topic where I could be more interested in than along the lines of the merging of the data that is out there with computers and algorithms, and I would consider Edward Snowden a hero, because what we have learned from him and the potential to do harm (as well as good) with the merging of big data with computers and the power of using context and content that both government and corporations (and even private citizens) can use against us (or for us) as a potential threat to our liberty or a boon to our equality. Complete liberty means no equality, and complete equality means no liberty. There is a balance and books like this can offer a guideline, but it needs the story to tie the pieces together with a narrative of some kind.

I'll give an example, of a book that I just recently read. "Rise of the Machines", by Thomas Rid. He covers many of the same topics that were covered in this book, especially on the part of encryption and PGP (pretty good privacy). At the same time that book always had a theme woven into the story as a whole in which he was tying all the pieces together, and even summarized them in the final chapter for the dense reader like me. This book, "Data and Goliath", doesn't interweave them coherently and therefore made what should have been an incredibly exciting story for me into a dull story with a lot of facts.

My problem with this book is not that it didn't give the listener plenty of details, but it didn't give the listener an easy story to tell so one can, for example, share with colleagues over the water cooler while at work. The values we use to explain the world through science would include: simplicity, accuracy, prediction, fitting in to the web of knowledge, and lastly the ability to explain. In order to explain, one needs a story to put the pieces together this book doesn't offer that. (Galileo had a story to tell as well as plenty of details. Read "Dialogs Concerning Two Chief World Systems", e.g.).

I'm in the minority on this book. It gave me details which I loved, but it lacked a over arcing narrative that I could wrap my mind around. Good fiction needs a story to hook the listener, and non-fiction needs that narrative even more as to not bore. I like all genres of non-fiction except for the boring kind.