Death of Cancer

The Death of Cancer –
After Fifty Years on the Front Lines of Medicine, A Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer Is Winnable — and How We Can Get There, Vincent T. DeVita, 2015

This book is intended for the layman, for anyone who wants to know more about cancer. The author talks of experiences in the clinic, treating patients, and in the research lab, investigating medicines. He discusses how he discovered that medicines can be combined for use in chemotherapy. I like that his lab emphasized the scientific method, at a time when other research hospitals seemed unscientific.

The author is the researcher who discovered how to treat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This type of cancer was the first one for which a cure was discovered, and the author was the first to be bold enough to use the word ‘cure’ when speaking at conferences. He discusses the politics of cancer research, how a research institute can become single-minded in focussing on radiation or surgery to the exclusion of other valid types of treatment. And how politics can determine which institute gets funding, while another more ‘advanced’ institute can be left with inadequate funding (we are talking of large amounts of money, billions of dollars).

The book is well written and engaging, you will not want to put it down. Perhaps it is mostly ‘history’ and not appropriate for mention here, along with books on new technology. But the author has a very current message about the policies of the FDA, which lag far behind the advances of modern medicine. He makes his point real at the start of the book, by talking of the recent death of a friend due to the conservatism of the FDA and of hospital staff.

Law, Privacy and Surveillance

Law, Privacy and Surveillance in Canada in the Post-Snowden Era
Edited by Michael Geist (May 2015)

Years of surveillance-related leaks from US whistleblower Edward Snowden have fuelled an international debate on privacy, spying, and Internet surveillance. Much of the focus has centered on the role of the US National Security Agency, yet there is an important Canadian side to the story. The Communications Security Establishment, the Canadian counterpart to the NSA, has played an active role in surveillance activities both at home and abroad, raising a host of challenging legal and policy questions.

online book from the University of Ottawa

Smart Citizens

Smart Citizens, Smarter State – The Technologies of Expertise and the Future of Governing, Beth Simone Noveck, 2015

Why does government make such clumsy use of technology? Why is government so closed to participation by citizens, including those who are skilled in technology? What can be improved and how?

This book discusses these questions. People who are interested in better government will find the book valuable and inspiring, though it has an academic style and reading it will require concentration and effort.

The author is a co-founder of thegovlab.org and a TED speaker on open government.

Disruptive Power

Disruptive Power – The Crisis of the State in the Digital Age By Owen, Taylor Book – 2015

A fascinating book. Disruptive technology affects businesses: some now ones grow, others die off. But the effect on government institutions is more striking: a disruptive technology threatens the powers that be, whether it is social networks used in the Arab spring movements, leaks turning the intelligence community upside down, or Bitcoin threatening governments’ control of the money supply.