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Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong

4.1 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1610392051
ISBN-10: 1610392051
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A book brimming with well-founded enthusiasm about the amazing present and the prospects for a more amazing future...exploding with fascinating energy facts and...super-fun to read....Bryce takes his appreciation of innovation and uses it to illuminate the past, present, and future of innovation across the board."—Forbes

“So what went wrong — or, rather, right? Why is the human race in much better shape than it was 200, 100, or 50 years ago? Robert Bryce reminds us of the answers in his sprightly new book and promises that even better times lie ahead…Bryce’s new book is an enlightening stroll down the sunny side of the street.” —Hiawatha Bray,the Boston Globe

“Engrossing survey”—Arthur Herman, the Wall Street Journal

“A celebration of innovations that have produced cheaper and more abundant energy, faster computing, lighter vehicles and other technological benefits…..Bryce [is a] booster for business and technology; he makes many intriguing arguments in this ‘rejoinder to the doomsayers [and] rebuttal to the catastrophists who insist that disaster lurks just around the corner.’”—Kirkus Reviews

“The author of four books on oil and energy, Mr. Bryce has written a new book well worth reading…Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper…captures the headlong rush of Western culture’s endless drive for ever better technology. It is an extraordinary impulse that has created a world in which more people live longer and more comfortably than ever before.”—Fred Andrews, New York Times

“For years, Robert Bryce has been calling for rationality on energy policy. In this book, Bryce goes beyond energy to explain why the innovation that drives entrepreneurs is the way of the future. I'm an unapologetic capitalist. Reading Smaller Faster has only fortified my belief that the best way to address poverty is through entrepreneurial capitalism that produces more innovation and progress.”
John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO, Whole Foods Market, and co-author of Conscious Capitalism

“Robert Bryce may be our finest observer of the energy scene. Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper displays all the virtues -- the contacts, the technical savvy, the wit and clear thinking – that make Bryce indispensable.” —Charles R. Morris, author of The Dawn of Innovation and Comeback

“Don't be misled by Robert Bryce's very breezy style. His new book makes important and positive observations about the world's energy future. You don't have to agree with every one of his attitudes or conclusions to hope that the reporting and arguments in the book are taken seriously, and that the innovators and start-ups he vividly describes get the support they need.” —James Fallows

"[Bryce's] new book constitutes a direct assault against the policies of "degrowth" advanced by those who peddle what he calls "collapse anxiety". The book is also a sustained argument against the fundamentally pessimistic worldview that underlies those policies. . . . The claim that we can and should replace fossil fuels with renewables such as wind and solar is, Bryce says, a "damnable lie" that obscures the far more important question of what we should do to make more energy available to more people, especially 'the more than two billion people who are still living in abject energy poverty."—John Daniel Davidson, National Review

“Part of the fun of Bryce’s book comes from the sheer range of his examples… he has a way of bringing them to life.”—Josiah Neeley, Master Resource
“ I found the contrarian views expressed in Bryce's new book to be a refreshing antidote to the gloom and doom that pervades the TV screens and print media today. He shows us there is hope, as long as the human power to innovate and make changes is present.”—Huntington News, review

About the Author

Robert Bryce is the acclaimed author of four previous books, including, most recently, Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future. A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, his articles have appeared in dozens of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Austin Chronicle, Bloomberg View, Counterpunch, and National Review. An apiarist, he lives in Austin with his wife, Lorin, and their three children.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (May 13, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1610392051
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610392051
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Edward Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Back in 2008 I read and reviewed another of Robert Bryce's books, Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of "Energy Independence". While I thought that book was well researched and well written, I also thought he went too far with his language. "Gusher of lies" and "dangerous delusions" are strong words, and I did not think Robert Bryce made his case for using them. Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future too seemed a little too much hyperbole and a little too little balance.

This new book is better. More balanced, more measured, but still with Robert Bryce's journalist eye for the issues, and his research and writing skills. This time around, he makes the argument that people are innovative, and that while we face some stiff challenges as humans, we also have proven in the past that we have the capability to solve problems just as thorny as those we face now. So he gives more of a nod to the arguments made by those who predict catastrophe, while still not accepting their forebodings of darkest doom.

Take energy, for example, which is the main topic Robert Bryce discusses in this book. In the previous books I read, Robert Bryce was quite dismissive of solar power. He told about how he had solar panels on his own roof, but they did not live up to their promise. In this book, by contrast, he is a little bullish on solar power, saying that its costs have dropped so dramatically that what did not make sense before now has a future.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Bryce has an important message that is lost on many commentators in the media today—that the world has gotten much better.

Instead of accepting this “collapse anxiety,” he provides a full-throated defense of human ingenuity and innovation. Getting back to nature à la Rousseau, Thoreau, and Carson by embracing renewable energy and decreased standards of living is not the way of the future. To continue the advancement of the developed and non-developed world, policymakers need to stop inhibiting progress and embrace the world’s master resource—energy.

Natural gas and nuclear power offer low-carbon solutions to the world’s increasing appetite for growth. Natural gas emits about half as much CO2 as coal does during electricity generation. The growth in U.S. natural gas production has done more to decrease CO2 emissions than every green energy government-mandated program in Europe.

Nuclear power plants have 2,100 times as much power density as wind energy. As Bryce repeatedly points out, density is green. Nuclear energy remains expensive and there are important safety risks to mitigate, but it is still in its infancy. Nuclear is the future, not renewable energy. As Bryce says, “We humans have been relying on renewable energy for thousands of years. And what did we learn in all that time? We found that renewable energy stinks.”

Bryce writes that if someone is anti-carbon and anti-nuclear, they are anti-growth and pro-blackout. Being against these two forms of energy is far from humanitarian since “degrowth” will return a large portion of the world to short lives of mere substance.

The right question to ask is not why we have poverty—it is why we have wealth.
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Format: Hardcover
For doomsayers who thrive on never-ending public pronouncements of impending ecological and societal collapse ... stop. Read this book. Robert Bryce clearly, carefully, and comprehensively explains how and why things have improved so much, thanks to technological advances. The book discusses key concepts, such as energy density, that are ignored by the green/organic/local crowd, and why, for those who believe increasing carbon emissions are altering the earth's climate for the worse, a natural gas to nuclear energy strategy is the only reasonable strategy. The author is no Polyanna, and he recognizes that some of these advances have caused problems. That's to be expected, but the overall tradeoffs have led to improvements in our lives that would astound individuals living just a century ago.

The clarity of Bryce's writing makes short work of even the most technical concepts, and there's even some humor thrown in. All in all, SFLDC is a welcome and overdue antidote to fearmongering and pessimism.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To start, this book is very practical and easy to read. Bryce addresses some of the world's most daunting issues and clearly discusses what is being done to address these challenges. The book gives a great overview of some of the most impactful innovations that have happened over the past few centuries and highlights some innovations/technologies that have enormous potential going forward. Bryce has a natural talent at explaining complex subjects in a way that is easy for the reader to understand. Power density is extremely important and this book clearly explains why. Regarding technological breakthroughs, I am blown away by how far we have come in a short amount of time. Throughout the book, Bryce entertainingly shows many different ways that humans are doing more with less.
I have read too many books that pinpoint all of the problems the world faces, but offer unrealistic solutions. This is not one of those books. All arguments made by Bryce are supported by facts and data. I recommend this book to anyone interested in innovation, technology, human ingenuity, or energy policy. Because the drive for smaller, faster, lighter, denser, and cheaper is applicable to nearly every industry today, this book applies to all businesses looking to be successful/competitive in the future.
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