Entertaining read for sure, especially the stories of life on the trains in France when people think you are an American who can't understand French....moreEntertaining read for sure, especially the stories of life on the trains in France when people think you are an American who can't understand French. Will read some of his other stuff at some point, but not my favorite contemporary author. (less)
A book all about the benefits to solving problems by getting diverse, yet independent input from as large of gro...more**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
A book all about the benefits to solving problems by getting diverse, yet independent input from as large of group as possible.
*** He divides the book based on the types of problems groups solve: 1. cognition - problems that have definitive solutions, ie probability; 2. coordination - how to coordinate behavior, etc. most efficiently e.g., traffic, trading, etc.; 3. cooperation - getting self-interested, distrustful people to work together (e.g., taxes, environment, etc.).
*** His first example to show the benefits of a crowd was the sinking of the U.S. Scorpion sub in 1968. There was no way to tell where it ended up on the ocean floor, so the navy assembled all kinds of experts in a wide range of fields to all make estimations of where it would be. It then took their average estimate (i.e., used Bayes theorem) and the ship was 220 yards from the point they picked. *** Another example of collective wisdom figuring out things before a small group of experts is the Challenger explosion. Although it took several months for the experts to figure out that the company that made the O-rings was responsible for the explosion, if you looked at the market the same day as the explosion, shares of the company that made the O-rings went down tremendously. Even though there was no evidence of inside trading, enough people were trying to figure out who was responsible for the crash (and consequently whose stock would go down) that they arrived at the correct company.
*** "Worldly wisdom teachers that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally." - John Maynard Keynes; explains why things like mutual funds don't consistently do that well over time because all the managers follow the herd so they pay attention to what others are doing rather than capitalizing on the unique information only they have access to.
*** Cool exercise in how similar people across a given culture think; imagine you have to meet a complete stranger in NYC, where would you meet if you were unable to communicate beforehand? also add in at what time would you meet?
*** Mentions Milgram and his study on social norms or societal rules we all agree upon: what happens when you ask someone for their seat on the subway? Also went to lines at ticket counters and cut in front of people - 50% of the time people let them, 10% physically removed them from line, 25% verbal protests, 15% hostile looks, etc., but only from people behind the point in line, people in front of the linebreaker didn't care.
*** "Ideas are meant to triumph not because of who is (or who is not) advocating them but because of their inherent value, because they seem to explain the data better than any of the others. This is perhaps just an illusion. But it's a valuable one." p. 172.
*** He explains some of the problems within corporations and lack of productivity because of the motivational structure that is established (which requires you to set low expectations so you'll be sure to meet them). He compares that with the way the market works where you are rewarded for what you do, not what you are expected to do. So that means in the market people want to uncover whatever unique and valuable information they can do get ahead, whereas in a company it is not always to your advantage to do so. Stock options are an example of corporations finally trying to align the individual's interests with the company. An even better route would be to give much wider decision making power to individuals instead of having it all go through a rigid hierarchy of people who knew less than the overall group below them (i.e., give workers more control/ choice over their environment).
*** Baiting crowds example of how individuals take cues from crowds; specific example of Seattle woman baited into jumping off a Seattle Memorial Bridge in August of 2001.
*** Overall a great book that examines a number of societal problems from the perspective of how to best use the power of the wisdom of the crowd to solve them. The key is that individuals have to be free to contribute their independent knowledge and when systems have two directions (e.g., the market) it is best when equal number of people are trying to profit from both directions (some people are predicting it will do worse, some think it will do better). (less)
"In Tariq's grimace, Laila learned that boys differed from girls in this regard. They didn't make a show of frie...more**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
"In Tariq's grimace, Laila learned that boys differed from girls in this regard. They didn't make a show of friendship. They felt no urge, no need, for this sort of talk. Laila imagined it had been this way for her brothers too. Boys, Laila came to see, treated friendship the ay they treated the sun: its existence undisputed; its radiance best enjoyed, not beheld directly." (p.119). (less)
The problem of evil has bedeviled many religions since their birth. If God is all good and all powerful, either...more**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
The problem of evil has bedeviled many religions since their birth. If God is all good and all powerful, either he allows evil to flourish (which means he is not all good), or else he struggles against evil (which means he is not all powerful). Religions have generally chosen one of three resolutions of this paradox. One solution is straight dualism: There exists a good force and an evil force, they are equal and opposite, and they fight eternally. Human beings are part of the battleground. We were created part good, part evil, and we must choose which side we will be on. This view is clearest in religions emanating from Persia and Babylonia, such as Zoroastrianism, and the view influenced Christianity as a long-lived doctrine called Manichaeism. A second resolution is straight monism: There is one God; he created the world as it needs to be, and evil is an illusion, a view that dominated religions that developed in India. These religions hold that the entire world – or, at least, its emotional grip upon us – is an illusion, and that enlightenment consists of breaking out of the illusion. The third approach, taken by Christianity, blends monism and dualism in a way that ultimately reconciles the goodness and power of God with the existence of Satan. This argument is so complicated that I cannot understand it. (p. 72-73).
“When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his sinews and bones to hard work, expose his body to hunger, put him to poverty, place obstacles in the paths of his deeds, so as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature, and improve wherever he is incompetent.” – Meng Tzu, China, 3rd century BC (p. 135).(less)
His height and breadth would have been sufficient to make his presence imposing, had they been exhibited with du...more**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
His height and breadth would have been sufficient to make his presence imposing, had they been exhibited with due consideration. But there is a way some men have, rural and urban alike, for which the mind is more responsible than flesh and sinew: it is a way of curtailing their dimensions by their manner of showing them. And from a quiet modesty that would have become a vestal, which seemed continually to impress upon him that he had no great claim on the world’s room, Oak walked unassumingly, and with a faintly perceptible bend, yet distinct from a bowing of the shoulders. This may be said to be a defect in an individual if he depends for his valuation more upon his appearance than upon his capacity to wear well, which Oak did not. (p. 2-3).
He wished she knew his impressions; but he would as soon have thought of carrying an odour in a net as of attempting to convey the intangibilities of his feeling in the course meshes of language. So he remained silent. (p. 18).
It has been observed that there is no regular path for getting out of love as there is for getting in. Some people look upon marriage as a short cut that way, but it has been known to fail. (p. 29).
George’s son had done his work so thoroughly that he was considered too good a workman to live, and was, in fact, taken and tragically shot at twelve o’clock that same day – another instance of the untoward fate which so often attends dogs and other philosophers who follow out a train of reasoning to its logical conclusion, and attempt perfectly consistent conduct in a world make up so largely of compromise. (p. 32).
As usual with decided characters, Bathsheba invariably provoked the criticism of individuals like Henry Fray. Her emblazoned fault was to be too pronounced in her objections, and not sufficiently overt in her likings. We learn that it is not the rays which bodies absorb, but those which they reject, that give them the colours they are known by; and in the same way people are specialized by their dislikes and antagonisms, whilst their goodwill is looked upon as no attribute at all. (p. 135).
Idiosyncrasy and vicissitude had combined to stamp Sergeant Troy as an exceptional being. He was a man to whom memories were an incumbrance, and anticipations a superfluity. Simply feeling, considering, and caring for what was before his eyes, he was vulnerable only in the present. His outlook upon time was as a transient flash of the eye now and then: that projection of consciousness into days gone by and to come, which makes the past a synonym for the pathetic and the future a word for circumspection, was foreign to Troy. With him the past was yesterday; the future, tomorrow; never, the day after. On this account he might, in certain lights, have been regarded as one of the most fortunate of his order. For it may be argued with great plausibility that reminiscence is less an endowment than a disease, and that expectation in its only comfortable form – that, of absolute faith – is practically an impossibility; whilst in the form of hope and the secondary compounds, patience, impatience, resolve, curiosity, it is a constant fluctuation between pleasure and pain. Sergeant Troy, being entirely innocent of the practice of expectation, was never disappointed. To set against this negative gain there may have been some positive losses from a certain narrowing of the higher tastes and sensations which it entailed. But limitation of the capacity is never recognized as a loss by the loser therefrom: in this attribute moral or aesthetic poverty contrasts plausibly with material since those who suffer do not mind it, whilst those who mind it soon cease to suffer. It is not a denial of anything to have been always without it, and what Troy had never enjoyed he did not miss; but, being fully conscious that what sober people missed he enjoyed, his capacity, though really less, seemed greater than theirs. (p. 149-150).
Bathsheba loved Troy in the way that only self-reliant women love when they abandon their self-reliance. When a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away. One source of her inadequacy is the novelty of the occasion. She has never had practice in making the best of such a condition. Weakness is doubly weak by being new. (p. 169).
Those who have the power of reproaching in silence may find it a means more effective than words. There are accents in the eye which are not on the tongue, and more tales come from pale lips than can enter an ear. It is both the grandeur and the pain of the remoter moods that they avoid the pathway of sound. Boldwood’s look was unanswerable. (p. 181).
What a way Oak had, she thought, of enduring things. Boldwood, who seemed so much deeper and higher and stronger in feeling than Gabriel, had not yet learnt, any more than she herself, the simple lesson which Oak showed a mastery of by every turn and look he gave – that among the multitude of interests by which he was surrounded, those which affected his personal well-being were not the most absorbing and important in his eyes. Oak meditatively looked upon the horizon of circumstances without any special regard to his own standpoint in the midst. That was how she would wish to be. (p. 266).
‘I don’t know – at least, I cannot tell you. It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs. (p. 318).
They spoke very little of their mutual feelings; pretty phrases and warm expression being probably unnecessary between such tried friends. Theirs was that substantial affection which arises (if any arises at all) when the two who are thrown together begin first by knowing the rougher sides of each other’s character, and not the best till further on, the romance growing up in the interstices of a mass of hard prosaic reality. This good-fellowship – camaraderie – usually occurring through similarity of pursuits, is unfortunately seldom superadded to love between the sexes, because men and women associate, not in their labours, but in their pleasures merely. Where, however, happy circumstance permits its development, the compounded feelings proves itself to be the only love which is strong as death – that love which many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown, beside which the passion usually called by the name is evanescent as steam. (p. 357-358).(less)
It was like an emergency ward after a great catastrophe. It did not matter what race or class the victims belong...more**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
It was like an emergency ward after a great catastrophe. It did not matter what race or class the victims belonged to. They were all given the same miracle drug, which was coffee. The catastrophe in this case, or course, was that the sun had come up again. (p. 166).
Not that it matters at all. We are here for no purpose, unless we can invent one. Of that I am sure. The human condition in an exploding universe would not have been altered one iota if, rather than live as I have, I had done nothing but carry a rubber ice-cream cone from closet to closet for sixty years. (p. 278).(less)
It put me upon reflecting how little repining there would be among mankind, at any condition of life, if people...more**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
It put me upon reflecting how little repining there would be among mankind, at any condition of life, if people would rather compare their condition with those that are worse, in order to be thankful, than be always comparing them with those which are better, to assist their murmurings and complainings. (p. 140).(less)
This is a great book on the application of social psychology for influencing people on every level. It's peppered with examples of individuals, compan...moreThis is a great book on the application of social psychology for influencing people on every level. It's peppered with examples of individuals, companies, and even countries using various methods of social influence to change "vital behaviors" (behaviors that determine the majority of behavior)in order to solve organizational and behavioral problems. The cool thing is that most of the examples are for positive behavior change (eradicating the Guinea worm from Africa) rather than increasing consumer behavior. It's a great read for social psychologists because it reminds us that what we study really can change things if it's put to good use. (less)
Wow, I finally made it through volume 1 of Barclay's analysis of John's gospel. Not sure when I'll make it through the second volume, but it was defin...moreWow, I finally made it through volume 1 of Barclay's analysis of John's gospel. Not sure when I'll make it through the second volume, but it was definitely worth the time. Some of the commentary is a little bit dated (i.e., he refers to the "dawning of the nuclear age" a couple of times), but all of it definitely captures the complexity and richness of John's gospel. I think reading a little bit of it at a time is a good approach because it helps to digest his comments on the text before moving on to the next passage. Overall a great book, and I would recommend it to others looking for a deeper understanding of the fourth gospel. (less)
President Andrew Jackson’s professions of humanitarian intent scarcely disguised the ruthlessness of what was be...more**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
President Andrew Jackson’s professions of humanitarian intent scarcely disguised the ruthlessness of what was being done: “[This] just and humane policy recommended … [the Indians] to quit their possessions … and go to a country to the west where there is every probability that they will always be free from the mercenary influence of white men. … Under such circumstances the General Government can exercise a paternal control over their interests and possibly perpetuate their race.” (p.36).
To be precise, seven characteristic phases of American engagement can be discerned: 1. Impressive initial military success. 2. A flawed assessment of indigenous sentiment. 3. A strategy of limited war and gradual escalation of forces. 4. Domestic disillusionment in the face of protracted and nasty conflict. 5. Premature democratization. 6. The ascendancy of domestic economic considerations. 7. Ultimate withdrawal. (p. 48).
The trouble with limited war turned out to be that public patience with it was even more limited. It would take the United States another long war to learn that lesson, and this war would end not in a tie but in a humiliating defeat. The paradox of the imperial Republic was that it was the civilian political elite – along with sections of the military – that favored limited war, much more than the wider electorate. (p. 94).
In the words of retired General Anthony Zinni: “There is a fundamental question that goes beyond the military. It’s, ‘What is our obligation to the world?” We preach about values, democracy, human rights, but we haven’t convinced the American people to pony up. … There’s no leadership that steps up and says, “This is the right thing to do.” … That’s the basic problem. … There’s got to be the political will and support for these things. We should believe that a stable world is a better place for us. If you had a policy and a forward-leaning engagement strategy, the U.S. would make a much greater difference to the world. It would intervene earlier and pick fights better. (p. 293).
Does imperial denial matter? The answer is that it does. Successful empire is seldom solely based on coercion; there must be some economic dividends for the ruled as well as the rulers, if only to buy the loyalty of indigenous elites, and these dividends need to be sustained for a significant length of time. The trouble with an empire in denial is that it tends to make two mistakes when it chooses to intervene in the state of affairs of lesser states. The first may be to allocate insufficient resources to the nonmilitary aspects of the project. The second, and the more serious, is to attempt economic and political transformation in an unrealistically short time frame. As I write, the United States would seem to be making the second of these mistakes in both Iraq and Afghanistan. By insisting – and apparently intending – that they will remain in Iraq only until a democratic government can be established “and not a day longer,” American spokespeople have unintentionally created a further disincentive for local people to cooperate with them. (p. 294-295).(less)