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Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most

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3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,328 ratings  ·  194 reviews
The hardest choices are also the most consequential. So why do we know so little about how to get them right?

Big, life-altering decisions matter so much more than the decisions we make every day, and they're also the most difficult: where to live, whom to marry, what to believe, whether to start a company, how to end a war. There's no one-size-fits-all approach for address
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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 4th 2018 by Riverhead
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 ·  1,328 ratings  ·  194 reviews


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Todd Davidson
Sep 25, 2018 rated it liked it
I am a big fan of Steven Johnson and was really excited to see he was digging into decision making. The first three chapters are 5 stars and typical of Johnson's excellent story telling. Those chapters detail the process of long term decision making 1. Mapping 2. Predicting 3. Deciding. They come to life with stories of major decisions (Bin Laden raid, Collect Pond). The book kind of falls apart on the back 9. Johnson tries to show how to use these techniques in different decisions. He goes supe ...more
Mehrsa
Oct 12, 2018 rated it liked it
There are some interesting points here, but many of them were laid out in Superforcasting and other behavioral econ books. There is a lot to learn here about that science (if you are new to it), but I didn't gain any insight at all into "How to make the decisions that matter the most." Besides maybe--read more novels?
Andy
Jan 30, 2020 rated it did not like it
Gibberish. I don't know (or care) about the military history of Long Island (which the author focuses on), but I know about public health history and what the author says about that is dangerously wrong. He claims (p.93) that we know that smoking causes lung cancer because Sir Austin Bradford Hill did a randomized control trial. Just stop and think about that.
That would mean that Dr. Hill took a 100,000 people, got a random 50,000 of them to smoke for fifty years and then got the other 50,000 n
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RoAn Strikwerda Holding B.V.
Nothing new

This book was recommended by The Economist as offering new insights. The book is a pleasant and entertaining read by anecdotes, but fails to offer new or even deeper insights for sound farsighted decision makng. Of course, I am writing this living in the Netherlands which has quite a good track record of sound farsighted policy decision making in the public sphere and is home to e.g. Shell, known for its scenario planning and Philips Electronics known for technological forecasting. Th
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Jillian Doherty
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Taking methodology from Ben Franklin's moral algebra, Isaiah Berlin’s fox and Hedgehog philosophy, Darwin’s consideration to get married, Washington’s pivotal loss of NY/the war, to Obama’s plan to successfully take down Osama bin Laden- all of these leaders in success used foresight to make successful decisions

By examining how we changed from social understanding to simulation strategy we gain successful foresight.
How we think about data, like in an algebraic equations, help advance medical out
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Paul
Jun 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Life is full of decisions; they can be a low impact as to what to eat, which route to take around a town or whether to buy a particular book or not. Other decisions have a much greater impact on our lives, the partner that you want to spend more time within the long term, the place that you choose to live or the path that you take in a career.

We are supposedly living in the age of the shortest attention span, not even being able to read the 280 characters from a tweet before the next notificatio
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Chief Akif
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You have thousands of decisions still to be made in your lifetime. Some small, some large. The scariest ones are the big ones. Their implications are vast, and cascade over into every aspect of your life.

And yet, you haven't been taught how to make big decisions well. Not in a systematic fashion. Not in school, not at work, not at home. You're sometimes told to "just go with your gut." In other words, using system 1 (from Daniel Kahnemann's "Thinking Fast and Slow") for decisions that really s
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Justin
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book, for free, in exchange for an honest review.

This book was a good book on decision making.

It tends to be a bit long winded for my tastes and spent a rather long time covering a few points.

To make this worse for me was the fact that most of the decision making was group decision making. I am more interested in individual decision making as most groups I've been in have been in engaged in top down decision making and I had/have little power to influence their decisioning.

On t
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Tuti
a wonderful book! smart, well-organized, enjoyable to read, insightful and very useful when struggling with an important "full-spectrum" complex decision. it teaches you a lot about structuring the decisional process, allowing enough time for gathering information and mapping the parameters of the decision, then different methods of predicting possible outcomes, and then methods for deciding. it uses examples from politics and literature, discusses different important decision humankind is facin ...more
Liz
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars - this started out strong and became less relevant towards the end. It gave some interesting and helpful ideas for making big decisions, which would be especially helpful for organizations where decisions are based on likelihood of probable outcomes. I think that personal decisions still depend on so many unknowns, that even though the suggestions would improve the process, I’m not sure they would have an impact about something like whether to move and whom to marry.
Kent Winward
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Spoiler Alert for this non-fiction book: Want to understand how to make a decision?

Read a lot of novels. Maybe start with Middlemarch.

On a slightly more serious note, I read this after reading Why We're Polarized and both books raised the specter of our political system not being particularly great for making positive decisions. We do need systems thinking and dare I say, propaganda, to improve how we collectively make decisions that impact us all.
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Graeme Roberts
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Making complex, multifaceted decisions can seem almost impossible, and even relatively simple ones, like choosing from a Chinese restaurant menu, can be difficult. I found Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most to be a well-written and enlightening overview, and I enjoyed listening to it.

Steven Johnson talked too much, I thought, about decisions that have no practical significance to living human beings, as though the issue of whether to send radio broadcasts into deep space
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Sajad
Sep 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book could have been summarized in a few sentences. Don’t waste your time.
Marks54
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun book by a science writer about what contemporary behavioral and neuroscience has to say about how we make long term consequential multi-variable decisions that have consequence far into the future - even though they are too often made on less informed and short sighted bases. The writer is knowledgeable about the current state of research and is skilled and writing about it. The result is a wonderful popular book, comparable or superior to much of the current popular literature on ...more
Greg Janicki
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Not sure I got much new out of this book. The specific literary fiction example running through the book was more distracting than practical.
Nate
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
How do we make the decisions that matter the most? What science is there to the situations in which unknowns are unavoidable?

Often times, decisions arise out of the disorganization and chaos of different people working toward separate objectives. This is essentially shortsightedness. The ability to intentionally calculate decisions for future outcomes is a uniquely human advanced attribute (moral-mental algebra). When making difficult decisions, the tools we use to measure and weigh certain sit
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Melissa
As a fan of Steven Johnson’s, I was really interested to see him take on neuroscience and decision making analysis. And, well, this is fine. He’s packed a lot of information into the book, with several major examples he returns to as a way of explaining concepts (the capture of bin Laden, Washington’s loss in Brooklyn, Darwin’s decision to marry, etc). However, this just didn’t gel as a compulsively readable work of narrative science reporting. He got there at times - the final chapter has an an ...more
Frans Saxén
Decision making is not purely about talent, but it is a skill that can be improved with systematic practice. That is the premise of this book. And while a systematic, full spectrum approach is useful, at the end of the day the decision can also rely on intuition. But for intuition to work, it needs time to stew things over, and to analyze the problem from multiple perspectives. The techniques described in the book provides useful ways of framing problems and structuring discussions and analysis. ...more
Chris
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: real-world
Johnson delves into decision making on all levels from personal to national. He discusses military, environmental, personal, and even interplanetary decisions that we might not be farsighted enough to see their consequences. Some of these are: George Washington’s decision at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights; Obama’s decision on Osama bin Laden; NYC decision on Collect Pond and making a park from an abandoned overhead rail line; Darwin’s decision to marry; author’s decision to relocate to the West ...more
Wilte
Apr 06, 2020 added it
One increasingly popular method used for predicting the future is using red teams.

A red team is a group that is created within an organization. The team acts as though it were the ‘enemy’ when the larger organization is in the process of making strategic decisions.

Making decisions is never easy, and even math can't always get you to the finish line. But if you do a few sums and take the time to mull the variables and outcomes over, you’ll be well on your way to making a sound and informed decis
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Jane
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Here's my decision about this book: it's a mess. It's ten pounds of ideas and research stuffed into a five-pound bag. Steven, how could you do this to your adoring fans? Since The Ghost Map, I have been the president of The Lower Manhattan Steven Johnson Fan Club, but I'm disbanding it now. The only reason I soldiered through this tossed salad of a book was because your analysis of Middlemarch was so good.
Vicky
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, stat, favorites
Steven Johnson always delivers! I like the density of facts and logic in his books, and the fact that all the pieces in the book come together to be an entity (examples in the beginning of the book are analyzed from different perspectives throughout the book), instead of some other books I'm listening that lack coherence.
Magda Rosol
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
DNF. Good/bad decision-making mostly shown through stories of historical events. Ok but not very memorable.
Nv
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Can't go wrong with Steven Johnson. Except if you're at a hospital and been diagnosed with Steven-Johnson syndrome, a gruesomely hideous skin disease. In any other situation if you're asked to press a button to continue your fate's tryst with Steven Johnson, you should absolutely press the button. Except of course if it turns out to be a date with pretty shit tennis player Steven Johnson who sometimes goes by Steven just to be cool. Still, the real Steven Johnson's books are good enough that you ...more
Steve
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Given the current tendency to focus on personalities, beliefs, and short term results over thoughtful consideration of options when making decisions with long term consequences, “Farsighted” is an important and timely book.

Johnson weaves historical stories, fiction, and research into decision making together to help us understand what goes into a good decision making process, in particular a process for making decisions that have long term impact. A recurring theme in the book is how the best l
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Ryan Kapsar
Steven Johnson is always an interesting read. I've been a fan of his since I initially read "Where Good Ideas Come From." In this book, he clearly begins with the question of "how do we make good decisions?" In a way, this book is the natural sequel (if it can be said that non-fiction books can have sequels), to Ideas. If you wonder how you come up with an interesting idea, the process is similar to coming up with a good decision - or at least an informed methodical decision.

Like ideas, decisio
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Dominik
Starts strong, then goes off in an unexpected direction that feels ... tenuous at best for a book that seemed to be about decision science and instead ended with an odd evaluation of the author’s personal cross-country move and then an extended mediation on Middlemarch. Still, the early chapters are a neat, engaging read — though they offer little beyond what’s found in Tetlock or Kahneman or Taleb. Ultimately an enjoyable, if light, read.
Nari Kannan
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice book about a process for making decisions. Interesting examples given for the three steps - mapping, predicting and deciding. Many decisions are hardly this or that. Lateral thinking can expand the choices available (mapping) and you need to simulate the outcomes if you chose one path over another. Then you decide using a spreadsheet putting down all objective and subjective outcomes now and down the road. This book could be half its size. He gets down ratholes - the book Middlemarch seems ...more
Ian Pitchford
Nothing new

A somewhat disappointing ramble around recent research into human reasoning and decision-making. Anyone familiar with the literature will have seen these studies discussed elsewhere in greater detail. The book is beautifully written, however, and the author has a great sense of style and a capacity for rich narrative.
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Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of twelve books, including Enemy of All Mankind, Farsighted, Wonderland, How We Got to Now, Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You.
He's the host of the podcast American Innovations, and the host and co-creator of the PBS and BBC series How We Got to Now. Johnson lives in Marin County, California,
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