Monday, May 14, 2012

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This book is incredibly interesting. Each chapter introduces some aspect of how we think and then at the very end of each chapter, he gives examples. For economist to make their theories work depend on human being unemotional and rational and always doing what economist believe is in our own best interest.

Of course the problem with economic theories is that we are not econ beings and a few economists are now trying to take that into account in their theories. The person that wrote this book is not an economist, but a psychologist. Not all economists have yet twigged to the idea that we do not make decisions the way they think we should.

This book is all about how and why we come to the decisions that we do. We have two systems. System 1 is our intuitive system and thinks fast, with no conscious thought. System 2 is slower and monitors System 1 but can be lazy or engaged.

He also talks about our two selves, our experiencing self and our remembering self. Our remembering self only remembers peaks and ends. Like the peak and end of a holiday. If you keep notes during the holiday, you probably would have a different feel for that holiday. This is all very interesting stuff.

There is a very good review of this book at Business Week. The reviewer Roger Lowenstein talks about what he likes and dislikes in this book. In the Globe and Mail review by Janice Gross Stein we are told how brilliant Kahneman and his book is. She says that it is “impossible exaggerate the importance of Daniel Kahneman’s contribution to the understanding of the way we think and choose”. The review in the Financial Times is by William Easterly. He says “There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

There is a very nice short interview by Time Time that lasts just 6 minutes. There is a much longer (1 hours and a half) video of Daniel Kahneman in conversation with Richard Layard loaded by Isewebsite. Kahneman starts talking about 8:40 minutes into this video. There is also a long History and Rationality Lecture Series video of Daniel Kahneman at the Hebrew University. Go in 2:30 minutes and it is in English.

There is a wonderful review of this book at the Association for Psychological Sciencesite. It leads to a great column in the New York Times by Daniel Kahneman. A great deal of what he says here is in this book, so it gives you a good idea what reading this book would be like.

There is another wonderful column on Daniel Kahneman and the writing of this book by Michael Lewis at Vanity Fair.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Kahneman. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Monday, May 7, 2012

You Could Live a Long Time by Lyndsay Green

This book full title is You Could Live a Long Time, Are you Ready? This is a very easy read and it offers suggestions on how to age well. She uses role models to tell us how we can live longer better. Her role models are health active and very much engaged.

One thing that is very clear is that you need friendships. You will certainly need to make new friends as you age. This is extremely important. You need a social network and you need to keep at this all your life.

This very much influenced me. I realized that I had not made a new friend in a long time (I read this book two years ago.) Since then I have joined a couple of meetup club and have made new friends. I do not know how this will all work out. Most of my friends go back 30 or 40 plus years. Will my new friends last as long?

Lyndsay has her own blog and you can find it at Lyndsay Green’s site. See an interesting entry on her blog about her aging role model.

Lyndsay wrote a book review at Review Canada on Michael Adams’s latest book, Stayin’ Alive: How Canadian Baby Boomers Will Work, Play and Find Meaning in the Second Half of Their Adult Lives.

She says that if you wonder why we boomers did not fulfill the promise of the 1960s and create a world of peace and love, free from war and poverty you should read this book. Basically, she says this occurred because we are not all alike. Another thing she points out about this book is that it talks of men’s and women’s expectation in retirement. Basically, men expect to spend a lot more time with their spouses than women do.

See The Curse of a Long Life (Living to 100: blessing or a curse?) with The Agenda panel . The panel included Lyndsay Green. It is 52 minutes long, but well worth watching.

There is an interesting site called Engage as you age that has done a review of this book. See their Book Review. Their blog is the most interesting part of this site.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Green. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Life Ascending by Nick Lane

First of all, if you really want to understand some basic economics of why we are in such current problems, see the video below from RSA.

Well, I am whittling down pile of books I have on my library floor. This is, of course, another great book. Its full tile if Life Ascending, The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution. In this list is death. I have seen such list before and I know it is hard at first to conceive death as a great invention. The others are the origin of Life, DNA, Photosynthesis, the Complex Cell, Sex, Movement, Sight, Hot Blood, Consciousness and Death. Just how did this all happen? Nick Lane’s book is here to explain it.

How did life invent itself? Where did DNA come from? How did consciousness develop? These are just the sort of questions that Lane’s book is prepared to answer. We have great new research methods to help him do so.

The one think he seems to find very fascinating is the fact that at one time one cell got inside and life just exploded from there. As far as we know at the moment, this just happened once. How this happened is quite well explained in a BBC video called “How did the evolution of complex life on Earth begin?” See a 4 minute video on this. The implication is that life happens quickly or not at all.

He says interesting things about oxygen. Oxygen respiration is 40% efficient (better than other forms, like sulfur). Long food chains are only possible with oxygen. This makes big life possible. It is also only with oxygen that predation pay.

Nick Lane has his own site. It is well worth visiting. There is a great review at The Guardian. There is another one at Newsblog.

And an even better review at Take on Darwin. This reviewer Shaun Johnston compared this book to Dawkins' "The Ancestor's Tale". In my opinion, this is a much better book. I had high hopes for Dawkins book, but it was a disappointment. This book is not. Nick Lane is very passionate about science. Dawkins is very passionate about who he hates (Bush, Christians, Creationist). He used to write better books and be more passionate about science.

In 2010 his book, Life Ascending, wins Royal Society Prize for Science Books. See article on this in The Telegraph.

This is a very good short video by Nick Lane on YouTube. It is around 4 minutes long. There is a short interview with Nick Lane (6 minutes) at BBC. However, you have to put up with a short commercial first. Also, BBC has a tendency to take things off their site, but hopefully it will be up there for a while.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Lane. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.