I’ve been quiet on the blog for the last few weeks during the summer doldrums and vacations – a great time to catch up on reading books, including some that were published a while ago.
Here are quick highlights of some of my more interesting summer reading.
1. Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century by Cathy N. Davidson (2011)
This book describes how we should be thinking about life in the 21st century. In many instances, Davidson completely upends well established patterns of the industrial era. She is well known in academic circles as a neuroscientist and former dean at Duke University, where she introduced the widespread use of technology among students. The book covers a variety of topics, including education, work and aging.
2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)
Kahneman, Princeton Psychology Professor and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, has pulled together the basic knowledge in cognitive science and how people actually make decisions. If you want to catch up on what’s happened in behavioral science since you left college, this is the book for you. It draws out some of the implications in a variety of contexts. (Later, I’ll be posting a blog on the implications for public officials who want to gain acceptance for innovations.)
3. When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric Communication In The Late Nineteenth Century by Carolyn Marvin (1988)
If you believe what you read and watch on the news media, we live in an age unparalleled rapid change in which technology causes people to become detached from each other by technology among other awful new phenomena. Marvin takes us on a history of technologies, like the telegraph and telephone, which we now take for granted but once were new. The same kind of observations we get today about the Internet were foreshadowed long ago. (Later, I’ll post a separate blog with some wonderfully juicy quotes along these lines.)
4. Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure by Tim Harford (2011)
With so many people saying they are innovative, Harford shows how those people will not succeed at innovation unless they develop some patience, even an appetite, for the failures that often precede success. He provides fascinating examples.
5. Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution by Jack Rakove (1997)
In this year’s unusual election of ideological contrasts, there has been an underlying (and often visible) debate about the views of the Founding Fathers when they wrote the constitution. Rakove’s book provides the details of their debates and their own ambiguous feelings about many of the decisions which we now treat as is handed down in stone by the supreme being.
These were politicians with great insight into political behavior and how it might be shaped. Their concerns were well-founded, since some of what they worried could happen has happened. But, in part, they were reacting to experiences in the 18th century that we do not share today.
It also revealed the Founding Fathers’ concerns about those who sought some clear original meaning in what they wrote – and when their short term political objectives encouraged them to make the same kind of arguments about original meaning that politicians today make.
© 2012 Norman Jacknis