Book Bits | 24 February 2018

It’s Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear
By Gregg Easterbrook
Summary via publisher (Public Affairs)
Is civilization teetering on the edge of a cliff? Or are we just climbing higher than ever? Most people who read the news would tell you that 2017 is one of the worst years in recent memory. We’re facing a series of deeply troubling, even existential problems: fascism, terrorism, environmental collapse, racial and economic inequality, and more. Yet this narrative misses something important: by almost every meaningful measure, the modern world is better than it ever has been. In the United States, disease, crime, discrimination, and most forms of pollution are in long-term decline, while longevity and education keep rising and economic indicators are better than in any past generation. Worldwide, malnutrition and extreme poverty are at historic lows, and the risk of dying by war or violence is the lowest in human history. It’s not a coincidence that we’re confused–our perspectives on the world are blurred by the rise of social media, the machinations of politicians, and our own biases.

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Review via The Economist
2001 Nassim Taleb published “Fooled by Randomness”, an entertaining and provocative book on the misunderstood role of chance. He followed it with “The Black Swan”, which brought that term into widespread use to describe extreme, unexpected events. This was the first public incarnation of Mr Taleb—idiosyncratic and spiky, but with plenty of original things to say. As he became well-known, a second Mr Taleb emerged, a figure who indulged in bad-tempered spats with other thinkers. Unfortunately, judging by his latest book, this second Mr Taleb now predominates.

America’s Failing Economy and the Rise of Ronald Reagan
By Eric R. Crouse
Summary via publisher (Palgrave Macmillan)
This book examines one of the most important economic outcomes in American history—the breakdown of the Keynesian Revolution. Drawing on economic literature, the memoirs of economists and politicians, and the popular press, Eric Crouse examines how economic decline in the 1970s precipitated a political revolution. Keynesian thought flourished through the presidencies of Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, until stagflation devastated American workers and Jimmy Carter’s economic policies faltered, setting the stage for the 1980 presidential campaign.

Fair Shot: Rethinking Inequality and How We Earn
By Chris Hughes
Review via Reuters
A $500 monthly check from the government for every American earning less than $50,000, financed by taxing the wealthy, would provide financial stability for millions of people in the United States, said the co-founder of Facebook.
Chris Hughes, who made millions after co-founding the social network with Mark Zuckerberg while at Harvard University, said such a guaranteed income was needed to counteract the effects of growing income inequality in the United States.

Calculated Values: Finance, Politics, and the Quantitative Age
By William Deringer
Summary via publisher (Harvard University Press)
Modern political culture features a deep-seated faith in the power of numbers to find answers, settle disputes, and explain how the world works. Whether evaluating economic trends, measuring the success of institutions, or divining public opinion, we are told that numbers don’t lie. But numbers have not always been so revered. Calculated Values traces how numbers first gained widespread public authority in one nation, Great Britain.

Knowledge in Risk Assessment and Management
Edited by Terje Aven and Enrico Zio
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Risk assessment and management is fundamentally founded on the knowledge available on the system or process under consideration. While this may be self-evident to the laymen, thought leaders within the risk community have come to recognize and emphasize the need to explicitly incorporate knowledge (K) in a systematic, rigorous, and transparent framework for describing and modeling risk. Featuring contributions by an international team of researchers and respected practitioners in the field, this book explores the latest developments in the ongoing effort to use risk assessment as a means for characterizing knowledge and/or lack of knowledge about a system or process of interest. By offering a fresh perspective on risk assessment and management, the book represents a significant contribution to the development of a sturdier foundation for the practice of risk assessment and for risk-informed decision making.

Advances in Financial Machine Learning
By Marcos Lopez de Prado
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Machine learning (ML) is changing virtually every aspect of our lives. Today ML algorithms accomplish tasks that until recently only expert humans could perform. As it relates to finance, this is the most exciting time to adopt a disruptive technology that will transform how everyone invests for generations. Readers will learn how to structure Big data in a way that is amenable to ML algorithms; how to conduct research with ML algorithms on that data; how to use supercomputing methods; how to backtest your discoveries while avoiding false positives. The book addresses real-life problems faced by practitioners on a daily basis, and explains scientifically sound solutions using math, supported by code and examples. Readers become active users who can test the proposed solutions in their particular setting. Written by a recognized expert and portfolio manager, this book will equip investment professionals with the groundbreaking tools needed to succeed in modern finance.

Building Financial Resilience: Do Credit and Finance Schemes Serve or Impoverish Vulnerable People?
By Jerry Buckland
Summary via publisher (Palgrave Macmillan)
This book examines how credit and finance schemes affect the financial lives of vulnerable people around the world. These schemes include payday lending, matched savings, and financial literacy in the Global North, and micro-credit and mobile banking in the Global South. Buckland sets these schemes within the context of financialization and seeks to identify strengths, weaknesses, and ways to enhance the well-being of vulnerable people. This book’s coverage of a wide range of financial products and geographic regions makes for a unique and innovative perspective on this topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *