Book Bits: 14 May 2022

Don’t Trust Your Gut: Using Data to Get What You Really Want in Life
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Summary via publisher (Dey Street/HarperCollins)
Big decisions are hard. We consult friends and family, make sense of confusing “expert” advice online, maybe we read a self-help book to guide us. In the end, we usually just do what feels right, pursuing high stakes self-improvement—such as who we marry, how to date, where to live, what makes us happy—based solely on what our gut instinct tells us. But what if our gut is wrong? Biased, unpredictable, and misinformed, our gut, it turns out, is not all that reliable. And data can prove this. In Don’t Trust Your Gut, economist, former Google data scientist, and New York Times bestselling author Seth Stephens-Davidowitz reveals just how wrong we really are when it comes to improving our own lives.

How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We’re Going
Vaclav Smil
Review via The New York Times
The title’s pleonastic fourth word is the giveaway. It announces the tone of Vaclav Smil’s 49th book: vinegary scorn for the irresponsible declarations of self-proclaimed experts, particularly those guilty of innumeracy, ahistoricism and other forms of wishful thinking that Vaclav Smil would never, ever fall for. You’ve heard a lot of prognostications about the state of the world. They’re bunk. Here, at last, is how the world really works.
Smil, who has taught at the University of Manitoba for half a century, rests his expertise on the strength of a polymathic pedigree nearly unmatched in North American academic life.

Behind the Swap: The Broken Infrastructure of Risk Management and a Framework for a Better Approach
Andrew DeJoy
Summary via Amazon
Andrew DeJoy’s Behind the Swap examines the risks involved in post-trade processing in swaps and derivative markets, and provides solutions to better control those risks. While Andrew doesn’t claim to have all the answers, he does believe there is a way to create a safer, stronger, and better financial system for all stakeholders.

The Journey of Humanity: The Origins of Wealth and Inequality
Oded Galor
Review via The Washington Post
These “wheels of change” have been the key drivers of technological progress since the beginning of time, economist Oded Galor argues in his new book, “The Journey of Humanity: The Origins of Wealth and Inequality.” Throughout most of our history, however, our species was caught in a poverty trap. Technological innovation caused increases in food production, which caused higher population growth — until the additional mouths to feed canceled out the productivity gains, bringing living standards back to subsistence levels. In the 19th century, however, the inexorable march of technology reached a tipping point. With the Industrial Revolution, according to Galor, the value of human capital reached the point that parents chose to have fewer children and invest more in their upbringing. Longer life spans made human capital even more important.

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