Book Bits: 15 April 2023

The Octopus in the Parking Garage: A Call for Climate Resilience
Rob Verchick
Summary via publisher (Columbia U. Press)
One morning in Miami Beach, an unexpected guest showed up in a luxury condominium complex’s parking garage: an octopus. The image quickly went viral. But the octopus—and the combination of infrastructure quirks and climate impacts that left it stranded—is more than a funny meme. It’s a potent symbol of the disruptions that a changing climate has already brought to our doorsteps and the ways we will have to adjust. Rob Verchick examines how we can manage the risks that we can no longer avoid, laying out our options as we face climate breakdown. Although reducing carbon dioxide emissions is essential, we need to adapt to address the damage we have already caused. Verchick explores what resilience looks like on the ground, from early humans on the savannas to today’s shop owners and city planners.

The Space Economy: Capitalize on the Greatest Business Opportunity of Our Lifetime
Chad Anderson
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
The new Space Age has already begun, but there is still time for you to get in early. In The Space Economy: Capitalize on the Greatest Business Opportunity of Our Lifetime, accomplished venture capitalist and Space Capital founder Chad Anderson offers investors, entrepreneurs, and aspiring professionals powerful tools and information for understanding how space-based technologies have, and will continue to, transform enterprise, government, and consumer markets for decades to come. Whether you’re seeking entrepreneurial ideas worth exploring, a career worth pursuing, or investments worth making, the burgeoning Space Economy represents a hidden opportunity larger than the nascent internet at the dawn of the Millennium. From global positioning, geospatial intelligence, and satellite communications to commercial human spaceflight and interplanetary transportation, this book explains how and why the space economy is the greatest opportunity of our lifetime.

Against Inequality: The Practical and Ethical Case for Abolishing the Superrich
Tom Malleson
Summary via publisher (Oxford U. Press)
Stark inequality is a problem the world over, one that has been worsening over the past 30 years, particularly in rich, economically developed countries. To acquire the same amount of wealth as Elon Musk, the average American worker would have to work for more than four and a half million years. Is this inequality morally acceptable, and is it feasible to actually reduce inequality in the real world? This book makes the case for rejecting meritocracy, presenting a strong defense against the claim that individuals “deserve” their wealth. The book argues that people, especially rich people, do not morally deserve the bulk of their income because it does not, by and large, come from anything they themselves do but is largely thanks to the vast understructure of other people’s labor, in addition to their lucky possession of bodily talents and efforts. Furthermore, the book brings to light extensive historical and comparative evidence to show that raising taxes on both income and wealth is practically feasible and that any costs of doing so are far outweighed by the truly enormous benefits that such taxes could bring in terms of environmental sustainability, democratic equality, equal opportunity, and reduced racism and xenophobia.

Pathogenesis: A History of the World in Eight Plagues
Jonathan Kennedy
Review via The Economist
or the first 250,000 years after Homo sapiens evolved, they existed on Earth alongside several other species of human in Africa, Asia and Europe. Around 50,000 years ago, however, H. sapiens left Africa and migrated across the world; around the same time, all the other species began to disappear. The fossil record shows that the last Neanderthals died out roughly 39,000 years ago, leaving only H. sapiens.
Why the other humans perished may be the biggest conundrum of the early Palaeolithic age. The prevailing explanation is that H. sapiens was more intelligent… According to Jonathan Kennedy, the author of “Pathogenesis”, there is a better explanation for why H. sapiens prevailed: their immune systems were superior.

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