Book Bits: 19 February 2022

Risk Thinking… In an Uncertain World
Ron S. Dembo
Summary via publisher (Archway Publishing)
Our age of radical uncertainty requires a new way of assessing risk that pays more attention to the extreme outliers that too often become tomorrow’s reality. Today’s models cannot cope with the frightening new unpredictable risks we face every day that frequently seem to come out of left field – the effects of climate change, a killer pandemic, a cascading wildfire, a financial crisis triggered by faceless algorithms, or a devastating cyber-attack that shuts down the electric power grid. This accessible book advocates a new, more realistic approach to analyzing risk and strategizing—one that is less reliant on a single solution or unnuanced forecast. They help us look for the almost unimaginable situations that we cannot see.

The Founders: The Story of Paypal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley
Jimmy Soni
Review via The Economist
It is hardly a tech giant. PayPal, a digital-payments firm, has a market capitalisation of $135bn, compared with Amazon’s $1.6trn and Apple’s $2.8trn. Yet it holds a unique position in Silicon Valley mythology. A startling number of PayPal’s co-founders and honchos have gone on to corporate greatness, earning themselves the nickname the “PayPal mafia”.

There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster―Who Profits and Who Pays the Price
Jessie Singer
Interview with author via NY Times
Unintentional injuries happen all the time. Cars crash, people fall off ladders, houses burn down when candles catch the drapes on fire. So, what could Jessie Singer possibly mean when she says “there are no accidents”?
Singer, a journalist, argues that what we call accidents are in the aggregate predictable and tend to happen most often to the poor, who don’t have the means to protect themselves… She’s not the only one sounding the alarm. The National Safety Council, a nonprofit agency, says that in 2020, preventable-injury-related deaths rose 16 percent from 2019, and that from 1992 to 2020, the annual age-adjusted rate of mortality from preventable injuries increased by two-thirds even as the overall mortality rate fell slightly.

The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology
Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel
Interview with co-author (Webb) via Markplace
Futurist Amy Webb keeps a close eye on the next big trends to come from the technology sector. She’s also known for asking early questions about the economic and ethical issues related to those advancements.
Webb — along with her co-author, geneticist Andrew Hessel — explores some of those big issues related to biotech in their new book, “The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology.” Those include how new technology could change what we eat and how we have children.

The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale
John A. List
Review via The Enlightened Economist
The book has two halves, the first covering five diagnostics to help assess whether an idea that works at small scale will scale up – whether that’s a policy to assist progress among toddlers in deprived areas to a new digital wellbeing app. The diagnostics boil down to some basic (but evidently challenging) statistical and economic analysis – for example, do you have a representative sample when you test an idea, can you identify false positive results, do you have economies of scale to capture or will costs go up with revenues? The second half is more general econ/business advice – sunk costs are sunk, risk compensation and other behavioural responses are a thing, focus on allocating marginal effort and identifying marginal revenues. I was particularly struck by the last point in the context of cost benefit analysis, List having also spent some time as an economist responsible for CBA in the George W Bush administration in 2002-3.

Unloved Bull Markets: Getting Rich the Easy Way by Riding Bull Markets
Craig Callahan
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
In Unloved Bull Markets: Getting Rich the Easy Way by Riding Bull Markets, a seasoned, award-winning professional money manager delivers an eye-opening and insightful take on a frequently overlooked—and critically important—investing strategy. The author walks readers through a crash-course in how to take full advantage of the greatest opportunity for wealth accumulation: a bull market. Unloved Bull Markets is the perfect book for investors who seek to base their decisions on data and logic, rather than fears and intuition, and want to focus on the profitable climb instead of distressing worries.

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