Recently Read Books 2014

I thought I would take a minute and let you know the books that I have read thus far in 2014. Each of these is excellent in its own way and I don’t know about you but I try to put some thought into each selection since I am making an investment of my time. I have read The Black Swan and The Signal And The Noise twice and I really believe I need to read The Black Swan a third time to get a complete understanding.

(1) The Black Swan     Nassim Nicholas Taleb

(2) The Smartest Kids In The World     Amanda Ripley

(3) The Signal And The Noise     Nate Silver

(4) The Sixth Extinction     Elizabeth Kolbert

(5) The Sports Gene     David Epstein

(6) Average Is Over    Tyler Cowen

Finished Reading: Average Is Over By Tyler Cowen


OB-ZC711_bkrvav_GV_20131001125951.jpg (359×550)Average is Over By Tyler Cowen was a thought-provoking book focusing on the shrinking of the middle class in America over the next several decades. Part of this book was tough sledding for me but in the end it was very stimulating in developing some ideas about the future.

An excerpt about forecasts from page 236:

“I (Tyler Cowen) am forecasting a few particular changes, starting with the most obvious and ending with the least obvious.

1. We will raise taxes somewhat, especially on higher earners.

2. We will cut Medicaid for the poor (but not so much Medicaid for the elderly) by growing stingier with eligibility requirements and with reimbursement rates for Medicaid doctors, who will impose queuing on program beneficiaries.

3.The fiscal shortfall will come out of real wages as various cost burdens are shifted to workers through the terms of the employment relationship, including costly mandates.

4. The fiscal shortfall will come out of land rents; in other words, some costs of living will fall as people begin to live in cheaper housing.

5. We’ll also pay off growing debt by spending less of our money on junk and wasteful consumption.”

I urge you to read this if you wish to understand some of our nation’s problems in the future and some theories of how to handle them.

Books Of Interest: January 20, 2014

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The Upside Of Down: Why The Rise Of The Rest Is Good For The West     Charles Kenny

We have all heard that America is in a decline, but the author argues that America’s decline is due to the rise of other nations and that it will be of benefit to us because we will be able to receive goods and services of equal value in other countries at a much lower cost than we do now.

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The Monkey’s Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped The History Of Life     Alan De Querioz

The author explains how closely-related species that are separated by great distances are determining their own future by traveling by various means from continent to continent. This book looks very interesting and I plan on moving it up in my pile.

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Join The Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform The World     Tina Rosenberg

This came out in 2011 and I ran across an editorial in The New York Times and the title fascinated me and I found out the author explores the positive nature of peer pressure through our connections with one another.

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The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, And Prosperity In A Time of Brilliant Technologies     Erik Brynjolsson and Andrew McAfee

The authors explain with the full advent of digital technologies what the impact will be on our personal lives, the cultural effects as well as the infrastructure advances. This appears to go along with Average Is Over by Tyler Cowen which I have reported on previously and am finishing up.

Books I’m Currently Reading, December 31, 2013

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Average Is Over    Tyler Cowen

I have written numerous posts on this book and I am currently reading the chapter on education: An excerpt from page 179:

“Whether we will remain a middle class society of not depends firstly on how many will prove to be effective working with intelligent machines. One percent of the population? Ten percent? Fifty percent?

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Focus: The Hidden Driver Of Excellence     Daniel Goleman

I have read approximately sixty pages and there are some nuggets thus far. An excerpt from page 48:

“It’s not the chatter of people around us that is the most powerful distractor, but rather the chatter of our own minds. Utter concentration demands these inner voices be stilled. Start to substract sevens successively from 100 and, if you keep your focus on the task, your chatter zone goes quiet.”

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Out Of Control: The New Biology Of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World  Kevin Kelly

Even though this book was written in 1994, this is my third reading of this book and Mr. Kelly had done an unbelievable job in explaining and bringing together various topics such as emergent behavior, economics, ecology and prediction. I highly recommend this book!!!

More From Average Is Over By Tyler Cowen Part 3

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In the chapter on Our Freestyle Future we see the lessons about the Freestyle approach of working or playing with intelligent machines. This is an excerpt from the author from page 93:

(1) Human-computer teams are the best teams.

(2) The person working the smart machine doesn’t have to be an expert in the task at hand.

(3) Below some critical level of skill, adding a man to the machine will make the team less effective than the machine working alone.

(4) Knowing one’s limits is more important than it used to be.

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There is quite a bit of difference between Freestyle chess and regular chess and the author spends several pages explaining the difference in the requirements of these games. When he showed what was required of Freestyle chess and how it related to the work environment of today I was intrigued. The above lessons will be needed in moving our work force forward in the 21st century. And for me personally, number 4 really hit the mark!!!

More From Average Is Over By Tyler Cowen Part 2

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Some notes from the chapter “Why Are So Many People Out of Work?” We all have reasons or suspicions about the above question. Some of my opinions such as the raising of GDP in the emerging countries, I believe, have a substantial impact on the effect of manufacturing in the U.S. in particular. However, as we continue to innovate hopefully and move our IT efforts forward in the manufacturing area as well as our entire economy, we will see significant progress in our wealth creation and stay comfortably ahead of other countries. Some interesting quotes from this chapter:

From page 49:

“The more that an endeavor requires inference about the mind state of others, the more the intelligent machines will require human aid. We humans do have our talents.”

From page 53:

“But for men, from 1969 to 2009, as measured, it appears that wages for the typical or median male earner have fallen by about 28 percent. I’ve seen attempts to dispute these numbers, but the result remains embarrassing: Brookings Institution researcher Scott Winship, for instance, argues that since 1969 the truth is that male wages have fallen by “only” 9 percent. That’s still a dismal record.”

And finally from page 59:

Some of the catches on why it will be difficult for laid-off workers to find these lower-paying jobs.

“A lot of those jobs are being created overseas. If the job does not require high and complex capital investment, the advantage to keeping that job in the United States is lower.”

A lot of Americans are not ready to take such jobs, either financially or psychologically. They have been conditioned to expect “jobs in the middle,” precisely the area that is falling away.”

“Through law and regulation, the United States is increasing the cost of hiring, whether it be mandated health benefits, risk of lawsuits, or higher minimum wages.”

I believe all the above information from the book is correct and it is imperative for us to move at warp speed to minimize the number of low-paying jobs in the United States through education, credentialing and future innovation.