This was a memento from my colleagues at Shell when I was leaving. How wonderfully apt – something that captured my interests (chess and AI)! This book seemed like it would get into these topics at a philosophical level, rather than the nitty-gritty details. Or so I thought.
I was anticipating an enjoyable read, and desperately wanted to like it, but again, I’m abandoning it halfway through. I will write more about why in a bit, but I will leave you with the following incoherent quote (speaking of how successful Armenia has been in Chess Olympiads)
..despite my own half-Armenian heritage, there is no genetic explanation necessary for this success.
I cannot figure out what he is trying to say here!
This is a book that India needs now.
It is fantastically well researched – how the researchers went about gathering their data and drawing correlations from multiple sources is as fascinating as their conclusions.
It gently highlights the absurdities of the well-intentioned Indian state:
Ordinarily, one places solar plants in the path of direct sunlight. This one was placed in the path of visitors
It is full of examples of how we focus on the metrics, rather than on the principle. Ban plastic bags! Increase the fines for polluters!!
It ties in how government policy and public apathy suffer from lack of data – or ignorance of the data that we have – or an active attempt to not measure data that matters.
It tries to quantify what we are losing out because of pollution, in terms of health and productivity. But, as the author himself acknowledges, the calculations are very conservative (and still frightening!). Who knows what the cost of missing millions, missed opportunities, missing einsteins, and physically underdeveloped populace is?
This ties in directly with the pollution monitoring project that we’re doing at AlgoAsylum, so this is something that I can use to get people energized!
I stopped reading after a few chapters. This book glorifies and promotes the worst aspects of human nature – I’ve seen enough of this crap when I was working to not want any part of it anymore. The world would be a much better place if everyone collaborated towards shared goals, rather than wasting time and energy on stabbing each other in the back.
This is Bastiat’s ‘The Seen and the Unseen’ for the 20th century. A few quotes:
As a consumer, he may advocate or acquiesce in subsidies; as a taxpayer he will resent paying them
This is so true! All the economic protests that happen build on this nature, except that we don’t even realize that we are paying for these, in some way or the other. Worse, we may think that a subsidy benefits us, but the math shows this to be a fleeting benefit
All the financial news that comes out these days makes me want to cry. How shortsighted are the people in government, and what have we done to deserve them …
… the best prices are not the highest prices, but the prices that encourage the largest volume of production and the largest volume of sales. The best wage rates for labor are not the highest wage rates, but the wage rates that permit full production, full employment and the largest sustained payrolls. The best profits, from the standpoint not only of industry but of labor are not the lowest profits, but the profits that encourage most people to become employers or to provide more employment than before.
Economics … is a science of recognizing secondary consequences. It is also a science of seeing general consequences. It is the science of tracing the effects of some proposed or existing policy not only on some special interest in the short run, but on the general interest in the long run.
Best read with Big Business
[Inspired by Dennett’s Intuition Pumps]
My current approach and where I’d like to be works 1:1 or in a small group, much more difficult to do in a lecture-style setting.
When I’m trying to teach a new concept – programming, algorithm, mathematics – I try to give students a bit of structure and context and get them to develop the solution. The amount of structure and context varies from student to student, and its not easy getting it right. Done well, students reach that aha! moment on their own. I’ve been doing this unconsciously for quite a while, but its probably time to do this with more structure (hah!).
One more aspect I would like to add is having students reflect on failed approaches. This may also require reducing the context and allowing them to try out a variety of approaches. A lot of learning can happen in this analysis. The downside is that it needs time and it needs willingness to expend the effort.
I’ll eventually organize my thoughts, but a few reactions:
- This book should be dedicated to Steven Pinker. No matter what aspect of business one may pick up, here’s how to look at it in a positive light
- The amount of data to back up the positivity is of course, amazing
- I’m going to skip the ‘what-about-ism’s, but that is pretty much what was going through my head as I was reading this book
This book is necessary – (big) business has been vilified for too long, and the default is to assume that it is evil. This book pushes the pendulum towards the center and swings it all the way to the other end!