Monday, May 23, 2022

Review of My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

This review was written by Eugene Kernes 

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Novel, History
Watch Review

Excerpts

“In later years, however, I only worked on manuscript pages because Our Sultan paid well for them.  I can’t say it seems insignificant now.  You know the value of money even when you’re dead.” – Orhan Pamuk, Chapter 1: I Am A Corpse, Page 4


“I bit him so hard on the leg that my canines sank right through his fatty flesh to the hardness of his thighbone.  For a dog, you see, nothing is as satisfying as sinking his teeth into his miserable enemy in a fit of instinctual wrath.” – Orhan Pamuk, Chapter, Page 12


“Now and again, I even feel as if I haven’t committed any crime at all.  Four days have passed since I was forced to do away with hapless Elegant, who was a bother to me, and only now have I, to some extent, accepted my situation.” – Orhan Pamuk, Chapter 4: I Will Be Called A Murderer, Page 17


Review

Overview:

During the late 16th century Ottoman Empire, the Sultan requests a book.  A book celebrating the history of the peoples.  Although the request is meant to be a secret, it is not a secret for long.  For someone working on the project died.  A miniaturist is found to be murdered.  A mystery develops as to why someone would murder a miniaturist.  There is a great beauty that everyone falls in love with, which could have caused jealousy.  Could have been professional competition gone wrong.  Greed for money or fame.  Maybe it was the different style within the artwork.  For rather than using traditional artwork styles, they were using foreign styles.  A mystery that needs resolving, especially after the second murder. 

The story is narrated from many perspectives.  Not just from the perspective of people.  Perspectives from the dead, inanimate objects, abstract ideas, animals, the murderer, and others involved in the affairs.  Bringing with them pieces of the puzzle, and diverse philosophical insights.  The book contains a lot of philosophy on values and art.  Providing a cultural history. 


Caveats?

The writing of the story can become potentially confusing.  The perspectives can change quickly, and although they provide glimpses to the events from different perspectives, it can be difficult to put them together.  The tangents provide a lot of philosophical value, but can make the narrative a bit discontinuous, reducing the flow.

As this is a cultural history book, some aspects of the culture can be misunderstood without prior knowledge.  A broad cultural history is provided, but the reader can miss certain aspects.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•Who is the murderer?
•Who was murdered and why?
•What is the purpose of a coffeehouse?
•What are the different art styles? 
•What does a miniaturist do?
•Why is the Sultan’s book important?
•Who are the characters, and what roles do they play in the narrative?
•What are the disagreements in this book?  Why are the people disagreeing about the topic? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780571214198
Pages to read:   506
Publication:     2001
1st Edition:      1998
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall           4




Friday, May 20, 2022

Review of Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

This review was written by Eugene Kernes 

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Philosophy
Book Club Event = Book List (10/22/2022)
Intriguing Connections = Why Do People Think Differently?
Watch Review

Excerpts

“Companions, the creator seeks not corpses, not herds and believers.  Fellow creators, the creator seeks – those who write new values on new tablets.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Zarathustra’s Prologue, Page 24


“And beware of the good and the just!  They like to crucify those who invent their own virtues for themselves – they hate the lonely ones.  Beware also of holy simplicity!” – Friedrich Nietzsche, On The Way Of The Creator, Page 64


“And, as if there were a special secret access to knowledge, buried for those who learn something, we believe in the people and their ‘wisdom’” – Friedrich Nietzsche, On Poets, Page 127


Review

Overview:

Zarathustra comes down from the mountain, to empower humans.  To teach how humans can raise themselves to become better.  To become overman.  Zarathustra seeks creators, to replace God.  As God has died.  Empowerment requires breaking from normal routines.  Ideas of the past, even the noble ideas, become corrupted over time.  Pride in what was already accomplished prevents people from looking to create more.  

Humans are above animals, but have not yet become overman.  The overman creates their own values.  Creating is less about the showmanship, but about the values that are created.  The path of a creator can be a lonely one.  Making them easy targets for those who belong to groups.  Being lonely, can mean lack of social support.

With each interaction, Zarathustra learns more about what it takes to convince others.  The need for followers, who will then proceed to spread the message.  A creator seeking fellow creators.

Nietzsche denounced religion in various ways.  And yet in the book, Nietzsche uses religious iconography.  Purposely using religious references as an undercurrent to oppose religion.


Caveats?

The book can be very difficult to read.  The book was written quickly and without edits due to the authors’ health.  Another aspect of the writing making the book difficult is that many references are covert, making them easy to miss for those not prepared to see them.  Best to read the book after learning about Nietzsche’s background, and some history of European religious views and morals. 

The references and contrasts to animals are antiquated.  Appropriate for era of the book, but a different contrast would suit better.  This does not reduce the value of empowering humans, but the animal contrast has become too simple.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•What does Zarathustra want?
•How to empower humans?
•What is an overman?
•What does it mean to be a creator?
•Why do we need creators?
•What are some thoughts about knowledge?
•Why do people resist learning?
•What are some hidden references in the book?  (Religious, moral, and other.)
•Why seek followers? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  0140047484
Pages to read:   335
Publication:     1978
1st Edition:      1883
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    1
Content          2
Overall           2



Friday, May 13, 2022

Review of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Psychology
Book Club Event = Book List (07/16/2022)
Intriguing Connections = 1) War for Your Attention, 2) To Cooperate Or To Defect?

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Each principle is examined as to its ability to produce a distinct kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people, that is, a willingness to say yes without thinking firsts.” – Robert Cialdini, Introduction, Page xiv


“Automatic, stereotyped behavior is prevalent in much of human action, because in many cases it is the most efficient form of behaving, and in other cases it is simply necessary.” – Robert Cialdini, Chapter 1: Weapons of Influence, Pages 6-7


“We have been subjected to them from such an early point in our lives, and they have moved us about so pervasively since then, that you and I rarely perceive their power.  In the eyes of others, though, each such principle is a detectable and ready weapon – a weapon of automatic influence.” – Robert Cialdini, Chapter 1: Weapons of Influence, Page 9


Elaborate Review

Overview:

Each individual has a lot on their mind, and has a limited mental bandwidth.  To handle the complexity and amount of information, mental shortcuts are created.  Automatic responses and heuristics which enable efficient behavior.  The automatic, fixed-action patterns work most of the time, but can be activated at wrong times as well.  This can happen when the automatic response is being manipulated.  Manipulated by those who figured out how to tap into other people’s automatic responses, and then use them as weapons of automatic influence.  Weapons of influence that get automatic, mindless compliance.  

As society has become flooded with information which requires more mental bandwidth, understanding automatic influence becomes more prevalent.  Using little information to make decisions helps when the information is reliable.  Facilitating quicker decision making without much problem.  The problem is when normally trusted information is being exploited, leading to erroneous actions.  Knowing how others can influence choices, can prepare the individual to not be as gullible to future manipulation.  But the book provides more than just a guide on how to spot exploiters, the book facilitates an understanding of how to make human interactions more meaningful.  


Weapon of Influence: Reciprocity

Reciprocity is engrained in society.  Societies that operate with reciprocity have a competitive advantage.  An advantage thy keep by making sure that members understand what is required.  Breaking reciprocity rules leads to social sanctions.  Which has conditioned people to feel uncomfortable being beholden, even with voluntary gifts, which creates a desire to repay favors.  

Small favors provided before a request, increases the chance of compliance because of the rule of reciprocity.  Exploiting the automatic rule of reciprocity means that someone is turning reciprocity into an unfair exchange.  An initial small favor makes an individual feel obligated to repay with a substantially larger favor.  

Reciprocity works with favors and concessions alike.  After making a concession, there is a feeling of obligation to make concessions in return.

Obligation to repay is important for reciprocity, but it is the obligation to receive that is very exploitable.  The individual who receives, has little control from whom and what is received.  What that does is give power to the giver.  

Difficult to tell whether an initial offer is honest, or a step into an exploitation scheme.  Denying all offers, means denying all the rewards of honest offers, which do not want to exploit.  Although if an exploitation attempt is recognized, exploiting the exploiter seems like a justifiable behavior. 


Weapon of Influence: Consistency

Consistency makes it easier to handle the world.  Makes things more predictable.  The benefit of consistency is reduced energy need for forthcoming decisions.  No need to spend energy on making decisions when decisions have already been made.  There is pressure to stick with decisions made, so that others can predict individual behavior, and to manage personal mental bandwidth.  Causing humans to want to be perceived as behaving consistently.  

The need to be consistent can be misused.  Manipulators can structure interactions to present their views as keeping the individual consistent, which does lead to the manipulator’s benefit. 

Individuals use their prior behavior to inform themselves of who they are.  Shaping their values and beliefs.  Small commitments, that seem innocent, change the way an individual perceives oneself.  After the small modification, other modifications become possible because they have become consistent with normal behavior.  

Thoughts and decisions can be forgotten or denied, as purely verbal statements easily are.  A way to prevent someone from forgetting or denying their prior decisions, is for them to record them.   

Taking ownership of what is said and done, encourages change.  Choosing to change, rather than because of strong external pressure.  Large rewards are an external pressure that can prevent an individual from taking inner responsibility for the claims made or actions done.  External pressures do generate short term changes, but not long term commitments.  


Weapon of Influence: Social Proof

What determines appropriate decisions is what other people do in the situation.  Social proof as a weapon of influence.  The more people believe something, the more proof the idea has, even when there is disconfirming physical proof.  More than just looking to others for what they are doing, people tend to look at what similar people are doing in the situation.  Which is where social proof can be manufactured, as social evidence can be falsified to get individuals to do what the exploiter wants them to do. 

In an uncertain situation, uncertainty can be resolved by how others behave.  It may be that no one within the situation knows how to appropriately resolve the uncertain situation, leading everyone to look to everyone else for guidance.  This is a problem called pluralistic ignorance.  Even under an emergency, people might not give aid because they are unsure if it is a genuine emergency, or others might provide the aid.  But, when it is certain that there is an emergency, many are willing to give aid. 


Weapon of Influence: Liking

Being liked increases the chances of people being influenced.  Similarity facilitates liking, whether in appearance or values.  Being liked for a particular feature can produce a halo effect.  As that singular characteristic dominates how a person is perceived by others.  Attributing liking the characteristic, to everything the individual has to offer.  

Liking is about association.  Which creates problems for bearers of bad news, as the bearer becomes disliked by association.  Even if they did not themselves create the bad news.  People tend to try to associate with successful others, while avoid publicizing ties to those who fail.  This is usually because the individual does not have much self-attainments, and tries to associate with those of others. 

 

Weapon of Influence: Authority

Authority is associated with power, those who have access to more information.  Making it beneficial to go along with the authority figure, usually.  People tend not to defy authority figures, even when tasked with doing harmful acts. 

Some can exploit the authoritative influence by wearing clothes that someone in authority would wear.  Understanding authoritative influence, and knowing how to recognize faked authority symbols, can help in denying exploitation.  


Weapon of Influence: Scarcity

Scarcity changes how the brain perceives everything.  Changing the appeal of objects.  Imperfections of a product are dismissed when considering the product’s scarcity.  Scarcity means a loss of freedom, which people will do a lot to keep opportunities open.  Desire in increased for items that have become less available, that have become more scarce.  


Additional Influencing Ideas:

There is a stereotype that expensive products mean’s good products.  An automatic response that indicated quality, has become exploited as many items have increased their price to capture this habit.  There are products which would be difficult to sell, until their price has gone up.  The product has not changed, but the price has. 

People see each other differently whether they are competitors, or compatriots.  Competition can force negative attributes on the opposition.  While having a common goal gets people to see the others as reasonable.  Competition is a great motivator, and should not be removed, but needs to be managed to prevent adverse effects stemming from negative attributes that competitors place on each other.    


Caveats?

The book lacks as a practical guide to thwart exploiters trying to influence behavior.  What the book does, and the author recognizes, is that knowing about the ways that attention is manipulated is part of the solution, but knowing about them is not the whole solution. 

Perception and cultures change the effect that the weapons of influence can have.  Different cultures have different responses to similar activating words and activities.  Different cultures provide their own sets of automatic thoughts of habit.  There are many examples within the book that are influenced by culture, which means that the responses need to be adjusted to each culture. 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•How do individuals deal with large amounts of information?
•What is a weapon of influence?
•What are the different types of weapons of influence?
•How can decisions be manipulated?
•How does reciprocity work?
•How can reciprocity be exploited?
•Why is there a need to be consistent?
•How to change people’s behavior for long term commitments? 
•How do people respond to uncertainty?
•How can social proof be exploited?
•What is the halo effect?
•What influence does similarity have with influencing behavior?
•What is the impact of association with news and other people?
•Why do people follow authority figures? 
•How does scarcity change perception? 
•How to get people who dislike each other, to become more reasonable towards each other?
•What is the contrast principle? 
•Why are there some severe initiation ceremonies? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780061241895
Pages to read:   284
Publication:     2007
1st Edition:      1984
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5



Monday, May 9, 2022

Review of "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman

This review was written by Eugene Kernes 

Book can be found in:
Genre = Decision Making
Book Club Event = Book List (07/09/2022)

Watch Review

Excerpts

“I realized that if I’m going to talk to anybody else, I’ll have to use the standard symbols, so I eventually gave up my own symbols.” – Richard Feynman, He Fixes Radios by Thinking!, Page 23


“One group was teaching the other how to think, while the other guys teaching them how to be social” – Richard Feynman, Who Stole the Door?, Page 30


“I don’t know what’s the matter with people: they don’t learn by understanding; they learn by some other way – by rote, or something.  Their knowledge is so fragile!” – Richard Feynman, Stole the Door?, Page 35


Elaborate Review

Overview:

This book makes you feel you are inside of a brilliant mind.  Not just brilliant, but a witty prankster.  From an early age, Feynman was always thinking and doing experiments.  While experimenting, also had a lot of practice as an engineer fixing technology.  Observing how something could be better, and innovating to make improvements.  Curiosity drove Feynman to many experiments, but some experiments got Feynman into trouble.  Each experiment informed Feynman, and provided ideas about better alternatives.  Even during more serious times, such as working on the Manhattan Project, Feynman sought humor with the experiments.  Experimenting with what information could go through the censorship, and the pranks that could be pulled on the censors.  This book shows Feynman’s personality, of who Feynman was.  Incessantly curious, with a rigorous intellect, but knowing when other knew more.  Even acknowledging when some problems were too difficult for Feynman.  


Caveats?

There is some science, but the book is not about the science.  It is about who Feynman was, which did have a lot to do with science.  Social norms have changed, which can make some of Feynman’s views antiquated and inappropriate.  Given Feynman’s views were at times mischievous, Feynman might not be a good role model.  Many of Feynman’s observations are interesting and can spot a problem, but that does not mean that Feynman understood the whole situation, and sometimes reacted poorly. 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•What did Feynman do when Feynman was a kid?
•What eccentric skills did Feynman obtain later in life? Besides physics.  
•How does Feynman learn?
•What are some of Feynman’s antics?
•What did Feynman do during WW2?
•How did Feynman treat other people?
•How do books get selected?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780393339857
Pages to read:   337
Publication:     2010
1st Edition:      1985
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          2
Overall           2





Friday, May 6, 2022

Review of The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson

This review was written by Eugene Kernes 

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy
Book Club Event = Book List (06/25/2022)
Intriguing Connections = 1) The Evolution of Evolution, 2) What Makes Science A Science?

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Every decision made by a human being has meaning in the first, intentional sense.  But the capacity to decide, and how and why the capacity came into being, and the consequences that followed, are the broader, science-based meaning of human existence.” – Edward Wilson, Chapter 1: The Meaning of Meaning, Page 7


“Humanity, I argue, arose entirely on its own through an accumulated series of events during evolution.  We are not predestined to reach any goal, nor are we answerable to any power but our own.  Only wisdom based on self-understanding, not piety, will save us.” – Edward Wilson, Chapter 1: The Meaning of Meaning, Page 9


“A premium was placed on personal relationships geared to both competition and cooperation among the members.  The process was ceaselessly dynamic and demanding.” – Edward Wilson, Chapter 2: Solving the Riddle of the Human Species, Page 13


Elaborate Review

Overview:

Meaning can mean intention, which implies a designer.  Leading to many creation stories, of existence for a purpose.  But science shows that accidents of history, are the source of meaning.  Networks of events, that seem random but obey general laws.  Making adaptations, which themselves change the likelihood of other adaptions.  Human decision has intention, but the capacity to decide comes from evolutionary historic accidents.  Self-understanding is the guide to human choices.  Survival based on tolerance of independence of thought.  For humanities existence is self-made.  

Humans have very limited perception of the world they live in, but science has provided tools to make overt the unseen worlds.  But it is not the technology that is most valuable in society, it is the humanities subjects.  Through reflections of humanity, comes a lot of ideas about how to shape society, and thoughts on extraterrestrial life.  

The human species has a long complex history of cooperation, and competition.  Seeking belonging, within personal relationships as it was vital for general survival, and social survival.  What belonging required was a dynamic and demanding understanding of the intentions of fellow members.  Considering their potential responses, and inventing competing scenarios of future interactions.  Gossip was a source of information about others.  Being selfish benefits the individual within the society over others members, but societies of caring individuals have advantages over societies composed of selfish individuals.

The enlightenment brought with it science, technology, and reason that shaped the world, but they did not impact the people in a deeply emotional level.  That was left to the humanities subjects.  For as science removed the humanities from their understanding, the creative arts were left for the humanities.  

Science is meant to be without religion or ideology.  Competitively testing hypothesis, which comes from partial evidence and imagination.  The rate of scientific discoveries is declining, while needing more expensive technology and teams to make the discoveries.  Scientific discoveries might be becoming more limited, but the humanities subjects are evolving and diversifying. 

Technology is giving humans the ability to abandon natural selection, in favor of directed evolution.  Changing the genes that make up humans.  Redesigning biology with a shopping list of different alternations that can be made into what the individual wishes them to be.  

Aliens, extraterrestrial beings might currently be fiction, but even as fiction, they act as a reflection of human values.  For the aliens, it is not technology or knowledge that would fascinate them about humanity, for they would already possess it.  As humans are the ones being visited, alien technology and knowledge is far superior to that of humans.  What would fascinate them is the humanities.  The humanities subjects would be something that the aliens can learn, and obtain value from. 


Caveats?

The theme of the book is science and has scientific reasoning, but there are also hypothetical implications of what science has to offer.  Making claims to the limits of knowledge, and extraterrestrial life.  The ideas come from what is known, and raise questions about these issues, but has verification problems.  Some claims can be contradictory as we do not know how much is actually left to know.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•What does it mean to have meaning?
•Does human existence have meaning? 
•What did the enlightenment do, and what were the limitation of the enlightenment?
•What do humans perceive?  What do humans not perceive?
•What are the limits to scientific discoveries?
•What use are the humanities subjects?
•Why do humans want to belong to groups?
•How does evolution work?
•Should extraterrestrial life be considered? 
•What are the proximate and ultimate explanations?
•What is the different between natural selection, and inclusive fitness?
•How do plants suppress invaders?
•Are human societies superorganism? 
•An extinction paradox?  Why is there concern over species extinction?
•Does anyone have free will?

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780871404800
Pages to read:   123
Publication:     2014
1st Edition:      2014
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall           4




Monday, May 2, 2022

Review of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber, David Wengrow

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in: 
Genre = History
Book Club Event = Book List (06/11/2022)
Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Compared to any of these, a word like ‘inequality’ sounds like it’s practically designed to encourage half-measures and compromise.  It’s possible to imagine overthrowing capitalism or breaking the power of the state, but it’s not clear what eliminating inequality would even mean.” – David Graeber, and David Wengrow, Chapter 1: Farewell to Humanity’s Childhood, Page 17


“When it comes to cherry-picking anthropological case studies, and putting them forward as representative of our ‘contemporary ancestors’ – that is, as models for what humans might have been like in a State of Nature – those working in the tradition of Rousseau tend to prefer African foragers like the Hadza, Pygmies or!Kung.  Those who follow Hobbes prefer the Yanomami.” – David Graeber, and David Wengrow, Chapter 1: Farewell to Humanity’s Childhood, Page 27


“Different societies sometimes have radically different systems of value, and what might be most important in one – or at least, what everyone insists is most important in one – might have very little to do with what’s important in another.” – David Graeber, and David Wengrow, Chapter 4: Free People, the Origin of Cultures, and the Advent of Private Property, Page 138


Elaborate Review

Overview:

The stories being told about the past, impact how humanity sees itself.  Impacts how people interact with each other and the society that is created.  That is why it is important to understand a how people came to be, how people came to have the social conditions that they have.  Research on the history of humanity sought for origin stories about social constructs, with many of the idea coming from hypothetical conditions due to lack of data.  But now there are actual historic anthropological records, which change the way humanity understands itself.  

What the research shows is a lack of origin on inequality, the state, and many other social features.  Diversity as the norm rather than a singular original homogenous equality state.  Diversity of responses to various conditions.  The diverse responses of societies are more complicated than they appear, as features that appear better or worse than the alternatives, can have very different conclusions.  Humanity is a composition of projects of collective self-creation.  


Simplified Diversity of Human Coordination:

The normal narrative of humanity, is that humanity appears to be hierarchical throughout history, which has enabled individual sacrifices of short term gains, in favor of collective long term prosperity.  What anthropological records reveal is that there was diversity in how human societies cooperated.  Diversity in the political unity of humans.  There is also a lack of hierarchies. 

Many accounts of historical narratives, make very simplistic and homogenous caricatures of peoples.  Undermining or destroying human possibility.  Simplification might be needed for social theory, the problem is when forthcoming views continue to simplify.

Humans appear to have an instinct for hierarchical relations of dominance-submissive.  A behavior inherited from simian ancestors.  Humans have become different, giving them the ability to decide not to engage in such a way.  

For some society, it was hard to create a hierarchy because there were many who could take on the responsibilities.  There were many alternatives for how to manage society, thereby preventing monopolization by any given social leader.  

Hierarchy, as in a state, was assumed to be needed for complex societies.  That coordination required an entity which has a a monopoly on legal coercive power.  But records show that even without a state, complex societies have existed.  Power is derived from control of violence, control of information, or individual charisma.  Power sources can exist simultaneously to some extent.  Even within a hierarchy or a state, there is problem with delegating authority to fulfill administrative burdens.  The problem is that those who are meant to represent authority can ignore the decrees or interpret the decrees differently.


Origin of Inequality:

The original inequality arguments came from Rousseau, and the thoughts about peoples of the past were hypothetical.  Part of a philosophical argument, in response to a writing competition.  Later, different authors created different hypothetical histories and the logical reasons for the divergence to inequality.  Depending on which origin story picked, either Rousseau or Hobbes, anthropologist tended to cherry-pick case studies that fit the claims of the philosopher they supported.  The assumption of an initial idyllic state, and an event causing society to go in the wrong direction, ossified researcher interests and made many unwilling to think of alternatives.

Inequality itself has many different understandings.  The consequences of eliminating inequality are a mystery, while it can practically be understood what it would mean to overthrow capitalism, or remove the state.  Equality might occur simply because everyone is equally poor.


Caveats?

Most ideas are not novel.  The ideas only seem novel because they keep picking on those who had opposing views.  Finding and magnifying minor issues with the opposition, but then not giving credit to the opposition for many of the same views in the book.  For many ideas in this book, came from other sources, that include the opposition.  Most of the information in this book can be found in other much older books, even in books of the opposition.  What this book does well is reorient the discussion away from a search of an idyllic origin, to consider the diversity of human experience.

There is emphasis in the book about having and relying on new data, recent data.  Making it a puzzle why they pick on errors of those who did not have the data.  As if the people who made claims without the new data, would have made the same claims with the new data.  The people would have changed their claims to the new information.  They do reference people that seem not to have changed their views with data, but never point to the same people who have changed views with the new data.  As with previous data, more data will come, which makes it possible that the authors would be wrong.  There actually is more recent data, that counters some of the authors claims.

The impression from the book is that what makes some data wrong, is not the actual data, but on the authors whims, those whom they choose to support or undermine.  The author claim that their opposition cherry picks data, but so do the authors.  

The authors recognize that ideas are a reflection of data, and other people ideas.  Errors of those who they support, are excused.  While they dismiss their oppositions ideas.  Normally finding exceptions with opposing claims, but not necessarily providing a good reason to oppose.  

The premise of the book is against a search for an origin, in favor of diverse beginnings.  Nevertheless, the authors do sometimes make sweeping claims, which not only do not contain much data, but also link to a supposed origin.  If other researchers are wrong to search for an origin, then so are the authors because of their very own claim.

The values of the past are different.  The authors use conversations with indigenous people in the past, and with contemporaries as if their views are the same for the societies they represent, throughout time. 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•Does understanding human history matter?
•What are the origins of human social constructs?
•Why did researchers seek origins to human social constructs?
•How do the author approach human history?
•Are hierarchies needed?
•How do people cooperate with each other?
•What is the origin of the state?
•How is power derived?
•What does inequality mean?
•Is there anything fundamental about humans?
•How did the enlightenment thinkers get their ideas? 
•How did societies develop agriculture?  What are the diverse responses to agriculture? 
•Can there be trade without a market economy? 
•How can people from different cultures react to people from another culture? 
•What is schismogenesis? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780374721107
Pages to read:   534
Publication:     2021
1st Edition:      2021
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          4
Overall           3