Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Review of Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (12/28/2024)


Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Do not mistake skin in the game as defined here and used in this book for just an incentive problem, just having a share of the benefits (as it is commonly understood in finance).  No.  It is about symmetry, more like having a share of the harm, paying a penalty if something goes wrong.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Book 1: Introduction, Page 4

Beware of the person who gives advice, telling you that a certain action on your part is “good for you” while it is also good for him, while the harm to you doesn’t directly affect him.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Book 2: Chapter 1: Why Each One Should Eat His Own Turtles, Page 51

“Someone without skin in the game – say, a corporate executive with upside and no financial downside (the type to speak clearly in meetings) – is paid according to some metrics that do not necessarily reflect the health of his company; these he can manipulate, hide risks, get the bonus, then retire (or go do the same thing at another company) and blame his successor for subsequent results.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Book 5: Chapter 7: Inequality and Skin in the Game, Page 130


Review

Is This An Overview?

Skin in the game is outcome symmetry of decisions.  A symmetry of the benefits and harm derived from a decision.  Skin in the game within a transaction means having no asymmetric uncertainty.  Skin in the game is about taking risk, rather than transferring the risk.  Advice that benefits the individual and the adviser, without the adviser sharing the harm, is bad advice.  Those who make decisions without suffering negative repercussions of being wrong, continue making bad decisions.  Alternatively, being accountable for errors of decisions, makes people learn from their mistakes and improve their decision making.

 

Caveats?

Although the ambiguity of language is understood, the use of language in the book creates more negative consequences than benefits.  Harsh language is being used throughout the book, which is partly meant to give people skin in the game who have not taken responsibility for wrong decisions, and also to signal freedom.  The consequences of the harsh language can be 1) to make society more intolerant given the influence of the author, 2) possibly enable a fundamental attribution bias for dynamic decisions are rarely made by a single person but who then becomes a scapegoat for others, and 3) make people defensive which prevents learning. 

 

The focus of skin in the game is about those who are making wrong decisions without facing the negative consequences, but as the author recognizes, there have been those who perished even though they were right.  Its uncertain if the author has skin in the game with the advice given about using skin in the game to improve situations.  


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?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is skin in the game? 
•What does is mean to have contact with the ground?
•How did skin in the game effect learning?
•What is leaning through via negativa?
•What is the effect of interventionists? 
•What is a Black Swan?
•How did skin in the game effect lords and monarchs? 
•How did skin in the game effect bureaucracy?
•What is the Rob Rubin trade? 
•How to hide risk?
•What are Hammurabi’s laws?
•What is the effect of universal behavior? 
•What are fools of randomness?
•What are crooks of randomness?
•What are revealed preferences? 
•How did skin in the game effect science?
•How did skin in the game effect Metro North train design?
•How did skin in the game effect the complexity of a system? 
•What are the differences between regulations and legal systems? 
•How did skin in the game effect artisans? 
•How did skin in the game effect entrepreneurs? 
•What kind of advice should be taken and avoided? 
•Why treat the in-group different than the out-group?
•Is ethics or laws more robust?
•How does scaling effect ethics?
•How should uncertainty asymmetry effect what to trade? 
•How did skin in the game effect journalists? 
•What are emergent properties? 
•What is the minority rule? 
•How did skin in the game effect an honest person and a criminal? 
•Which religion should the Khazars have?
•How does f*** you money effect behavior?
•What do organizations want from members? 
•Would you rather be a dog or a wolf?
•What are the consequences for a whistleblower? 
•How to make sure that saints and moral heroes remain ethical? 
•How to prevent suicide-terrorists? 
•What is rent-seeking?
•How did skin in the game effect on a corporate executive? 
•What is the Lindy effect?
•How does bureaucrats effect activities? 
•What cups are poison drunk in? 
•How did Assassins effect behavior?
•What is the difference between monitoring in small communities and in the internet age? 
•How to practice righteousness?
•What kind of events are journalists interested in?
•How did skin in the game effect religion? 
•Does the Pope believe in the power of prayer? 

Book Details
Edition:                   Random House Trade Paperback Edition
Publisher:               Random House [Penguin Random House]
Edition ISBN:         9780525511076
Pages to read:          251
Publication:             2020
1st Edition:              2018
Format:                    Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall          3






Thursday, June 6, 2024

Review of The Diversity of Life by Edward O. Wilson

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Science
Book Club Event = Book List (08/31/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) Earth's Flora and Fauna, 2) The Evolution of Evolution


Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Every species on Earth has been adapted by thousands to millions of years of evolution to the particularities of the environment in which it lives.  Its genotype is different from that of all other species.  The traits its genes prescribe are also unique, in biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, and behavior, and in the way it interacts with other species and serves the ecosystem it inhabits.  Each species, in short, is a living encyclopedia of how to survive on planet Earth.” – Edward O. Wilson, Preface to the 2010 Printing, Page xi-xii

“Great biological diversity takes long stretches of geological time and the accumulation of large reservoirs of unique genes.  The richest ecosystems build slowly, over millions of years.  It is further true that by chance alone only a few new species are poised to move into novel adaptive zones, to create something spectacular and stretch the limits of diversity.” – Edward O. Wilson, Chapter 5: New Species, Page 74

“Every country has three forms of wealth: material, cultural, and biological.  The first two we understand well because they are the substance of our everyday lives.  The essence of the biodiversity problem is that biological wealth is taken much less seriously.  This is a major strategic error, one that will be increasingly regretted as time passes.  Diversity is a potential source of immense untapped material wealth in the form of food, medicine, and amenities.  The fauna and flora are also part of a country’s heritage, the product of millions of years of evolution centered on that time and place and hence as much a reason for national concern as the particularities of language and culture.” – Edward O. Wilson, Chapter 14: Resolution, Page 311


Review

Is This An Overview?

Each species is a unique representation of the ability to survive on the planet.  Unique biology, behavior, interaction with other species, and its impact on the ecosystem.  Biological diversity begins with slight adaptations to environmental niches within a species.  Adaptations that start as small divergences, from which hybrids are possible.  But the differences often grow, leading to reproductive isolation between the populations.  Origin of species is an evolution of differences that prevent hybrids. 

 

Diverse species are less vulnerable to environmental shocks as an end to a single species can be overcome by another taking over the niche.  Each species is precious as other species can depend on it, directly or indirectly.  Some species are keystone species, as their removal would cause drastic changes to the ecosystem.  Biodiversity needs expansive geographic distribution for an appropriate nutrient cycle.  Limited geographic distribution makes diversity vulnerable. 

 

Although there have been mass extinction events before, humans are responsible for latest mass extinction, in part, by taking over more land.  The problem with the extinctions are the costs to material wealth.  Biodiversity contains biological wealth in the form of nutrition, medicine, and amenities.  By removing biodiversity, humans are removing sources of undiscovered wealth.  With time diversity can come back, but at times scales that lack meaning for contemporary humans. 

 

Caveats?

The book is about diversity.  Much of the book consists of showcasing diverse species.  But each species does not get much information.  To understand more about each species would require more research.  The descriptions of the diverse species can be a distraction away from the systematic analysis of diversity.  


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?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What are the different levels of biological organization? 
•How many species are still to be discovered? 
•What makes diversity vulnerable?
•How can an ecosystem erode?
•How can an ecosystem become restored? 
•What happened in Krakatau? 
•How can different species get to new locations?  Locations that are far?
•How many and what are the historic extinction era?
•What caused the fall of the dinosaurs? 
•Will diversity recover from massive extinction events? 
•What is the biomass distribution of the food hierarchy? 
•What creates reproductive isolation?
•What is vertical evolution?
•What is speciation evolution? 
•What causes species to adapt? 
•What are genes? 
•What is adaptive radiation?
•What is evolutionary convergence? 
•Why are there shark attacks on humans? 
•What are the origins of many South American mammals? 
•What can increase the chances of a species survival? 
•What are keystone species?
•How do predators effect an ecosystem?
•How does solar energy affect biomass?
•How does geography effect biomass?
•What are general features of a diverse species? 
•What is the area affect? 
•Why are there different outcomes in inbreeding and ordinary haphazard mating? 
•Why do people cut down trees? 
•What are sources of wealth?
•Is there material wealth in biodiversity? 

Book Details

Edition:                  First Harvard University Press paperback edition
Publisher:               The Belknap Press [Harvard University Press]
Edition ISBN:         9780674058170
Pages to read:          353
Publication:             20
1st Edition:              199210
Format:                    Paperback 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          3






 

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Review of Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment by Robert Wright

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (10/05/2024)
Intriguing Connections = 1) What Is The Power Of Belief Systems?, 2) War for Your Attention


Watch Short Review

Excerpts
“If you put these three principles together, you get a pretty plausible explanation of the human predicament as diagnosed by the Buddha.  Yes, as he said, pleasure is fleeting, and, yes, this leaves us recurrently dissatisfied.  And the reason is that pleasure is designed by natural selection to evaporate so that the ensuing dissatisfaction will get us to pursue more pleasure.  Natural selection doesn’t “want” us to be happy, after all; it just “wants” us to be productive, in its narrow sense of productive.  And the way to make us productive is to make the anticipation of pleasure very strong but the pleasure itself not very long-lasting.” – Robert Wright, Chapter 1: Taking the Red Pill, Page 14

“Hence another paradox of meditation: the problems that meditation can help you overcome often make it hard to meditate in the first place.  Yes, meditation may help you lengthen your attention span, dampen your rage, and view your fellow human beings less judgmentally.  Unfortunately, a short attention span, a hot temper, and a penchant for harsh judgement may slow your progress along the meditative path.” – Robert Wright, Chapter 2: Paradoxes of Meditation, Page 23

“Our assumption that people give much thought to us one way or the other is often an illusion, as is our unspoken sense that it matters what pretty much everyone we see thinks of us.  But these intuitions were less often illusory in the environment of our evolution, and that’s one reason they’re so persistent today.” – Robert Wright, Chapter 3: When Are Feelings Illusions?, Page 39


Review

Is This An Overview?

Psychologists have come to various same conclusions as the core ideas from Buddhism.  The mind is evolutionarily designed to mislead, to delude.  Which are not necessarily negative attributes as they have enabled survival.  Buddhism and psychology have similar conclusion about feelings.  Feelings can guide people to do what is right, and avoid wrong behavior, but in various circumstances such as feelings out of a specific context, can misguide behavior.  They can provide false-positive reactions, making people commit behavior without an appropriate stimulus.  Many feelings which enabled appropriate decisions within the evolutionary history of humans, have become inappropriate within contemporary society. 

 

Buddhism and psychology have similar conclusion about pleasure.  Benefits of pleasure are illusory, as the brain overstates how much happiness will be received.  Pleasure evaporates quickly which leaves people desiring for more.  The anticipated benefits are purposely misled by biochemical reactions to make people more evolutionarily productive.

 

Buddhism and psychology have similar conclusion about what defines the self.  The self is usually associated with control and persistence over time, but people do not have full control over their bodies or minds.  Humans do not have the ability to rapidly change themselves which would be required of one’s control of the self.  Attachments and other harmful divisions between people occur when thinking of the self.  Divisions that lead to an escalation of conflicts.  Alternatively, as everyone affects each other, everything is interdependent and interconnected.  Which means that harming another is in effect harming oneself. 

 

Part of Buddhism is meditation, mindfulness meditation.  The benefits of meditation have been corroborated by psychologists.  Mindfulness training can enable people to be governed less by misleading or unproductive feelings, to reduce the effects of illusions created by the self.  Meditation helps the individual notice when the mind wanders, to reduce the effect of the mind wandering.  Meditation can help with attention, rage reduction, and reduce harsh judgment of others.  The problem is that those who need meditation for these aspects, are also going to have the hardest time meditating. 

 

How Else Can The Mind Mislead Humans?

People want to be perceived as and present themselves as beneficial and effective.  Which is the beneffectance effect.  They perceive themselves as being better than average, giving themselves more credit within group collaboration than other team members.  People do not recall memories with perfect recollection, but omit inconvenient facts and exaggerate convenient ones.  People are prone to the fundamental attribution error, in which there is a misattribution of the effects of the situation and someone’s behavior.

 

Caveats?

Various parts of the book contain memoir explanations.  The memoir experiences can sometimes further enable an understanding, but can also be distracting.  As the author notes, there are various paradoxes in Buddhism, as in physics.  Some of these paradoxes are created by a language barrier.  There are tacit experiences, experiences that cannot be explained with fidelity using language.  The author sometimes uses the more original, more formal language to describe ideas, and then describes the experiences with more contemporary language.  Contemporary language that can make the ideas more readily understood, but which are not present throughout the book. 


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?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How is the Matrix reflected by Buddhism? 
•What is dharma? 
•What does evolution want of people?
•What is the purpose of anticipated pleasures?
•How are people deceived by their own biochemicals?
•How to be successful in meditation? 
•Who can meditation help? 
•What is mindfulness meditation? 
•Are feelings illusions?
•What effect does righteous rage have on society?
•How often do people think about other people?
•What is a silent retreat? 
•What is the default mode network?
•What is enlightenment? 
•What is the self?
•What happened in the split-brain experiments? 
•What is beneffectance? 
•How do people think of their society and different societies?  
•What are modulars in the mind?
•What is the philosophy and psychology of impermanence?
•What does the consciousness think? 
•What are passions?    
•ow much self control do people have?
•What is RAIN?
•How do impulses work?  What is their effect on gratification? 
•How does sound effect people? 
•What is meaningful in the world? 
•What is the fundamental attribution error?
•What is oneness?  How does it effect harming other individuals?   

Book Details
Publisher:               Simon & Schuster
Edition ISBN:         9781439195475
Pages to read:          242
Publication:             2017
1st Edition:              2017
Format:                    eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall          3