Review – I’m OK – You’re OK
Review / February 10, 2017

Review Psychology can be hard to write about. Unlike many other topics I present here, it is almost a science, and thus deserves a lot more attention. Also, I don’t know a thing about psychology or psychoanalysis and evaluating such a book gives me a hard time. Freud postulated the threefold mind: the id (containing desires and urges), the ego (the conscious self) and the superego (the unconscious framework of rules and ethics). Transactional analysis is built on a similar but different idea, modeling the human psyche as three ego-states, of which only one is active at a time: The Parent is filled with values (or non-values) directly adapted  as a very small child. This part contains mostly unconscious instructions and ideas from “Fire is dangerous” to “Non-white people are dangerous”. The Parent can cause problems, because it cannot evaluate those ideas and instructs a person to mimic their parents. This is the source of superstition, prejudice and a lot of stupidity, and also the reason why abused children often become abusive parents. The Child is also formed at a very young age, and is where emotions and spontaneity live. It is a recording of feelings as the Parent is…

Review – Phishing for Phools
Review / February 7, 2017

Review Apparently, a good portion of current economic theories and models are based on an idealized model of the free market, where consumers and companies have access to complete market information and only make rational decisions. As a scientist, I believe that models should describe reality in a simplified manner. Models can contain a fair amount of idealization (physicists have their pockets full of infinite rods and frictionless springs), but they are only useful if they allow predictions that can be verified in empirically. So let’s get back to the free market and look if everybody is rational and informed. Have you ever bought something you immediately regretted buying? Have you ever bought something and then found it cheaper somewhere else literally five minutes later? I did. How shocking! Sometimes, new paradigms of economic theory seem banal for normal people: we are paying too much for everything, because companies manipulate our information and desires, a process the authors refer to as “phishing”. Airport food is stupidly expensive, because we feel hungry after a long flight (or a long wait for the flight) and have no time to compare all alternatives. The same psychology made some savvy financial players make up…

Review – The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Review / February 7, 2017

Review Have you ever been to an evening event, and during polite conversation somebody suddenly steers the topic towards modern technology? And while everybody else is excitedly discussing the implications of the latest fad, you find yourself standing silently in a corner, because for you “Big Data” is your collection of adult movies on your harddrive? Do you need a shortcut to sounding like a technology “have”? This book got you covered. After steam engines, electricity and the computer revolution, Schwab sees the world in the middle of a new, fourth industrial revolution. While still based on computers, this new phase is characterised by the rapid saturation of society on all levels, and innovative use of technology. The author takes us on a tour through our modern world and highlights almost everything hot and new from the last couple of years, from 3D printing to gene sequencing, from drones to blockchain, from designer organisms to the internet of things. The nicest part is a brief overview of 23 disruptive technological trends with convenient good/bad/controversial bullet point lists, if you have too little time to read the full book. The author groups those trends into physical, digital and biological categories (because…

Review – The Daily Stoic
Review / February 7, 2017

Review I used to associate the word “stoic” with absence of emotions and stubbornness. Apparently, I was wrong. A bit. Apparently it is all about having principles and concentrating on the things of life one can actually change (the circle of influence). Everything outside of this circle is neither good nor bad, just facts and circumstances, and one can live happily by developing an indifferent attitude towards them. The daily stoic comes in the format of an almanac, offering a short quotation by a famous greek stoic and an explanatory part offering interpretation and context. The idea is to read and meditate on a stoic teaching of the day everyday, but don’t worry, if you buy the book after January 1st you don’t need to wait a whole year to start. Although each moth has a central topic and three months are grouped around one of the key stoic principles (perception, action, will), the daily witticisms do not need to be read in order. The short format (maximum one page, sometimes only a few lines) is also makes this the ideal bathroom lecture. So Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca, the most quoted stoics of the book, came from very different places…

Review – How to Win Friends and Influence People
Review / February 7, 2017

Review When a book is attributed as an influence by famous and infamous people, and continues to sell this well, we can assume, that there is something to it. But how can a book this ancient  be relevant today? Carnegie tries to answer the age-old question of human interaction: how can I get the other person to do what I want? “How to make friends…” is written as a workbook with four major topics (basic techniques, how to make people like you, convincing people, be a leader), each one presented as a series of short lectures. At a glance, the lessons are simplistic, and always iterating on the central themes: make other people feel important, understood and respected. If you look closer, however, then you see that this is all you actually need. Find out what your counterpart wants and needs to feel good, then give it to them and they will reciprocate. People like to create their own narratives, and you will win them by giving them the opportunity to be the hero of the story. This is the fundamental trick to improve all your human interactions, that stays valid in the digital age, maybe even more. As communication…

Review – Investment Punk
Review / February 7, 2017

Review If someone promised to show you the way to break out of your mediocrity and get rich and successful, would you want to listen to him? What if he wanted to spent some time bragging and belittling you first? Still? Now imagine the actual advice is blindingly obvious and insultingly vague. If you would still feel good about it, this book is for you. I bought the book for some out-of-the-box financial tips by an exceptional financial leader, as stated on the backside. Disappointingly, only about a third of the pages is actually about that. Brace yourself for never heard-of advice: New cars lose value very quickly. Houses are expensive, maybe renting suits you better. All debt has to be payed off at some point. Spend less than you earn. Start your own business, then you can work exclusively for your own wealth. Great advice, inspiring, maybe a bit superficial and not exactly the radical paradigm-shifting insights we were promised. Ok, so much for the good part of the book… What is the rest about? Insults and bragging. Many pages of Investment Punk are filled with rants against the middle class, usually in the form of strawman arguments with…