August 30, 2013
Has been a juicy range of thought provoking stuff this month.
Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master Speaks
Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore for 31 years, during which time it went from being a third world country to a first world country. He is seemingly the most respected and smartest statesman alive. This book, arranged out of interviews with him, addresses his thoughts on the issues facing the modern world and its future: the US, China, US-China relations, India, Fundamentalist Islam, Globalisation, etc. Lots of exceptionally sharp insight, very highly recommended if you are interested in what is going on in the world.
23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism – Ha Joon Chang
Some pretty interesting stuff. Most striking was the claim that the internet has changed the world less than the washing machine. The washing machine freed up masses of work hours, allowed women to enter the workforce, and eliminated an entire class of domestic servants, whereas the internet is just a different delivery mechanism for many of the same things. Also, there is no such thing as a free market; rather, we accept the legitimacy of certain regulations so totally that we don’t see them. And also, wages in rich countries are determined more by immigration control than anything else – obvious when pointed out, but not obvious until then.
The Driver – Mandasue Heller
Hard to explain how I came to read this. British crime thriller set on a council estate among unemployed stoners. Easy to read but pretty empty, like bad TV or a bad movie, though with some reasonably astute character observation.
Quintessence – David Walton
Whimsical SF/F set in an alternate Elizabethan age. The Protestant Reformation is about to happen, and a ship returns from the Western edge of a flat Earth, with reports of a wondrous island. Very inventive creatures, lots of fun, light entertainment.
Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet – Julian Assange, Jacob Applebaum, Andy Muller-Maguhn, Jeremie Zimmerman
Highly relevant punchy call to arms dealing with online surveillance, privacy, freedom, and infrastructure; a conversation between Assange and some fairly clued up hackers. One notable quote, in light of the GCSB bill:
Intercepting all metadata means you have to build a system that physically intercepts all data and then throws everything but the metadata away. But such a system cannot be trusted. There’s no way to determine whether it is in fact intercepting and storing all data without having highly skilled engineers with authorization to go in and check out precisely what is going on, and there’s no political will to grant access.
Gets pretty techy but still lots for the casual interested reader.
Sex at Dawn: the Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality – Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
Highly entertaining, delivers some well-needed shit-kicking-out-of to evolutionary psychology. Essential thesis is that agriculture changed everything, and that for the millions of years before that, humanity more likely lived in egalitarian hunter gatherer bands who would have shared everything, including sex, such that most adults would have had multiple sexual relationships at any one time.
The Resurrectionist – E B Hudspeth
What an odd book. A brief faux-biography of a turn of the century doctor with some weird theories, combined with a reprint of his purported masterwork, extensive anatomical (skeletons, muscles, etc) cross sections of mythical creatures.
currently on: Stealing Fire From The Gods – James Bonnet. Which is one of those sort of “here is the archetypal secret underlying storytelling books”. Interesting so far.
Still looking to get back to The God Problem.