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  • The Blank Slate

  • The Modern Denial of Human Nature
  • Written by: Steven Pinker
  • Narrated by: Victor Bevine
  • Length: 22 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 38
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 37
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 36

In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker, one of the world's leading experts on language and the mind, explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. With characteristic wit, lucidity, and insight, Pinker argues that the dogma that the mind has no innate traits, denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces objective analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of politics, violence, parenting, and the arts.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Pinker is an intellectual Perseus.

  • By Vladimir Druts on 2018-03-10

Fascinating study of human cognition

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-10-27

This book covers in very extensive and nuanced details how genetic factors may play a role in how we behave. Pinker makes no simllistic assertions here: genes play games and the emerging strategies express themselves as emotions, reflexes, biases, etc., all of which are susceptible of interaction with each other and the world, both physical and social.

Of all possible priors, assuming human behavior, cognition and psychology is biologically unbounded is at one extreme of an entire spectrum of possibilities. Pinker suggests the appeal of this idea might have grown out of horror for Nazi Germany and, indeed, nothing more explicitely emboddies disgusting human tendencies than Nazism. You want to flee far from that -- and the blank slate is as far as you can conceptually flee.

It is a great read for anyone interested in human behavior, though it curiously seems political in this day and age.

As far as I can tell, knowing how we behave is the best way to design successful solutions to our problems -- and Pinker once again puts his finger on a bleeding wound.

The nicest part about Pinker is that he leans relatively leftward, technically does study humanities and social sciences and is a college professor: it is hard to paint him genuinely in a bad light as he is commenting about his own circles.

It is a great read, even if you aren't interested in the problems that emerged recently on college campuses. How he ties biology to behavior is a very good and rather simple summary of scientific research. He also takes the time to explain the details of how we reach conclusions, so you get to understand the most important aspect of science: which questions to ask.

  • Accessory to War

  • The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military
  • Written by: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Avis Lang
  • Narrated by: Courtney B. Vance, Neil deGrasse Tyson - introduction
  • Length: 18 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 34
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 28
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 26

In this fascinating foray into the centuries-old relationship between science and military power, acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and writer-researcher Avis Lang examine how the methods and tools of astrophysics have been enlisted in the service of war. "The overlap is strong, and the knowledge flows in both directions", say the authors, because astrophysicists and military planners care about many of the same things: multi-spectral detection, ranging, tracking, imaging, high ground, nuclear fusion, and access to space. Tyson and Lang call it a "curiously complicit" alliance.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Mind Melting.

  • By T King on 2018-09-18

NDGT nails it again

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-10-27

The authors did a great job of uncovering details that help paint a complete picture of how scientific and political interests often aligned in ways that helped foster technological improvements.

The underlying science is interesting in itself, presented in a clear way by NDGT as usual. The history and politics would also make for the best history course of your life.

Kodoos to both authors!

  • Right Here, Right Now

  • Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption
  • Written by: Stephen J. Harper
  • Narrated by: Stephen J. Harper
  • Length: 5 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 153
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 139
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 138

The world is in flux. Disruptive technologies, ideas, and politicians are challenging business models, norms, and political conventions everywhere. How we, as leaders in business and politics, choose to respond matters greatly. Right Here, Right Now sets out a pragmatic, forward-looking vision for leaders in business and politics by analyzing how economic, social, and public policy trends - including globalized movements of capital, goods, and services, and labor - have affected our economies, communities, and governments.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Very good.

  • By Shawn on 2018-10-25

Excellent analysis

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 2018-10-27

Harper is surprisingly calm, thoughtful. He obviously has a conservative take on current issues, but I think his claims can be helpful to a more left leaning audience as well.

Most of the book covers the underlying causes behind the rise of right wing populism in the West. Roughly speaking, Harper is making the case that working and middle class citizens have genuine grievances that are largely ignored regarding immigration and trade. It is hard to deny him this point. Some right leaning politicians have been almost dogmatically wedded to solving all ills with more decentralization, more high end tax cuts, more deregulation and freer trade. On the left, a growing habit of trying to paint the opposition as mentally ill or reckless to avoid arguing over substance is also part of the problem. The right turned a deaf hear to middle class people and the left insulted them -- enters Trump who says he'll do something in the least politically correct prose he could muster.

Harper's insights echo comments made by Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson regarding the backlash against political correctness and the dangers of identity politics. The same could be drawn from Pinker's not-so-subtle stabs at the left on college campuses: all of these people agree you get in trouble when you don't listen.

This short book by Harper covers in details several aspects of the problems in the US. Given Harper worked extensively on immigration and trade as Prime Minister of Canada, it is no surprise he has a lot to say about US immigration policy, trade policy and foreign policy.

If you lean more to the left, his comments could bother you, but he is extremely thoughtful and pragmatic. It is a great read, filled with intricate details about how to manage competing goals and bring about beneficial cooperation in this world today.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful