Thinking, Fast and Slow – a book review

Daniel Kahneman is an interesting man. Born in 1934, he is a psychologist mostly concerned with prospect theory, decision making and the psychology of judgement. Incidentally and as a sideshow he also established the intellectual foundations of Behavioural Economics, for which he was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics. Unsurprisingly (or is it? he would ask), he also writes very interesting books.

Which line is longer?

Which line is longer?

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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Tying together the latest neurology, psychology and neurology research, Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit presents a compelling description of habits: how we get them, how we change them and their wider appearance in companies and entire societies. With the framework he builds it becomes possible to understand why I can’t resist sugar and why Rosa Parks (and no one else) truly set the Civil Rights movement in motion. What’s more, it becomes possible to change my sugar addiction and understand how BigRetailChain is pulling my psychological levers to make me buy more. Well written, interesting and enjoyable, I strongly recommend this book. Continue reading

如何我正在学中文 (How I’m learning Chinese)

For some reason, the fact that I’m learning Mandarin seems to impress lots of people. Whatever – I guess it’s because it’s a tonal language and doesn’t use a Latin alphabet? You could say the same thing about plenty of other languages like Russian and Arabic, but I only speak the one language right now so I’m not exactly in a good place to judge…

Anyway, I’ve poked at it for a while now, but 3-4 months ago I really started focusing on it, and now I’m making fantastic progress. It wasn’t just the extra focus though, because doing a few things differently really helped!

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Teaching technology to Plato

Broadly broadly, there are two ways of thinking about things. First of all, there’s the classic way. Call it the Platonic style – an infinity of absolute abstract forms, all very different from each other and none defined except by the examples which represent them. In direct contrast to this, there is mathematics. Formal, precise and  unambiguous definitions of simple things using simple rules. Then a dizzying array of combinations and the emergent properties which drive Stephen Wolfram wild. Call this by what Platonically exemplifies it best: the silicon style. But wait a moment! What on Earth does this rather obscure philosophising have to do with teaching technology?

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Why learn another language? Why even learn to read?

All my life, I’ve spoken English and only English. I’ve travelled broadly, across Asia and Europe, and knowing just one more language wouldn’t have been enough. Even then, in the strictest sense, I’ve never needed to know a foreign language. It’s amazing what pointing and speaking slowly and trying different words can do. In short, I’ve always got by. So why learn another language? Three reasons. Three huge, gob-smacking, little game-winning reasons that have nothing to do with utility and everything to do with happiness.

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