In My Hands Today…

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable than it was.

The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.

Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities.

We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”

For years, Taleb has studied how we fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world. Now, in this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know. He offers surprisingly simple tricks for dealing with black swans and benefiting from them.

Elegant, startling, and universal in its applications The Black Swan will change the way you look at the world. Taleb is a vastly entertaining writer, with wit, irreverence, and unusual stories to tell. He has a polymathic command of subjects ranging from cognitive science to business to probability theory.

In My Hands Today…

No Logo – Naomi Klein

No Logo employs journalistic savvy and personal testament to detail the insidious practises and far-reaching effects of corporate marketing—and the powerful potential of a growing activist sect that will surely alter the course of the 21st century. First published before the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, this is an infuriating, inspiring, and altogether pioneering work of cultural criticism that investigates money, marketing, and the anti-corporate movement.

As global corporations compete for the hearts and wallets of consumers who not only buy their products but willingly advertise them from head to toe—witness today’s schoolbooks, superstores, sporting arenas, and brand-name synergy—a new generation has begun to battle consumerism with its own best weapons. In this provocative, well-written study, a front-line report on that battle, we learn how the Nike swoosh has changed from an athletic status-symbol to a metaphor for sweatshop labor, how teenaged McDonald’s workers are risking their jobs to join the Teamsters, and how “culture jammers” utilize spray paint, computer-hacking acumen, and anti-propagandist wordplay to undercut the slogans and meanings of billboard ads (as in “Joe Chemo” for “Joe Camel”).

No Logo will challenge and enlighten students of sociology, economics, popular culture, international affairs, and marketing.

In My Hands Today…

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

If you want to build a better future, you must believe in secrets.

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.

Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.

In My Hands Today…

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think – Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund

Factfulness:The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.

When asked simple questions about global trends – why the world’s population is increasing; how many young women go to school; how many of us live in poverty – we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.

In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and a man who can make data sing, Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens, and reveals the ten instincts that distort our perspective.

It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.

In My Hands Today…

Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale – Adam Minter

Downsizing. Decluttering. A parent’s death. Sooner or later, all of us are faced with things we no longer need or want. But when we drop our old clothes and other items off at a local donation center, where do they go? Sometimes across the country-or even halfway across the world-to people and places who find value in what we leave behind.

In Secondhand, journalist Adam Minter takes us on an unexpected adventure into the often-hidden, multibillion-dollar industry of reuse: thrift stores in the American Southwest to vintage shops in Tokyo, flea markets in Southeast Asia to used-goods enterprises in Ghana, and more. Along the way, Minter meets the fascinating people who handle-and profit from-our rising tide of discarded stuff, and asks a pressing question: In a world that craves shiny and new, is there room for it all?

Secondhand offers hopeful answers and hard truths. A history of the stuff we’ve used and a contemplation of why we keep buying more, it also reveals the marketing practices, design failures, and racial prejudices that push used items into landfills instead of new homes. Secondhand shows us that it doesn’t have to be this way, and what really needs to change to build a sustainable future free of excess stuff.