Books

Why We Crave Joining Exclusive Groups

Why We Crave Joining Exclusive Groups

In school we were all “equal”. As pupils, part of mass education program, we had no formal way to organise ourselves into preference based groups. But we did it anyway. I can bet that cool kids formed a very tight band in your school, one where admission was invitation only. You may have been part of one but the majority was excluded from the cool kids club and chose to join geekier ones. 

The behaviour does not change after school. Unlike schools, workplaces have very deep formal hierarchies. But the tendency to group ourselves into affinity-driven informal groups remains. In any corporation there are unofficial crowds where decisions are being made. It’s what people mean when they complain that there is too much politics in a company or that decisions are not transparent enough. 

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The Word for World is Forrest

Did James Cameron read this novel from Ursula Le Guin? Because this short 1972 award-winning novel seems to be the Avatar of science fiction books. I consider myself a fan of the author, but all her books are mixed bags (social justice, tendency towards preservation of nature, vilifying humans, very interesting civilizations created by their different evolutionary paths) and this one is no different. You should pick it up if you are in the mood for a quick SF read.

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The story is part of a larger universe, in which humans did not start their existance on Earth, but where, for whatever reason, Terra became just one of the planets where humans, in various forms, lived. One of these worlds is Athshe, where tribal, peaceful green humanoids are being enslaved by terrans to cut all their forests and ship them to a deserted Earth. Why would a galactic civilization, capable of light travel and instantaneous communication, need lumber so much is never answered. But hey, it is not like unobtanium  was a brilliant choice either. Anything is good as long as we can paint the story of humans being murderous slave loving monsters. I will not spoil the story, but you can probably guess it in a few minutes.

There is however something that I found quite interesting. Our small green friends had a very interesting characteristic, which consisted of having blurred lines between dreams and the real-world. This allowed them to have a deep connection to their subconsciousness, separating their actions from the narrative illusion we are trapped in by our feelings. This Buddhist like super-power brought in some interesting plot twists. Is this where the author is at her best and this book does not dissapoint. 

Le Guin was the best anthropology focused fiction writer and even when she wrote mediocre books like this one, she can have an impact.

The Twilight of Humanity & the Rise of Home Deus

The Twilight of Humanity & the Rise of Home Deus

I have a tendency to avoid hyped books. Sapiens and its sequel, Homo Deus, were definitely part of this category, having been praised by presidents or thought leaders (whatever that means). But an article about the meditative practice of the author, who’s also a jewish gay historian, spiked my interest. So.... I finally read both of them.

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Jobs suck. What's to be done?

Jobs suck. What's to be done?

Go to school. Prove your worth by getting your diploma. Find a job. Work hard. Don’t break the rules. Cash in your pay-check every month. Enjoy your life after work. The end. 

This is the life pattern most of us grew up with and one that still reverberates strongly today as most of the social institutions are set up for this modus operandi. But lots of us can fell the wind of change. We may not be fully capable to put it into words but “times they are a changing”. It is something I have been thinking for a while. I think your Spider senses are tingling too.

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3 Body Trilogy - a new SF Classic

3 Body Trilogy -  a new SF Classic

If you are a SF fan than you probably heard of the “3 Body” books series. Liu Cixin’s books have brought Chinese SF into the limelight winning numerous awards and critical acclaim (the former US president being amongst the fans). I enjoyed these books tremendously and this review serves as a way for me to bring fwd some of the items that sticked with me. 

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On the philosophical importance of Science Fiction

On the philosophical importance of Science Fiction

Science Fiction can be seen as an exploration of existing or future problems we are confronting with. There are two types of SF novels that I like. The first kind, practiced by Frank Herbert or George Orwell for example, uses alien, fictional environments as scenes that exacerbate current social issues. Their books serve as fictional laboratories that blow all humans convention out of the water thus allowing them to take current philosophical trends to the extreme.  Herbert, for example, does this with religion and cult-building as Dune, his famous sand planet, offers him the perfect environment to isolate the issue for literary exploration ...

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Why do things catch on and become viral?

Why do things catch on and become viral?

I was always curious about the way people make decisions as this could have a huge impact on the products I may be building or the content that I put out. In the past I read all the typical popular books claiming to offer a scientific deconstruction of human behaviour. "Contagious" by Jonah Berger, a Wharton professor of marketing, is my most recent read in this field of behavioral economics. Jonah's book is focusing on virality and promises to offer a theory of virality and to answer the million dollar question: "Why do things catch on?".

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