What We Are Reading Today: The World: A Brief Introduction

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Updated 05 July 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The World: A Brief Introduction

Author: Richard Haass

The ambition of Richard Haass’ new book is clear from its title: The World: A Brief Introduction.
In just 400 pages, Haass, who has been the president of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations since 2003, offers a primer on world affairs.
“The whole lesson of this pandemic, and the whole lesson of 9/11, is we can’t ignore the world, or if we do ignore the world, it’s at our peril,” Haass says.
“These oceans that surround us are not moats. We’ve got to pay attention to the world and we’ve got to fix things here at home.”
Mark Atwood Lawrence said in a review for The New York Times that the book eschews any interest in academic theories, which Haass gratuitously dismisses as “too abstract and too far removed from what is happening to be of value to most of us.”
Instead, Haass promises a practical guide to help everyday people understand global forces in which their lives are increasingly enmeshed, even if they do not always know it or like it.
The author’s “restrained approach does not mean that the book lacks big takeaways,” said the review.


What We Are Reading Today: Generative Social Science

Updated 05 August 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Generative Social Science

Author: Joshua M. Epstein

Agent-based computational modeling is changing the face of social science. In Generative Social Science, Joshua Epstein argues that this powerful, novel technique permits the social sciences to meet a fundamentally new standard of explanation, in which one “grows” the phenomenon of interest in an artificial society of interacting agents: heterogeneous, boundedly rational actors, represented as mathematical or software objects.
After elaborating this notion of generative explanation in a pair of overarching foundational chapters, Epstein illustrates it with examples chosen from such far-flung fields as archaeology, civil conflict, the evolution of norms, epidemiology, retirement economics, spatial games, and organizational adaptation.
In elegant chapter preludes, he explains how these widely diverse modeling studies support his sweeping case for generative explanation.
This book represents a powerful consolidation of Epstein’s interdisciplinary research activities in the decade since the publication of his and Robert Axtell’s landmark volume, Growing Artificial Societies.