What We Are Reading Today: Promoting Peace with Information by Dan Lindley

What We Are Reading Today: Promoting Peace with Information by Dan Lindley
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Updated 28 February 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Promoting Peace with Information by Dan Lindley

What We Are Reading Today: Promoting Peace with Information by Dan Lindley

It is normally assumed that international security regimes such as the UN can reduce the risk of war by increasing transparency among adversarial nations. 

The more adversaries understand each other’s intentions and capabilities, the thinking goes, the less likely they are to be led to war by miscalculations and unwarranted fears. But how is transparency provided, how does it actually work, and how effective is it in preserving or restoring peace? 

In Promoting Peace with Information, Dan Lindley provides the first scholarly answer to these important questions, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Lindley rigorously examines a wide range of cases, including UN peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, the Golan Heights, Namibia, and Cambodia; arms-control agreements, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and the historical example of the Concert of Europe, which sought to keep the peace following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. 

Making nuanced arguments based on extensive use of primary sources, interviews, and field research, Lindley shows when transparency succeeds in promoting peace, and when it fails.


What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson

What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson
Updated 15 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson

What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson

Robin Hanson in the “The Age of Em” thinks that robots may one day rule the world.

Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or “ems.” 

Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human.

Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: An army of workers is at your disposal. When they can be made cheaply, within perhaps a century, ems will displace humans in most jobs. 

Applying decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, Hanson uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems.

Ems make us question common assumptions of moral progress, because they reject many of the values we hold dear.

This book shows you just how strange your descendants may be, though ems are no stranger than we would appear.  To most ems, it seems good to be an em.


What We Are Reading Today: The Elephant in the Brain

What We Are Reading Today: The Elephant in the Brain
Updated 14 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Elephant in the Brain

What We Are Reading Today: The Elephant in the Brain

Edited by Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson

In “The Elephant in the Brain,” Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson argue that human beings are primates that are political animals. Our brains, therefore, are designed not just to hunt and gather, but also to help us get ahead socially, often via deception and self-deception. 

But while we may be self-interested schemers, we benefit by pretending otherwise. The less we know about our ugly motives, the better — and thus we don’t like to talk or even think about our selfishness. This is “the elephant in the brain.” 

Such an introspective taboo makes it hard for us to think clearly about our nature and the explanations for our behavior. This book confronts our hidden motives directly and tracks down the darker, unexamined corners of our psyches and blast them with floodlights.

Our unconscious motives drive more than just our private behavior; they also infect our venerated social institutions. You won’t see yourself — or the world — the same after confronting the elephant in the brain.


What We Are Reading Today: The Knowledge Illusion

What We Are Reading Today: The Knowledge Illusion
Updated 13 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Knowledge Illusion

What We Are Reading Today: The Knowledge Illusion

Edited by Steven Sloman & Philip Fernbach

In “The Knowledge Illusion,” cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach argue that we survive and thrive despite our mental shortcomings because we live in a rich community of knowledge. The key to our intelligence lies in things around us. We’re constantly drawing on information and expertise stored outside our heads.

The human mind is both brilliant and pathetic. We have mastered fire, created democratic institutions, stood on the moon, and sequenced our genome. 

And yet each of us is error prone, sometimes irrational, and often ignorant. The fundamentally communal nature of intelligence and knowledge explains why we often assume we know more than we really do, why political opinions and false beliefs are so hard to change, and why individually oriented approaches to education and management frequently fail. But our collaborative minds also enable us to do amazing things. 

This book contends that true genius can be found in the ways we create intelligence using the world around us.


‘Wuf,’ a fantastical love story narrated by a canine

‘Wuf,’ a fantastical love story narrated by a canine
Updated 12 April 2021

‘Wuf,’ a fantastical love story narrated by a canine

‘Wuf,’ a fantastical love story narrated by a canine

CHICAGO: A fantastical novel that took the Turkish literary world by storm, Kemal Varol’s “Wuf” is a love story narrated by a canine. Translated into English by Dayla Rogers, the novel takes place in the 1990s amid a war between the southerners and northerners. Mikasa, the main character and a young street pup, learns about life and how to survive between the big city and the mountain town where he attempts to find shelter, food, friends and love. His journey will transform him into a legend and an enigma.

With a politically charged backdrop of the conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the state, Varol layers his surrealist novel with humor, tragedy, friendship and the horrors of war that befall places, people, animals and the natural landscape. He keeps a politically realistic and emotional novel accessible to everyone, according to Rogers in the translator’s statement, as she points out that Varol “manages to capture multiple perspectives in the conflict thanks to myriad characters who straddle social divides.” Varol creates his main character as a bridge to opposing worlds, and in doing so allows for the story to reach eyes, ears and hearts on all sides of the conflict.

Readers first meet Mikasa at a shelter along a mountain road. He arrives half alive, wounded and bloody, and sleeps for seven days as his fellow kennel-mates speculate about who he is. They are in the middle of a war, as is evident by the army trucks and soldiers that pass on the road day and night. There are rumors among the dogs about what is going on in a world that they are kept from, but Mikasa fills in the gaps as he recalls his life, the war, the destruction and hardship, and Melsa, his love.

Varol’s novel references real political events that inundated the country in the 1990s. In Mikasa, a dog who has been forced to survive his entire life without his family and as a minesweeper during the conflict, Varol captures the devastation of war and the comradery between creatures when fighting for life. Through the eyes of his canines, Varol writes about life that surrounds war, those who want to fight, those who do not want to fight, and those who are caught in the middle.


What We Are Reading Today: High Conflict by Amanda Ripley

What We Are Reading Today: High Conflict by Amanda Ripley
Updated 12 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: High Conflict by Amanda Ripley

What We Are Reading Today: High Conflict by Amanda Ripley

New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist Amanda Ripley investigates how good people get captured by high conflict — and how they break free.

The concept of high conflict is portrayed in a well-researched and relatable manner.  Ripley “is an eloquent writer and her organization of ideas and stories is brilliant,” a critic commented in goodreads.com.

Yascha Mounk said in a review for The New York Times: “In High Conflict, Ripley tells the harrowing tales of people who got drawn into fights that consume their lives and make them capable of committing terrible injustices, from a gang leader on the South Side of Chicago to a guerrilla fighter in the Colombian jungle.” 

Mounk added: But with a scrupulous eye for scientific evidence that is rare in a book this entertaining, Ripley also explains how it is possible for hardened combatants to leave behind the conflicts that once defined the core of their identity.”

Conflict, Ripley argues, can be productive. 

“It is often good for people who disagree to state their differences and advocate for their own interests,” said the review.