What We Are Reading Today: Discounting the Future: The Ascendancy of a Political Technology

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Updated 17 February 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Discounting the Future: The Ascendancy of a Political Technology

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Author: Liliana Doganova

Forest fires, droughts, and rising sea levels beg a nagging question: Have we lost our capacity to act on the future? Liliana Doganova’s book sheds new light on this anxious query. It argues that our relationship to the future has been trapped in the gears of a device called discounting. While its incidence remains little known, discounting has long been entrenched in market and policy practices, shaping the ways firms and governments look to the future and make decisions accordingly. Thus, a sociological account of discounting formulas has become urgent.
Discounting means valuing things through the flows of costs and benefits that they are likely to generate in the future, with these future flows being literally dis-counted as they are translated in the present.

How have we come to think of the future, and of valuation, in such terms? Building on original empirical research in the historical sociology of discounting, Doganova takes us to some of the sites and moments in which discounting took shape and gained momentum: valuation of European forests in the 18th and 19th centuries; economic theories devised in the early 1900s; debates over business strategies in the postwar era; investor-state disputes over the nationalization of natural resources; and drug development in the biopharmaceutical industry today. Weaving these threads together, the book pleads for an understanding of discounting as a political technology, and of the future as a contested domain.

 


Book Review: The Elephant in the Brain

Book Review: The Elephant in the Brain
Updated 27 May 2024
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Book Review: The Elephant in the Brain

Book Review: The Elephant in the Brain

Published in 2017, “The Elephant in the Brain” is an insightful book that takes readers on a journey into the hidden motives that shape human behavior and influence decision-making.

Writer and software engineer Kevin Simler and professor of economics Robin Hanson take a deep dive into the subconscious factors behind people’s choices in life and what drives them to act a certain way. 

The book explores the idea that many human behaviors are influenced by hidden motives, evolutionary drives, social signals, and other unconscious aspects that the conscious mind fails to recognize.

Through various examples and case studies, the authors address the elephant in the room — the unspoken and unflattering secrets behind everything, from career choices and charitable contributions to laughter and attraction. They invite readers to question personal motives, choices, and biases and reflect on themselves. 

One of the book’s strengths is its interdisciplinary approach, which gathers insights from several fields, including psychology, biology, and economics, to draw a more comprehensive picture for the reader.

However, “The Elephant in the Brain” might be a challenging read as it explores ideas regarding the nature of human behavior that some readers might find uncomfortable.

Yet, the authors skillfully maintain an objective, non-judgmental tone throughout, encouraging readers to approach the topic with a mindset of self-reflection and intellectual curiosity.

“The Elephant in the Brain” is well-researched and a great choice for people interested in understanding the hidden drivers behind human decision-making.


What We Are Reading Today: Civilization in Transition

What We Are Reading Today: Civilization in Transition
Updated 27 May 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: Civilization in Transition

What We Are Reading Today: Civilization in Transition

Author: C. G. Jung

‘The “Civilization in Transition” features Jung’s writings on contemporary events, especially the relation between the individual and society.

In the earliest essay, “The Role of the Unconscious” (1918), Jung advanced the theory that World War I was a psychological crisis originating in the collective unconscious of individuals. 


Book Review: ‘Outlive’

Book Review: ‘Outlive’
Updated 26 May 2024
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Book Review: ‘Outlive’

Book Review: ‘Outlive’

In “Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity,” Dr. Peter Attia (with Bill Gifford), a renowned physician and longevity expert, flips the script on aging.

He argues for a proactive approach that involves taking control of one’s health to prevent chronic diseases before they happen.

Attia ditches the one-size-fits-all mentality and instead focuses on four key pillars: diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. He dives into the science behind each, explaining how they impact cellular health and ultimately, lifespan.

“Outlive” does not promise you a fad diet or a magic pill. Attia emphasizes personalized strategies and encourages tracking key health markers like blood sugar and blood pressure to understand the body's unique needs.

But it is not all biohacking. Attia acknowledges the mind-body connection, highlighting the importance of sleep and good relationships for a long, fulfilling life.

Moreover, the book explores the intricate science behind longevity and delves into the various factors that contribute to living a longer, healthier life.

The book provides readers with actionable strategies to optimize their healthspan, allowing them to not only extend their years but also improve their quality of life as they age.

Like an owner’s manual for health, “Outlive” empowers the reader to take charge, optimize their health, and not just live longer, but live a life that feels truly alive.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Career Arts

What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Career Arts
Updated 26 May 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Career Arts

What We Are Reading Today: ‘The Career Arts

Author: Ben Wildavasky 

Young people coming out of high school today can expect to hold many jobs over the course of their lives, which is why they need a range of essential skills.

“The Career Arts” provides a corrective to the widespread and misleading notion that there is a direct trade-off between going to college and acquiring practical job skills.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Color in Nature’

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Color in Nature’
Updated 25 May 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Color in Nature’

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Color in Nature’

Authors: Justin Marshall, Thomas Cronin, Sonke Johnsen, Ron Douglas, Anya Hurlbert, Jane Boddy and Fabio Cortesi

This beautifully illustrated book unlocks nature’s colorful purpose, revealing how creatures see color as well as shedding light on the important part that it plays in animal behavior, from reproduction and communication to aggression and defense.