Conscious by Annaka Harris Book CoverHere are the top eight nonfiction books coming out in June 2019. My plan is to review the first four. Conscious is a brief history of our understanding of consciousness; Conscience examines how we determine right and wrong from science and philosophy; Out of Our Minds is a fascinating take on the history of ideas; and The Royal Society is a new take on the history of the Royal Society, the club that created modern scientific thought.

  1. Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind by Annaka Harris
  2. Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition by Patricia Churchland
  3. Out of Our Minds: What We Think and How We Came to Think It by Felipe Fernández-Armesto
  4. The Royal Society: And the Invention of Modern Science by Adrian Tinniswood
  5. Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane
  6. The Doomsday Calculation: How an Equation that Predicts the Future Is Transforming Everything We Know About Life and the Universe by William Poundstone
  7. The Last Unknowns: Deep, Elegant, Profound Unanswered Questions About the Universe, the Mind, the Future of Civilization, and the Meaning of Life by John Brockman
  8. This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto by Suketu Mehta

The Reality Bubble Book CoverIf the history of science over the last 450 years has taught us anything, it is that there is a major mismatch between perception and reality. The invisible forces so important to our understanding of the world—from heliocentrism and gravity to evolution and microorganisms—were discovered only by scientists bold and radical enough to see what everyone else was blind to. It is only through the extension of our senses and the transcendence of our cognitive limitations that we have made any progress in our knowledge of the world at all.

That human sensation and perception is limited is a major understatement: humans can see less than 1 percent of the electromagnetic spectrum (visible light), making us literally blind to 99 percent of it. Other animals can not only see better and farther than us, many have greater sensitivity to a wider range of colors while others can see ultraviolet and infrared light and even magnetic fields. We are deaf to most frequencies and incapable of experiencing many smells, tastes, and sensations. We are blind to the smallest scales (and to the trillions of bacterial cells that inhabit our bodies) and to the farthest reaches of the known universe (46 billion light-years across).

Continue reading “How Psychological Blind Spots and Illusions Shape Our Reality”

People, Power, and Profits book coverFirst, let’s start with some statistics: Over the last 30 to 40 years, every major statistical measure of income inequality in the United States has increased significantly, now approaching the same extreme levels as prevailed before the Great Depression. If you visit inequality.org, the charts speak for themselves.

Over the last third of a century, the income share for the top 1 percent has doubled while the poverty rate has remained the same. The richest Americans have experienced the fastest income growth while middle class incomes have stagnated (imagine if middle class incomes had doubled and what that would mean for home ownership). From 1979 to 2017, worker productivity has increased by 138 percent while worker hourly compensation has increased by only 23 percent. The difference in wealth creation has gone to the top. In 1965, CEOs made 24 times the wages of the average production worker; in 2019, they made 185 times the average salary.

Continue reading “The Case for Progressive Capitalism: A Review of People, Power, and Profits by Joseph Stiglitz”

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor book coverStoicism is a practical philosophy that emphasizes rationality and virtue as the only true goods. Unlike other religious or spiritual practices, Stoicism does not require that you abandon reason or strain your grip on reality; rather, it provides an ethical orientation to life that is fully consistent with our nature as rational, social beings.

Stoicism therefore embraces the original Greek conception of philosophy as a way of life, a subject matter to be practiced rather than simply studied. Far removed from the logical hair splitting of academic philosophy, Stoicism is about living well, with an emphasis on ethics and the attainment of true contentment and excellence of character.

Continue reading “What Marcus Aurelius Can Teach Us About the Practice of Stoicism”