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The cover describes Stratfor (the intelligence company Friedman founded) as a “Shadow CIA”. By this book’s description of the CIA, this implies it has a lot of details right but misses many important broad trends. The book tends to have weaknesses of this nature, being better as a history of Al Qaeda’s conflict with the […]

Rare Earth : Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe provides some fairly strong (and not well known) arguments that animal life on earth has been very lucky, and that planetary surfaces are typically much more hostile to multicellular life than our experience leads us to expect. The most convincing parts of the book […]

Book review: Tripping over the Truth: the Return of the Metabolic Theory of Cancer Illuminates a New and Hopeful Path to a Cure, by Travis Christofferson. This book is mostly a history of cancer research, focusing on competing grand theories, and the treatments suggested by the author’s preferred theory. That’s a simple theory where the […]

Book review: Principles: Life and Work, by Ray Dalio. Most popular books get that way by having an engaging style. Yet this book’s style is mundane, almost forgetable. Some books become bestsellers by being controversial. Others become bestsellers by manipulating reader’s emotions, e.g. by being fun to read, or by getting the reader to overestimate […]

Book review: Time Biases: A Theory of Rational Planning and Personal Persistence, by Meghan Sullivan. I was very unsure about whether this book would be worth reading, as it could easily have been focused on complaints about behavior that experts have long known are mistaken. I was pleasantly surprised when it quickly got to some […]

Book review: Artificial Intelligence Safety and Security, by Roman V. Yampolskiy. This is a collection of papers, with highly varying topics, quality, and importance. Many of the papers focus on risks that are specific to superintelligence, some assuming that a single AI will take over the world, and some assuming that there will be many […]

Book review: Where Is My Flying Car? A Memoir of Future Past, by J. Storrs Hall (aka Josh). If you only read the first 3 chapters, you might imagine that this is the history of just one industry (or the mysterious lack of an industry). But this book attributes the absence of that industry to […]

Book review: Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty. Capital in the Twenty-First Century is decent at history, mediocre at economics, unimpressive at forecasting, and gives policy advice that is thoughtfully adapted to his somewhat controversial goals. His goals involve a rather different set of priorities than I endorse, but the book mostly doesn’t […]

Book review: The Book of Why, by Judea Pearl and Dana MacKenzie. This book aims to turn the ideas from Pearl’s seminal Causality into something that’s readable by a fairly wide audience. It is somewhat successful. Most of the book is pretty readable, but parts of it still read like they were written for mathematicians. […]