books

These are my notes from books I read. Each page’s title is also a link to the corresponding GoodReads entry. You can see my GoodReads lists here.

The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing

This book was my first real exposure to minimalism, and it completely changed how I feel about the possession of objects. It was super fortunate that my wife and I listened to it together on a road trip, and became equally enthralled with the idea of dumping all of our excess clutter. all at once We have excess clutter because of a fundamental problem with the way we deal with possessions.
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The smartest kids in the world

The PISA test tests common senses reasoning. The countries that did best on the test were a surprise to everyone. Finland, South Korea, and Poland were all standouts in their own ways, and Ripley compares the policies and learning environments in these countries with those of the US to determine why the US is falling behind, especially in math and science. We talk a lot about parent involvement in the US, but the US actually has above average parental involvement.
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The gene: an intimate history

These are notes I made after finishing the book, so they’ll be more heavily weighted toward concepts discussed near the end. The first half of the book was primarily dedicated to a history of genetic research, which I think helped the reader understand the issues discussed in the latter half. playing God It seems like our identity derives from a complicated combination of genes and chance environmental effects. Part of our strength as a species has been our natural variation, and to begin editing the genome is to assume that we can do it better than evolution has done up until this point.
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Tools and weapons: the promise and peril of the digital age

I started taking notes later in the book. There were lots of good insights in the first half. Sorry! broadband access Getting the internet to rural communities is a big deal for the rural economy. Just like electricity, it’s something that needs government support because there isn’t the economic incentive for ISPs to reach some of these locations. ethical AI The focus on AI now is not just a fad, but a convergence of several trends that have made AI the next logical step: the increased computational resources, flexible access to compute through the cloud, etc.
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Blink: the power of thinking without thinking

Our subconscious not only manages bodily systems but also performs processing of features in our experience that our conscious does not have time to process. This has been proven in lots of experiments where people have been given subconscious cues to help them solve problems, but the people are unaware of this and make up answers when asked to explain how they came to conclusions. It’s important to trust these judgments that seem to come out of nowhere, but if we try to explain them we’ll start trying to provide rational answers, which can be totally false or misleading.
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