The Age of the Infovore: Succeeding in the Information Economy

Quick Thoughts:
  1. Tyler Cowen has a fantastic blog called Marginal Revolution where he pushed his book.  I don't think I would have picked it up if it wasn't for that.  I'm glad I did, because it changed my thinking on how I want to use the internet.
  2. The fundamental concept I took away from the book is that different forms communication suit different parts of our personality.  I wouldn't have bothered to go active on twitter account without that (fairly obvious) insight.  Here's more thinking on that on the Where's Wiebe blog (link).
  3. The author seems pretty obsessed with autism and its benefits.  If that sounds counter-intuitive, he knows it.  He actually spends the entire first chapter attacking the idea of autism as a disability and defending his own viewpoint.  The basic idea is that autism is really a different way of dealing with information, which (depending on the level of autism) is particularly well suited to the internet.  He builds on this idea through-out the book.
  4. Overall, the book feels pretty dis-jointed and works anyway.  The author jumps from subject to subject.  He spends half a chapter dissecting why people liked the Sherlock Holmes.  Everything sorta holds together.  I have to say that it kept the reading fun.  You never really had idea what examples he was going to use to advance his arguments.  He covers music, instant messaging, philosophy, and even alien life.  Reading this book is like having a really great conversation with someone who is brilliant.  The ideas just flow and things you wouldn't expect to hang together (Sherlock Holmes?) fit in with his points.


Everything Bad is Good for You

Quick Thoughts:
  1. This book is an argument that we're getting smarter and it's caused by popular culture.  And it's fun.  I'm not sure it holds together as he isn't able to provide much more than a correlation between the increasing complexity of popular culture and a rise in IQ scores.  That said, the author trashes the argument that video games and TV are making us stupid.
  2. I really loved the section on games and how they have changed over the years.  Granted, I've been living this trendline since I was... very young.  But the argument carried weight with me.  Expecially the parts about telescoping and problem solving.
  3. The TV argument is pretty fun too.  TV is more complex that it used to be.  Comparing the number of threadlines today versus the early 80s and earlier really holds up.
  4. If you like bucking against the conventional wisdom that pop culture makes us worse off, you'll enjoy the writer's argument.  Personally, I can't stand hearing people moan about how reality TV means we're in a cultural decline.  So this book suited me just fine.

Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism

Quick Thoughts:
  1. This book is another blend of the ideas of behavioral economics with traditional economic analysis.  It's a pretty quick read and I found it interesting.
  2. The major idea behind the book is that traditional economic analysis misses a lot and actually gets things pretty wrong.  The authors present the idea that key concepts are not well understood by economists which really explain why the economy can get so overheated and so depressed.  The concepts are confidence, fairness, corruption, money illusion, and stories.  The authors devote a chapter defining each concept and how each affects the economy.
  3. OK, so the book feel a little mushy.  The concepts are fairly clear and the authors answer several questions using them.  But, it's hard to feel like this is an all-inclusive theory for economic behavior.  One of the fun thing about economics is that it pretends to be so predictive with all of its fun charts and curves.  These guys, fully aware of all the niceties, decide to take it down.  I actually think they are right, humanity can't be fully explained with math, but I really do like pretty and predictive charts.
  4. I'm probably overstating things a bit.  These guys are fully capable of using traditional economic analysis.  They just want to overlay it with softer, less mathematical concepts.  They mess with the models and show 'general' flaws.  Rather than getting it exactly wrong, they strive to get the arrows pointed in the right direction.
  5. And they are very convincing.  It's very helpful that they are writing in early 2009 when the entire world economy looked ready to fail.  Their ideas make a great deal of sense in this context.