Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,

2 superb books

This month I've gone on a huge reading jag. Like ten books. Two new ones deserve shortlisting for best of the decade(!):

1) No Two Alike. This is child development, personality psych on a grand scale. Judith Rich Harris sees herself as a scholarly detective, slowly building the best model ever for how we shape our social selves through adolescence. Her field was originally just psychology, but she's turned out to draw most heavily on behavioral genetics and Pinker-school evolpsych.

Her main hypothesis:

Personality gets created through the interplay of three mental systems: the relationship system, the socialization system, and the status system. The relationship system lets us attach to, and later relate to, specific individuals. The socialization system lets us figure out the norms of groups so we can fit in. The relationship system is with us at birth, and the socialization system develops around 2-3 yrs. The slowest system to emerge is the status system, which we use to set ourselves apart and excel within our group.

The socialization and status systems are often at odds: Do I do what's best for me even if it risks harming others? Most of a life's high drama involves trade-offs among these systems.
Harris is fun to read for her wry humor and her careful clarity. Her thoughts are among the most precise in the social sciences, so you'll feel glad she puts them so straightforwardly.

I walked away freshly noticing how our personalities are omnipresent and layered. If you're likely to have children or you love science, you definitely should look at No Two Alike.

2) The Poker Face of Wall Street. This is perspectives on how pure risk-taking is often the efficient way to channel resources for productive use. Naked risk is always looked at as a cost, as something to be minimized. The author starts there like everyone else, but ends up believing that even most poker games are big-picture productive!! He is a high-level quant (at Morgan Stanley) and pro-level poker player who applies keen economic insights to the Mississippi River Valley 200 years ago, the Chicago Board of Trade in the 1970's, the Old West, Europe 200 years ago, and of course finance & poker today.

Teasers for how pure risk rocks: Capital formation for big projects...sometimes people refuse to sell things but they will gamble them, and sometimes they're correct to do so!...chips as an alternative to soft money banking...a way to let a random couple out of several successful miners/loggers retire early from the risky profession and make way for new market economy incubation.

His story of Black Monday sheds new light, and his story of Soros spanking the British govt is fun. The book is even better than I hoped, and I had high expectations because it was spontaneously sent to my front door by two separate friends (arriving the same day by two separate carriers!) in lieu of normal recommends.

Only Fooled by Randomness equally shaped my gambling markets world view.
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