The Three Body Problem

Written on March 12, 2017. Written by .

I really liked how this book was super physics-centric. It was very unique in this regard; typically science fiction deals with far-fetched ideas, but this one centered around the three-body problem and it’s chaotic solutions, which is very old school classical stuff. The world that the book creates feels a bit drab, so it ranks somewhat low on the “fun” scale, but it makes up for this in the areas of creativity and cleverness.

★★★★

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Agrarian Justice by Thomas Paine (1795)

Written on February 26, 2017. Written by .

In 1795, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet containing an introduction to the foundational principles of geolibertarian political philosophy. This was 84 years before the publication of Henry George’s “Progress and Poverty”. Although Paine’s proposed remedy seems oversimplified and potentially problematic, his motivation is much more compelling.

“Civilization, therefore, or that which is so-called, has operated two ways: to make one part of society more affluent, and the other more wretched, than would have been the lot of either in a natural state.”

“In taking the matter upon this ground, the first principle of civilization ought to have been, and ought still to be, that the condition of every person born into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought not to be worse than if he had been born before that period.”

“It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, uncultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race.”

“Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss, and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before.”

Agrarian Justice (Wikisource)

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The Ego Tunnel

Written on September 8, 2016. Written by .

This is a pretty deep book about the nature of consciousness. I sometimes found it hard to tell if what I was hearing was profound or obvious. I still don’t understand the central analogy with a tunnel: what specific properties of a tunnel map to specific properties of consciousness? I may have missed it, but I don’t think this mapping was made explicit. I don’t think I made much progress on my first reading, but this book is definitely good food for thought and I may want to give it a second read at some point.

★★★★

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Antifragile

Written on September 8, 2016. Written by .

Something is “antifragile” if it gains from disorder/uncertainty/randomness, as opposed to “robust” things that neither gain nor lose from disorder/uncertainty/randomness. I think this is an interesting concept that I hadn’t heard of or thought about before reading this book. Taleb discusses some ideas for how to apply the concept of antifragility to your life and business (such as trying to let your body heal itself rather than using a doctor right away), but I didn’t come away with any specific action items. Nor did I have an epiphanies that would influence my future decisions or behaviors. Overall I think it was a lot of fluff, as I had expected after reading “The Black Swan”.

★★★★★

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Radical Acceptance

Written on September 8, 2016. Written by .

This book is about a Buddhist-inspired approach to self-acceptance. I got the feeling that I wasn’t really in the target audience because I couldn’t relate to a lot of the material. I can see how it might be helpful for others, but in the end I don’t think I got much out of it.

★★★★★

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Business Adventures

Written on September 8, 2016. Written by .

I read this book because I heard it was Bill Gates’ favorite business book. It is a collection of true stories about business events in the 1960s. The narration is quite detailed, sometimes describing the appearance of the scene and feelings of individuals. I found the stories pretty boring, partly because the stories are so old, perhaps partly because they were so drawn out with narration, but also I think because the stories themselves weren’t that interesting.

★★★★★

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Sapiens

Written on June 27, 2016. Written by .

This book talked about the human ability to collectively believe in ideas that are not necessarily true, but have important implications for society. For example, believing that fiat money has value is only true because so many other people believe it, but it is not objectively true because it would not have value under other circumstances. I liked how this book talked about how the imperialism and capitalism basically steamrolled the planet, crushing many resistant societies in the process. The book had an interesting perspective that emphasized that many successful ideas were not the best ideas for the benefit of the people; happy tribes were forced to try to conform to capitalist society and basically became depressed. I would have liked it if the book focused on this topic more, but instead it dabbles in a variety of ideas that are very loosely tied by the theme of things that humans construct with their minds.

★★★★

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Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor

Written on April 16, 2016. Written by .

Although Charlie Munger is really interesting, I didn’t get a whole lot out of this book. It is mostly a very basic introduction to Munger’s investing philosophy, which I’ve read about many times before. Even if I hadn’t been exposed to his investing philosophy before, I still think there are other books that cover the topic more thoroughly.

★★★★★

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Progress and Poverty

Written on February 7, 2016. Written by .

The thesis of this book is very important. It argues that poverty and much human suffering is the direct result of private ownership of land. The author attempts to prove some basic theorems of economics, but I wasn’t convinced that these proofs were rigorous. I didn’t spend too much time thinking about them though, so perhaps I just didn’t understand fully on my first read. But even if these proofs are not rigorous, the argument of the book is still quite convincing, though I had already come to the same conclusion independently before ever reading the book or hearing about the idea. The book is definitely short on details about the solution to the problem. The author also gets unnecessarily verbose in some parts. Despite these shortcomings, the core thesis is persuasively presented. Given that the topic is so little known and yet so important, I think this original presentation of it is a definitely worth reading. 

★★★★

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The Myth of Freedom

Written on February 7, 2016. Written by .

Although this book was fairly down-to-earth relative to most Buddhist texts, I didn’t really get much out of it. It primarily focused on discussing psychological tendencies of people in general during the course of their daily lives. It had a more pessimistic/negative tone than other books of this type and I found it somewhat boring.

★★★★★

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