Forceful and pungent in its treatment of conventional orthodoxies—a solid starting point for readers thinking about building...

ZERO TO ONE

NOTES ON STARTUPS, OR HOW TO BUILD THE FUTURE

Legendary startup icon and venture capitalist Thiel and Masters reveal how they succeed with startups and why business school graduates most often do not.

Known as a co-founder of Paypal and early investor in Facebook and SpaceX, billionaire Thiel and his former student, Masters, are not offering tips on becoming superrich. Surprisingly, they are contemptuous of finance, which they call “the only way to make money when you have no idea how to create wealth.” They offer an older model of business based on the potential earnings foreseeable as a by-product of the transformations associated with leaps in technology into unserved spaces in human activity. Paypal and Facebook are good examples. The authors distinguish their own thinking and methods from the orthodoxies of the financial and business communities. Lively and often acerbic, Thiel and Masters leave many of today's business shibboleths trashed along the way. They are unabashed proponents of monopoly to control and secure profit for reinvestment, and they assert, agreeing with thinkers like Walter Lippmann, that “[c]apitalism is premised on the accumulation of capital, but under perfect competition all profits get competed away.” In their view, monopoly is how technological innovators successfully change the rules with order-of-magnitude improvements instead of incremental advances. Thiel and Masters provide rules of thumb and case studies drawn from experiences, all bound up with their radically different business methods and practices. Their views on viral marketing and the importance of sales will be of interest to aspiring entrepreneurs, as will their dismissal of current ideas of market and technological disruption. They don’t hide their dislike of the use of stock options as incentives for business leadership.

Forceful and pungent in its treatment of conventional orthodoxies—a solid starting point for readers thinking about building a business.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8041-3929-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Crown Business

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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