An intriguing view into the evolution and imperfections of our current system but lacking a clear path toward implementing...

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THE END OF AVERAGE

HOW WE SUCCEED IN A WORLD THAT VALUES SAMENESS

Rose (Director, Mind, Brain, and Education Program/Harvard Univ.; Square Peg: My Story and What it Means for Raising Innovators, Visionaries, and Out-of-the-Box Thinkers, 2013) rejects the faulty benchmark of average and advocates for principles of individuality in schools and businesses.

The author opens with an account of U.S. Air Force pilots in the late 1940s who found that they could not retain control of the faster and more complicated jet-powered airplanes. The problem, which was costly to the Air Force in both equipment and personnel, was found to be rooted in the design of the planes’ cockpits, which had been created uniformly for the “average pilot,” a person who only existed in a statistical aggregate. After extensive research, when the Air Force adopted the guiding principle of individual fit—adjustable seats, foot pedals, helmet straps, and flight suits—the matter was solved, planes ceased crashing, and pilot performance skyrocketed. Springboarding from this provocative anecdote, Rose, a pioneer in the new “science of the individual,” argues that while average is a useful concept when discussing groups of people, it is a useless measurement with regard to individuals and should be abandoned. From its beginnings with a Belgian astronomer in the early 19th century, Rose traces the evolution of average as a measurement as well as its pervasive infiltration into schools and the workplace in the forms of GPAs, standardized testing, performance reviews, and personality tests. He then turns his attention to the principles that underlie the emergent science of individuality to speak to the complexities belied by “averagarian” thinking. Finally, he provides a handful of examples of companies whose commitment to its employees as individuals forms the bedrock of their success, and he speaks to the shortcomings of our current higher educational system, touching lightly on alternative approaches.

An intriguing view into the evolution and imperfections of our current system but lacking a clear path toward implementing the proposed principles of individuality.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-235836-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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