A guide that uses an intelligent chronicle of scientific history to bolster a less than persuasive economic argument.

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APPLIED BIG HISTORY

A GUIDE FOR ENTREPRENEURS, INVESTORS, AND OTHER LIVING THINGS

A writer mines a history of the cosmos for economic insights. 

One of the great challenges of economics is the persistence of complexity and chaos, the two principal epistemological opponents of any rational model of prediction. Grassie (H+/ –: Transhumanism and Its Critics, 2011, etc.) attempts to recruit help confronting this problem from “Big History,” a consortium of theoretical disciplines collaboratively conjoined to explain the evolution of everything, including human beings. According to the author, the structural dynamics of economics and the cosmos are remarkably similar—they exhibit comparable evolutionary cycles, emergent complexities, tipping points, and points of chaos—and as a result, a “common framework” for understanding both is possible. To that end, he furnishes an impressively concise account of the development of just about everything, discussing the nature of time, matter, energy, sound, and the evolution of humans, including the appearance of consciousness and the construction of social hierarchies. The ultimate objective is an articulation of the virtues and vices of complexity and the manner in which grasping its permutations at the cosmological level can provide a “competitive edge today in a world of uncertainties.” Grassie also discusses the various “existential challenges” that humanity faces, including “anthropogenic” ones like overpopulation and “natural” ones such as climate change. The author gracefully translates forbiddingly technical subject matter into accessible, even vibrant prose. In addition, his philosophical moderation is laudable—he ably discusses the limitations of any model of prediction when an evolving and profoundly complex system is being analyzed. But his account can be complacently reductionist—for example, to declare that science has shown “independent reason is a myth” and that “rationality is largely a slave to our emotions” is both vague and disputable. But the chief problem with Grassie’s study is that it’s never obvious why the examination of complexity at the scientific level is necessary for the economic discussion. The use of “Big History” as a running metaphor seems to involve more work than it’s worth and, as the author points out, “gives us little contextual insight into the diverse pathways actualized in any particular evolutionary or economic niche.” He cleverly constructs these metaphors, comparing the economy to “ecologies of bacteria and eukaryotes,” but struggles to explain why this amounts to “more than a just metaphor for economics.” Surely one can master the nature of economics without a primer on photosynthesis. In some sense, it might be reasonable to contend: “You become a danger to yourself, your firm, and your clients if you don’t understand your hunter-gatherer brain and how to effectively compensate.” But this is only true if Grassie means one must understand human nature to effectively survive a competitive market, which certainly doesn’t entail understanding the evolution of the human brain. The author’s account of cell biology is admirably succinct but seems misplaced in a book that promises practical counsel to investors. 

A guide that uses an intelligent chronicle of scientific history to bolster a less than persuasive economic argument. 

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71985-307-1

Page Count: 231

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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