Gabor Maté has done a great service in generating his new book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Anyone with an addicted friend or family member, persons concerned about the War on Drugs, and just ordinary citizens concerned about the drug culture will be well rewarded for reading Maté’s new book. Also the author of When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts starts out with a series of anecdotes introducing the reader to real drug addicts. Each has been under the care of Maté who is an MD practicing in Vancouver. These chapters are revealing, but not the meat of the book. In a later section, Maté details the neuroscience behind addiction and relates it to his own addictions (which are not drug related). In another, which I found the most helpful personally, he discusses drug policy. In particular, he distinguishes between decriminalization of drugs and making drug legal. He also approaches the issue of drug addiction as disease which has always troubled me. This is one fine book. It makes current thought on drug addiction and drug policy available to the concerned citizen. The book will be of value to the novice and professional alike. Please don’t pass this book by – it has important implications for everyone; tax payer, concerned citizen, law enforcement officer, social worker, and family member touched by addiction. It softened my heart – if I might add that. If you want to understand, this book is a good start. The reading of the text is well done.
Margaret Hefferman makes visible a human failing in “Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril.” In this book she approaches answers to why we willfully ignore what we need to acknowledge the most. The subject is important, according to the author, because we fail to see dangers right before our eyes. From marrying the wrong person, to the Enron fiasco, to the housing bubble, Hefferman alerts the reader to how the persons involved had the requisite information before them all the time and how the situations may have been avoided. Of course, hindsight is better than foresight, but her observations and presentation of research is informative. Hefferman is strongest when applying research to specific situations. She is weakest when she digresses into preaching about current events. She is most informative when she is explaining why organizations and individuals have willful blindness and lacking when she is on a soap box. All of it is valuable, but some of the book is more helpful than others. Her analysis of organizational structure and how it influences the decisions of large organizations is worth the price of the book. She details, for example, the problems of BP in Texas as well as the Gulf spill and explains why top management was blind to what was taking place. Willful blindness afflicts us all. Now, Hefferman has shown light on this timely subject. She reads her own text and does it well.
Frost and Stekeete set out to describe compulsive hoarding and accomplish that in a most informative way. Their book gets beyond the "what" hoarders do to the "why" they do it. The reader will gain insight into the thinking of hoarders and, by the way, insights into their own compulsions. Collectors, hoarders of animals, and those who just collect junk and trash are all allocated their own chapters. My living quarters are not a trash heap, but there are books every where that I keep perhaps afraid that I'll miss out on something if they are lost. My dad passed with a garage full of scraps, tools, and broken antiques. I am convined now, that he just ran out of time to tackle each "project." He kept them because he wanted to work on the projects they represented. The book is entertaining and well read by Joe Caron.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
According to some viewpoints, life on Earth is getting worse, with more and more people competing for fewer and fewer resources. However, Peter Diamandis and Stephen Kotler are here to make the case for optimism, arguing that innovations in technology, communication, information access, energy production, medicine, agriculture, methods of learning, and entrepreneurship are likely to have vast, transformative effects on human society in the near future. Key to understanding this is the authors’ belief that technological progress tends to follow an exponential curve, rather than a linear one, with inventions that seem to be of limited use at first quickly evolving to become crucial, productivity-enhancing features of everyday life. We’ve already seen this happen with airplanes, cars, computers, and the Internet, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t happen with solar and nuclear energy, better batteries, smart agriculture, gene therapy, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence. If you’re familiar with techno-optimists like Ray Kurzweil, then you know the cloth that Abundance is cut from.
The authors also focus some attention on the so-called “bottom billion”. As they point out, even small improvements that reach the very poor have a marked effect on their quality of life. Simple access to clean water, basic medicine, cell phone communication, a little electricity, and other small conveniences liberates people from their harshest struggles, enabling them to reach for better lives, including more education. This also reduces the rampant population growth and environmental strain associated with poverty, as people find that they no longer need to be subsistence farmers or have as many children as possible to ensure a comfortable future for themselves.
As a guy who works in technology, I think the book’s optimism in that department is well justified. Never underestimate what can happen when millions of very smart individuals, who can share knowledge easily, attack interconnected problems. The middle chapters contain a short who's-who catalog of inventors, thinkers, and entrepreneurs whose work is pushing the envelope in different areas. In fact, I took the artificial intelligence course taught by one of the researchers mentioned in the AI section, and offered for free online by Stanford University. How’s that for abundance? As Diamandis points out, even the President of the United States didn’t have so much expertise at his fingertips twenty-five years ago. Now a kid in India with a cheap laptop does.
On the social front, there seems to be a little more wishful thinking. The authors are hopeful that improved resource efficiency and slowing population growth will bring humanity’s rapacious levels of consumption and environmental impact down to sustainable levels, and I’m sure they’re right to some degree, but will they be right *enough*? Also, while I admire what certain billionaire philanthropists are doing with their money to solve real problems, the authors seem to discount the other side of concentrated wealth and power, the one that hasn’t always cared about humanity’s best interests. And I still have my concerns about the fate of people who no longer have skills that are useful in a technology-based economy -- what will they get paid to do?
But, even if Abundance doesn’t fully address all those questions, it’s still a hopeful, positive book, directing attention towards all the ways that human beings are applying their ingenuity for real good.