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Publisher's Summary

A groundbreaking book about making once-in-a-lifetime decisions, from the best-selling author of How We Got to Now and Where Good Ideas Come From 

Plenty of books offer useful advice on how to get better at making quick-thinking, intuitive choices. But what about more consequential decisions, the ones that affect our lives for years or centuries to come? Our most powerful stories revolve around these kinds of decisions: where to live, whom to marry, what to believe, whether to start a company, how to end a war.

Full of the beautifully crafted storytelling and novel insights that Steven Johnson's fans know to expect, Farsighted draws lessons from cognitive science, social psychology, military strategy, environmental planning, and great works of literature. Everyone thinks we are living in an age of short attention spans, but we've actually learned a lot about making long-term decisions over the past few decades. Johnson makes a compelling case for a smarter and more deliberative decision-making approach. He argues that we choose better when we break out of the myopia of single-scale thinking and develop methods for considering all the factors involved.

There's no one-size-fits-all model for the important decisions that can alter the course of a life, an organization, or a civilization. But Farsighted explains how we can approach these choices more effectively and how we can appreciate the subtle intelligence of choices that shaped our broader social history.

©2018 Steven Johnson (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Riveting.... As a deep thinker and gifted storyteller, Johnson is the right author to tackle the topic. He’s at his best when analyzing impossibly complex decisions.... One of Johnson’s thought-provoking points is that [people who excel at long-term thinking] read novels, which are ideal exercises in mental time travel and empathy. I think he’s right.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“Johnson is explicitly focused on real-life decisions that (ideally) involve serious deliberation.... [He]reminds us that, fundamentally, choices concern competing narratives, and we’re likely to make better choices if we have richer stories, with more fleshed-out characters, a more nuanced understanding of motives, and a deeper appreciation of how decisions are likely to reverberate and resound.” (The Wall Street Journal

“Johnson is well-placed to dig into these dilemmas of decision-making, as he gracefully serves up examples ranging from 17th-century urban planning to contemporary artificial intelligence.” (Financial Times

What listeners say about Farsighted

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Powerful Book for Business and Personal Decisions

This was an excellent book on how to make decisions. I’m taking away parts to influence my business life, others to influence my personal life and another part to help an 8yr old get ready faster in the morning.

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Decisions are hard.

Farsighted is an interesting book, but it seems to mainly illustrate just how very complex decision-making can be. These are not the single-variable, binary, yes or no type of decisions, but instead the complex and complicated type where changing types of variables are considered. Many of these decisions that matter the most are group or societal ones; I had hoped for more focus on individual decisions.

3 people found this helpful

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Best of Johnson

I wish I had read this book years ago. Steven stimulates the brain. Personal stories are a welcome extra.

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Not Johnson's best

I have listened to a few books by Steven Johnson. I like his storytelling - but, for me, this book showed that I don't like his analyses and guidelines.
To me, the lessons the book teaches are few and could be accommodated in a much shorter work. Yes, creating diversity and fostering disagreement are very important for decision-making, and there are some good examples of those (and other) techniques in the book. But soon the examples start becoming very similar to each other, and the same technique is brought forward again and again with slightly altered wording, sometimes within a single paragraph or two.
This might not have been as big a problem for me if the storytelling was compelling - but I don't feel it is. There are a few arc stories, like the Bin Laden raid, which the books comes back to again and again, and some others which appear just as an illustration of a particular idea. But I feel that the book has none of the flow which I so liked in, say, "How We Got to Now".

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Enjoyed it - Not what I was expecting

I did enjoy this book. It wasn't what I thought. I thought it was going to be more "leadership" style narrative. i did really enjoy the use of the military references to show a point.

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A soup to nuts explanation of choice

This is a very useful book. It will help you understand our natural limitations and inclinations when dealing with decisions that are not yet completely relevant to the immediate, lack enough data to focus our attention, or increasingly for the decisions of our day- are so big and have so much data as to overload our faculties and abilities to process. The ideas and understandings in this book should be taught to all. It utility spans the individual to a leader with great responsibility and authority.

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30% Liberal Ideals 60% Droning 10% Actual Planning

I heard an interview with the author on the Art of Manliness Podcast and decided to buy the book to find out more based on the interview. DON'T BOTHER! Just listen to that interview, it sums the entire book up and leaves out much of the nonsense.

First off, there is so little in this book of what you actually purchased this for. So much of this is constant rehashing of the same four scenarios: Osama Bin Laden's raid (seriously, just watch Zero Dark Thirty, or read the book. That movie is half of this guy's overall research), George Washington's failure to secure Brooklyn, the pollution and decision to fill a lake in New York instead of turning it into a park, and Darwin's personal pros and cons list of getting married. That is the entire book, except with so little insight it's mind numbing.

Second, the author projects so much of how HE makes decisions onto Obama. Obama was infamously one of the most insecure and indecisive presidents ever. He would almost ALWAYS choose not to make a decision so that every decision made would be made by his staff. He was a terrible negotiator, and when talks broke down he would either cave to demands (Iran) or throw a fit and use Execitive Orders to do what he wants. Even lazy Congress gave more power to the Executive Branch's different departments during his presidency, and not the President himself. And it's also very clear that almost everything he says about Obama is conjecture. He offers no supporting information, but the only way such key information could be known that no one else knows about, had to come from personal sources. The guy spends most of the time talking about the amazing work the Federal Agencies did in figuring all of this amazing information out and planning and deciding every detail of unknown, and then concludes that it was Obama's decision making prowess that was the source of it all!

The aithor makes the bold statement along the lines that the Paris Climate Accord was one of the most ambitious and long term strategy agreements in human history. Really, that's all you need to know about this.

Lastly, there's so little about how to implement advanced long-term decision making into your life. Here's the answer: weighted scales of desired and undesired outcomes, and simulate the possibilities. There. Don't waste your time or money on this overblown propaganda.

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Farsightedness!

Wow, I've never thought of decision making as this book explains. Its profound and thorough explanation of being able to think farsighted gives a whole new perspective on the repercussions of your decisions. Great Book overall!

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Would benefit from corrective lenses

One third of the novel is somewhat quantitative and draws in interesting material. Another third attempts to interweave the information into a historical narrative. The last third of the book is a standard diatribe.

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listen 2 times to it. considering buying print

listen 2 times to it. considering buying print copy. the review system is weird, requiring 15 words minimum

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