Coauthor Ben Eltham bought a copy of Michael Mann‘s Sources of Social Power: Volume 2 (1760-1914) to a meeting on Friday afternoon.
Mann’s book is a dense, scholarly study and comparative analysis of the modern nation-state system that blends economics, history, sociology, and political science.
It’s also the kind of life-long, indepth research that is now impossible to do under Australian research and publications metrics. Research administrators interpret these metrics as Taylorist outputs: they often don’t consider the long-term investment needed to develop such research programs.
Mann has just released Volume 3 (1890-1945); and Volume 4 (1945-2011) is due out at the end of November.
I have started a Good Reads book list here. The list is revealing in a cumulative sense about what I have read at different times of my life — and it will be updated in the coming weeks. Starting the list also prompted me to clean out my bookshelves. Major insight: I bought a lot of books during research for the dotcom (1995-2000) and post-September 11 (2001-2011) speculative bubbles. I also bought a lot of books whilst: (a) trying to decide on a PhD topic; (b) browsing Melbourne’s (dwindling) secondhand bookstores from the early 1990s to about 2009; and (c) working on various postgraduate degrees and research projects. I expect to do a similar cull once the PhD is done. Casualties: dotcom era media theory (a former life); September 11 anthologies; partisan books on United States counterterrorism; ’emerging threat’ books that I am never going to read; and pop techno-futures. The half-lives of many of these memes is short. I also seem to have read a lot more business strategy books whilst in Swinburne University’s Strategic Foresight program and whilst at the Smart Internet Technology CRC than I remembered. I’ll be donating other parts of my personal library, such as Masters books on North Korea and genocide, to Melbourne-based university libraries.
Nate Silver‘s new book The Signal and the Noise is on my ‘to read’ pile (Reading the Markets review). In a New York Times blog entry on 30th October, Silver predicted that Obama was well positioned to win the 2012 US Presidential election:
Mr. Obama’s lead in the Electoral College is modest, but also quite consistent across the different methods. The states in which every site has Mr. Obama leading make up 271 electoral votes — one more than the president needs to clinch victory. The states in which everyone has Mr. Romney ahead represent 206 electoral votes. That leaves five states, and 61 electoral votes, unaccounted for — but Mr. Obama would not need them if he prevails in the states where he is leading in the polls.
Silver predicted a 73.6 % chance that Obama would win the 2012 US Presidential election. Conservative bloggers then attacked Silver’s credibility. Robert Schlesinger of the US News & World Report notes that Silver’s predictions are in line with other political forecasters and prediction markets. Despite the partisan noise of the past few days, the future of baseball-derived sabermetrics in political campaigns looks sound.
Philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb has a new book out soon: Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (New York: Random House, 2012).
Taleb spoke to EconTalk a year ago about Antifragile and “how we can cope with our ignorance and uncertainty in a complex world.”