Early 2017 Reading Pile

The following books will be on my reading pile for early 2017:

 

  1. Sheelah Kolhatkar’s Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street (New York: Random House, 2017). Kolhatkar is a staff writer at The New Yorker. I followed the insider trading case against Steve A. Cohen and his hedge fund SAC Capital for several years. I thought about writing a PhD chapter on it — but getting access to the court records was going to be expensive and it was out-of-scope to my main focus. Kolhatkar has saved me the trouble — and illustrates why investigative journalism is important.
  2. Ed Thorp’s A Man For All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market (New York: Random House, 2017). Thorp is a giant in quantitative investing and card counting in poker. There’s a lengthy interview with Thorp in Jack D. Schwager’s book Hedge Fund Market Wizards, and this book promises more revelations. Features a foreward by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
  3. Andrew W. Lo’s Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017). Lo is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor, a Professor in Finance, and the Director of the Laboratory for Financial Engineering at the MIT Sloan School of Management. This book outlines Lo’s Adaptive Markets Hypothesis – a challenger to the Efficient Markets Hypothesis – and offers a conceptual basis for why some hedge fund trading works.
  4. Siva Vaidyanathan’s Intellectual Property: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). Vaidyanathan is Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Intellectual Property (IP) is an intangible asset class that includes copyrights (works of creative expression), trademarks (logos and symbols that differentiate a company in the marketplace), patents (know how and processes), and trade secrets (confidential and secret information). Vaidyanathan explains how IP works and examines its legal / cultural debates. A good primer for content creators.

Grand Intentions

Grand Intentions by Trevor Barr
Grand Intentions by Trevor Barr

Have you ever wondered how powerful chief executive officers negotiate their lucrative compensation packages? Grand Intentions by veteran internet and telecommunicatons scholar Trevor Barr shares their secrets.

 

Barr’s gripping novel opens with the telecommunicatons giant Telco One in crisis: rural Telco One client Thomas Bowie dies of an asthma attack due to a technical line fault. In the aftermath, Telco One’s board fires its chief executive officer and hires Clint Mason – a mid-market CEO with experience at the United States telecommunications firms MCI and Sprint, a fundraiser for the Republican Party, and who has a keen interest in American Native Indian culture and history. Mason is tasked with spearheading Telco One’s privatisation and the operational transformation that is required to remain competitive.

 

The first three chapters of Grand Intentions read like a negotiation masterclass: how Gordon Hunt (customer liaison and government division head), Nathan Thompson (a Telco One board member), and Jennifer Ralston (a Telco One board member and advocacy lawyer) deal with and disagree over the due diligence, compensation package negotiation, and rapid on-boarding of Mason and his operations manager Brad Botein. Australia’s prime minister, unions, and pension fund managers are carefully watching Telco One’s board. Each has a crucial role in vetting Mason’s appointment.

 

Mason has a strategic vision for Telco One: to shake-up Hunt’s customer liaison activities and identify new revenue sources, to improve Telco One’s share price by dramatically cutting head count, and to build and roll out a Next Generation Network – in only nine months. He has a close eye on the successes of Apple, Google, and today’s visionaries like SpaceX’s Elon Musk.

 

It’s a strategic vision of disruption that will also be familiar to shareholders of QANTAS, Commonwealth Bank, Rio Tinto and other companies who face a combination of industry, regulatory and technological head winds. Barr offers an informed insider’s view into the C-suite and senior management discussions that take place. In doing so Grand Intentions goes beyond media rhetoric about Silicon Valley disruption to convey the dilemmas and decision-making that business leaders face.

 

Barr traces the impetus and fallout from Mason’s corporate revitalisation through a range of Telco One employees. Gordon Hunt champions a consumer advisory council that will get close to Telco One’s customers. Hunt’s exchanges with Mason and Botein in a performance review meeting are eye-opening in how he gains buy-in for the council initiative. Barr shows Mason and Botein’s commercial acumen and what they really privately think about Hunt’s council. Other Telco One senior managers like marketer Jasmine Spencer and networks and systems engineer Lars Sorenson have their own competing ideas and initiatives.

 

Hunt hires counselors Paul Brooks and Max Groves to chair the consumer advisory council. Brooks and Groves are new to Telco One’s commercial world and they each grapple with Hunt’s neoliberal agenda. The council has to be solutions-based and identify new products and services. Brooks and Groves differ in their reactions to these pressures. Barr contrasts their experiences with their partners Karen and Nicole’s worlds of community radio and teaching.

 

Barr also has a few important ‘reality-check’ comments about Mason’s decision to shutdown Telco One’s research labs and instead create a senior management advisory. In the newly privatised Telco One, researchers now need to generate new revenues and have fundable research programs. Researchers can no longer be a cost centre or be solely reliant on government grants.

 

As Mason’s change agenda proceeds each of these characters faces career turbulence and ethical challenges. Some are able to thrive on the disorder and to emerge stronger: to be antifragile as philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes. Other characters make suboptimal decisions and must face the consequences. Mason’s change agenda thus acts as a sorting mechanism: a fictional depiction of the Tournament Theory process of economists Edwin Lazear and Sherwin Rosen, and the noncooperative Game Theory interactions of the late mathematician John Nash Jr (A Beautiful Mind). But Barr’s characters are not one-dimensional either, as Mason’s encounter with Aboriginal elder Amanyi Kunoth shows: he is deeply critical of Australia’s on-going mistreatment of its first peoples.

 

Grand Intentions is filled with Barr’s commentary and reflections on why telecommunications is the underlying infrastructure for today’s internet economy. It’s an opportunity to be privy to conversations inside corporations about growth initiatives that capture and sustain the media’s attention. It’s a cautionary guide for MBA graduates on how to accumulate power, navigate organisational politics, and climb the career ladder. Finally, Grand Intentions is poignantly candid about the human costs and casualties of disruption, and what winner-takes-all really looks like.

 

Grand Intentions is available in Australia from Readings and other good bookstores. Internationally, it is available from Book Depository (with free shipping), from AbeBooks resellers, and as an Amazon Kindle ebook.

Prisoners of Reason

PrisonersofReason

 

In 2011 when I began my PhD studies at Australia’s Monash University, Dr Andy Butfoy and I had a conversation about John Nash Jr, Thomas Schelling, the RAND think tank, and game theory. I had also recently re-watched the Adam Curtis documentary The Trap (2007) on how Nash’s insights influenced corporate negotiators and labour unions.

 

My first task for Andy was to reconstruct the history and prehistory of strategic culture theory-building, I soon found the parallel work of Jack Snyder, Colin S. Gray, and Ken Booth for RAND, the Hudson Institute, and US war colleges. It became clear that Nash and Schelling’s game theory was a rival research program to strategic culture and also to rational choice theory which Snyder adopted in later research.

 

Now, MIT’s S.M. Amadae has given us Prisoners of Reason: Game Theory and the Neoliberal Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016) – a well documented history of how game theory’s emphasis on strategic rationality influenced research and policymaking in nuclear strategy, economics, sociobiology, and the environment.

 

Amadae contends – as Curtis also did in The Trap – that noncooperative game theory and coercive bargaining gave economic and political elites the leverage to dominate others. The result is a highly competitive society in which brinkmanship and rentier extraction outflanks more cooperative solutions: winner-takes-all.

 

I’ll likely cite Amadae in Chapter 1 of my thesis.

Roy Christopher’s Summer Reading List 2015 + Bonus Material

I have some book suggestions in Disinformation alumnus Roy Christopher’s Summer Reading List 2015.

 

The emergent theme in my list this year is: the wealth extraction strategies of oligarchical elites and how to Become them.

 

Here is some bonus material I wrote that you might find useful:

 

Lasse Heje Pedersen Efficiently Inefficient: How Smart Money Invests & Market Prices Are Determined (Princeton University Press, 2015). Lasse Heje Pederson is the John A. Paulson Professor of Finance and Alternative Investments at the New York University Stern School of Business. Perdersen’s “efficiently inefficient” theory of financial markets focuses on active investors who have a comparative advantage. This book examines six economically motivated investment styles and eight hedge fund strategies. It contains one of the best descriptions I have read of how active management works. Pedersen also interviews influential hedge fund managers and investment managers including James Chanos, Cliff Asness, George Soros, Myron Scholes, Ken Griffin, and John A. Paulson. For a history of hedge funds see Sebastian Mallaby’s More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite (Bloomsbury, 2010).

 

Han Smit and Thras Moraitis Playing At Acquisitions: Behavioral Option Games (Princeton University Press, 2015). Han Smit is a Professor in the Faculty of Economics at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Thras Moraitis was Group Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs at Xstrata. Playing At Acquisitions offers a synthesis of three business strategy methodologies: behavioural economics, game theory, and real options. An in-depth case study on the company Xstrata is also provided. Smit and Moraitis provide a personal synthesis that will enable you to perceive your own cognitive biases, to understand others, and to make more effective decisions under uncertainty. For a conceptual understanding of business strategy see J.C. Spenders Business Strategy: Managing Uncertainty, Opportunity, and Enterprise (Oxford University Press, 2014).

 

Lauren A Rivera Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs (Princeton University Press, 2015). Lauren Rivera is Associate Professor of Management & Organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Pedigreefollows in the footsteps of Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca in examining how the processes of elite reproduction and social stratification occur in elite firms who hire students from elite schools into entry-level jobs. Rivera uses interviews and participant observation to discover how employers use a range of filtering mechanisms to reproduce elites in a way that is reminiscent of ancestral heritage and cultural transmission. This book also offers novel insights on the sociological study of contemporary elites and elite circulation. For a micro-study on elites, non-elites and economic stratification see Robert D. Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

 

Karen Dawisha Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Karen Dawisha is the Director of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami University. Putin’s Kleptocracy was originally under contract at Cambridge University Press before potential libel concerns led to Simon & Schuster publishing the book. Dawisha uses archival, internet, interview, and other sources to show how Putin rose to power and how he and a small oligarchical elite succeeded in extracting economic wealth from post-Soviet Russia. Dawisha’s research informed the PBS Frontline documentary Putin’s Way (13th January 2015). Putin’s success at wealth extraction can be compared with Thor Bjorgolfsson’s Billions to Bust – and Back (Profile Books 2014) and Bill Browder’s Red Notice (Simon & Schuster, 2015) in which self-styled ‘adventure capitalists’ and emerging market financiers were not so lucky. On Putin’s use of sociological propaganda to restructure post-Soviet Russia see Peter Pomerantsev’s Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible (PublicAffairs, 2014) and Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Reading Pile

1. Loretta Napoleoni. 2015. The Islamist Phoenix: The Islamic State and the Redrawing of the Middle East. New York: Seven Stories Press. PhD supervisor Luke Howie and I have discussed me including a section on ISIS in my study of terrorist organisations as strategic subcultures. Napoleoni contends that ISIS engages in a new form of nation-building in order to re-establish the Caliphate. One of several quickly written books to emerge as ISIS has gained military power projection in Iraq.

 

2. Richard Seymour. 2014. Against Austerity: How We Can Fix The Crisis They Made. New York: Pluto Press. A left-wing polemic that anticipated current political events in Greece, the Queensland state election, and in Australian federal politics. Seymour describes austerity as neoliberal crisis management, and as an elite strategy to change socio-economic foundations. An angry and insightful analysis of the conditions that might lead to oligarchical collectivism (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four).

 

3. Luke Howie and Peter Kelly. 2015. ‘Sociologies of Terrorism: Holographic Metaphors for Terrorism Research’, Journal of Sociology, 1-15 (online first). The authors propose a ‘holographic theorising’ framework and ‘holographic social scientific imagination‘ [emphasis original] (p. 2) for how terrorism studies researchers can explore, interrogate, and re-evaluate data. A central challenge the authors identify is that terrorism events ‘develop, shift, and change‘ [emphasis original] (p. 3) whilst interview transcripts and other research data can remain ‘forever frozen in time‘ [emphasis original] (p. 3). The article includes insights from an on-going interview research project, theorist Donna Haraway, and popular media including Star Trek: Voyager, and I, Robot.

Picks & Pans

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker (New York: Allen Lane, 2014). (TS-3). Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist and psycholinguist who is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. In The Sense of Style, Pinker defends classic style as an metacommunication strategy for writers to communicate effectively with different audiences. He explains how grammar and syntax work as language structures. One of Pinker’s major contributions is a chapter on the ‘arcs of coherence’ – structural forms of paragraphs, sections, and chapters – that writers use. This book will help you to write more efficiently and effectively.

 

DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd edition) by Marsha M. Linehan (New York: The Guilford Press, 2015). (TS-4). In the early 1990s, Lineham developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) as a specific form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to deal with Borderline Personality Disorder and suicidality. This training manual and the accompanying DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets manual (2nd edition) explain the major DBT frameworks and skills-building exercises, which are influenced by Platonic dianoia (reasoning) strategies to deal with eikasia (imagination) and pistis (emotion).

 

The Nature of Value: How to Invest in the Adaptive Economy by Nick Gogerty (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). (TS-3) (MAM-3). After the 2007-09 global financial crisis, companies and governments have reacted to the post-bubble draw-down with austerity budgets and ‘efficiency dividends’ (meaning: redundancies and restructures). The language used to defend such decisions is ‘value add’ or ‘value creation’ – taken from General Electric’s former chief executive officer Jack Welch who influenced the operational models used in asset management and private equity firms. Yet on a closer examination this ‘value add’ rhetoric is more often about balanced budgets. Gogerty’s book will equip you with a solid framework for how ‘value creation’ works – drawing in part on the Santa Fe Institute’s frameworks for complex adaptive systems. The Nature of Value also offers insights into the economic models used by the hedge fund Bridgewater. Gogerty builds on the earlier conceptual frameworks in Eric D. Beinhocker’s The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics (New York: Random House, 2006) (TS-4). Gogerty’s adaptive economy framework may also help you to understand how complex adaptive systems might work in macroeconomic contexts.

 

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters (London: Virgin Books, 2014). (TS-3) (MAM-1). Thiel co-founded the internet firms PayPal and Palantir, was the first outside investor in Facebook, and has funded LinkedIn and Elon Musk’s SpaceX venture. ‘Vertical or intensive progress means doing new things—going from 0 to 1’ (p. 6), Thiel writes, which he equates with technological change. This book distils Thiel’s insights on entrepreneurship and innovation from a Stanford course that co-author Blake Masters took. It deals with the unfolding process of seeking after mysteries – and offers a methodology on how to create more Liberty in the world. Potential Gandalfs and Hari Seldons, take note.

 

The Yellow Peril: Dr Fu Manchu and the Rise of Chinaphobia by Christopher Frayling (London: Thames & Hudson, 2014). (TS-4). Frayling is a cultural historian who has written the probably definitive historical and literary analysis of Sax Rohmer’s Dr Fu Manchu novels. Fraying locates the Yellow Peril fears about China in an historical context that includes the British-China opium wars and treaties; racialist stereotyping; and popular culture manifestations. The Yellow Peril can be read illustratively as a case study on the intersection of magic and politics, and operatively as a primer on how societies create villains as Evil, and why.

A Draft Book / Film List on Metis

Metis or “cunning intelligence” (Marcel Detienne & Jean-Pierre Vernant, 1978; 1998) is an overarching Hedgehog Idea in my personal research program. Metis underpins craft, cunning, skill, and wisdom. It integrates a range of life experiences and research interests, including investigative journalism, initiatory self-work, PhD studies in strategic culture, and study of financial markets trading. Below is a draft book / film list that illustrates different aspects of Metis and metic intelligence in contemporary life. I am working on an annotated book / film list, which will be available in the future on this site.

 

The first phase establishes the concepts. The second phase has an emergent theme of organisational and political skills in a Hobbesian and Machiavellian world. The third phase illustrates some life philosophy and scholarly work, including several books and films which have influenced me.

 

Phase 1

 

The Craftsman by Richard Sennett (New York: Penguin, 2008). (TS-3). A defence of craft as a vehicle for fluid and metic intelligences in the contemporary world.

 

Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas by John Shirley (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2004). (TS-3). An accessible overview of the Graeco-Armenian magus and Teacher of Dances, including his Caucasus and France experiences. William Patrick Patterson made the connection between Gurdjieff and the Detienne/Vernant work on Metis in a footnote to Struggle of the Magicians: Exploring the Student-Teacher Relationship (Fairfax, CA: Arete Publications, 1997).

 

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk-Taking, Gut Feelings, and the Biology of Boom and Bust by John Coates (London: Fourth Estate, 2013). (TS-3). John Coates is a Research Fellow at Cambridge University who uses neuroscience to study financial risk-taking. Coates’ study of Wall Street traders suggests that metic intelligence can have physiological effects due to environmental and psychological stressors.

 

The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens (London: Short Books, 2011). (TS-3). Brooks explains how to lead a philosophical Good Life, and includes a chapter on Metis.

 

Taproots: Underlying Principles of Milton Erickson’s Therapy and Hypnosis by William Hudson O’Hanlon (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1987). (TS-3). Identifies the common patterns and phases in Erickson’s strategic therapy and trance inductions. Includes a useful bibliography of Erickson’s major work. O’Hanlon later wrote on brief therapy.

 

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman (New York: Basic Books, 2013). (TS-3). An introduction to the current debates about expertise, giftedness, and high abilities. Covers the Cattell-Horn-Carroll model of intelligence. I have a broader reading list on these subjects here.

 

Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands A Pagan Ethos by Robert D. Kaplan (New York: Vintage Books, 2002). (TS-3). Recommended to me by Spiral Dynamics coauthor Don Edward Beck. Kaplan explains why classicist authors such as Livy, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Hobbes continue to have relevance in Understanding geopolitics.

 

Capricorn One (1977). A conspiracy theory film that evokes Metis as survival sense, and know how in ambiguous, changing situations. A personal ECI on my mother, shortly before her death in March 1978.

 

The Clash: Westway to the World (2000). The punk rock group The Clash explain in their own words how they dealt with the 1977-82 period of their career arc, and its aftermath.

 

Collateral (2004). Michael Mann’s thriller involving a contract killer is really a meditation on Metis as survival sense.

 

The Cove (2009). A team of environmental activists use covert techniques to uncover dolphin killings by Japanese fishermen in the Taiji cove, Japan.

 

The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Bane’s initial operations illustrate metic intelligence via strategic surprise.

 

Limitless (2011). An exploration of the potential for giftedness and high abilities.

 

Moneyball (2011). A film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ reportage on how Billy Beane used ‘sabermetrics’ statistical analysis at the Oakland A’s baseball team to gain an edge.

 

The Silence of the Lambs (1991). FBI cadet Clarice Sterling undergoes an initiatory ideal at the hands of serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

 

Skyfall (2012). The villain Silva gives an island hideout speech about geopolitics and risk arbitrage that conveys metic intelligence.

 

The Usual Suspects (1995). The character Keyser Söze embodies Metis and metic intelligence in this thriller.

 

Phase 2

 

Kata and the Transmission of Knowledge in Traditional Martial Arts by Michael Rosenbaum (Boston, MA: YMAA Publication Center, 2004). (TS-3). Kata are codified fighting patterns that are culturally transmitted through martial arts teaching, and the creative evolution of specific forms, styles, and schools. Rosenbaum examines how kata are the foundation of traditional martial arts and the contemporary warrior’s way. Kata is also considered in Carol A. Wiley’s edited anthology Martial Arts Teachers on Teaching (Berkeley, CA: Frog Ltd., 1995) (TS-3).

 

More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite by Sebastian Mallaby (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011). (TS-3). Mallaby is Paul A. Volcker Senior Fellow for International Economics and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is a near-definitive history of hedge funds — a limited partnership that has a private investment pool — and the fund managers who have used fluid and metic intelligences to become a new financial elite. The influence of performance and sports psychology in hedge funds during the past two decades is visible in two books: Brett N. Steenbarger’s Enhancing Trader Performance: Proven Strategies from the Cutting Edge of Trading Psychology (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007) (TS-3), which uses K. Anders Ericsson’s deliberate practice, and Ari Kiev’s The Mental Strategies of Top Traders: The Psychological Determinants of Trading Success (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2010) (TS-3).

 

More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom In Unconventional Places by Michael J. Mauboussin (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013). (TS-3). (MAM-1). Mauboussin is head of global financial strategies and an adjunct professor at the Columbia Business School. In this book Mauboussin applies scientific knowledge to the investment process of finding alpha: returns above a market benchmark due to active management or skill. Useful both as an overview of recent scientific advances, and as an example of fluid and metic intelligences in investment management.

 

The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World by Jonathan Powell (London: Vintage, 2011). (TS-3). Powell was Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff from 1994 to 2007, and this book draws on his unpublished diaries to give a Machiavellian meditation on power. Powell’s insights can be contrasted with Carnes Lord’s The Modern Prince: What Leaders Need To Know Now (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003) (TS-3).

 

Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t by Jeffrey Pfeffer (New York: HarperBusiness, 2010). (TS-3). Metis involves the creative exercise of different forms of power for finding solutions. Pfeffer is an expert on organisational politics.

 

Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change by Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan (Malden, MA: Blackwell Business Publishers, 1996). (TS-4). A popularisation for business managers of Clare W. Graves’ emergent, cyclical model of mature adult biopsychosocial systems intelligences. It features a useful bibliography of further resources. The framework has had some diffusion challenges similar to the Enneagram and Neurolinguistic Programming. Cowan and Natasha Todorovic later edited Graves’ unpublished notes as The Never Ending Quest: Clare W. Graves Explores Human Nature (Santa Barbara: ECLET Publishing, 2005) (TS-4).

 

Tactics: The Art and Science of Success by Edward de Bono (London: William Collins, 1985). (TS-3). ‘Lateral thinker’ Edward de Bono interviews fifty exemplars about the choices and strategies they used to become successful.

 

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013). (TS-3). Winner of the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2013. Packer used John Dos Passos’ USA trilogy for his reportage on the life decisions that his interviewees made between 1978 and 2012, as they navigated the changing social contract in the United States of America.

 

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management (London: Fourth Estate, 2002). (TS-3). The influential study on the demise of the LTCM hedge fund which involved several Nobel Prize for Economics winners and leading Wall Street traders. The LTCM playbook is dissected in Ludwig B. Chincarini’s The Crisis of Crowding: Quant Copycats, Ugly Models, and the New Crash Normal (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) (TS-4).

 

Breach (2007). The entrapment ploy designed to expose double agent Robert Hanssen.

 

Casino (1995). The Mafia’s attempts to control Las Vegas casinos in the early 1970s.

 

The Firm (1993). Mitch McDeere develops a unique solution to get out of a career crisis in this thriller based on John Grisham’s novel.

 

Inception (2010). A corporate espionage team uses dream control technology to extract information from the CEO of a rival firm.

 

The Mayfair Set (1999). Adam Curtis profiles a group of British entrepreneurs including Sir James Goldsmith and ‘Tiny’ Rowland who developed the hostile corporate takeover in mergers and acquisitions.

 

Michael Clayton (2007). ‘Fixer’ Michael Clayton deals with damage control during a $3 billion litigation case, and a takeover of his law firm.

 

Syriana (2005). A thriller set in the shadowy world of political think-tanks, counterterrorism operations, and oil geopolitics.

 

Phase 3

 

Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (New York: Penguin Books, 2012). (TS-5). Former options trader and philosopher Taleb articulates a personal philosophy of life as ‘long gamma’: “benefiting from volatility and variability” (p. 186). Provides the overarching framework to Understand his earlier books including The Black Swan and Fooled By Randomness. For two alternative views, see Aaron C. Brown’s Red-Blooded Risk: The Secret History of Wall Street (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) (TS-3) and William Poundstone’s Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat The Casinos and Wall Street (New York: Hill & Wang, 2005) (TS-3).

 

The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Development by K. Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul J. Feltovich, and Robert R. Hoffman (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). (TS-4). One of the best scholarly resources on deliberate practice, expertise, and skills cultivation.

 

The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance At NASA by Diane Vaughan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). (TS-4). Vaughan is a Professor of sociology at Columbia University. She traces the decision pathways that led to the space shuttle Challenger’s explosion on 28th January 1986, and the ‘deviant’ organisational politics involved. For a contrasting view, see Charles Perrow’s Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999) (TS-4).

 

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (New York: Avon, 1999). (TS-5). Stephenson’s story of Allied code-breakers in World War II and Southeast Asian data havens features many examples of Metis and metic intelligence.

 

Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History by Alastair Iain Johnston (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995). (TS-4). Johnston’s doctoral dissertation on Ming China’s strategic culture (socialisation and long-term, culturally transmitted influences on decision-makers) and its grand strategic choices.

 

Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society by Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant. Translated by Janet Lloyd. (University of Chicago Press, 1991). (TS-4). The influential study on Metis as cunning intelligence in Greek culture and mythology.

 

Knowing Words: Wisdom and Cunning in the Classical Traditions of China and Greece by Lisa Raphals (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992). (TS-4). Raphals’ doctoral dissertation which extends Detienne and Vernant’s influential work on Metis to Chinese stratagems.

 

Alien (1979). The Nostromo crew encounters forbidden knowledge in the form of a xenomorph. This is a film about ‘normal accidents’ (Charles Perrow); multi-level games; and ‘fixes that fail’ when faced with disproportionate change.

 

Black Rain (1989). When two New York police investigate the Yakuza in Osaka they discover potential enemies who have a different worldview.

 

Blake’s 7 (1978-81). The character Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow) shows metic intelligence as part of a rebel cell dealing with a corrupt Federation in a dystopian science fiction future.

 

Edge of Darkness (1985). The BBC’s influential mini-series on a police investigation into the deaths of environmental activists at the Northmoor nuclear facility. The 2010 film adaptation relies on action and ‘signposting’ of what remain mysteries in the original mini-series.

 

Murder One (1995-97). The O.J. Simpson trial deeply influenced Stephen Bochco’s television series on a Los Angeles law firm and its stratagems to win defence cases.

 

Red Cliff (2008). Deception and stratagem battles during China’s Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD).

 

The Red Riding Trilogy (2009). A series of interconnected stories about Yorkshire murders between 1974 and 1983, based on David Peace’s novels. Some characters embody Metis whilst others do not.

 

The Thin Blue Line (1988). Errol Morris’ background as a detective influenced this documentary which changed the outcome of a criminal investigation.

Information Theory & Intellectual Property

Information: A Very Short Introduction by Luciano Floridi (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). (TS-3). (MAM-3). Floridi is the Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at Oxford University. This short book explains the emergence of the information society; defines data and the mathematics of information theory; and applies these concepts to a range of domains, from biology to economics. Floridi’s major contribution to information ethics is The Philosophy of Information (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) (TS-4) (MAM-4).

 

The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick (New York: Vintage, 2012). (TS-3). (MAM-3). Gleick (Chaos: Making A New Science) uses Claude Shannon’s information theory to examine the history, cultural impact, and social shaping effects of information. Gleick’s book has some excellent historical sections on pre-computer designer Charles Babbage, programmer Ada Byron, cyberneticist Norbert Wiener, mathematician Alan Turing, and other exemplars of information theory. This book will broaden your awareness of how information choices can shape your creative horizons.

 

Intellectual Property Strategy by John Palfrey (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 2011). (TS-3). (MAM-3). Intellectual property (IP)—exclusive rights for copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets—is a complex and evolving legal field that relates to the creation, assignment, and use of information. Palfrey’s primer defines what IP is, and how it can be developed, assigned, acquired, and securitised. He identifies alternatives to the “sword and shield” legal approach. For an alternative primer focusing on IP management and opportunity evaluation see Stephen J. Frank’s Intellectual Property for Managers and Investors: A Guide to Evaluating, Protecting, and Exploiting IP (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) (TS-3) (MAM-3). For specialist topics on globalisation, biotechnology, entertainment, and information technology see Michael A. Gollin’s Driving Innovation: Intellectual Property Strategies for a Dynamic World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) (TS-4) (MAM-4).

Adventures With Class Status

Class
Class

 

Paul Fussell wrote Class (New York: Summit Books, 1983) as an early 1980s satire on the American status system. The book covers Fussell’s nine classes (p. 27) and their behavioural manifestations in personal appearance, housing, consumption, intellectual interests, and speech. Although some of Fussell’s insights are dated this book is filled with behavioural gems that can be eye-opening and, at times, painful to read.

Fussell’s nine clases have three main layers. In the first, the Top Out-of-Sight would now be called the 1%. The Upper and Upper Middle are visible via conspicuous consumption. In the second, the Middle is anxious not to slide into the lower middle class, which Fussell calls High Proletarian, Mid-proletarian, and Low proletarian. In the third, the Destitute and Bottom Out-of-Sight rely on welfare or institutions.

Fussell defines each of the nine classes in terms of specific emotional signatures. Class for Fussell is about more than income: it is a life orientation to aesthetics, style, taste, and modes of social presentation. The Top Out-of-Sight “lives on inherited capital entirely” (p. 29). The Upper class has benefited over the past three decades from financialisation. The Upper Middle “suffers from a bourgeois sense of shame, a conviction that to live on the earnings of others, even forebears, is not quite nice” (p. 33). The Middle Class has “earnestness and psychic insecurity” (p. 39) and “a salesman’s style” (p. 43). The High Proletarians “are in bondage–to monetary policy, rip-off advertising, crazes and delusions, mass low culture, fast foods, consumer schlock” (p. 44).

Class evokes the early 1980s in several sections. Fussell quotes sociologists and management advisers who mentor in the behavioural strategies of Upper Middle class looks. “Upper-middle clothes . . . lean to the soft, textured, woolly, nubby” (p. 60). Ostentatious cuff links are Prole (p. 65). TVs and technology are either Middle Class or Prole (p. 92). The New Yorker displayed in a city apartment is the Middle Class girl’s aspiration to be Upper Middle Class (pp. 102, 146). Proles stick to the known on restaurant menus (p. 106). Tourism and luxury defines Middle Class: it’s what the cruise ship industry is built on (p. 109). Fussell spends an entire section on mail catalogues and collectibles aimed at the Middle Class and High Proles (pp. 117-127). You could apply the same logic today to Jeff Bezos’ empire at Amazon.com.

Fussell — who was a Professor of English Literature at Pennsylvania — spends a chapter on the higher education sector. His major concern is the distinction between elite universities, and institutions given university status that are really religious or teaching colleges. What Fussell identified has become part of the bubble dynamics (#16I) of student debt in the United States and other Western nations. It is likely to continue with the increased competition in the higher education sector, and the emergence of free online options.

Many historical books on class deal with aspirational social climbing. Fussell focuses a chapter instead on two dynamics: social sinking and Prole Drift (pp. 171-173). Social sinking is the drive to lower your social status and to adopt the behavioural strategies of lower classes. Prole Drift is Fussell’s massification of society in the media, bookstores, newspapers, and television. These concerns foreshadowed the recent debates on income inequality.

The major escape route from Fussell’s nine classes is a category: X. “You become an X person,” Fussell notes, “or, to put it more bluntly, you earn X-personhood by a strenuous effort of discovery in which curiosity and originality are indispensable” (p. 179). X people are aesthetes, inner-driven, parodists, and personal stylists. They may know several languages; study personal topics; and play with social status conventions.

Reading Class gave me several days of testing my reality tunnel. I did an inventory of my household, clothing, belongings, and media consumption. I thought about my PhD and employer universities, and their class-based differences. I studied Fussell’s class based-indicators in my neighbourhood, whilst commuting, and at a business-university awards dinner. I reflected on familial influences. 30 years later, large parts of Class still hold up. Who will write a contemporary update?

Mindfulness-Based CBT

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression

In 1989, psychologists Mark Williams, John Teasdale, and Zindel Segal met on the way to the World Congress of Cognitive Therapy. Williams and Tasdale were based at the Medical Research Council’s Applied Psychology Unit at Cambridge. All three psychologists were interested in why people relapse and experience recurrent depression.

In April 1992, the psychologists met again to advance a maintenance version of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The MacArthur Foundation had awarded Segal a research grant to understand the cognitive vulnerability of people to depression. The psychologists found that depressive states created negative biases in memory. Teasedale found that depressive thinking could re-emerge. Patients with dysfunctional beliefs could relapse over the next 30 months.

How could the psychologists develop a maintenance version of CBT to prevent depression relapse? Teasdale was familiar with the Buddhist monk Ajahn Sumedho, who emphasised our ability to Understand thoughts as mental activity. The psychologists had also begun to study Jon Kabat-Zinn‘s work on Buddhist mindfulness meditation. Kabat-Zinn had developed a Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts, and later a Center for Mindfulness.

From this work, the psychologists developed an influential program: Mindfulness-based CBT. This informed their clinical book Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression (2nd ed.). (New York: Guilford Press, 2013).

Kabat-Zinn has described Mindfulness as: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” After attending Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness classes, Segal, Williams, and Teasdale developed a version of CBT called “attentional control training.” But in 1995 when they arrived at Kabat-Zinn’s clinic for a second time, the psychologists had reached a conclusion. They had to embrace their own personal mindfulness practice. They also had to transition from being a therapist to Becoming an instructor.

One of the psychologists’ distinctions was between “driven-doing” and “being” modes. The first is goal-driven and focuses on discrepancies and continuous monitoring, which can then lead to ruminations in the subjective universe. In contrast the “being” mode focuses on “accepting” and “allowing”. The core skill of mindfulness-based CBT then is to Recognize ruminative, negative thoughts and to shift more to a process-oriented “being” mode of perception.

The Mindfulness-based CBT program that Segal, Williams and Teasdale developed relates to psyche-enhancing activities and the pursuit of self-mastery. Kabat-Zinn and the psychologists used a form of Buddhist mindfulness meditation similar to the Chan style. Segal, Williams and Teasdale urged people facing potential relapse to spend time doing a task that gave them pleasure, and a sense of self-mastery.

Segal, Williams and Teasdale also adapted and developed several other practices. A body scan meditation helped to identify physical sensations. A Pleasant Experiences Calendar embedded Indulgence as a way to strengthen the psyche. Mindfulness of a routine activity — eating, doing dishes, brushing teeth, attention to a pet — expanded the scope and range of Being to everyday circumstances. Guided, sitting and walking meditations provided further practices to cultivate awareness.

Mindfulness-based CBT is useful for positive, mindful self-growth.