In Utero

In Utero (1993)
In Utero (1993)


Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound each have reviews out on the 20th anniversary reissue of Nirvana’s third studio album In Utero (1993). This album evokes a very specific period of my life. It came out a few weeks before I moved out of my family home into La Trobe University student housing, and became an industry liaison and writer for LTU’s Rabelais student newspaper. I would often reflect on Nirvana’s ‘Serve The Servants’ and ‘Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle’ as I dealt with public relations executives in the major recording labels. Gen-X traumatised college friends would have ‘Heart-Shaped Box’, ‘Rape Me’, ‘Tourette’s’, and ‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter’ on repeat, and very loud. “Married | Buried” became the signature quote from ‘All Apologies’. When I heard that Kurt Cobain had used King Crimson’s Red (1975) as a sonic reference for producer Steve Albini, I would play both albums back-to-back, ending with Crimson’s ‘Starless’. A German student exchange couple would play the secret, hidden track ‘Endless, Nameless’ as I read Idries Shah’s The Sufis. Friend Michael Keleher juxtaposed Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’ with Bob Dylan’s ‘Born Again’ phase as a charismatic Christian. This period of listening to In Utero in vivo ended with Cobain’s Rome suicide attempt in March 1994. We were preparing a Rabelais issue when I heard the news of Cobain’s death, so we rang the editors to stop the presses. Cobain’s death now overshadows what listening to In Utero felt like: an emotional, gritty, purifying, and cleansing anger at everything that felt messed up in the world, and in our young adult lives.

Picks & Pans: Expertise, Giftedness, and High Abilities

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman (New York: Basic Books, 2013). (TS-3). Francis Galton and Alfred Binet’s research have influenced how we understand human intelligence and giftedness. Kaufman’s Ungifted examines more contemporary research such as the Cattell-Horn-Carroll model of cognitive abilities that I discovered in my Fluid Intelligence Working (30th June – 1st July 2012). This research transforms our understanding of innate talent versus the environment; the neuroscience of creativity; and education initiatives for cultivating giftedness and high abilities. Kaufman emphasises passion, mindset, self-regulation, openness to experience, and K. Anders Ericsson’s deliberate practice as important for self-growth. Kaufman also edited the recent collection The Complexity of Greatness: Beyond Talent Or Practice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013) (TS-4) which collects recent research on expertise, giftedness, talent, and deliberate practice. Heidrun Stoeger, Abdullah Aljughaiman, and Bettina Harder’s collection Talent and Development (Berlin: LIT Verlag) (TS-4) summarises recent European research.


Beyond Knowledge: Extracognitive Aspects of Developing High Ability edited by Larisa V. Shavinina and Michel Ferrari (New York: Routledge, 2004). (TS-4). Studies of giftedness and high abilities usually emphasise the role of personality traits, micro-social factors (family, school, and significant others); macro-social factors (the cultural, economic, political, and social conditions you live in); and subjective norms. This book examines several extracognitive factors that lie beyond these traditional approaches: adaptation, ego-strength, unconscious affect (emotions), and creative discovery processes. Other chapters consider the role of deliberate practice, chance, creative genius, and wisdom traditions. Herein lies one facet of cultivating Left Hand Path sovereignty.


Genius Explained by Michael J.A. Howe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004). (TS-4). The late Howe was a leading researcher on genius, giftedness, and high abilities. Malcolm Gladwell cites Genius Explained in his book Outliers: The Story of Success (New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2008) (TS-3) on the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a child prodigy. (Gladwell also mentioned K. Anders Ericsson and William Chase’s respective research into deliberate practice and expertise, which also informed Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code and Geoff Colvin’s Talent Is Overrated.) Howe’s book examines the deliberate practice strategies, environment, and psychology of Charles Darwin, the Bronte sisters, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, and others. For Howe, deliberate practice, the environment, and chance are pivotal yet often overlooked in discussion of giftedness and innate talent.


Working Minds: A Practitioner’s Guide to Cognitive Task Analysis by Beth Crandall, Gary Klein, and Robert H. Hoffman (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 2006). (TS-3). Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) is a structured, analytical process to discover expertise, and to understand its cognitive and human factors. This book considers CTA methods (concept maps; experiments; interviews; and stories) with new domains (cognitive psychology and systems development in information technology); and applications for market research and program evaluation. CTA is part of the broader domain of cognitive engineering and human factors research, detailed in John D. Lee and Alex Kirlik’s Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Engineering (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013) (TS-4).


Accelerated Expertise: Training for High Proficiency in a Complex World by Robert H. Hoffman, Paul Ward, Paul J. Feltovich, Lia DiBello, Stephen M. Fiore, and Dee H. Andrews (New York and London: Psychology Press, 2013). (TS-4). K. Anders Ericsson’s pioneering work on deliberate practice emphasised the pivotal role of practice, training, and feedback. Accelerated Expertise provides an in-depth overview of how accelerated learning and deliberate practice techniques are now applied to rapidly cultivate skills and expertise. This might be a TS-1 book if you plan to utilise these techniques on a regular basis. Ruth C. Clark’s Building Expertise: Cognitive Methods for Training and Performance Improvement (San Francisco: Pfeiffer, 2008) (TS-4) emphasises training and instructional design.


Expertise and Skill Acquisition: The Impact of William G. Chase edited by James J. Staszewski (New York and London: Psychology Press, 2013). (TS-4). In 1973, William Chase and Herbert Simon wrote an influential article on the skills acquisition strategies of grand chess masters. K. Anders Ericsson would cite Chase and Simon’s 10,000 hour rule in deliberate practice research, and Malcolm Gladwell popularised it in his book Outliers and New Yorker articles. This book examines Chase’s contributions to the development of expertise; the neuroscience of skill acquisition; and the role of skilled memory. It connects Chase’s research program to deliberate practice and cognitive engineering.


The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance edited by K. Anders Ericsson, Neil Charness, Paul J. Feltovich, and Robert R. Hoffman (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006). (TS-4). This Cambridge Handbook is a major advance of K. Anders Ericsson’s pioneering research on deliberate practice and cultivating expertise. It summarises the major theories and methods for understanding and studying expertise; and considers expertise in specific professional, art, sport, and game domains. The chapters on generalisable, mediating mechanisms consider the role of ageing, creativity, deliberate practice, intelligence, tacit knowledge, and other factors. The companion Cambridge Handbooks on Creativity, Intelligence, Learning Sciences, and Thinking and Reasoning are also highly recommended as advanced references. Ericsson’s deliberate practice research and its implications for training are explored further in Development of Professional Expertise: Toward Measurement of Expert Performance and Design of Optimal Learning Environments (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009) (TS-4). Shane Murphy’s Oxford Handbook of Sport and Performance Psychology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) (TS-4) explores expertise and expert performance in those domains. David Epstein’s The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance (New York: Current, 2013) (TS-3) critiques Ericsson’s deliberate practice as applied to elite athletes and sports performance. The combination of Ericsson’s deliberate practice, performance psychology, and elite sports training has been applied to other domains, such as Brett N. Steenbarger’s Enhancing Trader Performance: Proven Strategies From The Cutting Edge of Trading Psychology (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006) (TS-3), and the late Ari Kiev’s The Mental Strategies of Top Traders: The Psychological Determinants of Trading Success (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009) (TS-3).

14th July 2013: George Packer’s The Unwinding

The Unwinding (2013)
The Unwinding (2013)

I’m spending this weekend with George Packer’s new book The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013). It’s a collection of micro-histories (Johan Galtung & Sohail Inayatullah): how individual lives are affected by socio-economic and socio-political upheavals, and the consequences of choices made. Packer modelled his book on John Don Passos’ USA trilogy, and, perhaps, Studs Terkel. It’s a gripping read.

11th July 2013: The Moral Worldviews of Man of Steel

I finally saw Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel on the weekend.


The film contrasts four moral worldviews: (1) Jor-El’s (Russell Crowe) imperative that Kal-El/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) create a different, better future for Earth than Krypton; (2) Jonathan Kent’s (Kevin Costner) imperative that Clark Kent becomes a symbol for human potential and meta-ethical awareness; (3) General Zod’s (Michael Shannon) role to ensure the continuity and survival of Krypton’s civilization; and (4) Faora-Ul’s (Antje Traue) belief that “amorality has an evolutionary advantage.”


The meta-ethical clash is between Jonathan Kent’s servant leadership ideal and General Zod’s rigidity which prevents reaching a compromise for both civilisations to co-exist on Earth and to reach a social contract.


The supporting characters including Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) have their own meta-ethical stances, namely about investigative journalism ethics and an institutional view of newspaper editing.


Man of Steel also addresses genocide prevention explored in Samantha Power’s book A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002).

21st June 2013: Roy Christopher’s Summer Reading List, 2013

Collaborator Roy Christopher has released his annual Summer Reading List for 2013, with contributions from danah boyd, Janet Murray, Richard Kadrey, Howard Rheingold, Mark Amerika, Matthew Kirschenbaum, Gareth Branwyn, Peter Lunenfeld, RoyC, myself, and others.


My contribution this year is a mix of books by allies, PhD research, and trading system development.


This is turning into an annual tradition for me and a snapshot of evolving research interests. I also contributed to the 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008 and 2007 reading lists (I missed 2009).

11th June 2013: Picks & Pans

Office Politics: How to Thrive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks by Oliver James (New York: Vermillion, 2013). (TS-3). A winner-takes-all environment, flawed incentives design, and ‘tournaments’ for managerial roles means that proficiency in office politics is often necessary for career prosperity. James first examines four toxic types in professions and organisations: Psychopaths, Machiavels, Narcissists, and Imposters. In-depth advice is given on a range of skills including: acting, astuteness, virtuosity, and handling dirty tricks. Authenticity, insight, mindfulness, playfulness, and fluid, two-way communication are suggested as ways to reframe office politics in a more productive, and perhaps even initiatory, manner. Office Politics is useful reading if you aspire to climb the corporate ladder, and want to avoid the White Magic of organisations, and the of co-workers.


The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi by William Scott Wilson (Boston and London: Shambhala, 2013). (TS-3). Miyamoto Musashi’s influential Book of Five Rings (Gorin No Sho) discusses sword-fighting skills as one path to self-mastery. Wilson combines a biography of Musashi; an analysis of the development and life circumstances of Musashi’s philosophy; and a consideration of Musashi’s influence on Japanese martial arts, and on global popular culture, such as film portrayals and Wall Street traders. Kenji Tokitsu’s book Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings (Boston and London: Weatherhill, 2012) (TS-4) provides a parallel history of Musashi’s life, documents his pre-Gorin No Sho writings, and examines his School (Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu), and its relationship to Budo.


Balancing the Mind: A Tibetan Buddhist Approach to Refining Attention by B. Allan Wallace (Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2005). (TS-4). Wallace was a monk in Buddhist monasteries in India, and Switzerland, and has translated for H.H., the Dalai Lama. Balancing the Mind is a commentary on ‘Small Exposition of the Stages of Path to Enlightenment’ by the Buddhist Vajrayana monk Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), which outlines an Indo-Tibetan methodology for using introspection (samprajnya) and mindfulness (smrti) to cultivate meditative quiescence (samatha). Wallace discusses parallels with William James’ study of religious experience, Theravada Buddhism, and contemporary neuroscience research. A helpful glossary translates specialist terms in English, Sanskrit, and Tibetan, and an extensive bibliography is included for further research. Gareth Sparham has also translated Tsongkhapa’s ‘An Explanation of Tantric Morality Called “Fruit Clusters of Siddhis”’ available with commentary in Tantric Ethics: An Explanation of the Precepts for Buddhist Vajrayana Practice (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005) (TS-3). Tsongkhapa’s perspective on Root and Gross Downfalls in the Kalacakra System has insights for the periodic crises and shocks that have occurred in initiatory wisdom schools.


Omniscience and the Rhetoric of Reason: Santaraksita and Kamalasila on Rationality, Argumentation, & Religious Authority by Sara L. McClintock (Somerville, MA Wisdom Publications, 2010). (TS-4). McClintock is an Assistant Professor of religion at Emory University. She examines in detail the discussion of the Buddha’s omniscience (a “state of infinite, all-encompassing knowledge”) in the Tattvasamgraha (written by the Buddhist monk Santaraksita in the 8th century) and the Panjika commentary (by Santaraksita’s direct disciple, the monk Kamalsila), and its influence on “the metaphysics, epistemology, soteriology, and practical rationality” of Buddhism in Southeast Asia. Santaraksita and Kamalasila’s analysis highlights the pivotal role of a Buddhist “rhetoric of reason” in order to eliminate human ignorance (avidya) that is a barrier to potential omniscience (sarvajna). McClintock provides a glimpse of argumentation in the Indo-Tibetan religious tradition.


Secrets of the Blue Cliff Record: Zen Comments by Hakuin and Tenkei translated by Thomas Cleary (Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2000). (TS-3). The Blue Cliff Record is an influential collection of Zen Buddhist teaching stories and koans. Cleary has translated commentaries by Hakuin Ekaku (1685—1768) and Tenkei Denson (1648—1735), reflecting the Rinzai and Soto sects, respectively. For Cleary, the commentaries illuminate how the Blue Cliff Record text is “specially designed to assist in the activation of dormant human potential . . . [that] are intended to foster specific perceptions and insights whose absorption in experience enable the mind to work in a more coherent and comprehensive manner than conventional education can produce.”


Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science by Peter Godfrey-Smith (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2003). (TS-3). Godfrey-Smith developed this primer on the philosophy of science from his lectures at Stanford University. He clarifies the foundations of scientific theory-building; the role of logical empiricism and the different types of explanatory inference; the Popper-Kuhn-Lakatos-Feyerabend debates of the 1960s and 1970s; and recent challenges from the sociology of science (Bruno Latour), feminism, natural philosophy, scientific realism, and Bayesian-influenced probability. Godfrey-Smith will help you to understand the difference between deductive and inductive logic; the influence of Kuhn’s theory of scientific revolutions; and the recent work in causal explanations and mechanisms. This is a general book if you have a general interest in logic and the scientific method; and perhaps an introductory book if you are going to work regularly with the natural approach to the objective and subjective universes.


Machine Learning: The Art and Science of Algorithms That Make Sense of Data by Peter Flach (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012). (TS-3). (MAM-3). Flach defines machine learning as “concerned with using the right features to build the right models that achieve the right tasks.” Machine learning uses descriptive, predictive, and probabilistic models to build learning and rules-based analysis of computer data, from your email’s spam filter to search engine algorithms. This book is an introduction to how computer science is using machine learning: it is an accessible introduction to the machine learning field (when compared with other relevant literature); but might be a more specialist text if you are unfamiliar with probability, tree and rule models, and concept learning. Machine learning informs complex decision-making and knowledge discovery in computer science, e-commerce choice selection, search engine optimisation, quantitative hedge funds, and pharmaceuticals research.


Relational Knowledge Discovery by M.E. Muller (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012). (TS-4). (MAM-4). Muller is a Professor of computer science at the University of Applied Sciences, Bonn-Rhein-Sieg. Formal methods for knowledge discovery are the basis for algorithms, rules, and pattern recognition capabilities in artificial intelligence, data mining, and machine learning. Muller defines learning as “acquiring the ability to discriminate between different things.” This book provides a graduate level introduction to data-driven hypothesis testing; set theory; inductive logic; ensemble learning; knowledge representation, and other techniques that underpin algorithms in data mining and machine learning. A primer on how creating/limiting decision pathways might be modelled using information theory.


Knowledge Automation: How to Implement Decision Management in Business Processes by Alan N. Fish (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2012). (TS-3). (MAM-3). Knowledge automation lies at the intersection of decision management (using predictive analytics and business rules for decisions); business process management systems (activity sequences); and service-oriented architecture (loosely-coupled reusable software as a service). These areas provide C-level managers with the capabilities to automate many business functions, and to change the staff and skills profile in contemporary organisations (which can lead to office politics, change management, and restructuring). Fish provides a guide for senior managers, information architects, and business analysts to model business processes; identify and redesign process decisions; and to develop decision services using business rules, algorithms, and predictive analytics. It remains to be seen whether Fish’s vision of decision management will occur, perhaps aided by knowledge discovery and machine learning, or whether it will suffer the fate of early expert systems from the late 1980s and early 1990s.


Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life by John H. Miller and Scott E. Page (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007). (TS-3). (MAM-3). This primer on complex adaptive systems (CAS) draws on the research expertise of the Santa Fe Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Michgan. CAS can emerge from the interaction of individual actors or agents. This book discusses major features and dynamics of CAS including: modelling, emergence, automata, and CAS insights on complex social dynamics such as cities, economies, financial markets, and societal evolution. An accessible introduction to what computational models reveal about collective and mass social dynamics.


Investing: The Last Liberal Art (2nd ed.) by Robert G. Hagstrom (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013). (TS-3). (MAM-1). Hagstrom is a value-based investor who is deeply influenced by Charlie Munger (vice-chairman of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway); Benjamin Franklin; Edward Thorndike (a student of William James); James Burke (Connections); and John Holland (the Santa Fe Institute). In this book Hagstrom attempts to understand how Munger thinks about investment and acquires ‘worldly wisdom’ via Thorndike’s ‘connectionionist’ model of learning, and the ‘latticework’ of discipline-specific ‘mental models’. Hagstrom examines lessons from eight fields of knowledge: physics, biology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, literature, mathematics, and decision-making. He also includes the St. John’s College reading list of philosophy classics: “How does one achieve worldly wisdom? To state the matter concisely, it is an ongoing process of, first, acquiring significant concepts—the models—from many areas of knowledge and then, second, learning to recognize patterns of similarity among them. The first is a matter of educating yourself; the second is a matter of learning to think and see differently.”


The Asylum: Inside The Rise and Ruin of the Global Oil Market by Leah McGrath Goodman (New York: HarperCollins, 2011). (TS-3). (MAM-3). In late 2012 and early 2013 new scandals swept Wall Street and global financial markets. The new scandals involved the manipulation of the London Interbank Overnight Rate for inter-bank lending, and a probable European Union (EU) investigation into the global oil market. Goodman’s reportage provides some historical context for the EU investigation if it proceeds; the founding and evolution of the Nymex oil markets; the transition of pit traders from ‘open outcry’ to computer-driven, high-frequency trading markets; and the battles within the enforcement division of the US-based Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The Asylum also includes pit trader, market-maker, and enforcement division reactions to the high-profile collapses of Enron and Amaranth Advisors which traded the global oil, gas, electricity, and commodities markets with disastrous results. “These scandals don’t surprise me at all,” one trader told me, “of course financial markets are manipulated!”


The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2011). (TS-5). In May 2013, the US-based Internal Revenue Service was engulfed in scandal when media outlets revealed that the IRS had targeted right-wing political groups for taxation audits. The IRS scandal would not have surprised readers of David Foster Wallace’s final, unfinished novel, about the initiation of trainee David Foster Wallace in the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois. Wallace spent nearly a decade researching accounting and taxation audit systems whilst working on the novel, which explores themes of individuality, mindfulness practice as a method to train attention, and the search for human happiness amidst contemporary boredom. The University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Center is expected to house the original drafts and supporting material from The Pale King.


An Introduction to Systematic Reviews by David Gough, Sandy Oliver, and James Thomas (London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2012). (TS-3). A systematic review is a structured, analytic process, undertaken as part of a research literature review or project, in order to understand or to evaluate a knowledge domain. The results from a systematic review may identify gaps in current knowledge, biases or errors to be addressed, or may be the first step in the synthesis of new knowledge, such as theory-building. This book discusses how to do a systematic review, and the methodological issues that arise during the process, from information management and the selection criteria for relevant studies, to specialist techniques like database analysis and statistical meta-analysis. The authors are affiliated with the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre, in the Social Science Research Unit at London’s Institute of Education. The Cochrane Collaboration, an international network involved in the systematic reviews of healthcare, also shaped this book.

26th December 2012: Picks & Pans

Antifragile: How Things Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (New York: Allen Lane, 2012). (TS-5) (MAM-5). Taleb (Fooled By Randomness, The Black Swan, The Bed of Procrustes) is a former options trader and philosopher who focuses on the ontology and epistemology of uncertainty. Antifragile develops a via negativa philosophy about things that benefit from disorder and shock: vega and long gamma exposure in stock markets; post-traumatic growth in medicine; and cultivating ‘optionality’ and the ‘barbell strategy’ as ways to deal with Hazard, chance, and life stressors (preferably of short duration followed by recovery). Taleb rails against ‘fragilistas’, ‘touristification’ and details a range of Black Swan errors that humans and social institutions can fall prey to. He constructs a dense personal, subjective universe that needs its own glossary to decode. Antifragile’s mix of analysis, critique and personal memoir would have benefited from an editor but is filled with Taleb’s philosophical insights. For a specialist view of vega and long gamma see Robert A. Schwartz, John Aidan Byrne and Antoinette Colaninno’s Volatility: Risk and Uncertainty in Financial Markets (New York: Springer, 2011) (TS-4) (MAM-4). For an historical counter-view to Taleb on vega and risk see Aaron C. Brown’s Red-Blooded Risk: The Secret History of Wall Street (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) (TS-3) (MAM-3).


Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max (New York: Viking, 2012). (TS-3). David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) was a United States novelist, short story writer and essayist best known for the maximalist novel Infinite Jest (New York: Little, Brown, 1996) (TS-5). D.T. Max’s autobiography is a cathartic and confronting exploration of DFW’s development as a humanist, philosophical writer, his impact on academia and popular culture, and his personal demons. DFW struggled with depression and nervous breakdowns at Amherst to write the Wittgenstein-influenced novel The Broom of the System (New York: Viking Press, 1987) (TS-3). Infinite Jest combined a critique of popular culture with DFW’s experiences in Alcoholics Anonymous, and brought him major critical acclaim and commercial success. In some ways this could be interpreted as de facto Recognition (‘the most influential writer of his generation’) which DFW was unprepared for, and which attracted criticism from Bret Easton Ellis and other writers. Max is unflinching about how DFW dealt with this disproportionate success and includes some reflective correspondence with Don DeLillo, Jonathan Franzen and other writers. DFW would spend over a decade writing his unfinished novel The Pale King (New York: Little, Brown, 2011) (TS-3) and struggling with Buddhist mindfulness practices. He articulated this philosophical shift in his commencement speech ‘This Is Water’ delivered at Kenyon College in May 2005 and available on YouTube. Perhaps what DFW missed was a balanced initiatory sense (which developed from Infinite Jest to The Pale King) and the appropriate psyche-strengthening resources and skills to overcome his suicidal ideation. DFW’s papers are now housed at the University of Texas at Austin.


More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places by Michael J. Mauboussin (rev. ed.) (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008). (TS-3) (MAM-1). Mauboussin is Chief Investment Strategist at Legg Mason Capital Management and Adjunct Professor of Finance at Columbia Business School. More Than You Know is a guide for investment strategists to find alpha (actively managed returns in excess of a performance benchmark — or, philosophically, what is psyche-enhancing in your life). It is an accessible guide – influenced by Edward O. Wilson’s ‘consilience’ integrative approach – to current thinking about behavioural finance, market microstructure (how market design and transaction costs impact price activity), portfolio management, and how the emerging sciences can be applied to investment management, idea generation, and decision-making. The essay structure in More Than You Know also highlights the importance of metacommunication in conveying new insights to different audiences: this is a book about how the exploratory search for investment and trading ideas can lead to new applied knowledge and can refresh strategic thinking. For an overview of Mauboussin’s interest in the emerging sciences, fitness landscapes, and economics see Eric D. Beinhocker’s The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics (New York: Random House, 2006) (TS-3) (MAM-3). For an in-depth conceptual and historical account of model-making in economics, game theory and macroeconomic simulations see Mary S. Morgan’s The World In The Model: How Economists Work and Think (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012) (TS-4) (MAM-4).


How Much Is Enough? The Love of Money, and the Case for the Good Life by Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky (London: Penguin Books, 2012). (TS-3) (MAM-3). In 1928, the economist and philosopher John Maynard Keynes spoke to Cambridge University undergraduates on ‘economic possibilities for our grandchildren’. The Skidelskys set out to examine how and why Keynes’ forecast has failed to occur. This book generated a sustained public debate about consumption, work productivity, and income inequality in London’s Financial Times and other media outlets. The ‘insatiability’ of work, Faustian and self-interested economics, and shifts in global attitudes to wealth are considered. The Skidelskys debate the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth World-3 simulation forecast and its ‘overshoot and collapse’ scenario; happiness economics; and what a ‘good life’ consists of. They conclude that a philosophically-oriented worldview that cultivates the Good is healthier than a consumption-oriented life. For the historical context of the shift from Keynes to Faustian and self-interested economics, and the key personalities involved, see Jeff Madrick’s Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present (New York: Vintage Books, 2011) (TS-3) (MAM-3). If you aspire to the 1% then Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (New York: The Penguin Press, 2012) (TS-3) (MAM-3) might convey why this was a highly visible socio-political issue in 2012.


The Stewardship of Wealth: Successful Private Wealth Management for Investors and Their Advisors by Gregory Curtis (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012). (TS-3) (MAM-3). Curtis is founder of the wealth advisory firm Greycourt & Co. The first third of this book explores Curtis’s views on creative capital, wealth management, government policies, capital and financial markets, and risk. The second third deals with advisors, family investment decisions, and trusts. The third deals with asset allocation and portfolio decisions including equities, international markets, real estate, fixed income, and alternative investments (including hedge funds and private equity). Curtis addresses money managers, tax minimisation strategies, investment policy statements, and the myths of wealth, the rich and happiness. A website has further chapters and resources. If you are considering a career in private wealth management then you might consult G. Victor Hallman and Jerry S. Rosenbloom’s Private Wealth Management: The Complete Reference for the Personal Financial Planner (8th ed.) (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009) (TS-4) and Harold Evensky, Stephen M. Horan and Thomas R. Robinson’s The New Wealth Management: The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Managing and Investing Client Assets (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2011) (TS-4) which outlines the CFA Institute’s approach.


The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction by Nate Silver (New York: Penguin, 2012). (TS-3) (MAM-3). Silver is a United States statistician and ‘sabermetrics’ (sports statistics analyst) whose blog FiveThirtyEight (currently hosted by The New York Times) achieved a highly accurate forecast of the 2012 United States election outcome. The Signal and the Noise outlines Silver’s Bayesian approach to forecasting and prediction, including under what conditions these may fail. His methodology uses Big Data, model building, probability, analytics, inference testing, and other tools. If you grapple with uncertainty or to use statistics insights in organisational management, Silver’s book may be a useful introduction to a rapidly growing field. Jim Manzi’s Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society (New York: Basic Books, 2012) (TS-3) argues for the use of induction, randomised trials, and experimental social science in government, political administrations, and the diffusion of social innovation.


Market Sense and Nonsense: How the Markets Really Work and How They Don’t (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012). (TS-3) (MAM-3). Schwager is a futures market expert whose four volume Market Wizards interview series (1989-2012) have status amongst traders as mouth-to-ear initiation. Market Sense and Nonsense collects Schwager’s insights on capital preservation; market experts and the investment media; why he feels the Efficient Market Hypothesis doesn’t always work; and lessons on evaluating past returns, volatility, risk, hedge funds, mutual funds, and portfolio management. A strategic primer for new investors to understand how capital and financial markets work, and how to critically evaluate advice, media, and other information sources.


Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story by Greg Smith (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2012). (TS-3) (MAM-3). On 14th March 2012, The New York Times published Smith’s op-ed ‘Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs’. In the NYT op-ed and this follow-up book Smith adopts a ‘whistleblower’ stance about the cultural change he believes the investment bank Goldman Sachs has undergone from client-oriented service to extractive rent-seeking and proprietary trading. This rushed-to-publication book doesn’t live up to the promise of Smith’s op-ed and “muppets” claim about how Goldman Sachs views its clients. However, it can be read as a firsthand, somewhat initiatory account of Smith’s transformation from idealistic intern in 2000 to disaffected sales trader and manager in 2012. Were there ethical dilemmas, shadow projection, or a combination? The reaction to Smith’s book particularly from NYT Dealbook editor-at-large and CNBC co-anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin offers lessons in framing and metacommunication about ethical dilemmas. For an historical and contemporary overview of Goldman Sachs and its investment bank culture see Charles D. Ellis’s magisterial The Partnership: A History of Goldman Sachs (New York: Allen Lane, 2008) (TS-3) (MAM-3) and William D. Cohan’s reportage Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came To Rule The World (New York: Penguin Books, 2011) (TS-3) (MAM-3).


Octopus: Sam Israel, The Secret Market, and Wall Street’s Wildest Con by Guy Lawson (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012). (TS-3) (MAM-3). I first heard about the Octopus power elite conspiracy from parapolitical researcher Kenn Thomas and later from open source intelligence advocate Robert David Steele. Octopus resurfaces in this biography of Bayou Group hedge fund founder Samuel Israel III who had $US117 million in debts and trading losses. Israel attempts to enter a purported high-yield bond debt ‘secret market’ involving the Rothschilds and other elite banking families. The first third of the book deals with Bayou’s Ponzi scheme; the second with how Israel becomes ensnared with conspiracy theorist Robert Booth Nichols; and the third with the fallout involving international prime bank fraud. This is a cautionary tale of multiple cons and marks; the ‘medial’ conspiracy netherworld; and the failure of reality-testing. Israel might have benefited from Mark Schindler’s Rumors in Financial Markets: Insights Into Behavioral Finance (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007) (TS-4) and Jeffrey A. Winters’ Oligarchy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011) (TS-4).


The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in the Modern World by Jonathan Powell (New York: Vintage, 2011). (TS-3). Jonathan Powell was Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff from 1994 to 2007. The New Machiavelli is a defence of applied Machiavellian realpolitik from The Prince and The Discourses that draws on Powell’s unpublished diaries and his political administration experiences. Powell discusses the Blair Government’s rise-to-power; Cabinet, Chancellery, and Civil Service negotiations; the importance of multi-stakeholder decision-making and strategic thinking; and how the Blair Government dealt with Europe, geopolitical crises, scandals, and war. For Powell, Blair was a leader who benefited from both Fortuna and also from heeding Machiavelli’s insights about people, persuasion, and leadership. For a comparative analysis of Machiavellian leadership and statecraft in the contemporary era see Carnes Lord’s The Modern Prince: What Leaders Need To Know (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003) (TS-3) which considers states, regimes, elites, and the various levers of national power (such as economics, diplomacy, force, intelligence, education, and strategic culture). Jeffrey Pfeffer’s Power: Why Some People Have It – And Others Don’t (New York: HarperCollins, 2010) (TS-3) considers power in organisational culture and leadership.


Wait: The Useful Art of Procrastination by Frank Partnoy (New York: Public Affairs, 2012). (TS-3). Partnoy is the George E. Barrett Professor of Law and Finance at the University of San Diego and a former investment banker at Morgan Stanley. Wait examines evidence and insights from diverse sources—sport, high-frequency trading, neuro-marketing, information economics, and fighter pilot training—that delaying our decisions can give us situational and strategic advantages. This book is pitched at a Malcolm Gladwell audience but with more substantive research and interviews. Partnoy introduces ideas that have become very influential in their fields, such as George Akerlof’s ‘market for lemons’, and John Boyd’s OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act) which is situated in Grant T. Hammond’s The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security (Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2001) (TS-4). The late Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman’s work on cognitive biases and decision heuristics is detailed in Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Penguin Books, 2011) (TS-1) (MAM-1).


Willpower: Why Self-Control Is the Secret to Success by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney (New York: Penguin, 2011). (TS-3) (MAM-3). Baumeister is the Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University. Willpower is the first popular account of Baumeister’s influential research program into emotional self-regulation, self-control, cultivating will, and the danger of ego depletion: perhaps the key to world-building. Baumeister and Tierney discuss current psychological research on will; the design of personal productivity tools; decision heuristics; self-help programs; parenting; dieting; and other topics. This is a gateway to academic research by Baumeister, Kathleen D. Vohs and others about self-control and experimental social psychology — where the insights and writing can surpass Tierney’s journalistic account here.


The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotion by Jaak Panksepp and Lucy Biven (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2012). (TS-3). Panksepp is a Professor at Washington State University and this book presents his affective neuroscience research program for a broader audience. Panksepp’s research examines how deep brain systems and affective consciousness can affect humans and animals, and might be part of the neuro-evolutionary roots of archetypes, legends and myths. He has identified several deep brain systems—seeking (expectancy), fear (anxiety), rage (anger), lust (sexual excitement), care (nurturance), panic/grief (sadness), and play (social joy)—that shape the neuro-biology of the core self. This book considers how the frontier research on brain emotional systems can affect our mental life and philosophy. Panksepp’s popular account here is supported by a growing number of highly cited academic research papers and collaborations.


The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life by Timothy Ferriss (Las Vegas, NV: Amazon Publishing, 2012). (TS-3). Ferriss (The 4-Hour Workweek) is a raconteur who shifted from self-promoting author to popular blogger and adviser for entrepreneurial start-ups and venture capital. The 4-Hour Chef is Ferriss’s guide to accelerated learning using cooking as a domain of expertise. Ferriss’s framework of DSSS (deconstruction, selection, sequencing, and stakes) and CaFE (compression, frequency, and coding) is a distillation of techniques that Richard Bandler, John Grinder and Robert Dilts developed for Master Practitioner courses in Neurolinguistic Programming, and that were previously outlined in Leslie Cameron-Bandler, David Gordon and Michael Lebeau’s The Emprint Method: A Guide to Reproducing Competence (Moab, UT: Real People Press, 1985) (TS-3). However, Ferriss is able to use metacommunication skills to reach a broader audience: this is a book to be closely studied for how Ferriss distils and presents information, as well as his advice on transferring competence. For two comparative models on developing expertise see Brett N. Steenbarger’s The Daily Trading Coach: 101 Lessons For Becoming Your Own Trading Psychologist (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009) (TS-3) and Robert Greene’s Mastery (New York: Viking, 2012) (TS-3). Cook Ferriss’s recipes at your own risk—and remember to send me some ‘food porn’ photographs.


The Net Delusion: How Not To Liberate The World by Evgeny Morozov (New York: Penguin, 2011). (TS-3). In a former life I edited an alternative news website and was a senior researcher on the sociology of the internet for a university research consortium. Morozov’s Net Delusion and his Twitter feed (@evgenymorozov) are one of the wittiest, scathing critiques of the democracy-internet nexus promoted by Wired, Fast Company and Red Herring magazines and by TED’s popular talks. Morozov in the past has been funded by the Open Society Foundations funded by George Soros. Amongst the book’s insights are an exchange between Aldous Huxley and George Orwell about oligarchical social control; how authoritarian regimes use the internet and social networks; how ‘internet freedom’ can have propaganda elements; and the technological determinism embedded in many internet histories. Morozov’s next book is To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism (New York: Public Affairs, 2013).


The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict With Iran by David Crist (New York: The Penguin Press, 2012). (TS-4). A possible conflict between Iran, and Israel and the United States was a highly visible geopolitical scenario in 2011 and 2012. Crist is a United States historian who spent over a decade researching this eye-opening exploration of United States diplomacy and low-intensity conflict involving Iran, from the Carter to the Obama Administration. The “Iran Problem” involves the Middle East, oil, religion, nuclear weapons development and other complex national security issues. For author and defense historian Thomas Ricks, The Twilight War “is the secret history of the last three decades of American foreign policy in the Middle East”: it provides the historical and institutional context to understand current geopolitical debates, forecasts and pundits. Crist’s contribution is to capture the multi-sided decision-making that occurs in a national security confrontation which lies below the escalation threshold of declared physical war.


Tantra by Geshe Tashi Tsering (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2012). (TS-3). Tsering is a guiding teacher at London’s Jamyang Buddhist Centre and this is the final volume in his very accessible Foundations of Buddhist Thought series (which might be regarded as vital for Buddhists and are useful metacommunication guides on how to present religious doctrines and practices to a broader audience). This book explains with model clarity the Tibetan Buddhist tantric practices of the Mahayana and Vajrayana schools with a Madhyamaka or Middle Path emphasis: initiation and vows; deity, guru, and kriya yoga and visualization practices; highest yoga tantra; the generation and completion stages; and the physiology of esoteric practices involving the subtle body. Kirti Tsenshap Rinpoche’s Principles of Buddhist Tantra (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2012) (TS-3) explains the Middle Path of spiritual illumination in greater detail, whilst Lama Yeshe’s Becoming Vajrasattva: The Tantric Path of Purification (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2004) (TS-3) explains Vajrasattva purification and retreat practices.


Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy by Georg Feuerstein (Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1998). (TS-3). Feuerstein (1948-2012) was a major scholar on Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, and yoga. Tantra provides an accessible, clear introduction to Hindu Tantric cosmology, the major Hindu deities and their religious significance, the subtle body, and the practices of mantra, mudra, and yantra. The chapter ‘The Transmutation of Desire’ quotes from Kaula and Left Hand Path scriptural sources, discusses the panchamakara or 5 Ms (madya, mamsa, matsya, mudra and maithuna); and examines how the ritualised practice of maithuna or sexual intercourse differs from the Western Neo-Tantra derived from the Kama Sutra. Feuerstein dispels many of the myths and misunderstandings in Western contemporary occulture about the panchamakara and maithuna, in particular. Feuerstein also makes comparisons where relevant between Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist forms of Tantra, their religious practices, and cultural transmission.


Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religion by Hugh B. Urban (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). (TS-4). Urban is a Professor in the Department of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University and an expert on the historiography and sociology of Tantra. Tantra posits that Tantra arose through the interplay of Western and Indian encounters and the ‘medial’ battle between scholarship and the popular imagination, and political elite and social non-elite practice. Urban examines the contributions and debates over Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda, Mircea Eliade, Sir John Woodroffe, Chogyam Trungpa, Osho, Aleister Crowley, and the popularity of ‘sex magick’ in contemporary occulture. Urban concludes that although Tantra is an “imagined category” it can also be reimagined in new ways. This book is an academic theory-dense gateway to the historically contested Vamachara (Left Hand Path) and its influence on Western contemporary occulture.


Sinister Yogis by David Gordon White (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). (TS-4). White is professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Sinister Yogis examines the esoteric writings of yogis in Hindu Tantra, their development of siddhis (special powers), and cross-cultural encounters with the West. Yogis had a far more sinister reputation in Hindu religious and occult circles before Colonialist discovery, and the modern yoga and Neo-Tantra industries which White traces to B.K.S. Iyengar in the 1930s. White includes a wealth of information and translated texts on the ‘immanent’ Vamachara (Left Hand Path) that contextualises yogic practices involving inner space, apotheosis, self-willed death, and siddhis. Gordon’s earlier books on Tantra and Yoga are highly recommended.


The Taming of Demons: Violence and Liberation in Tibetan Buddhism by Jacob P. Dalton (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011). (TS-4). Dalton is Assistant Professor of Tibetan Studies at University of California, Berkeley. This scholarly study examines the Tibetan ‘Dark Ages’ period or “age of fragmentation” (842-986 AD) and how socio-political upheaval shaped the subsequent transmission of Tantric Buddhist doctrines in the 11th and 12th centuries. Dalton focuses on Tantric manuscripts found in Dunhuang that explore the taming of Rudra and other Tibetan Buddhist demons; Buddhist warfare doctrines; the 19th century debate about early Tibetan blood sacrifice rites; and transgressive ethics in Vajrayana Buddhism. How early Tibetan Buddhists dealt with the “age of fragmentation” violence had profound effects on its cultural transmission as a religion.


Understanding Sarkar: The Indian Episteme, Macrohistory, and Transformative Knowledge by Sohail Inayatullah (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002). (TS-5). Inayatullah is a Professor at Taiwan’s Tamkang University and an Adjunct Professor at Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast. Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (1921-1990) was an Indian spiritual philosopher, social activist, founder of Ananda Marga, and conceptualised Progressive Utilisation Theory (PROUT). Understanding Sarkar is the book-length version of Inayatullah’s PhD that situates Sarkar’s neo-humanist, macrohistorical contribution in the context of Hindu Vedic and Tantra frameworks as initiatory, transformative knowledge, and the Yugas as historical cycles. Sarkar’s social cycle and sadvipra leaders (“the spiritual intellectual”) offer a way for social and civilizational transformation in the Kali Yuga, which Inayatullah compares with Sri Aurobindo and other Indian thinkers. Inayatullah also compares Sarkar to other macrohistorians including Ssu-Ma Ch’ien, Khaldun, Marx, Pareto, Mosca, Comte, Vico, Hegel, Toynbee, Spengler, and others. Inayatullah concludes with an analysis of Sarker’s laws for social change, and contrasts this with Krishnamurti, Foucault, Galtung, Wallerstein, and other contemporary religious and socio-political thinkers. For a background on macrohistory see Johan Galtung and Sohail Inayatullah’s Macrohistory and Macrohistorians: Perspectives on Individual, Social, and Civilizational Change (Westport, CN: Praeger, 1997) (TS-4). Further Sarkar-related analysis can be found in Sohail Inayatullah and Jennifer Fitzgerald’s Transcending Boundaries: Prabhat Ranjath Sarkar’s Theories of Individual & Social Transformation (Maleney, Australia: Gurukula Press, 1999) (TS-3) and Sohail Inayatullah’s Situating Sarkar: Tantra, Macrohistory & Alternative Futures (Maleney, Australia: Gurukula Press, 1999) (TS-3).


The Teacher-Student Relationship by Jamgon Kongtrul The Great (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion, 1999). (TS-3). The institutional challenges of Dakshinachara or Right Hand Path religions in the West often relate to abuses of power rooted in Vedic-derived brahmacharya or guru and wisdom teacher yoga. This excerpt from Tibetan teacher Jamgon Kongtrul’s Treasury of Knowledge provides a Vajrayana Buddhist perspective on the Master or Wisdom Teacher and the Student, the criteria for selection, dangers of the Vajrayana path, and the mind-to-mind transmission of Dharma teachings. Kongtrul’s text provides Dakshinachara insights into the X crisis in the Church of Satan and the Xem crisis in the Temple of Set, and into scandals involving Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, Chogyam Trungpa, Adi Da Samraj, and other guru-like teachers.


Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics, and the Paranormal by Jeffrey J. Kripal (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). (TS-3). Kripal is the J. Newton Razor Professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. Mutants and Mystics is an historical and thematic analysis of the ‘daemonic’ Super-Stories and mythemes in the occult, paranormal and superhero literature, and their interplay with ‘medial’ subcultures and the individual Quest for higher consciousness and self-actualisation (Divinization or self-godhood). Kripal’s framework distinguishes between Orientation (East-West cultural transmission and fusion of religion, and mythological framing); Alienation (the impact on consciousness of cosmos awareness, an expanded space-time continuum, and UFOlogy); Radiation (how the discovery of the electromagnetic spectrum and quantum physics led to speculation about metaphysical energy and ‘siddhis’ or special powers); and Mutation (Eros as a vehicle for evolutionary transformation). For Kripal, this is an initiatory dynamic in which the individual has Realization awareness (they are being ‘authored’ by contemporary culture) and then Authorization enactment and experiences (in which individuals ‘author’ their own Divinization using elements of Orientation, Alienation, Radiation, and Mutation mythemes). Kripal discusses many authors including: Charles Fort, Wilhelm Reich, Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, Michael Murphy, George Leonard, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Philip K. Dick, John Keel, the remote viewing debate, and how Gopi Krishna and Sri Aurobindo influenced Western contemporary occulture.

3rd November 2012: Good Reads

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.

5th August 2012: Year 20 Personal Reading List

This is a personal reading list of books, ideas, and conceptual frameworks that have shaped my self-work, journalism, and Masters and PhD studies in strategic foresight, counterterrorism, and strategic culture. It draws on a range of contexts including two editorial stints with the alternative news website Disinformation (1998-2003 site archive); the Gurdjieff Work; the Temple of Set; and an evolving, personal research program. The TS letter codes refer to the research codes that Dr. Michael A. Aquino created for the Temple of Set’s publicly available Reading List (PDF).




I Am A Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter (New York: Basic Books, 2007). (TS-4). Hofstadter is a cognitive science professor at Indiana University. He interrogates the ‘I’ – a person’s unique sense of consciousness – using mathematics, cybernetics, memoir, and analogical reasoning. Personal identity emerges for Hofstadter from self-referential perceptions that he likens to mathematician Kurt Godel’s ‘strange loops’. Hofstadter evokes a radically different ontological conceptualization of human identity, capability, and possibility.


Emotional Alchemy: How The Mind Can Heal The Heart by Tara Bennett-Goleman (New York: Harmony Books, 2001). (TS-3). Bennett-Goleman’s ‘emotional alchemy’ fuses Tibetan Buddhist mindfulness practices with Jeffrey Young’s schema therapy, developed as an offshoot of cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with destructive emotional patterns (schemas) that are often traceable to childhood history and family dynamics. Bennett-Goleman outlines an unfolding series of practices that – like Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi and Martin Seligman’s contributions to positive psychology – can lead to clarity, happiness, equanimity, and connection to a modern wisdom tradition. Jeffrey Young, Janet Klosko and Marjorie Weishaar’s Schema Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide (New York: The Guilford Press, 2003) (TS-4) provides a clinical overview of Young’s initial development of schema therapy, the different schema modes, and has specific guidelines for borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. (There are now more recent books for clinical practitioners that advance the schema therapy approach.) Jerome Blackman’s 101 Defenses: How the Mind Shields Itself (New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2004) (TS-4) outlines the major psychological defense mechanisms that psychoanalysis has discovered.


The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance (New York: The Free Press, 2008). (TS-1). Waitzkin is a chess grand master and Tai Chi Chuan world champion profiled in the book and film Searching For Bobby Fischer. This book explores Waitzkin’s approach to deep play, learning and performance: it parallels Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s study of ‘flow’ optimal, psychological states.


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (New York: Penguin Books, 2011). (TS-1). Kahneman and his late colleague Amos Tversky developed prospect theory: the scientific study of cognitive biases and decision heuristics. Kahneman was awarded the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for this influential research program. Thinking, Fast and Slow is an accessible guide to prospect theory that distinguishes between System 1 (associative memory) and System 2 (rational, controlled thinking). It includes coverage of anchoring, availability, framing, narrative fallacy, representativeness, and other major cognitive biases and decision heuristics. Frank Partnoy’s Wait: The Useful Art of Procrastination (London: Profile Books, 2012) (TS-3) elaborates further on Kahneman’s insight that controlling time can lead to more effective decision-making.


Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney (New York: The Penguin Press, 2011). (TS-3). Baumeister is a psychology professor at Florida State University whose research program focuses on the will, psychological self-regulation, and the reasons for ego depletion. This is a popular account of Baumeister’s experimental psychological research and it shows how habits and routines are one way to a healthy psychological existence. Some of Baumeister’s own books and research papers have greater clarity in writing.


Causal Models: How People Think About The World and Its Alternatives by Steven Sloman (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). (TS-1). Sloman is a professor of psychology at Brown University. This book presents Sloman’s research program which combines cognitive science, Bayesian networks, and mathematics to explain how people perceive cause-effect patterns in the world. Judea Pearl’s second edition of Causality: Models, Reasoning and Inference (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009) (TS-4) presents advanced research on causality. James Woodward’s Making Things Happen: A Theory of Causal Explanation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) (TS-4) offers an alternative approach to causal explanation. For an in-depth understanding of counterfactuals, Stephen Morgan and Christopher Winship’s Counterfactuals and Causal Inference: Methods and Principles for Social Research (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007) (TS-4) and Richard Ned Lebow’s Forbidden Fruit: Counterfactuals and International Relations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010) (TS-4) offer a mix of methodological insights and provocative thought experiments. On analogical reasoning, Richard Neustadt and Ernest May’s Thinking In Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers (New York: The Free Press, 1986) (TS-3) is influential in politico-military and political science circles. Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock and Peter Menzies’ The Oxford Handbook of Causation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009) (TS-4) surveys contemporary research into causality and causal modeling.


Social Science Methodology: A Unified Framework by John Gerring (2nd ed.) (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012). (TS-4). Gerring is a professor of political science at Boston University. This book is an integrative approach to social science methods, conceptualization, description, measurement, and causation. Gerring synthesizes insights from diverse sources to explain the importance and rigor of research design and methodology in a way that is relevant to qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003) (TS-1) offers clarity on the Popper-Kuhn-Lakatos-Feyerabend debates, the ‘science wars’, and other recent developments. Perri 6 and Christine Bellamy’s Principles of Methodology: Research Design in Social Science (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2011) (TS-4) is an introduction to methodology and research design.


Psychology of Initiation


Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2004) by John Shirley. (TS-1). An accessible, informed introduction to the Graeco-Armenian ‘Teacher of Dances’ and the Gurdjieff Work. Shirley is cyberpunk’s ‘patient zero’, a gifted novelist and short story writer about objective conscience, and a screenwriter (The Crow) who has studied with philosopher Jacob Needleman. He clarifies several complex issues about Gurdjieff’s life and his ‘line of transmission’ through different people. Jeanne De Salzmann’s The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff (Boston: Shambhala, 2010) (TS-4) provides a glimpse of what long-term engagement with the Gurdjieff Work can bring to individuals. Peter Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous (New York: Harcourt, 1949) (TS-3) remains an influential memoir of Gurdjieff’s teachings.


Character and Neurosis: An Integrative View by Claudio Naranjo, MD (Nevada City, CA: Gateways/IDHHB Inc. Publishers, 1994). (TS-4). In the mid-1970s, Helen Palmer ‘leaked’ the Enneagram – a psycho-dynamic model of human traits – from Oscar Ichazo’s Arica Institute and created a pop psychology and publishing craze (similar to the fate of Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Naranjo’s study remains one of the most in-depth and nuanced Enneagram studies, informed by his knowledge of Ichazo’s Arica philosophy, the Gurdjieff Work, and Fritz Perl’s Gestalt psychology. Naranjo provides a conceptual overview; a guide to the nine major ennea-types and their dynamics; and has suggestions for further work and differential diagnosis.


Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson (Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Publications). (TS-3). This book presents the Wilson-Leary ‘eight circuit model of consciousness’ and features ‘guerrilla ontology’ exercises to unleash the brain’s neuroplastic potential. Wilson synthesizes diverse sources including Alfred Korzybski, George Gurdjieff, Aleister Crowley, Buckminster Fuller, Timothy Leary, John Lilly, Jack Sarfatti, and cybernetics into an influential countercultural framework for consciousness expansion. Wilson’s initiatory memoir Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Press, 1977) (TS-3) is also highly recommended. Make sure you do Wilson’s exercises.


Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions by Richard Smoley and Jay Kinney (Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 2006). (TS-3). In my early twenties I was influenced by Smoley and Kinney’s Gnosis Magazine which explored diverse metaphysical, religious and spiritual systems. Hidden Wisdom collects their insights on the Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Sufism, Shamanism, Theosophy, and other traditions.


Lords of the Left Hand Path: Forbidden Practices and Spiritual Heresies by Stephen Edred Flowers (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2012). (TS-1). The first scholarly descriptive and analytical history of Left Hand Path metaphysical and spiritual traditions, methodologies, and historical exemplars. Flowers is a leading Runic scholar who has reinvigorated the Northern Tradition. This book surveys Egyptian, Greek and Zoroasterian sources, and traces the Left Hand Path via various metaphysical systems to Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan and Michael A. Aquino’s Temple of Set. The Left Hand Path emerges from Flowers’ study as a path of individual, creative dissent.


A Blue Fire: Selected Writings By James Hillman edited by Thomas Moore (New York: HarperPerennial, 1989). (TS-3). James Hillman founded the post-Jungian school of Archetypal Psychology. A Blue Fire collects his major writings on the poetic nature of the psyche; the fictions of therapy and imaginal work; and the challenges of eros and the animus mundi. Hillman reached a broader, mainstream audience with The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling (New York: Warner Books, 1996) (TS-3). Also relevant is Healing Fiction (Putnam, CT: Spring Publications, 1994) (TS-4) in which Hillman re-evaluates the case history approaches of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler.


Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change by Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan (Malden MA: Blackwell Business, 1996). (TS-4). Clare W. Graves (1914-1986) was a professor of psychology who conceptualized a biopsychosocial systems model of human intelligences. Beck and Cowan – who knew Graves – combined his work with memetics research and their own conceptual models to develop a framework for understanding change and values systems in people. This book appealed to a management audience who were familiar with Peter Drucker. However, like the Enneagram and Neuro-Linguistic Programming before it, Beck and Cowan’s work diffused outside its original, appropriate context, leading to very different personal syntheses from other authors, and an obsession by some readers with concepts like ‘Spiral Wizardry’ and ‘Second Tier’ thinking. Graves’ original research program is detailed in Christopher C. Cowan and William R. Lee’s Clare W. Graves: Levels of Human Existence (Santa Barbara, CA: ECLET Publishing, 2002) (TS-4). Graves’ unpublished papers can be found in Christopher C. Cowan and Natasha Todorovic’s The Never Ending Quest: Clare W. Graves Explores Human Nature (Santa Barbara, CA: ECLET Publishing, 2005) (TS-5) which was a landmark archival achievement.


Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult edited by Richard Metzger (New York: The Disinformation Company Ltd, 2003). (TS-3). Metzger founded the alternative news website Disinformation (which I did two editorial stints for) and the culture website Dangerous Minds, and is a Los Angeles-based warlock. Book of Lies evokes Metzger’s initiatory journey as Timothy Leary described it to “Find the Others” and to curate a new culture. The anthology features Grant Morrison, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Joe Coleman, Paul Laffoley, Phil Hine, Gary Lachman, Stephen Edred Flowers, Michael Moynihan and other collaborators. It might be considered TS-1 if you practice ritual magic and explore the contemporary occulture. Metzger’s Disinformation: The Interviews (New York: The Disinformation Company Ltd., 2002) (TS-3) collects the best material from his Channel 4 and SciFi Network television series. Jason Louv’s Generation Hex (New York: The Disinformation Company Ltd., 2006) (TS-3) passes the Promethean Flame to a new generation of magicians. My pre-Disinformation internet encounters were influenced by Stuart Swezey and Brian King’s AMOK Fourth Dispatch: Sourcebook of the Extremes of Information In Print (Los Angeles, CA: Amok Books, 1990) (TS-3). Simon Dwyer’s Rapid Eye Movement (London: Creation Books, 2000) (TS-3) also influenced me.


Revelations: Alien Contact and Human Deception (New York: Ballantine Books, 1991). (TS-5). Vallee is an influential cybernetics and information systems researcher, and was a member of Anton LaVey’s Magic Circle. Revelations evaluates the artificial mythologies about Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) around the Roswell incident, Hangar 18, Majestic 12, Area 51, the UMMO documents, the Gulf Breeze 6, and other cases of sightings and abductions. Vallee considers several explanations, ranging from cognitive biases and hoaxes, to psychological operations and guerrilla ontology. Vallee’s “control hypothesis” can be found in The Invisible College: What a Group of Scientists Has Discovered About UFO Influences on the Human Race (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1975) (TS-3) as a new religious form. This anticipated my own encounter aged five with Metis (craft, cunning, skill, and wisdom) in Richard J. Anobile’s photo-novel Alien (New York: Avon, 1979) (TS-5).


Macrohistory and Macrohistorians: Perspectives on Individual, Social, and Civilizational Change edited by Johan Galtung and Sohail Inayatullah (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997). (TS-4). “Macrohistory is the study of the histories of social systems, along separate trajectories, in search of patterns. Macrohistory is ambitious, focused on the stages of history and the causes of change through time (diachronic)” (p. 1). Galtung – a leading Peace Studies scholar – and Inayatullah – a Pakistani futures studies scholar – develop a theoretical framework to understand macrohistory. This volume examines 20 macrohistorians including Augustine, Ibn Khaldun, George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Max Weber, Oswald Spengler, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Arnold Toynbee. Galtung and Inayatullah develop a comparative model of these macrohistorians, and models of macrohistory for personal microhistory and world macrohistory. Inayatullah’s doctoral dissertation Understanding Sarkar: The Indian Episteme, Macrohistory and Transformative Knowledge (Leiden: Brill, 2002) (TS-4) examines the specific macrohistorical contribution of Ananda Marga founder Prabhat Rainjan Sarkar.


Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From the Big Bang to the 21st Century by Howard Bloom (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000). (TS-4). Bloom is an independent scholar whose Howard Bloom Organization was influential in the late 1970s and the 1980s in music industry public relations and artist development. Bloom portrays human evolution in the context of a complex adaptive system which has reshaped Earth. Global Brain outlines the Bloom Pentad: an interdisciplinary and dynamical model of how human culture unfolds, and why different conflicts occur. All of Bloom’s books are highly recommended.


Cunning Intelligence In Greek Culture and Society by Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant. Translated by Janet Lloyd (Hassocks, England: Harvester Press, 1978). (TS-4). Detienne and Vernant examine the role of Metis (cunning, craft, skill and wisdom) in classical Greek mythology and as a way to engage and to adapt to transient, changing life conditions. They consider the role models of Athena, Hephaestus, Hermes, Aphrodite, Zeus, Odysseus, and the octopus. Lisa Ann Raphals’ Knowing Wisdom: Wisdom and Cunning in the Classical Traditions of China and Greece (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992) (TS-4) considers the Chinese art of the stratagem as metic intelligence. William Patrick Patterson’s Struggle of the Magicians: Exploring the Teacher-Student Relationship (2nd ed.) (Fairfax, CA: Arete Publications, 1997) (TS-3) considers metic intelligence in a Gurdjieff Work context. Michael Rosenbaum’s Kata and the Transmission of Knowledge: In Martial Arts (Boston, MA: YMAA Publication Center, 2005) (TS-4) considers metic intelligence in a martial arts training context.


The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders – With Profiles of Saddam Hussein & Bill Clinton edited by Jerrold M. Post MD (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2005). (TS-4). Post is a professor of psychiatry, political psychology and international affairs at George Washington University. This volume considers the use of leadership development in government policy and intelligence; psychoanalytic and operational code models; and assessment challenges including ‘at a distance’ profiling. The World War II roots of these psychological assessment techniques are detailed in Daniel Pick’s The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind: Hitler, Hess and the Analysts (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) (TS-3). Post’s The Mind of the Terrorist: The Psychology of Terrorism from the IRA to al-Qaeda (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) (TS-3) uses these psychological assessment techniques to analyze terrorist groups and their leadership.


Why Intelligence Fails: Lessons from the Iranian Revolution and the Iraq War by Robert Jervis (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010). (TS-4). Jervis is a professor of international affairs at Columbia University. This book includes his post-mortems on the “intelligence failures” of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s coup d’etat in Iran in 1979, and Al Qaeda’s terrorist attacks on the United States on 11th September 2001. Jervis finds a mix of causes: individual cognitive biases, insufficient attention to analytical methods, and organizational culture issues. His analysis of the politics and psychology of intelligence includes consideration of deception, strategic surprise, politicization, and reform opportunities. Amy B. Zegart’s Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007) (TS-4) is an historical, evaluative analysis of United States intelligence reform commissions.


Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History by Alastair Iain Johnston (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998). (TS-4). Johnston is a professor in world affairs and international relations at Harvard University. This is the published edition of his 1993 doctoral dissertation about cultural influences on the decision-maker use of force in Ming China. Cultural Realism advanced an historical, analytical and methodological understanding of strategic culture which has shaped my own doctoral research program.


Human Existential Problems


Uncoupling: Turning Points In Intimate Relationships by Diane Vaughan (New York: Vintage Books, 1990). (TS-3). Vaughan is a Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. Uncoupling examines the psychological dynamics and patterns of human relationships, romantic break-ups, oath-breaking and betrayal, and divorces. Vaughan followed Uncoupling with The Challenger Launch Decision (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) (TS-4), an influential sociological study of the ‘normalization of deviance’ at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the impact of organizational power and politics on internal decisions and events which led to the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion on 28th January 1986. Vaughan’s Challenger study also paralleled Charles Perrow’s study of ‘tightly coupled’ systems in Normal Accidents: Living With High-Risk Technologies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999) (TS-4). Joanne Wieland-Burston’s Chaos and Order in the World of the Psyche (London: Routledge, 1992) (TS-3) examines archetypal patterns of the ‘psychotherapeutic chaos encounter’ in divorce, family conflict, and death. Kenneth Kamler’s Surviving The Extremes: What Happens To The Body and Mind At The Limits of Human Endurance (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2004) (TS-3) examines how and why humans survive extreme environments.


Assessment, Treatment, and Prevention of Suicidal Behavior edited by Robert I. Yufit and David Lester (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2005). (TS-4). Suicide can be viewed as a failure to adapt to changing life circumstances and human existential challenges. This clinical practitioner volume covers the screening and assessment of suicidality risks; intervention and treatment; outpatient treatment; art therapy; and college student risks. Major assessment instruments like Aaron Beck’s scales and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventories are outlined. The therapeutic approaches range from no-suicide contracts to dialectical behavior therapy, voice therapy and family therapy. James Hillman’s Suicide and the Soul (Dallas, TX: Spring Publications, 1976) (TS-4) provides an Archetypal Psychology interpretation that is also influential in post-Jungian therapeutic circles.


The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil by Philip Zimbardo (New York: Random House, 2007). (TS-5). In 1971, Philip Zimbardo ran the now-notorious Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) on social power dynamics. The Lucifer Effect is Zimbardo’s first in-depth assessment of SPE and its broader, ethical implications, combined with his expert testimony about SPE-like conditions in the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons during the second Bush administration’s Global War on Terror. Chris Mackey and Greg Miller’s The Interrogator’s War (New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2004) (TS-3) is a journalistic account of SPE-like social power dynamics in Afghanistan, where the United States military battled the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. John Kekes’ The Roots of Evil (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005) (TS-4) provides a broader historical and philosophical approach to SPE-like social power dynamics, covering the Albigensian Crusade, Robespierre’s Terror of 1793-94; Nazi death camp commander Franz Stangl; the psychopaths Charles Manson and John Allen; and Argentina’s “dirty war” in the late 1970s.


Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism by Robert Jay Lifton (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1999). (TS-4). Lifton uses psychohistorical insights to examine what led Aum Shinrikyo to undertake a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 and the role of leader Shoko Asahara’s belief systems. Through interviews with mid-level members and ex-members, Lifton captures the ‘emic’ or internal reality of Aum Shinrikyo and the cultural dynamics of its covert biological and chemical weapons development program. Lifton’s interpretation is shaped by his ‘psychological totalism’ framework, study of religious and cultic gurus, the visibility at time of writing of ‘new terrorism’ frameworks, and his research into the psychology of nuclear weapons. Haruki Murakami’s Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche (New York: Vintage, 2003) (TS-3) presents Studs Terkel-style interviews with Aum Shinrikyo members and the sarin gas attack victims. Jeremy Varon’s Bringing The War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004) (TS-4) is an interesting comparison on the role of historical memory, leadership, inter-group dynamics, and learning.


The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (New York: Allen Lane, 2007). (TS-3). Taleb is a philosopher and former quantitative hedge fund manager and trader. This book examines the epistemology of low-probability high-impact events and the role of common biases (confirmation bias, narrative fallacy, ludology fallacy, and others) in decision-making. The Black Swan builds on David Hume’s skepticism and Taleb’s previous book Fooled By Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and the Markets (New York: Penguin Books, 2005) (TS-3). Peter Bernstein’s Against The Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998) (TS-3) examines the history of risk whilst Aaron C. Brown’s Red-Blooded Risk: The Secret History of Wall Street (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) (TS-3) covers Wall Street’s use of risk management techniques. William Poundstone’s Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat The Casinos and Wall Street (New York: Hill and Wang, 2005) (TS-3) explores the Kelly Criterion and Ed Thorp’s career in mathematics, casinos, and hedge funds. The cautionary story of Long-Term Capital Management’s rise-and-fall is told in Roger Lowenstein’s When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management (London: Fourth Estate, 2002) (TS-3).


Personal Change Methodologies


Taproots: Underlying Principles of Milton Erickson’s Therapy and Hypnosis by William Hudson O’Hanlon (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987). (TS-1). Milton Hyland Erickson (1901-1990) revolutionized the scientific study of hypnosis and trance states, and created an influential school of strategic psychotherapy. O’Hanlon identifies Erickson’s major patterns; the common phases of Ericksonian therapy; the format of common trance inductions; and has a useful bibliography. Jay Haley’s Uncommon Therapy: The Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, MD (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1973) (TS-3) is another influential introduction to Erickson that emphasizes different strategic therapeutic interventions over the human lifespan. Dan Short, Betty Alice Erickson and Roxanna Erickson-Klein’s Hope & Resiliency: Understanding the Psychotherapeutic Strategies of Milton H. Erickson (Bancyfelin, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 2005) (TS-3) identifies Erickson’s six core strategies as: Distraction, Partitioning, Progression, Suggestion, Reorientation, and Utilization, and so offers a different presentation to O’Hanlon and Haley. Stephen R. Lankton and Carol Hicks Lankton’s The Answer Within: A Clinical Framework of Ericksonian Hypnotherapy (Bancyfelin, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 2005) (TS-4) is, like Haley’s book, a very influential clinical approach to Ericksonian hypnotherapy and strategic psychotherapy. Stephen Lankton’s emphasis on epistemology can be found in Assembling Ericksonian Therapy: The Collected Papers of Stephen Lankton (Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Theisen Inc., 2004) (TS-4) which links Erickson’s work to brief therapy. Ronald A. Havens’ The Wisdom of Milton H. Erickson: The Complete Volume (Bancyfelin, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 2005) (TS-4) is a collection of selected quotes from Erickson’s published work that provides insights into his research program’s evolution. Erickson’s influence on Neuro-Linguistic Programming circles is evident in Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-Formation (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 2008) (TS-3), and Bandler’s use of metaphor, nested loops, altered states of consciousness, and unconscious installation strategies in his NLP training seminars with Michael Breen and Paul McKenna. However, the above contributions illustrate that there is far more to Erickson’s strategic psychotherapy than what is often taught in NLP training seminars. An overview of non-Erickson approaches can be found in Steven Jay Lynn, Irving Kirsch and Judith W. Rhue’s Casebook of Clinical Hypnosis (Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 2006) (TS-4) which includes case studies on depression, childhood trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder.


The User’s Manual For The Brain Volumes I and II by Bob G. Bodenhamer and L. Michael Hall (Bancyfelin, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 2000 and 2003). (TS-4). Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) in the early 1970s as an epistemology to model human excellence. These books represent Bodenhamer and Hall’s interpretation of Richard Bandler’s Practitioner and Master Practitioner trainings circa the early 1990s, and Hall’s development of Neuro-Semantics models based on Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics. To-date this is one of the only in-depth attempts to systematically integrate NLP developments, models and patterns (although there are different opinions about the content) in what is a fragmented literature with different lineages and no agreed-upon certification standards or accreditation bodies. Hall’s The Spirit of NLP: The Process, Meaning, and Criteria for Mastering NLP (Bancyfelin, Wales: Crown House Publishing, 1996) (TS-4) covers Bandler’s Master Practitioner class from the early 1990s, during the time Bandler developed his Design Human Engineering methodology. The ‘origin story’ of Bandler and Grinder’s original modeling of Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir, Milton Erickson, and Gregory Bateson is told in Carmin Bostic St. Clair and John Grinder’s Whispering In The Wind (Scotts Valley: J&C Enterprises, 2001) (TS-4), which emphasizes Grinder’s ‘New Code NLP’ approach. NLP has developed outside the academic research community, so it often lacks the Popperian cumulative knowledge, methodological rigor, and evidence-based advances of scientific research.


Knowledge Base of Futures Studies: Professional Edition edited by Richard Slaughter, Sohail Inayatullah and Jose M. Ramos (Indooroopilly, Queensland: Foresight International, 2005). (TS-1). Slaughter conceived the KBFS project in the mid-1990s to build the meta-discipline of futures studies and strategic foresight. This edition includes the three original books on the foundations, practices and directions of futures studies, and adds a collection of futurists’ personal narratives and case studies. Slaughter founded the school of critical futures studies and is past president of the World Futures Studies Federation. The Australian Foresight Institute period of Slaughter’s work including his collaboration with Ken Wilber on Integral Futures is detailed in Futures Beyond Dystopia: Creating Social Foresight (London: RoutledgeFalmer, 2004) (TS-4).


The Art of the Long View: Paths To Strategic Insight For Yourself And Your Company by Peter Schwartz (Sydney: Richmond Ventures, 1996). (TS-3). This book presents the Global Business Network’s approach to scenario planning and the strategic conversations practice. Scenarios are a way to gather and evaluate information and signals about possible, preferable, and plausible futures; to explore creative possibilities; and to inform critical decision-makers. GBN’s approach became popular in the 1990s via Fast Company, Wired and other business and technology publications. Schwartz’s Inevitable Surprises: A Survival Guide For The 21st Century (New York: The Free Press, 2003) adapted these ideas to trend analysis. John Petersen’s Out of the Blue: How To Anticipate Big Future Surprises (Lanham, MD: Madison Books, 1999) (TS-3) offers an alternative approach to GBN on assessing high-impact events.


The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge (rev. ed.) (New York: Random House, 2006). (TS-1). Senge’s book popularized the concepts of personal mastery, mental models, learning organizations, and the MIT-based Society for Organizational Learning’s interpretation of systems thinking and common systems archetypes (such as ‘success to the successful’ or ‘fixes that fail’). Thinking In Systems: A Primer by the late Donella Meadows (Burlington, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008) (TS-1) is an important book by a very influential systems thinking pioneer who worked on the Club of Rome’s Limits To Growth World-3 computer simulations.


Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (Boston, MA: The MIT Press, 2004). (TS-5). Salen is a game design professor at DePaul University and Zimmerman is an award-winning game designer. Rules of Play is one of the most in-depth conceptual and theoretical explorations of ‘ludology’ and game design: games, rules, play, culture, and simulation. The perspectives explored include uncertainty, information systems, cybernetics, game theory, and conflict systems. Some aspects of Initiation can be modeled using game design perspectives. I spent part of 2004 examining this field for the Smart Internet Technology CRC research consortium, and interviewed both authors, and other game designers and software developers. Salen and Zimmerman’s follow-up book The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology (Boston, MA: The MIT Press, 2006) (TS-4) surveys the best practices, conceptual insights, and theories of game designers. Salen and Zimmerman have also influenced the development of alternative reality games (ARGs).


The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997). (TS-3). Christensen is a business administration professor at Harvard Business School. The Innovator’s Dilemma is the published version of Christensen’s doctoral dissertation on Disruptive Innovation Theory and case studies on the hard disk and mechanical excavator industries. I spent much of 2006 working on an unpublished research monograph for the Smart Internet Technology CRC research consortium about Christensen’s work. How Will You Measure Your Life? by Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon (New York: HarperBusiness, 2012) (TS-1) covers Christensen’s lessons on business, relationships, and marginal versus full thinking.


Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game (2nd ed.) by Alistair Cockburn (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc., 2007). (TS-4). Cockburn is an influential software engineer in the object oriented and agile software development communities. Agile Software Development outlines his Crystal methodology; strategies for dealing with information, teams, and methodological development; and learning strategies from Miyamoto Musashi (The Book of Five Rings) and others. Venkat Subramaniam and Andy Hunt’s Practices Of An Agile Developer (Raleigh, NC: The Pragmatic Bookshelf, 2006) (TS-3) discusses common practices in agile software development methods which include Scrum and Extreme Programming (XP).


Argumentation Schemes by Douglas Walton, Chris Reed, and Fabrizio Macagno (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008). (TS-4). An academic overview of argumentation research including schemes, classification, and computer systems. Argumentation Schemes includes 96 commonly used argumentation schemes and their epistemological structures. Philippe Besnard and Anthony Hunter’s Elements of Argumentation (Boston, MA: MIT Press, 2008) (TS-4) extends argumentation to logic, artificial intelligence, and algorithms.


The Daily Trading Coach: 101 Lessons For Becoming Your Own Trading Psychologist by Brett N. Steenbarger (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2009). (TS-3). Steenbarger is an associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University and a hedge fund consultant. This book is a collection of psychological self-observation exercises influenced by George Gurdjieff and others. Steenbarger, along with the late Ari Kiev, and author Mark Douglas, is influential in trading circles for his performance insights. The closest thing trading has to a wisdom tradition is Jack D. Schwager’s Market Wizards series (considered TS-1 if you trade financial markets), of which the latest is Hedge Fund Market Wizards (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2012) (TS-3).


Creative Lives


Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson by E. Jean Carroll (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993). (TS-3). Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) pioneered ‘gonzo’ journalism: a variant of the New Journalism that emphasized journalistic subjectivity, first person narratives, ethnographic techniques, and creative non-fiction techniques. Carroll’s biography captures Thompson’s rise-and-fall as a Rolling Stone countercultural hero from multiple viewpoints. This book convinced me to use ‘gonzo’ techniques for a year as reporter for La Trobe University’s student newspaper Rabelais and for a 1995 Noam Chomsky profile for Australia’s REVelation magazine. Thompson’s best writing is collected in the anthology The Great Shark Hunt (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003) (TS-3). Tom Wolfe and E.W. Johnson’s anthology The New Journalism (New York: Harper & Row, 1973) (TS-3) places Thompson’s contribution in an historical context and shows how others experimented with creative non-fiction techniques.


Robert Fripp: From King Crimson to Guitar Craft by Eric Tamm (Boston: Faber and Faber, 1990). (TS-4). Musicologist Tamm attempts to understand the complex, enigmatic guitarist Robert Fripp and the progressive rock band King Crimson. This book (which can now be found online) introduced me to the Graeco-Armenian ‘Teacher of Dances’ George Gurdjieff, and is notable for covering Fripp’s collaborations with Brian Eno; Fripp’s study with John Godolphin Bennett at Sherborne House; the ‘Drive to 1981’ creative period; and Tamm’s personal experiences in 1986 with Fripp’s Guitar Craft school. Tamm concludes that Fripp is part of an Objective Art lineage that can be traced via Bennett and Gurdjieff to Pythagoras. Fripp felt Tamm’s account only captured part of King Crimson’s creative dynamics and Guitar Craft’s aims, and the book was published before the ‘Endless Grief’ events that led Fripp to found Discipline Global Mobile. The best account of King Crimson remains Sid Smith’s In The Court of King Crimson (London: Helter Skelter Publishing, 2001) (TS-4) in which Smith managed to interview current and former band members. For a background on the creative and psychological dynamics of the ‘Drive to 1981’ period, Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 (New York: Penguin Books, 2005) (TS-3) is insightful.


Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick by Lawrence Sutin (New York: HarperCollins, 1991). (TS-5). Philip K. Dick’s legacy of science fiction novels, short stories, and inspirations for Hollywood films have created influential subcultures and new artificial mythologies. Divine Interventions charts Dick’s initiatory journey from pulp fiction writer to science fiction celebrity to philosopher. Sutin captures the complex growth of Dick’s subjective universe; the impact of United States drug counterculture; and the 2-3-74 encounter with a Vast Active Living Intelligence System (VALIS) that changed Dick’s later life. This period is explored in Sutin’s anthology The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings (New York: Vintage Books, 1995) (TS-3) and in The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick edited by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) (TS-5).


Transit Lounge: Wake-Up Calls & Travellers’ Tales From The Future edited by Ashley Crawford and Ray Edgar (North Ryde: Craftsman House, 1997). (TS-3). The print incarnation of Australia’s 21C was a futures-oriented culture and technology magazine with a social conscience which is now a collector’s item. Transit Lounge collects together some of 21C’s best material including interviews with and articles on Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard, Marshall McLuhan, Robert Anton Wilson, Bruce Sterling, Greil Marcus, and more.


Follow For Now: Interviews With Friends and Heroes edited by Roy Christopher (Seattle, WA: Well-Read Bear, 2007). (TS-3). Christopher is a Chicago-based media culture critic and writer. Follow For Now is an interview collection with cultural luminaries on science, technology, media, music, culture and literature that charts the Network Society’s cartographies in the early 21st century. Includes interviews with Douglas Rushkoff, Howard Bloom, Erik Davis, Terence McKenna, Howard Rheingold, Rudy Rucker, McKenzie Wark, and others.


George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis (New York: The Penguin Press, 2011). (TS-5). Gaddis received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2012 for this book. George F. Kennan (1904-2005) was a United States diplomat, historian and political scientist widely credited with formulating the ‘containment’ grand strategy (in the 1946 ‘Long Telegram’ and 1947 ‘X’ article) used to defeat the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Gaddis spent 30 years researching and 5 years writing this authorized autobiography which traces Kennan’s transformation of personal character from career diplomat to influential grand strategist in the US State Department and then to public intellectual and political administration critic. Gaddis evokes both Kennan’s subjective reality and the vast historical, social, and geopolitical forces that he anticipated and responded to. Kennan’s career and contribution can be contrasted with Henry Kissinger’s Harvard period in Jeremi Suri’s Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007) (TS-4), and Kissinger’s controversial White House period in Robert Dallek’s Nixon and Kissinger: Partners In Power (New York: Penguin Books, 2004) (TS-4). Historian Bruce Kuklick’s Blind Oracles: Intellectuals and War from Kennan to Kissinger (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006) (TS-4) situates Kennan in the post-World War II evolution of civilian defense intellectuals, which included the RAND think-tank, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and personalities like Robert McNamara, Graham Allison, Richard Neustadt, and Ernest May.


Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present by Jeff Madrick (New York: Vintage Books, 2011). (TS-3). Madrick’s critical history of corporate finance traces the interaction of economic philosophers, politicians, and business entrepreneurs to reshape the United States economy and civil society. Amongst those profiled are Walter Wriston, Ted Turner, Tom Peters, Jack Welch, Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, Michael Milken, George Soros, and Sandy Weill. Sebastian Mallaby’s More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite (New York: Bloomsbury, 2010) (TS-3) is a revealing history of the alternative asset class and its enigmatic managers.

22nd June 2012: Whackademia


Administrators have very little regard for academics. I’d say that 90 per cent of them can’t stand academics. They think we have it easy, going off to conferences and the like. They think that all we do is teach. They don’t understand the rest of the things we do like research and writing.

“Peter” in Richard Hil’s Wackademia: An Insider’s Account of The Troubled University (Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2012), pp. 190-191.


Australia’s universities are in a financial crisis. Federal and State government funding has been cut. International student numbers have fallen. Staff surveys are in flux. The University of Sydney, Australian National University, University of Tasmania, and La Trobe University have all announced cuts to academic staff and the closure of academic programs. Other higher education institutions are considering similar options. Into this fray comes Whackademia a polemical “insider expose” written by Richard Hil, a senior lecturer at Southern Cross University and a visiting scholar in peace studies at University of Sydney.


Hil’s target is Whackademia: “the repressive and constricting work culture currently operating in our universities” (p. 22) which Hil believes has corrupted academic scholarship and led to the rise of manager-administrator control. Academics must now contend with “‘massification'” and “student-shoppers” which includes “full-fee-paying overseas students” (p. 18). Hil traces Whackademia’s birth and growth to the decision of Australian Federal Education Minister John Dawkins in the 1980s to change Australia’s higher education landscape and to charge student fees (p. 73). This “imposition of free-market ideology” (p. 55) has transformed education into a highly marketed commodity in which institutions rely on an army of casual academics who teach courses (p. 39). In particular, Hil criticises “a new generation of demand-led courses” that offer pseudo-knowledge to fee-paying students (p. 188).


Hil shares his student experiences in the 1970s at the University of Essex and Bristol University. He then taught at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland University of Technology, and Southern Cross University. I had very different experiences and I wonder if there are some memory recall factors that may have influenced his self-narrative. I was an undergraduate student in cinema studies and politics at La Trobe University in the early-mid 1990s including a 1994 stint as a student journalist on the now-notorious Rabelais newspaper. I left my degree to pursue a freelance career in publishing before completing my degree in 2001. I pursued a Masters at Swinburne (in strategic foresight); interned in a research institute and saw it axed; worked for a Cooperative Research Centre and on a successful rebid; and did a second Masters (in counterterrorism). I have higher education student debt (and got my latest tax notice today). I worked on Swinburne’s 2008 audit by the former Australian Universities Quality Agency, and for the past three years as a research facilitator in Victoria University’s Faculty of Business and Law. I currently work on research programs, competitive grants, and commercial research contracts (pp. 145, 180), and worked previously for 18 months in quality assurance (p. 96). I am also a PhD candidate in Monash University’s School of Political and Social Inquiry. My career path has been like Billy Beane in the book and film Moneyball, or like the ‘fixer’ in Michael Clayton. This background and experiences informed how I interpreted Whackademia.


For Whackademia, Hil interviewed 60 academics from Australian universities (p. 24). In contrast to investigative journalists like Lawrence Wright, Steve Coll and William D. Cohan, none of Hil’s interviewees are named ‘on the record’, because Hil believes the outspoken academics would be targeted by managers if they did so (p. 69). Hil wrote a column for several media publications also under the pseudonym ‘Joseph Gora’ (p. 23). (In contrast, I have an on-going public blog thread on academia.) Hil is thus not as thorough in his interviewees and research as Cohan and Wright are, nor as fair-minded as Coll can be. Instead, Hil believes that “the importance of their observations cannot be overstated” (p. 21) and that “complaint is rife throughout Wackademia” (p. 194). For instance, Hil notes the existence of “ghost work” (p. 167) that university workload models do not cover. Whackademia raises important issues that academics, managers, and administrators have discussed, and which the public should know about. Yet it does so primarily at the superficial level of complaints rather than in a sophisticated, multi-stakeholder approach to why these problems exist, and how they might be solved. Having managed a university complaints process I know that complaints can be significant or they can be noise due to personal factors. For every genuine complaint Hil raises I can provide either a similar and supportive anecdote or a counter-complaint about how administrators have to put up with academics. This is why Whackademia is best read as polemic or a collection of ‘water cooler’ anecdotes rather than as rigorous research: an observation that Hil’s school head pointed out to him during Whackademia‘s drafting process (p. 175).


Perhaps the problem is that I am part of the group that Hil criticises: ‘para-academic’ administrators (p. 73) who are “obsequious devotees of micro-management” (p. 88) and who “do little or no research, and devote themselves with feverish intensity to form-filling, co-ordination duties and committee attendance” (p. 183). “Para-academics love this sense of impending doom”, Hil explains about the discussion of university budget processes, “it’s why they get up in the morning” (p. 184). This is pure mind-reading: Hil didn’t ask his ‘para-academics’ what they really felt or do an ethnographic study. Are there ‘para-researchers’ as well? Administrators are described in negative stereotypes including being “performance-obsessed” (p. 132), as “university mandarins” (p. 16), as a “new organisational supremo” (pp. 171-172) and as an “administrative supremo” (pp. 181, 189). This is scapegoating and demonising a social group on the basis of their university HR contract status. Another problem is the proliferation of forms and “deadlines that suit administrators rather than academics” (pp. 93, 172). The worst administrators are those who calculate the workload model (p. 169). As a peace studies scholar Hil understands the power of language, framing, and ‘othering’. Why then does he ‘other’ administrators and ‘para-academics’, none of whom are interviewed or who have an opportunity to respond to the many academic complaints?


In fact, university enterprise bargaining agreements (EBA) differentiate between management and academics on the one hand, and administrators on the other. The EBA defines different incentive structures that also shape cultural perceptions between each group. Management and academics are paid by an academic salary scale. They receive performance-based incentives such as conference travel and institutional research funding. Administrators do not receive these privileges — even if they produce research or advise on the relevant policies — and their HEW salary scale is lower. They are often employed on short-term rather than continuing contracts. Hil omits several important things about administrators and ‘para-academics’. They may also be degree-qualified. They may see hundreds of academic CVs and competitive grants, so they can see patterns of success and failure. They can counsel academics not to make career-limiting decisions — which they may in fact have done. Hil raises a number of issues that are important to administrators: perceptions of academic flexible time (p. 14); full-time staff benefits compared with casuals (p. 20); and the potential misuse of leave applications (p. 187). But he then immediately dismisses these concerns as irrelevant rather than signals of status envy. The psychological gambit Hil uses throughout Whackademia is called ‘shifting the blame’ and it weakens the book’s critique.


At the root of administrator and ‘para-academic’ concerns is a sense that academics get a preferential set of career, financial and research opportunities that administrators (and casuals) do not. Academics can then have entitlement about these opportunities: they are superior or more gifted than the people around them. Compounding this, some academics do not live up to their role expectations and scholarship, and may attempt to ‘game’ the system. Administrators can tell this from institutional research data. Why should this behaviour be accepted and tolerated amongst scholars and professionals?  Ted Gurr’s relative deprivation thesis; Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance; Barry Oshry’s organisational analysis; Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s biases and framing; and many others have explained why these dynamics exist, and why institutions and managers are very unlikely to change them anytime soon. The deeper dynamic that remains unexplored is the circulation of elites and meritocratic access to it in universities.


Hil’s attack on administrators and ‘para-academics’ totally misses this debate and instead potentially contributes to the marginalisation of these valuable university staff. Many administrators don’t produce research because their universities don’t value and incentivise them as researchers in the same way as academics. Senior managers and the professoriate rarely act when this status difference is raised: status protection. I understand how to write and research: I have had many dialogues with university managers and academics on this, including how to interpret and use ERA journal rankings to develop a research program. They are a start to a much deeper conversation that is closer to what Hil wants to occur  (p. 215). The other administrators I know often have deep institutional capital. Some academics ignore this and mistreat administrators and ignore this expertise. Where Hil ‘essentialises’ identity I see a distinction that can be traced to the EBA, to HR contracts, and ultimately to past decisions by university management when they scope and create the administrator roles. It’s a (university HR contract) decision that administrators have to live with but it doesn’t define them as people.


The problems that Hil and his interviewees highlight exist for important reasons – not explained in Whackademia. Universities are what Canadian management scholar Henry Mintzberg describes as machine bureaucracies (and sometimes professional bureaucracies) that rely on workload models, and policies and procedures to manage staff. This form leads inevitably to elites, power struggles, patronage networks, information asymmetries, and career ambition. Hil presents a romanticised image of overworked academics, and their Golden Age past, but I have seen and been caught in Machiavellian power struggles that felt like a Game of Thrones episode. I find lessons (not necessarily endorsed) in Henry Kissinger’s Harvard International Seminar and also in the troubled track record of defence intellectual who sought to speak truth to power. Administrators do not blindly collaborate with managers and school heads as Hil suggests, or acquiesce to their whims. Instead, administrators are often negotiators in a multi-stakeholder network of different and competing interests. They can see the unintended consequences of change initiatives and often make process redesign requests that many academics are unaware of. They also often take the academic’s side on research issues.


Hil’s advice on career and research management is also problematic. Research administrators give “minimal attention” to “the intellectual content or social purpose of the research” (p. 133) but this is false: competitive grants do not succeed without a compelling, well-formed research program or project proposal. How can Hil know this unless he has attended the grant and project development meetings of many research teams? (I have.) The Australian Research Council (ARC) team that designed the Excellence for Research in Australia exercise had a bibliometrics background and benchmarked similar exercises in the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand. The team were shocked at how managers used the ERA journal rankings – but this happens with any ranking system. The promotions criteria that Hil ascribes to ERA in fact existed prior to it: Associate Professor and Professor level academics are often promoted on the basis of their competitive grant and publications track record (p. 156). ARC grants are not a lottery: Hil might have talked with the ARC, ARC assessors or successful teams, or looked at the ARC’s funding guidance to applicants. Academics who follow Hil’s advice will damage the probability of ARC grant success and possibly their research careers. A quality assurance team would log Hil’s process for “on-line marking” and forms as  candidates for a Lean Kaizen exercise of process redesign and improvement to remove ‘muda’ or waste (pp. 178-179). I am on two academic research committees and we do not run our meetings like Hil describes (pp. 184-187) and nor would a commercial environment. I do not respect academics who attend meetings and who don’t contribute on discussion items where they have expertise or roles, or who just attend to get workload points. These academics waste mine and others’ attention and time.


I find that in contrast to Hil many academics lack basic time and project management skills, and would benefit from a methodology like David Allen’s Getting Things Done, the Pomodoro Technique, Personal Kanban, Lean Startup or Scrum (p. 141). These techniques resolve the ‘busyness’ dilemma that Hil and many of his interviewees raise, as do practices in agile project management and software development. In some cases these problems exist because of failures in strategic investment and infrastructure, and the continued existence of manual work processes when more humane alternatives are available. School heads make private judgments about resource allocation not on the basis of a “differential exercise of power”, “favor” or “today’s regulatory rationalities” (p. 91) but rather a sense of how the academic has performed against the Minimum Standards for Academic Levels (MSALs) that the EBA defines for each academic level. My experience in talking with school heads is that the “more seasoned academics who are perhaps most resistant to the new order” (p. 91) get the most attention rather than the academics who actually perform well at their MSALs. In such cases, the problem isn’t school heads or administrators: it’s potentially the academic’s failure to uphold the professional standards of their discipline or the long-term effects of institutionalisation. There may also be personal mitigative factors that have to be handled fairly and sensitively. But I also know many hard-working and research-productive casuals who deserve full-time status.


Consequently, Hil’s tactics (pp. 203-205) of “resistance . . . dissidence and subversion” (p. 202) will mostly fail, backfire, and continue to ‘other’ the administrators and ‘para-academics’ who must deal with the consequences. Hil mistakenly assumes that administrators do not support socially progressive projects and research proposals. He does not articulate a theoretical framework that is aware of how organisations respond to, choreograph and build in the scope for such activities as part of their ideological landscapes. Academics who want to adopt Hil’s progressive ideals (pp. 217-220) might gain further insights through direct engagement with the peace studies and nonviolence work of Johan Galtung (Searching For Peace: The Road To Transcend), Mark Juergensmeyer’s interpretation of Satyagrahan ethics in conflict resolution (Gandhi’s Way), Jonathan Schell (The Unconquerable World), Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall (A Force More Powerful), Riane Eisler (The Chalice and the Blade), Sohail Inayatullah (Understanding Sarkar), and the arch-strategist Gene Sharp. Throw in Barry Buzan and Lene Hansen’s study The Evolution of International Security Studies for their discussion of the inter-paradigmatic debates between international security and peace studies scholars that echoes the academic-‘para-academic’ distinction that Hil makes.


Alternatively, academics might work for a “paradigm-buster” (pp 208-215) like the Oases Graduate School in Hawthorn, Victoria; Newcastle’s annual This Is Not Art festival; the think tank Centre for Policy Development; or the media outlet New Matilda. Several of these were founded by Generation X university graduates. How does Hil know that today’s graduates do not have the civic awareness he values? Who did he interview? What student experience surveys did he look at? We don’t know how Hil arrived at his opinion and what evidence he considered.


“There remains a widespread belief that academics have it good when compared to workers elsewhere,” Hil notes (p. 13). “In some cases this is probably true.” It’s an initial observation that could have been explored further or that could be the basis for a very interesting comparative research project. Hil doesn’t explore it further nor does he examine the varied causes of the problems and complaints that he documents. He appears to take many of his interviewees at face value: we don’t know if there was selection bias in his interview sample, what the inclusion criteria were, who was intervieweed and not included, and who was nominated but not interviewed. There could be confirmation bias and possible sampling effects from specific academic disciplines, sub-disciplines (Hil interviews several peace studies colleagues), NTEU union members, and universities. The media outlets that Hil samples have each crafted their own crisis narratives about universities, and so their reportage can have subtle information biases. This is why I find Cohan, Coll and Wright’s investigative journalism as a more viable model: they interview many people and show several sides to a situation and organisation.


Regrettably, Whackademia contributes to the very “negative public mythology” (p. 13) about universities and academics that Hil diagnoses and seeks to counter. In part the problem is when a term like ‘audit culture’ or ‘free-market ideology’ becomes the accepted frame and can thus be a barrier to further differential diagnosis and emergent, reflective insights. If Hil considers writing a follow-up book then he might look to the scholar Rakesh Khurana (From Higher Aims To Hired Hands) as one possible critical model to use.