A Draft Book / Film List on Metis

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


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


Phase 1


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Phase 2


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Phase 3


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Information Theory & Intellectual Property

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


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


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

Adventures With Class Status



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindfulness-Based CBT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.