Friday, June 20, 2008

The Logic of Life

I've been reading a lot of books on human behavior, the economics of daily life, and game theory, as research for my current novel, Watch, and because I often drop references to such things into my keynote addresses.

Although Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner is the most famous recent book of pop economics (and I did quite enjoy it), I think the best of the current lot is The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World by Tim Harford, a columnist for The Financial Times and Slate. The page for it is here.

Harford takes on fascinating topics -- starting with the increase in the number of teenage girls performing oral sex! -- and explains why each behavior is strictly rational in an economic sense.

Now, yes, the behavior may not be what some people want -- but that's the point of the book: unless social engineers understand why it makes sense for individuals to behave as they do (and Harford's thesis is that almost all people do what makes best sense for them under their specific circumstances), any hope of changing that behavior is doomed to failure.

Other topics tackled include why it makes rational sense for companies to pay their CEOs what seem to most of us to be obscene amounts of money, and the various forces that contribute to the continuing disadvantaging of African-Americans.

It's a fascinating read, and it's also extremely well-written: clear, witty, and well-organized. Highly recommended.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


At June 20, 2008 12:13 PM , OpenID robertwalker said...

Hi, Robert. If you haven't read it already, I highly recommend "The Moral Animal," by Robert Wright. One of the most interesting and thought-provoking books I've read.

(Yes, it's all about the Roberts today!)

At June 20, 2008 1:09 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Robert Walker. Yes, indeed, I've read and very much like "The Moral Animal," as well as Robert Wright's other book, "Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny," which is one of my all-time favorites.

At June 20, 2008 6:40 PM , OpenID robert walker said...

Hmm, I'll have to check that one out, too.


Post a Comment

<< Home