* Farsighted by Steven Johnson

Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most has some highly entertaining moments, as when the author reminds us of Charles Darwin’s pro & con list for marriage (on the pro side, “Charms of music and female chit-chat These things good for one’s health–but terrible loss of time”. How charming! He did get married, for the record.) But other statements are suspect, as when he claims that New Yorkers were unable to make a sounds decision on filling out a lake because “we simply did not have the conceptual tools to imagine the decision [] two centuries ago”. I find it hard to believe that our ancestors could not make sound decisions (or that we are making decisions any better than they are!)

One aspect that prevented my enjoying the book more was the author’s main example of good decision making, that of whether to raid the compound where bin Laden lived in Pakistan, and his general love of military, macho examples. (He does try, in the last part of the book, to give more nuanced emotional examples, but they are all based in literature and rather closed to those who have not read the books he quotes). I agree with his plea to teach decision making in school, but not from that book.

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