29 December 2008

Three Books to Help Make Sense of the Global Financial Crisis

I've just finished reading these three books. They have each helped me to make some sense of our current global economic situation and to consider what actions we can take in response.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. This book shows how we are not rational thinkers like the economists have assumed for all their models. Instead it shows how we tend to behave irrationally in a predictable fashion.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He talks about a "black swan" as an extremely rare, improbable event (like 9/11) that cannot be predicted and is outside our vision, yet has catastrophic impact. Taleb discusses the role of "black swans" and risk. This book is extremely prescient of the "shadow banking system" that finally triggered the global credit crisis. BTW I left a copy of this one in Paris as a Bookcrossing.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution by Thomas L. Friedman. He argues that America needs a green revolution create new sources of power and maintain its status as a global power. This is a theme that Obama has talked a lot about since his election. My summary is that we need a green revolution to innovate our way out of disaster and we need the US to step up and take a leadership role.

Each of these books challenges existing world views and is worth reading. It seems that we need to start thinking about the world in different ways. The ways that we have viewed the world in the 20th century have not led us to nirvana but to the edge of disaster. Instead we need to find the courage to face up to the challenges of the 21st century in positive, world and life affirming ways.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

1 comment:

Sean Carmody said...

I've read the first two (as well as Taleb's earlier book on the same theme, "Fooled by Randomness") and they are both well worth reading. Predictably Irrational was probably my favourite read of 2008. Now to add the third to my reading list for 2009...