[Book Review] Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Rating:★★★★ (around 3.5-4.0)

Anthony Bourdain. He is living my dream life. He travels endlessly(for his job) and eats a lot of interesting and diverse foods around the world. But he was not doing this from beginning of career for sure. This book will give you a good idea of Bourdain’s life as a chef before Television personality. You will feel he is talking next to you about his life and impression of working in a restaurant since his writing style pretty much resembles his way of talking in his shows.

I figured out he has a broad range of vocabularies but I should say that he is surprisingly a decent writer. And of course, very honest about himself as usual. As a narrator, Bourdain is very entertaining. He is a no-nonsense, no-holding-back kind of writer, sarcastic and witty and, I assume, quite honest about his exploits. One does start to wonder however if he is laying the bad boy thing a little too thick. It is interesting that in spite of his years-long heroine, cocaine, and alcohol addictions and his bad behavior at work, he not only managed to line one chef job after another in decent places (no McDonald’s and Shoney’s on his resume) but maintained a marriage as well.

I have never been working at a restaurant so this book has some interesting revelations. Some parts of this book talk about fantastic food and will leave you drooling. As a result, you will want to hop the next flight and travel the world visiting as many restaurants and trying as many types of food as you can. Other parts will disgust you and leave you nauseous. You will never look a restaurant food the same way – and may not want to eat it at all unless you get a good look at the kitchen and the people preparing the food.

Bourdain definitely crushes all preconceived notions we might have about the industry. There is no such thing as a sophisticated cook, according to Bourdain. In his book, cooks are a dysfunctional lot – drug-addicted, unable to hold a “normal” job, people from the fringes of the society. Actually, Bourdain is one of these people himself. He supports this statement by numerous stories of his drug-, crime- and sex-infused culinary career. As for artistry in cooking, there is none. Cooking is all about mindless, unvarying repetition. Only a few executive chefs in high-end restaurants have a luxury of being creative with the food they make.

Besides the anecdotes about dysfunctional kitchen workers,Kitchen Confidential is a sort of biographical account of Bourdain’s cooking career. He talks about how his love for food came about. He takes us on his life journey – from a dishwasher in a seaside joint to an executive chef position in a swanky NYC restaurant. He describes his experiences in failed and successful businesses and offers practical advice about the industry and food. The morsels of wisdom I am taking away from this book are: don’t order specials and don’t attend brunch buffets (apparently, both are dumping grounds for old leftovers); don’t eat at places with dirty bathrooms; vegetarians are crazy and sickly people who can’t be trusted.

Those anecdotes and his writing style are definitely plus for me but after half of this book, I felt there are some parts that need to be improved for his next books.  While I thought the book was entertaining, it needed some editing help. First, it is not very well structured, the narration is not cohesive in any shape or form. It reads like a bunch of anecdotes thrown together in no apparent order. The stories of debauchery become repetitive and redundant by the end where I started skipping chapters because none of it was new. Finally, seeing some pictures of people and places Bourdain talks about would have been great too.

Nevertheless, I would recommend this book to all food lovers and especially people who are toying with the idea of becoming restaurateurs or cooks. The author’s advice and warnings about the business are sound. Not only the practical side, this is a very human piece of literature that reveals its author to be a man who may have grown up a couple of decades too late, but isn’t too vain to admit that when he did it was in a large part because of those who took a chance on him and supported him when he was at his worse.

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[Book Review] Chess Story by Stefan Zweig

Rating: ★★★★★

There are strong parallels between reading a novel and the game of chess: there is the author sitting on one side, playing white, the reader on the other side, playing black; instead of the chess board and chess pieces there is the novel; the author’s opening chapter is the chess player’s opening, the middle of the novel is, of course, the middle game, and the closing chapter is the end game. If both author and reader expand their literary horizons and deepen their appreciation of life’s mysteries, then both can declare ‘checkmate’.

A chessboard with sixty-four squares hidden in the folds of a checkered pattern bedspread represents much more than a mere pastime in Zweig’s short novella.  The dichotomy of black and white pieces of divided consciousness locked inside a man struggling to keep sanity over mental torture.

Chess moves, chess problems, imaginary games played in frenzied compulsion, both ruin and salvation of someone who has been deprived of the warmth of humanity, become the only means of creating meaning out of the complete nothingness that soaks the dimensionless and timeless walls of a dark cell.

“My awful situation was forcing me to at least try to divide myself into a Black Me and a White Me in order not to be crushed by the horrendous nothingness around me. “

Dr. B is introduced by a nameless narrator as a Jewish lawyer who embodies the cultivated Austrian heritage and its flourishing Enlightenment before World War II. Captured by the Gestapo, he is condemned to the most sophisticated form of isolation for months on end and psychologically abused during ruthless interrogations in order to extract important information related to his previous professional practice. An anthology of a hundred and fifty master games for chess is the only object Mr. B can get hold of during the long period of his incarceration and imagining those moves in his mind turns out to be the only distraction from the vacuum that surrounds him. The diversion transforms into pleasure and the pleasure transforms into mania and soon enough Mr. B’s chess moves come so natural to him that they epitomize the definition of his sole existence. Black and White pieces and a checkered board dissolve into Mr.B’s flesh and blood and the game of chess shapes his whole being. He plays to exist, he plays to survive, he plays with his soul.

“Like all headstrong types, Czentovic had no sense of the ridiculous; ever since his triumph in the world tournament, he considered himself the most important man in the world.” (11) 

Worldwide Chess Champion Mr. Czentovic is a hollow automaton whose only virtue is an uncanny gift to play chess. Devoid of emotion, humility and visual imagination, this self-absorbed simpleton sees the “royal game” as a conduit to wealth and popularity. He plays unwaveringly with vanity and contempt in unnerving slowness and controlled fashion, victory and money to nurture his cold pride are his only motivations.
Nothingness is all Mr. Czentovic is made of and his opaque psyche doesn’t need to elucidate any other meaning than to prove his own supremacy over mankind.
Maybe an allegory for the disturbing undercurrents molding the Nazi ideology of the time. Maybe a symbol to depict the dark forces that seized Vienna and destroyed its flourishing cultural heritage.

A battle between opposed understandings of the world ensues on the chessboard. Two men carrying the weight of different backgrounds on their shoulders, one in monochromatic black and the other in schizophrenic colorfulness, struggle against their pasts and impending futures and play the game of chess with antagonistic purposes.
One plays to exist, the other to annihilate.
A metaphorical chessboard where wooden pieces draw a map of connections among the countries before the tragedy of World War II exploded, destroying the cultural tradition that delineated Zweig’s faith in art as the ultimate expression of everything that was good in humankind.

Both suffering in exile, both mourning a golden past, both sinking into despair under the weight of history, both struggling to create meaning within themselves in spite of having been robbed even of their identity, both Mr.B and Zweig play the game of chess under the constant checkmate of despondency.

Zweig committed suicide after completing this book. I see why. It’s the least optimistic, most hopeless, depressing, and horrifyingly bleak thing I’ve read in years. Four hankies won’t do to stanch the helpless, hopeless weeping induced by reading the book, and a pistol is too heavy to hold in fingers gone too numb to clench even slightly.

 

[Book Review] Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky

Rating: ★★★★★

My love toward Dostoyevsky has been often one-way love. I tried to finish reading his books(Crime and Punishment-tried once  before, The Brothers Karamazov-finished reading it after trying twice) several times and wasn’t able to finish his books most of the time. This guy is quite talented in torturing readers. Many sentences in his books are not simple as Tolstoy’s. Sometimes, one sentence in his books are equal length with one paragraph. Not only the sentence and the length of the books, he delved into the dirty side of human’s minds that make many readers succumb to it. I would say his writings can be one of the most  brutal things in that aspect. Plus, Russian characters have very complicated names for non-Russian speakers that many non-Russian readers would struggle with names and try to deal with this problem by writing names in the note. But if you manage to finish reading his books, it’s like a joyous victory of climbing steep mountains.

‘Crime and Punishment’ is one of the most famous Dostoyevsky’s novels and writing the good review for this book is daunting. But I can give it a try.

Crime and Punishment is the story of a crime and its eventual punishment. That’s it. End of review. Or not. It’s really the story of a crime, followed by more crime, with a sprinkling of just a bit more crime, and then finished off with a tad of punishment.  The main character, Rakolnikov(which I always get confused with Raskolni-nov)is a really fascinating character to study. I mean, yeah he’s psychologically warped and is a bit “Oh I murdered someone but you should feel sorry for me anyway”, however I always seem to find likable traits in even the most monstrous of characters. To use a Russian motif, he’s a matryoshka doll of a character. Like I felt with Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary, Raskolnikov is kind of more interesting than the novel itself.  I loved this book from the opening scene in which Raskolnikov is convincing himself about the rightness of committing the murder of the money-lending pawn-broker in the name of ubermansch  all the way through the bittersweet end and the beginning of his redemption.

“Crime? What crime? … My killing a loathsome, harmful louse, a filthy old moneylender woman who brought no good to anyone, to murder whom would pardon forty sins, who sucked the lifeblood of the poor, and you call that a crime ?”

(ubermansch: the ordinary man has to live in submission and has no right to transgress the law because he is ordinary. On the contrary, the extraordinary men have the right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way.)

Raskolnikoff’s justification for his act was that great and famous men, like Ceasar and Napoleon, were assassins absolved by history. He identified himself with those history figures. And that gave him the right to commit the crime. How could he explain the murder? I understand he just required a belief to explain it to himself. He was no Napoleon; he was not fighting in a war. And he knew it. What he needed was a moral argument that pushed him up the steps and lifted his arms in the final act.

“And you don’t suppose that I went into it headlong like a fool? I went into it like a wise man, and that was just my destruction. And you mustn’t suppose that I didn’t know, for instance, that if I began to question myself whether I had the right to gain power—I certainly hadn’t the right—or that if I asked myself whether a human being is a louse it proved that it wasn’t so for me, though it might be for a man who would go straight to his goal without asking questions.… If I worried myself all those days, wondering whether Napoleon would have done it or not, I felt clearly of course that I wasn’t Napoleon. I had to endure all the agony of that battle of ideas, Sonia, and I longed to throw it off: I wanted to murder without casuistry, to murder for my own sake, for myself alone! I didn’t want to lie about it even to myself. It wasn’t to help my mother I did the murder—that’s nonsense—I didn’t do the murder to gain wealth and power and to become a benefactor of mankind. Nonsense! I simply did it; I did the murder for myself, for myself alone, and whether I became a benefactor to others, or spent my life like a spider, catching men in my web and sucking the life out of men, I couldn’t have cared at that moment.… And it was not the money I wanted, Sonia, when I did it. It was not so much the money I wanted, but something else.… I know it all now.… Understand me! Perhaps I should never have committed a murder again. I wanted to find out something else; it was something else led me on. I wanted to find out then and quickly whether I was a louse like everybody else or a man. Whether I can step over barriers or not, whether I dare stoop to pick up or not, whether I am a trembling creature or whether I have the right …”

He is one of those with whom the good and the bad come from the same place. His passion, his broad consciousness lead him to both great good and great cruelty. For some reason it just goes both ways. His victims lack the capacity for such a crime, but they also lack the capacity for the good he is capable of. He is a deep, very deep person, but he doesn’t possess the necessary to bear this depth. It is marvelous to possess such a wealth of profundity and passion, but only when you have the means to channel them the right way. Sometimes the best of us is the worst in someone else. There are those of us who lack the necessary substance to bear their gifts with dignity, integrity, passion, and therefore their depth, their brilliance is a murder. They incite them to beliefs and actions that are far beyond our and their own comprehension. Only a healthy spirit can bear the weight of a large intelligence. As Raskolnikov himself points out, ”it takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently”. I keep asking myself why our human complexity results into violence, sadism, cruelty, and not in beauty, nobleness, desire. It is our birthright and obligation to be more than what nature has bestowed on us. Technically, biologically, we are no more than animals, part of the big chain, but inwardly we are something else. Something exceptional, spectacular, breathtaking. We are strong and beautiful in our intricacy, but cruel and weak in our inability to bear it, to recognize it, to give in to it. The beauty of the human heart and mind is always dual, deadly and life-giving, poisonous and healing, grand and small. And it is there that lays the biggest mystery. For it is pain and suffering that the most beautiful creations are based on. It is pain that forces us to grow, to develop, it is pain that reveals to us our most amazing qualities, our deepest beauty, our profoundest selves. It is there that lays the irony, the paradox. Our highest cannot exist without our lowest.  I think it is rather notable that after having murdered two women and being incarcerated for it, Raskolnikov is actually more at peace with himself than at the beginning. The pain he goes through changes him. He might have committed his crime only once, but in his mind many times before that. Subconsciously, but still, the thoughts, the feelings that lead to it in the end have been part of him always. And after finally getting to it, he changes.

This is an outstanding classic about the human essence, about our darkest and deepest impulses. The unequivocal voice of each character, the sharp study of society, the movements of Raskolnikov, of the extreme reduction of hate to the redemption of love. Ultimately it reveals that our own inner consciousness can stand a far greater punishment than any legal system can.

 

[Book Review] The Big Short by Michael Lewis

Rating: ★★★★★(4.5)

Wall Street is probably best known for the movie quote “Greed is good.”

But after reading The Big Short, Michael Lewis’ excellent book about the lead up to the 2008 global financial crisis and the small group of people who saw the collapse coming and bet against it, I think Wall Street needs a new saying: “Y’all are a bunch of greedy assholes.”

Lewis has a talent for making his readers feel smart. Taking in his best works, you’re granted kinship with the elite. Like a trader at Salomon Brothers, you might laugh at the chumps in the bond market; or like the money-constrained boss of the Oakland A’s, you might cobble together a winning line-up by way of statistics; or like a genius of modern day football, you would recognize the importance of a great left tackle in protecting your quarterback’s blind side. Now, with The Big Short, you will have no doubt foreseen the folly of investing in subprime mortgages with their impending defaults. He does this in a very readable way, too. The characters are all interesting – often genuinely quirky. And his vantage point as a quasi-insider signifies the straight scoop. Whatever the topic, he explains its subtleties well enough that you can paraphrase it to impress friends over cocktails.

Our man Lewis was clever to focus on the winners of the bet. As he explained in an interview, those were the ones who were willing to talk to him. They saw what became obvious in hindsight: that many of the loans backing mortgage securities were originated with very low standards applied (by firms who didn’t have to eat their own cooking), were issued with teaser rates that would soon adjust up, and were likely to default as soon as the air started coming out of the big housing balloon. For reasons Lewis explains well, the bet against the bubble was not so apparent to many. These securities were hidden in tranches of complicated mortgage-backed securities with obscure features that made it harder to do proper due diligence. They were also rated too high by Moody’s and S&P for the default potential they contained (partly because the agencies were easily duped by the Goldmans of the world who were paying their fees and wanted AAA assets to vend). Plus, there was little to go on from past default data because such high levels of credit unworthiness had never before been experienced. Modeling assumptions were poor, too. For instance, it was thought that diversification across regions would reduce risks. The widespread downturn in housing showed otherwise, of course. Default correlations were high. It hurt the cause, too, when some of the strongest personalities in the business, like Cassano at AIG and Hubler at Morgan Stanley, were also some of the wrongest.

The misdeeds on Wall Street were spotlighted well. I couldn’t help feeling, though, especially at the end, that Lewis had overstated his case. There were times when he claimed the investment banks were stupid for not knowing the true value of these assets and at the same time duplicitous in passing them off to customers. You can’t have it both ways, at least not in that case. I was also hoping that he would weigh in on some of the other factors that contributed to the crash, such as the role of government with its CRA program and the poor oversight of its sponsored enterprises, toxic waste-makers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Other points Lewis made against the investment banks were more deserving, I thought, among them, the fact that they are no longer partnerships (where any losses would truly hit home), but rather corporations with limited liability. Agency theory in economics points to the problem of employees receiving a much bigger share of the upside (with bonus structures as they are), and a lot less of any downside. Riskier strategies result. That doesn’t explain everything, though. Several of the notable blow-ups included principal architects who were also major shareholders. For instance, Richard Fuld lost over half a billion in share value when Lehman went under.

The other thing I thought was noteworthy about Lewis’s critique was something he alluded to in the introduction. He said when he wrote Liar’s Poker that he intended for it to be a finger-wagging at the industry’s bad behavior. Many read it instead as a how-to manual. This disconcerted him, and it was apparent that he went to greater lengths this time to dwell on the negatives. That said, might we still get the sense that he wants it both ways? His descriptions are alluring, the language of the cognoscenti is enticing, the personalities are bigger than life, and the market savvy that decides who wins the pot is celebrated. Wittingly or not, there’s an extent to which he glamorizes. I’ll take him at his word that he doesn’t want to see bright young people flocking to Wall Street anymore, but it seems there’s a small, slightly disingenuous part of him that still finds it all pretty fascinating.

In summary: strongly recommended as a guidebook on the crisis, very entertaining, but maybe not the one-stop shopping it might have been for assigning all warranted blame.

P.S: The movie is quite decent as well.

 

[Book Review]Game of Thrones

I’m very slow in catching trends and now I started to read the series of “A Song of Ice and Fire”. And as you know, it’s a big commitment to read this series. All the pages of the five books are more than 4000 pages and George RR Martin hasn’t finished the series yet(hope the 6th book comes out soon!)

Comment

Although I already know some stories roughly beforehand(I heard too many spoilers) , it was quite interesting to read and this book has some unique characteristics that separates from other fantasy novels(e.g Lord of the Rings,Harry Potter) . As many of you have already seen in the drama;good characters are not always make it to the end(think about Eddard Stark) and nice-personality characters have some flaws, not epitome of all the good-ness in some fantasy novels(e.g. Aragon in Lord of the Rings).  I think those characteristics make this book more realistic and approachable. The characters are more like Greek Mythology  gods. We know that everyone is not perfect. Plus, if you are fascinated by medieval English history, you will be able to find a lot of resemblances and GRRM did a great job in incorporating historical facts into this story.

The book isn’t without its flaws, of course. Although different characters narrate different chapters, there is absolutely no change in tone from character to character, to the point where the eight-year-old thinks, acts, and talks exactly like the forty-year-olds in the book. Certain characters are absent for much too long, resulting in implausible leaps from Mindset A to Mindset Z (Daenerys goes from “I don’t want to marry Khal Drogo and I don’t want to be queen of anything!” to calling Drogo “my sun-and-stars” and planning how she’s going to take back her family’s throne in the space of two chapters, with nothing in between to explain how she got to that point), and certain characters who should have had chapters devoted to their particular mindset are absent from the book (what I wouldn’t give to have read a chapter written from Cersei’s perspective).

But those are minor quibbles. This is a good fantasy book, because it subverts so many familiar fantasy tropes. Tropes like the idea of good guys and bad guys, and nothing in between. This isn’t The Lord of the Rings, where the good guys are noble and awesome and handsome and will win the big final battle and the bad guys are literally pure evil and ugly and will suffer for their foolish attempts at conquest. Martin was strongly influenced by the Wars of the Roses, and the similarities are clear: there’s no single good guy who deserves to have the throne over everyone else; instead we have several powerful families, all of them varying degrees of evil, fighting and clawing over what is, at the end of the day, just a stupid crown. The guy who won the crown from the original ruler, King Robert, is our typical fantasy hero, but he finds that after fifteen years of ruling, actually running a kingdom is a lot less fun that fighting for one. And that’s the way things go: it’s easy to depose the crazy despot, but what happens when you take his place and have to start thinking about taxes and actually governing this country that you fought so hard for? It sucks, that’s what happens.

At the end of this book, I was amazed by the world created in GRRM’s brain. He must have lived in that world at the same time mentally in order to describe and make the story in elaborate way. Now I’m turning the first page of A Clash of Kings.

 

 

[Book Review] Cosmos by Carl Sagan

I have heard the reputation of this book since I was young but I was not dare to approach this book since I often feel science is convoluted and abstract to me(I’m a math person but not science). But once I watched the documentary version narrated by Carl Sagan, I was immediately hooked and finally grabbed the book.

My initial thought of this book before I started to read was it would be full of scientific knowledge and explanations but this book is much beyond that. Unlike didactic science scholars, Carl Sagan put his best effort to make astronomy approachable to the public. He has managed to put into simple words concepts that have scared away so many people for so long. In this book, Sagan encompasses the whole of human existence and the universe, with a focus on science.

For example, he also discussed:

– evolution,
– Kepler, astrology and acceptance of truth in spite of what outcome is desired,
– Venus and Mars, including the made-up belief of life on Mars a century ago,
– the Voyager spacecrafts’ Grand Tour of the Outer Planets (a rare alignment),
– ancient Greek scientists,
– Relativity,
– atoms, elements, and how star make them,
– Creation Myths, incl Hindu ones that are longer than the current discovered age of the Universe,
– genes, DNA, the brain, and books: the progression of how and how much information we can store and access,
– SETI, and Jean-François Champollion’s translation of Egyptian hieroglyphs,
– the Library of Alexandria.

So, even for people who don’t love science that much, they would find some parts of the books interesting and marveled how interconnected the science and those different aspects are(e.g. myth).

Plot

After giving us a general idea of our ‘cosmic address’, Sagan moves on to Darwin and his discovery of Natural Selection as the engine of Evolution. This has to be one of the finest explanations of Darwinian Natural Selection, where Sagan uses the extra-ordinary example Heike crabs, to demonstrate the strange but beautiful ways in which ‘survival of the fittest’ is manifested. But he doesn’t keep us here for long. After giving the best possible ‘lecture’ on Evolution, he takes us further to see the harmony of the worlds. the planets and how the stars follow fixed patterns that can be mathematically explained; a most singular achievement of humans to have discovered the language of the Nature. Kepler gave us the laws of planetary motion. Laws that not just explained the elliptical orbit of Earth, but inspired a generation of mathematicians and physicists to inquire further into the nature and behavior of the heavenly bodies.

As the book progresses, Sagan’s obsession with extra-terrestrial life becomes more and more apparent. He admits that as a child, he spent hours contemplating about the possibility of intelligent life on other planets. Although our search for intelligent life has been a failure (even on Earth), Sagan aspires to make contact with the dwellers of distant worlds. The possibility of life elsewhere, is not too ‘fantastic’ altogether. As we observe the immensity of the observable universe, we can be more than certain that life does exist elsewhere but we don’t know what it will be like. Space travel and Alien Contact are not stuff of science fiction anymore but a possibility in waiting.

The concluding chapters touch on two matters of colossal significance, namely Nuclear Weapons and Climate Change. These two man-made disasters are a ticking time bomb that can obliterate our species, and we have done precious little to stop them. We are destroying this planet, poisoning our oceans and destroying Specie after specie for centuries now. Man is without a doubt the most deadly predator in the history of Earth Life. And now we are on the path to self-annihilation.

Comment

After reading the last chapter blaming selfish and greedy humans, his book is a wakeup call. A world ridden with ignorance and greed, will need to forego the idiotic bliss of being certain about everything. We don’t need good answers to everything, what we need instead are good questions. A good question is often times more educating than its answer. How can we love this world if we are awaiting an apocalypse, how can we love our environment and its safe keepers, the plants and the animals, without recognizing that they are our distant cousins. Life, wherever it exists on this planet, is our kin. And we are bullying, butchering and asphyxiating it everywhere. What a shame !

This book was published for the first time in 1980 and we are still enjoying his book. The messages from his book still penetrate greedy and egocentric human beings. It is sad that humans have not improved in this perspective that much since 1980. What would Carl Sagan say about this current world if he is still alive?

Because Carl Sagan does more than just educate you about the wonders of Science and the Universe; he makes you fall in love with it.

 

[Book Review] Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Rating: ★★★★

Yuval Noah Harari wrote ‘Homo Sapiens‘ and he asked this fundamental question at the end of the book: “With going through technology development, do we become happier? How will and should people live in the future?”. This new book by Harari is attempting to answer this question and depict the future after scientific revolution.  Harari takes us, with this continuation to his blockbuster book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, from the past to the future. This book shares a lot of the same limitations of the previous book. But because “speculation” is inherent in writing about the future, Harari’s jumps are easier to forgive when talking about tomorrow than when talking about today. His speculation surely provokes readers to think more profoundly about society today.

In Homo Deus, Harari holds that now that humanity has all but solved the mammoth problems plaguing it before the 21st century – disease, famine, and violence – it will turn to a new agenda, namely attaining happiness, immortality, and divinity. The author writes about our potential future in terms of our recent and ancient past. He explains how humans distinguished themselves from the animal world and came to recognize the human experience and economic growth as the ultimate powers of the recent centuries. Harari then turns to look at where the unstoppable tide of technology and progress may take us in a few decades –whether intelligent algorithms and a genetically upgraded superhuman elite may make ordinary humans obsolete.

Harari did a great job in describing formula for knowledge in different eras. In medieval time, the formula for knowledge is Scriptures × Logic. In Scientific Revolution era, Knowledge = Empirical Data × Mathematics. Using this formula in the scientific revolution, Harari predicted that “Dataism” will be a new religion in the book. . Dataism advances the first truly new value in nearly 200 years; the value of freedom of information. Dataism is firmly entrenched in its two mother disciplines, computer science and biology. Organisms are seen by scientists as data-processing systems. The stock market is the most powerful of all data processing systems, and centralized government is one of the worst. Capitalism defeated Communism during the Cold War, not because it is more ethical or because individual liberties are sacred, but because in times of rapid technological change, distributed processing systems work better than centralized systems.

However, humanism offered an alternative. As humans gained confidence in themselves, a new formula for acquiring ethical knowledge appeared: Knowledge = Experiences × Sensitivity.  Humanists rely on feelings to make important decisions, and these feelings evolved over millions of years. But often our feelings are just irrational and wrong. Computer algorithms can surpass feelings in making good decisions. So, the humanist recommendation to “get in touch with your feelings” may not he given in the future. Perhaps, meaning in life will not lie in our experiences, until they are shared with others, through social media. And, these social media will analyze our experiences, and be able to give expert advice on important decisions. Harari gives some pretty good evidence that this trend may come to pass.

 Overall, it is Harari’s style which is the most engaging. I rushed though this book because even the most complex issues are dealt with in accessible language and an approachable tone. It’s fun and despite the subject matter, doesn’t take itself too seriously. It felt like the starting point of a conversation, somewhat controversial of course, but isn’t that the best way to get a debate going?I highly recommend it to all open-minded people who are not afraid to think a bit differently about the meaning of life, about our political structures, and the future.