Peace: It is argued that "War in the classic sense of an armed conflict between uniformed armies of two nation-states appears to be obsolescent" and resume battle deaths have fallen dramatcially (with the notable recent exception of the civil war in Syria). Safety: over the last century, the rate of deaths from homicides, motor vehicle accidents, aircraft crashes, occupational accidents and natural disasters have all plummetted. Terrorism: Except for 9/11, deaths from terrorst acts are tiny compared to other causes of violent deaths and are not particularly increasing. Democracy: The world's 103 democracies in 2015 embraced 56 of the world's population while, of the people living in the 60 non-democratic countries, four-fifths reside in a single country, china. Equal rights: The rights of racial minorities, women and gay people continue to advance worldwide and surveys show that, in almost every part of the world (even the Islamic Middle east people are becoming more liberal. Knowledge: Now 83 of the world is literate and the number of years spent in schooling has been rising dramatically in most countries. Quality of life: Today almost half of the world's population has Internet access and three-quarters have access to a mobile phone, while the developed world is leading the way on reductions in working time and more access to leisure activities including tourism. Happiness: The data shows that, as countries become richer over time, their people become happier, athough the United States is an outlier from the global trend in subjective well-being.
Here is a second shocker: Almost no one knows about. This is quite a tome: a main text of some 450 pages and then another 70 pages of notes and references. The opening three and closing three chapters are quite heavy going, but the middle 17 chapters - replete with informative data and containing no less than 75 fascinating graphs - eloquently and convincingly make the case for just how far humankind has progressed, especially. Health: More than five billion lives have been saved by medical advances ranging from the discovery of blood groups to the development of vaccines. Sustenance: The use of machines, add the development of fertilisers and the Green revolution have enabled us to feed billions more with less land and much less labour. Wealth: In the last 200 years, the rate of extreme poverty in the world has fallen from 90 to 10, while gdp per capita has soared in almost every country. Inequality: In the past 30 years, global inequality has declined (most notably in China) although inequality within rich countries has increased (especially in the us and the uk). Environment: Although climate change is a massive challenge, "environmental problems, like other problens, are solvable, given the right knowledge" and a range of intiatives and technologies are discussed.
In terms of mother tongue use, spanish is spoken in more countries and is growing in use more rapidly than any other language. But Crystal is clear that we are rapidly approaching the position where we have a genuinely global language, that language is English, and it is unlikely to be challenged by any other. Already, according to his statistics, there are some 320-380 million people for whom English is the primary language (notably the uk and usa there are another 150-300 million for whom English has an important second language role (for instance, india and Singapore and there are. Already it is the dominant language of science, business and popular culture and some 70-80 of everything on the Internet is in English. "Enlightenment Now" by Steven Pinker (2018) The Enlightenment took place from the mid 17th century to the late 18th century but, 300 years later, the triumphs of Enlightenment thinking and values, with their emphasis on reason, science and humanism, still need explaining and defending. The aim of this book by the renowned American professor of psychology Steven Pinker is "to restate the ideals of the Enlightenment in the language and concepts of the 21st century" and the main theme is that, if we look beyond the headlines to the. As Pinker puts it: Here is a shocker: The world has made spectacular progress in every single measure of human well-being.
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Bauby died on just two days after publication of none the book, but he left behind this (necessarily) short work which is a humbling population insight into both his unique situation and the whole human condition. "Eats, Shoots And leaves" by lynne Truss (2003 who would have thought that a book on punctuation could have become a best-seller? But this one has been mega - thanks mainly to the lively, entertaining and amusing writing style of writer and broadcaster Lynne Truss. Who else would comment on the inventor of several modern punctuation marks, the venetian printer Aldus Manutius the Elder (1450-1515 "I will happily admit that I hadn't heard of him until about a year ago, but am now absolutely kicking myself that I never volunteered. Truss points out that "for over a quarter of century, punctuation and English grammar were simply not taught in the majority of schools" and she is absolutely passionate about the correct use of punctuation, citing countless examples - many very funny (including the origin. The longest chapter is on the apostrophe (which dates from the 16th century there is one on the comma; another on the colon and semi-colon; and others covering the dash and hyphen, the question mark and exclamation mark, brackets and the ellipsis (. quot;tion marks, and italics, with reference even to the emoticons of e-mail communication.
Truss concludes "Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking. If it goes, the degree of intellectual improverishment we face is unimaginable". "English As a global Language" by david Crystal (1997) This is a commendably short book of only 142 pages, but it is a fascinating work which addresses three questions: What makes a global language? Why is English the leading candidate? Will it continue to hold that position? The author is a former professor of linguistics at the University of reading (England). He tells us that there are today around 6,000 living languages, but some estimates suggest that perhaps 80 will die out in the next century.
Although she"s a variety of research work, langer regularly refers to her seminal research project which she later called "the counterclockwise study". This was conducted in 1979 and involved small groups of old people living for a week as if it was 1959, so that for instance they could only talk about events before 1959 and listen to music and watch television programmes of that period. The project found that, on a range of physical and mental tests conducted before and after the retreat, the participants became 'younger'. She writes: "Over time i have come to believe less and less that biology is destiny. It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits.". She insists: "My research has shown that how using a different word, offering a small choice, or making a subtle change in the physical environment can improve our health and well-being.".
She is clear that she is not against conventional medicine, but she argues that it is uncertain and fallible and that it is limited in its efficacy in the circumstances of any particular individual. She believes that, when an individual is labelled old or infirm or ill, the very labelling acts as a 'prime' to limit the individual's perception of their capabilities or state of health. Langer's message of mindful health is a liberating one and her work on "the counterclockwise study" is being made into a film involving Jennifer Aniston. Link: author's web site click here "The diving-Bell And The butterfly" by jean-Dominique baulby (1997 this is a most extraordinary and moving book written by the blinking of his left eyelid by the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine in Paris following a massive stroke. The composition of the work took three hours a day, seven days a week, over a period of two months and required more than 200,000 blinks. The diving-bell of the title refers to the imprisonment of his body, while the butterfly relates to the freedom of his mind which is still able to explore the world in a fashion.
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On the other hand, he asserts: "We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We're a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don't really have an explanation for.". These are immensely difficult tendencies to reconcile intelligently and fairly and Gladwell does not provide a framework for doing. "Counter Clockwise" by Ellen j langer (2009. Ellen Langer is a professor in the Psychology department at Harvard University. She is the author of over 200 research articles and 11 books, almost all of them dealing with the illusion of control, aging, decision-making, and mindfulness theory. The essential message of this latest book - published in the usa in may 2009 and subtitled "Mindful health and the power of Possibility" - is endlessly restated, but it is a powerful one. Langer believes that our mind essay is so inter-related to our body that how we think about our aging process and our state of health profoundly influences how we much aging affects us and how much we enjoy health or cope with ill-health. She recommends a form of thinking called mindfulness which involves abandoning old mindsets, being more aware, noticing variability, drawing distinctions, taking control, and making choices.
He illustrates the risk of Extremistan with reference to the stock market crash of 1987 but, since his book was published, the global banking essay crisis of 2008 is an even more dramatic case. Quite what we are supposed to do about Black Swan events - other than doubting those who claim to be able to predict events, opening our mind to the possibility of negative black Swans, and being ready to seize the opportunities presented by positive black. But I guess, in the end, those are important lessons. "Blink" by malcolm Gladwell (2005). This book is billed as the "No 1 international bestseller" - which it is (in part perhaps because of Gladwell's earlier hit "The tipping point - but whether it deserves its success must be challenged. Certainly Gladwell, a staff writer for the "New Yorker" magazine, presents his very interesting material with clarity and readability, but in essence he says so little at such length and with such repetition that one concludes the work with a measure of real disappointment. His simple but powerful idea is that we can make judgements incredibly quickly - a process he calls "thin-slicing" and which apparently uses our "adaptive unconscious" - and often these snap judgements can be remarkably accurate (even if the reasoning is poorly understood but sometimes. He gives a very wide range of examples, many taken from academic studies, ranging from judging a statue to be a fake to (mis)assessing a (black) man as a dangerous criminal but, although he claims that our snap judgements can be educated and controlled, this. Gladwell writes: "We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that - sometimes - we're better off that way".
where the likelihood of cases can be plotted on a normal distribution (or bell or gaussian) curve. Examples are the heights, weights and iq of a large enough sample of the population or, in economic terms, the income of a baker who can only work so many hours. The second world he calls Extremistan where a single but unexpected event can have a huge impact. Examples are book or music sales, where a celebrity can achieve absolutely outstanding success, or the massively uneven distribution of income or wealth in a free market society. His (incontestable) assertion is that we behave as if the world is Mediocristan when it is usually Extremistan. He talks of the experience of the turkey being prepared for Thanksgiving (or Christmas). Each day that it is fed confirms its view that each day it is going to be fed (Mediocristan but one day it is not simply not fed but killed (Extremistan).
"The Black Swan" by nassim Nicholas Taleb (2007 this book spent 17 weeks on the "New York times" bestseller list and dubai has been translated into 27 languages, but it is one of the most over-hyped and badly written works of non-fiction that it has ever. It is rambling, repetitive and indulgent, while lebanese former trader cum academic Nassim Nicholas Taleb (or nnt as he characterises himself) is immensely pretentious and flaunts his erudition at every opportunity. There are some really insightful ideas here. The central one is the notion of 'the Black Swan event'. For centuries the black swan was the conceptualisation of something highly improbable to the point of probably impossible and then, in the 17th century, black swans were discovered in Australia. For nnt, a black Swan event has three attributes: it is unexpected, it has extreme impact, and after it has occurred we concoct rationalisations trying to make it explainable and predictable. Think of events like the second World War, the civil war in Lebanon, or 9/11 or inventions like the telephone, the computer or the Internet.
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Reviews of non-fiction booksBack to home page click here, tree books reviews: other non-fiction, theological Library in Strahov monastery in Prague. All reviews in alphabetical order by title. Contents "Bamboo palace" by Christopher Kremmer (2003 written by an Australian journalist in 2003, the title is a reference to the circumstances of the royal family of laos who traditionally lived in bamboo homes until the colonial French built a grand palace for them. Set mainly in 1995, the book explains Kremmer's persistent efforts to find out the truth of the royal family's demise. It is written with fine attention to detail and evokes a sense of being there. It is unfortunately based largely on one source - the testimony of camp member Khamphan Thammakhanty, now resident in the usa - but he is the only one of a mere three survivors of the camp to be located. I read the book on a holiday in Indochina click here.