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Sunday, April 15, 2012

A book review - Freakonomics

Freakonomics - A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner.

This is not a book about economics, or it may be everything that should be economics. Abstract comparisons between schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers, ku klux klan and real estate agents are made. Parenting advice (not in a proper sense) is analyzed; the drop of criminals and behaviour of drug dealers are investigated with tools and knowledge of economics. These questions are seemingly not at all concerned with economics as we know it and that is what is different about this book.

It seems as if challenging conventional wisdom is all that the authors trying to do. But, there are facts and numbers cited from credible sources and they cannot be ignored as just another "Lies, damned lies, and statistics." The information is unfolded and made simpler for anyone to understand, and there is nothing like statistics at all.

Some of the most basic assumptions of our society are challenged, seemingly unrealistic comparisons are made and hence proved; and it is not at all economics and rightly freak-o-nomics. The authors provide interesting hypotheses in each chapter and they are realized, dissected and proved henceforth. The journey through the book is as interesting as the attention it commands with those witty chapter names such as "Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?"

The power of logic and reason, the foundation on which science is built, is used to challenge the conventional wisdom. Economics is always regarded as a science with excellent tools to get answers to everyday questions related to money, and the authors took up the daunting task of extending the logic, the math and the science of economics to search and research the answers to questions which are never asked. Because, the wall of conventional wisdom always stands as a barrier in front of society to even thinking of asking those questions. This may not be economics in the conventional sense at all, but Levitt and Dubner shows the reader the door to an exceptional journey of getting closer to the most primal question in economics - explaining how people get what they want.

Its all about asking the right questions, and also disregarding the conventional wisdom to intrigue ourselves in starting a journey full of undeniable facts, numbers and may be proving something that was completely out of our domain of thinking. Its about peeling out the layer of everyday nuances and going beyond what we see, the hidden side of everything.

May be science was doing it till now, from atoms to quarks and more. But with the same logical and rigorous approach, can we explore the societal phenomena? This book is an answer to this question. It may be a frustrating thing to do, and may be conventional wisdom will turn out to be true. However, chances are that as it can be seen from the book, conventional wisdom is not true most of the time.

All these analyses may look like not important at all. I mean who cares what klu klux klan and real estate agents have in common. But as explained again and again before,this book is a series of exercise in logic and reason. Thinking differently can make all the difference, and this books can give a valuable insight into how to think or how not to.

Its more than interesting, its intriguing and thought provoking.

The book can be bought here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ability, Skills and success

There is a feeling that used to constantly bother me. Its about the acquisition of skills. Most of the times I felt that I did not have the resource or skills required to present my thinking or work in front of a class, teacher or whoever may be.

It was always with me - I don't know programming, so I can't do this. I don't know AutoCAD, so I can't do that.. And I have lost a major share of my time brooding over this weakness. Sometimes I start to learn these kind of skills, and I eventually master them. But still, my purpose of a better presentation did not get fulfilled.

This situation led me to read many blogs, to watch many videos and books. And I seem to have found an answer to this.

There are two things - Resource and Resourcefulness. From the TED talk given by Tony Robbins, I have borrowed this term. In short, it is about the superiority of resourcefulness over having resources. Having resources may not be enough, if you don't use it to maximum level.

So, here is an example.
I have a friend who is very good at modelling with CAD packages and he used to do awesome presentations. All of us, if not all atleast me, used to feel that its because he is so skillful he can make them easily... and we can't only because we don't know it, rather than not having awesome ideas. One semester passes by, we are as good as him in modelling. Still, he is the best in presentations...

Why ???
The answer is simple. I don't give our 100% to the presentations. I have constant regret during the presentations that I could have done better.


What all of this boils down into?

Its resourcefulness, not resources.
Its not the skill, its the ability to give 100%.

And more importantly, the ability to start working when you need to work and stick with it.. is the most important skill we need to acquire. The rest is pretty easy. You start, you do and you finish.

The ability to stay put through these three steps without getting distracted is what we need to master by practice.

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I am a student [Master of Design - Product Design and Engineering] at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. I completed BTech (Mechanical Engineering) from NIT Silchar. My native place is Sipajhar, a small place with rich cultural heritage, in Assam. I am interested in designing products and systems for a better life. I like to collect quotes, read books,blog and surf net, dance and sing Bihu songs and write poems and articles. I don't like to talk while I am eating. But above all, I want to be happy all the time. Contact me at m2n037[at]gmail[dot]com
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