Single Sentence Summaries for Every Book I Read in 2020

Keeping with yearly tradition (2019, 2018), here are my key take-aways for every book I read in 2020.

The point of being rich is to be able to do interesting things, rather than own enviable things.
  Deeply rooted economic ideologies are difficult to dislodge even with compelling data.
  Human inquiry into the ultimate truth should extend beyond what’s provable by the scientific method.
  Research results on how we can think, act, interact, and live better are clear; one just needs to have the initiative to read up on them.
  From time complexity to game theory, familiarity with basic computer science concepts can help us immensely in work and life.
  Build better habits with 4 simple steps: make it obvious (cue), attractive (craving), easy (response), and satisfying (reward).
  Craving fame and respect, financial crime mastermind Jho Low steals billions from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.
  Scientists working on what the universe is (quantum theory of gravity) are too preoccupied to ask why it exists, while philosophers that ask why have not been able to keep up with the latest scientific developments.
  Once the rate of return of capital (r) exceeds the rate of output and income growth (g), capitalism produces unsustainable inequalities.
  While it’s well known that Marx argued that worker exploitation will persist so long as class structure persists, perhaps it’s less known that Marx never really specified how a socialist economy should work.
  Maintaining a culture of creativity requires the art of delicately balancing becoming the project you’re working on while maintaining a higher level perspective.
  Eurasian history cycles between periods of credit and money (gold/silver): Agrarian Age credit (3500BC-800BC), Axial Age money (military-coinage-slavery complex) (800BC-600AD), Middle Age credit (600-1450), Capitalist Age money (1450-1971), and now (1971-present) the petro-US-dollar credit system.
  The world is filled with broken places, and you can use your position of power to pick your battles and go win some.
  What makes intimate romantic relationships so difficult are the same challenges we face becoming mature: honest self-reflection about your deepest insecurities, forgiving others etc.
  Our failure to understand the paradoxical nature of human mating is costly (both scientifically and socially) and so, we must go back into our evolutionary past to understand our mating strategies through the context of survival.
  Beauty – from poetry to stories to art – is often more effective at capturing and transmitting scientific truths than facts and numbers.
  A basic grasp of the role financial institutions, financial markets, and recent history (e.g. deregulation in 80s saw emergence of new types of derivatives) brings us one step closer to understanding how the world works.
  Whether we’re concerned with the spread of pandemics or economic growth, it’s important to understand the scientific first principles governing growth trajectories.
  Revising mainstream Western-centric history helps answer two questions: what stories are being told wholesale, and why is this the case.
From spoken language to the Mesopotamian cuneiform, telegraph to telephone, Turing to Shannon; as our way of thinking about information changes, our thinking about many other fields also change.
  While relative dematerialisation has been a global trend, we’ll continue to rely on key materials for the foreseeable future: concrete, metals, plastics, and fertilisers.
  Inspecting and questioning the metaphors that pervade our language, can improve our thoughts, actions, and therefore outcomes.
  Viewing cities as networked systems of actions and interactions, rather than merely physically rooted spaces and places, unfolds insights that could help cities thrive socially and economically.
  The universe (organisms and societal structures) seems to be trending towards ever larger and more intricate non-zero sum games.
  There are countless fascinating events and stories in history that never made it to the mainstream.
  A pathogen that is too deadly won’t lead to a pandemic as infected hosts die too quickly – pandemics unfold when it is just deadly enough.
  To become a better thinker, learn and regularly use the big ideas in big disciplines (i.e. transdisciplinary mental models).
  Rather than obsessively focusing on a narrow discipline, creative achievers tend to have broad interests, which often supports insights that cannot be attributed to domain-specific expertise alone.
  Much of Disney’s success in recent decades is driven by well-executed acquisitions, and integral to this was consciously preserving the creative culture of the companies they were buying.
  We can make better judgements by becoming familiar with cognitive biases, physics and mathematics.
  Entrepreneurship never gets easier as a business scales, and contrary to popular belief, genius is knowing when to give up to try something else.
  Most have a poor understanding of asymmetric risk – from ergodicity to corrupted incentive systems.
  Racism is prejudice against someone based on race, when those prejudices are reinforced by systems of power.
  The story of art is not a progress of increased technical proficiency, but a story of changing societal ideas and values.
  There are many possible forms (speed, collective, quality) and pathways (artificial, whole brain emulation, brain-computer interfaces, networks) to superintelligence.
  Many events we consider significant today will end up as footnotes in history.
  US foreign policy cares not about democracy and freedom, rather its primary objective is to keep as many nations dependent on it, powered by the “military-industrial-complex”.
  “The more you love your art, calling or enterprise, the more important its accomplishment is to the evolution of your soul, the more you will fear it, and the more resistance you will feel towards it.”
  An explicit, mechanistic, fragmented approach to questioning reality and consciousness will inevitably only produce false fragmentary answers.
  Impoverished countries are that way not because of ignorance or culture, but because those in power intentionally made choices that sustained poverty for their own self-interest.
  Sleep science – including  how memory works, as well as the function of dreams – is relatively new, and understanding it reveals implications beyond health.

While balancing legitimacy and power is tricky, history provides clues into other state’s political ideologies.

Thanks for reading about my reading. Until next year!

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See also:

An hour a day is 50 books a year: tried and tested reading tips

Single sentence summaries for every book I read in 2019


Single sentence summaries for every book I read in 2018