Sep 30, 2016

Dex's Book Review:The Moral Molecule

Paul J Zack has a Ph.D in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and postgraduate training in Neuroscience from Harvard University.He is now Professor of Economics,Psychology and Management and Claremont,and Clinical Professor of Neurology and Loma Linda University Medical Center in California.

Imagined that you were at a railway station with your son. All of a sudden you saw a man fell onto the railway track.Without hesitation, you asked the man standing beside you to look after your son and then you jumped onto to track to save the man who has fallen.

Why would you risk your life to save a stranger? How can you trust a stranger to look after your son?

Why do we get cheated by con men?

How can we be happier?

The answer lies with the presence of oxytocin in our body system and this is what this book is all about, oxytocin.It is a hormone and acts as a brain transmitter and plays an important role in human bonding and which Zack has a lifelong fascination. He calls it the moral molecule.

In this book,Zack has shown the role of oxytocin in human behavior through his many experiments.

In the first part of the book,he was invited to a friend's wedding to conduct an experiment to determine the level of oxytocin of the bride and the guests.Blood samples were taken just before the wedding ceremony to get a base line level and after the wedding to make a comparison.It was shown that the level of most of them showed a higher level of oxytocin after the wedding ceremony.

The second experiment is what Zack called the Trust Game.
The participants were divided into group A and B and one group was given a certain sum of money and were told to give the other group any amount of money as they wish and the amount will doubled when received by the receiver.The receivers of the money were told to reciprocate any amount of money to the giver.When the game was over,it was found that for those who gave and reciprocated generously,their oxytocin level seemed to be higher.Similarly,Zack did a test in Papua New Guinea during a ritual tribal dance to determine the oxytocin level before and after the dance.And the result was as expected by Zack.

When oxytocin surges,people behave that are kinder,more generous and caring.And oxytocin surges when people are shown a sign of trust.

.It will be more interesting if Zack could elaborate in greater details the methodology of the many tests that he conducted.Was it just as simple as "before and after" test comparison or were the results skewed towards his expectations?

Is oxytocin in our body the only factor that affects our social bonding?
What about the external factor,like money?

As Zack said,"This book book is going to show you why this oxytocin effect happens,when it happens,and how we can make it happen more often."

Read this book with an open mind and along the way, I hope it can guide you to develop trust and empathy among our fellow humans in a different way.


Sep 29, 2016

Dex's Book Review: Outlaws Inc.

Matt Potter is a journalist,editor and broadcaster.He has reported for BBC Radio from Eastern Europe,Afghanistan and South East Asia.

Unlike Robert Ludlum fictional Bourne Identity, Matt Potter goes into real life action, flying with the world's most dangerous smugglers to understand and uncover the dangerous world of smuggling.

The book is about a group of ex-Russian veterans who bought  decommissioned Russian war horse super planes, the Ilushin Il-76 to do what they know best,smuggling any goods to the world's most troubled spots with the right price. Their giant cargo planes have secret compartments which can be filled with drugs,guns,money. With such a high risk job, some pay a heavy price and lost their lives to terrorists,hostile territories, mafias and even alcohol which some cannot live without.

Matt Potter follows their incredible story around the world and in the process has become a good friend to some. He takes us to Afghanistan where he begins his journey and then to Chechnya,Russia where he witness how goods are transported, even when the plane is being overloaded.

In Somalia, where pirates are king of the high seas,he detailed explicitly how the ransom money is being paid from the plane!

From East Africa to Central America and to Iraq, Matt Potter writes his journey in such an absorbing manner that it certainly is a thriller!

And with some elements of James Bond,Jason Bourne and Indiana Jones,this book is an explosive read.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Sep 28, 2016

Dex's Book Review:Speeches that changed the world

Simon Sebag Montefiore is a historian and an international best seller author.

Speeches that changed the world has already sold over three quarter of a million copies.

History is not all about recording dates and events.It allows us the opportunity to analyze why and how the events occurred and ultimately, a chance to learn from it.

Throughout the course of history,great speeches have influenced and changed the direction of our past.

This book contains 48 speeches and it starts with Jesus of Nazareth during his sermon of the Mount and ends with Barack Obama's victory speech after winning the presidential election on 4th Nov.2008.

Just to name a few, this book contains speeches by Abraham Lincoln,George Washington,Napoleon Bonaparte,Adolf Hitler, Winston Churchill,John F Kennedy,Martin Luther King Jr and many other great leaders:the  good, the bad and the evil ones.

You do not need to read this book page by page like a novel.You can choose any of the speeches from the content that interest you.Each speech is accompanied by an introduction that explains its historical background and also a biography of each speechmaker, albeit an abridged one.

Although the speeches listed in this book are thought provoking and inspirational, I believe there are also many more which are not listed here.Anyway, this book makes a great collection.

This book is  ideal for reading if you like history and also as you go through the speeches, you will learn how words are used in a powerful manner and how the language is used splendidly:simple,meaningful and inspirational.

Maybe one day, you might need such great oratory skill.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Sep 27, 2016

Dex's Book Review:Blunder

The adage "Do not judge a book by its cover" certainly holds true for this wonderfully well written and researched book by Zachary Shore, an associate professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School and a senior fellow at UC Berkely's Institute of European Studies.

Have we ever wonder why smart and powerful people make bad  decisions and ultimately lead them to commit blunders? Shore demonstrate how rigid thinking can lead us to undermine ourselves. In this book, he has listed several reasons  which we human so readily get caught in these cognition traps. 

This book will certainly makes you reflect on the mistakes that you have made and you begin to understand how these cognition traps affect decisions making.

We all make bad decisions simply because we are human.The resulting mistakes can be valuable but are we ready to learn from them?

The following are the seven cognition traps, insidious yet avoidable mind-sets:

  • Exposure Anxiety: fear of being seen as weak
  • Causefusion: confusing the causes of complex events
  • Flat View: seeing the world in one dimension
  • Cure-Allism: thinking that one size solutions can solve all problems
  • Informania: an obsessive relationship to information
  • Mirror Imaging: thinking the other side thinks like you do
  • Static Cling: the refusal to accept that circumstances have changed

With each cognition trap, examples are drawn from history,politics,business,health care and popular culture to illustrate the profound impact blunders can have.

And as you read and go along with the flow of the examples,one can immerse oneself into thinking how these cognition traps affect our daily lives whether at home or in the work place and how it can help us all make wiser judgments.

Overall rating:9/10