The Really Big One

The Really Big One Summary

“The Really Big One” is an earthquake that “will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.”

About Kathryn Schulz

Kathryn Schulz

Kathryn Schulz is a Pulitzer-winner and The New Yorker staff writer.

“The Really Big One Summary”

Not long ago, scientists have discovered that there is a fault line in the Pacific ocean that has been the reason behind more than seven large-magnitude earthquakes in the past 35 centuries.

They found it while studying the “ghost forest” near Washington Coast, and came up with the conclusion that almost all trees suddenly died between 1699 and 1700 because they were inundated with salt water.

They believe that this fault line can and will trigger another massive earthquake followed by a tsunami by 2015 which will be “the worst natural disaster in the history of North America.”

The changes of this earthquake happening are one to three.

The Juan de Fuca oceanic plate is sliding underneath the North American tectonic plate in the zone that runs offshore from Northern California to Vancouver, Canada, otherwise known as the Cascadia subduction.

Scientists have reasons to believe that there will come a time when a “backstop” will cause the North American tectonic plate to “rebound like a spring.”

However, the rebound of even a small part of the subduction zone will cause an earthquake with a magnitude of as much as 8.6.

This earthquake could be compared to the 2011 disaster in Japan.

Can you imagine what will happen if the entire fault line opens up?

An earthquake with a magnitude up to 9.2.

But that is not all.

The rupture will cause the continental shelf beneath the ocean to ”drop by as much as six feet and rebound 30 to 100 feet to the west.”

This will trigger a tsunami that will endanger about 140,000 square miles along the Northwest coast of the Pacific.

Studying the potential effects of the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that it will kill more than 13 000 people, a number that can rise if the disaster happens during tourist season. It will also injure 27 000 and displace as much as a million other people.

The Pacific Northwest coast is particularly prone to be hit because of the lack of different seismic safeguards, such as an early warning system.

Key Lessons from “The Really Big One”

  1.      The Discovery of the Fault Line
  2.      A Possible Disaster
  3.      Expected Victims

The Discovery of the Fault Line

Not long ago, while studying the “ghost forest” near Washington Coast, scientists have discovered that there is a fault line in the Pacific ocean that has been the reason behind more than seven large-magnitude earthquakes in the past 35 centuries.

A Possible Disaster

The rebound of even a small part of the subduction zone will cause an earthquake with a magnitude of as much as 8.6, while if the entire fault line opens up an earthquake with a magnitude up to 9.2 can be expected.

Expected Victims

If it happens, this disaster will kill more than 13 000 people; it will injure 27 000 more, and displace as much as millions of others.

“The Really Big One” Quotes

We now know that the odds of the big Cascadia earthquake happening in the next fifty years are roughly one in three. Click To Tweet The odds of the very big one are roughly one in ten. Click To Tweet

The numbers do not fully reflect the danger – or, more to the point, how unprepared the Pacific Northwest is to face it. Click To Tweet
The gap between what we know and what we should do about it is getting bigger and bigger, and the action really needs to turn to responding. Otherwise, we’re going to be hammered. Click To Tweet

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Best Nonfiction Books of All Time

Naturally, our first idea for our final list – best nonfiction books of all time – was making “a best of the best” list. After all, we already made for you no less than 16 lists, and choosing the best book of each of them would have been a perfect finale to our wonderful list-making journey of the past year.

(Which, by the way, we hope you enjoyed it at least as much as us.)

However, halfway down making such a list, we realized that there were so many great books we didn’t have a chance to include anywhere else. So, we decided to make a U-turn! Instead of compiling books from our lists, we decided that each of our top nonfiction books should be a unique entry.

Yes, that meant that this list would be bereaved of many highly deserving classics. From the top of our heads: “The Diary of a Young Girl”, “Night” or “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (top biographies), “Civilization and Its Discontent” (top psychology books), “Capitalism and Freedom” and “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, And Money” (top economics choices) or half of our top history books.

But, it also meant that we’ll provide you with 15 more reviews of 15 more exceptional books by 15 more exceptional people. Although, we would have wanted to include at least as many even here.


#1. “A Dictionary of the English Language” by Samuel Johnson

A Dictionary of the English Language SummaryContrary to popular belief, this is not the first dictionary of the English language. However, it is certainly both the most influential and the most admirable one. As Walter Jackson Bate wrote, Samuel Johnson’s “Dictionary” “easily ranks as one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship, and probably the greatest ever.”

No, this is not a biased opinion! And a simple comparison may be the only argument you’ll ever need to read as evidence.

Namely, the Académie française took 55 years and the dedication of 40 scholars to complete their Dictionnarre; it included about 30,000 words. Samuel Johnson spent 8 years to compile a list of 40,000 words. And all were thoroughly defined and meticulously illustrated with over 114,000 quotations!

And he did it all – by himself!

There’s nothing even remotely similar to Johnson’s endeavor in all of human history! His dictionary was so good that was unanimously considered the preeminent work of its kind for almost a century and a half, until the “Oxford English Dictionary” came out.

Bonus: some of the definitions in the dictionary are really funny! Such as “Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the signification of words.”

#2. “Critique of Pure Reason” by Immanuel Kant

Critique of Pure Reason SummaryBarely thirty years after Samuel Johnson transformed the way people think about the English language, German philosopher Immanuel Kant transformed the way people think about – well, anything. A miraculous achievement, considering the fact that Kant almost never left his hometown, the city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad).

First published in 1781 – before being revised six years later – “Critique of Pure Reason” attempts to give an answer to the question “how do we know.” A question as old as time, you might say, but a question with so many answers before Kant as well.

Kant didn’t like this, so he tried to explain away the confusion and put an end to all speculation once and for all. However, he didn’t want to resort to some easy answers, such as the skepticism of René Descartes and David Hume. So, he went on to develop about a thousand-page long theory of the relationships between pure reason and human experiences.

And, magnificently, philosophers worldwide agree that he did quite a good job. Although, to be perfectly honest, some time passed before anyone understood what Kant was saying.

Bear that in mind if you ever want to leaf through its pages. You’ll definitely need some help.

#3. “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

The Communist Manifesto Summary1848 was one of the most tumultuous years in human history. Revolutions broke in over 50 countries around the planet, and almost each and every one in Europe. Objective historians have rightly dubbed 1848 as the Year of Revolution. The more hopeful ones have opted for a more poetic title: People’s Spring.

Well, a month before the actual commencement of that year’s spring (February 21, 1848), Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published a very brief political pamphlet which would go on to change the course of human history.

Widely considered the most influential text of its kind in history, the three-part “Communist Manifesto” is a summary of Marx and Engels’ ideas about the nature of society and politics.

The first part, “Bourgeois and Proletarians,” states from the outset the main premise: “history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” The second part, “”Proletarians and Communists,” lists and explains the measures necessary to achieve a classless society. Finally, the third part “Socialist and Communist Literature,” sets apart communism from other similar doctrines.

Some love it; others despise it. Nevertheless, the ideas presented in “The Communist Manifesto” have been hotly debated ever since its publication.

And will be – for any foreseeable future.

#4. “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” by Henry David Thoreau

Walden SummaryIn 1845, Henry David Thoreau – then merely 28 years of age – left behind the materialist America of his time to live a life of seclusion and solitude in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s country cabin near Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts.

He stayed there for two years, two months and two days. And nine years later, he gave the world his account of his experiences, “Walden,” a book so influential that, as John Updike noted it “risks being as revered and unread as the Bible.”

If you’ve ever watched “Dead Poets Society,” you probably already know its (a bit jumbled-up, though) introduction by heart: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

What you may not know, however, is that “Walden” is the most radical way in which Thoreau tried to practice his ideas of civil disobedience. Expounded more thoroughly in another essay of his, the concept – and “Walden” – would influence figures as diverse as Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

A book for all the ideologists out there. For all times.

#5. “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

On Liberty SummaryJohn Stuart Mill was raised to be a genius; so, he became one of the greatest of his, or, for that matter, all times. He contributed to so many areas of human knowledge that he is often considered to have been “the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century.”

However, his short book titled “On Liberty” seems to have stood the test of time like no other of his books. It’s still widely read and widely commented. A copy of the book, for example, is regularly passed to the new president of The British Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party as a symbol of his office.

Written as an attempt to apply Mill’s favored philosophical doctrine (utilitarianism) to the state and society in general, “On Liberty” analyzes the relationship between governments and individuals, and between authority and freedom. It tries to uncover where one’s freedom ends and where someone else’s begins. And, finally, it tries to show how we can remain democratic without falling victims to an unexpected “tyranny of the majority.”

Just like any of the books on this list, “On Liberty” has been as much lauded as it has been criticized. However, just like them, it’s also still thought-provoking and debated. A testament to its greatness.

#6. “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin

On the Origin of Species SummaryThe same year Mill published “On Liberty,” one man published a book which will largely overshadow its significance. A book which – some may argue – has overshadowed almost every single nonfiction book ever written, bar one or two it rubs its shoulders with at the peak of the pedestal.

The full title of the book: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” You already know the author: Charles Darwin.

Written for the general public – so as to attract more attention – “On the Origin of Species” argued something nobody had ever dared before. Namely, that living organisms have a common ancestor and that their diversity is the result of random selection.

No gods, no divine will. Merely Mother Nature, in all its haphazard glory.

It’s practically impossible to overestimate the effects Darwin’s theory would have on every living person. And when twelve years later Darwin would apply the theory of evolution he devised here to humans, the circle would be completed.

Because “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex” would be the first book to argue that humans are not an exceptional species.

And that – there’s so much humbleness and beauty in this finding.

#7. “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus SummaryAustrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was such a colorful person that a short biography would do no justice to either his life or his larger-than-life personality. For now, suffice to say that he is considered to have been “the most perfect example… of genius” even though he published just one fairly slim book during the 62 years he was given to live and think on this planet.

And that volume is “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” – in all of its 80 pages and 526 numbered statements.

Written during the period of the First World War, the “Tractatus” is comprised of no more than seven main propositions, each as seemingly comprehensible as thoroughly inscrutable as the next one.

Want to have a go?

Here is the first one: “the world is everything that is the case;” it’s followed by seven sub-propositions which may help you understand it; or not. Either way, they won’t prepare you for the second one: “What is the case (a fact) is the existence of states of affairs.” Cue 79 apparently elucidating statements. (Click here for the whole structure.)

Now, you’re probably wondering how then the “Tractatus” ended up being on our list?

Well, because almost every single sentence of it has been scrutinized and/or challenged by almost any thinker who matters. Not the least – by Wittgenstein himself. A bit strange if you take into consideration that, at the time he published it, he claimed, in a Kantian manner, that the “Tractatus” had solved all philosophical problems.

Even stranger in view of the last – and by far most famous – of his seven propositions. This one’s a beauty: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

#8. “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One’s Own SummaryIt was precisely something many had remained silent about that an English modernist writer by the name of Virginia Woolf wanted to speak about in 1929. And in “A Room of One’s Own” she did. In her familiar exuberantly fluid, and sumptuously beautiful prose. A lifetime interest for her – style – wasn’t as important this time around.

It was what she wanted to convey through it. A message which echoed through time and space. It isn’t just to her talent to summarize it in a sentence, but, since it’s hers, will be unjust. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

As axiomatic as it may sound nowadays, when Woolf wrote it, it was both frowned upon and as radical as a political manifesto.

However – and fortunately – it set the foundation for feminism; and, through it, for women’s rights. Because Woolf was the first one to ask the right question. It’s not “why have there been no talented women artists and scientists up to the nineteenth century”; it’s: “why no talented women artists and scientists ever got the chance to employ their talents?”

We already quoted her fairly straightforward answer above.

#9. “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell

The Hero with a Thousand Faces SummaryWhen it was published in 1949, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” was one of the most thorough analyses of how similarly world mythologies have shaped the stories of their heroes’ journey to greatness. In the meantime, it has also become a sort of a manual for creating long-lasting works of art.

You probably don’t know it, but whether it’s “Star Wars” or “Harry Potter,” “Watership Down” or “Beauty and the Beast” – they all consciously owe their structure to Joseph Campbell’s investigations and his idea of the monomyth. Borrowed from Joyce, Campbell uses this word to speak about the fundamental architecture of the archetypal hero’s journey. And he summarizes thus:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder; fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won; the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

Of course, there are many episodes interspersed with this narrative, but, even those are shared throughout cultures. Why? Because we’re all humans and because some stories are buried deep within our subconscious.

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” strives to uncover the arche-stories. While warning us that if we ever forget them, we’ll forget being humans as well.

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#10. “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan

The Feminine Mystique SummaryVirginia Woolf may have been the first one to remind women that they are as much as humans as men. However, Betty Friedan was the author who really shook women to their core, waking them from centuries of stony sleep. And showing them the way to a world where women can be equal to men.

Published in 1963, “The Feminine Mystique” is widely considered to have been the book which launched second-wave feminism. It was originally intended to be an article about the results of a survey Friedan conducted of her former Smith College classmates on their 15th-anniversary reunion. But, nobody wanted to publish the article. So, Friedan authored a whole book.

As she famously put it herself, about “the problem that has no name.”

You see, what Friedan discovered is that most of her friends were unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, what made them unhappy was the fact that they were expected to be wives and mothers.

And – herein lies the nameless problem – nothing more.

And each suburban wife, wrote Friedan, struggled with this problem alone. “As she made the beds, shopped for groceries… she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question — ‘Is this all’?”

Friedan was sure it couldn’t be. And she gave voice to all the women who shared her feelings.

And the world changed.

#11. “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” by Hannah Arendt

Eichmann in Jerusalem SummaryA Jew who left Germany soon after Adolf Hitler’s rose to power, Hannah Arendt is considered one of the most significant modern political philosophers. So influential is she that – as many would argue – the book we’ve chosen for our list isn’t the one she’s most famous for. That one is, in fact, “The Origins of Totalitarianism” where she carefully examines the roots of Nazism and Communism.

However, we went here with “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” a book smaller both in length and in scope; but, in our opinion, also a book whose conclusions are much more related to the human nature and, thus, much more relevant and frightening.

Based on Arendt’s “New Yorker” reports about the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, the book famously argues that Eichmann, one of the organizers of the Holocaust, was not a gruesome monster, but merely averagely intelligent “joiner.”

Or, in other, much more worrisome words, a person just like anybody else. He boasted of no exceptional intelligence or hatred, and he wanted to belong to some community.

But therein lies the rub: it was exactly because of people like him that the Holocaust was made possible. Evil has no movie-like qualities, and you can’t really detect it the way you can detect a serial killer in a slasher movie.

As Arendt famously said, evil is banal. And almost anyone, under the right circumstances, can become its agent.

#12. “Orientalism” by Edward Said

Orientalism SummaryAll humans belong to the same species. However, it seems that cultural differences have created chasms between them. Only recently we started understanding the greatest one, the West/East schism.

And it couldn’t have been written by anyone else other than Edward Wadie Said, a public intellectual born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian father and Lebanese mother, and raised and educated in Cairo at a British Anglican Christian school. All in all, by his own admission, “an uncomfortably anomalous student.”

But, “Orientalism” stemmed out of this discomfort. It strives to describe the cultural representations of some Eastern cultures (Asia, North Africa, Middle East) in the works of the authors who belong to the Western literary canon.

The results themselves are nothings short of expected. Predictably, Western writers never saw the inhabitants of these places as people of real flesh and blood, but as underdeveloped caricatures residing in an exotic world of myths and legends.

However, the consequences are far-reaching. According to Said, in time, the ruling elites in these Eastern societies realized that they could use these stories to exert authority and influence over their subjects. So, they internalized the Western narratives – and actually started turning into what they were wrongly portrayed to have been.

So, “Orientalism” is not only about culture and literature. It’s also about power and freedom.

#13. “The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA” by James D. Watson

The Double Helix SummaryThere are not many events in modern history that can compare – both in terms of instant impressions and eternal effects – to the publication of a single two-page article in the 171st volume of the scientific journal “Nature” on 25 April 1953.

Titled “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” and signed by Francis Crick and James D. Watson, the article has been variously described as a scientific “pearl” and as “the most important scientific discovery of the 20th century.”

Could it be any different?

What the article first described was the double helix structure of the DNA. Or, to put it in laymen’s terms – there, on these two pages, lay the answer to one of science’s fundamental mysteries.

The origin of life.

Fifteen years later, one of these two scientists, James Watson, wrote “The Double Helix”. An intimate autobiographical account of the discovery of DNA, “The Double Helix” was voted the 7th best nonfiction book of the 20th century by the Modern Library, and was placed on Library of Congress’ list of the 88 “Books That Shaped America.”

Important and immensely popular, the book has inspired a fair share of controversies as well. Which, of course, makes the book even more appealing.

#14. “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes” by Stephen Hawking

A Brief History of Time SummaryWe really wanted to include a book by Einstein or Newton in our list; however, we opted for Stephen Hawking. And that already says a lot about how much we value the British physicist and his most celebrated book.

However, the reason why we preferred Hawking to Einstein or Newton is a blatantly obvious one. Namely, during the past two decades, “A Brief History of Time” has sold more than 10 million copies. You can’t say that about many books – let alone scientific treatises.

Because, even though it’s bereaved of the technical jargon associated with similar books, “A Brief History of Time” is still a serious study about serious matters. Such that go even beyond the questions answered by the discovery of DNA.

In it, Hawking writes about the origins and the eventual death of our universe; about concepts such as the Big Bang, time-space continuum, quarks and gravity; and, finally, he discusses two different theories which try to explain the existence of the universe – Einstein’s theory of general relativity and quantum physics.

Nobody has ever succeeded in bringing the world of cosmology and astrophysics as close to the general public as Hawking. And, unsurprisingly, in 2002 BBC poll, he was voted the 25th Greatest Briton of all time.

#15. “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Sixth Extinction SummaryThe most recent entry on our list is one we felt we had to include in spite of it being published in 2014. Because we want you to take its subject matter as seriously as a heart attack. And because, in a way, “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert talks about some things which, if you don’t, there will be no writers left to write, and no readers to compile lists like this.

A winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, “The Sixth Extinction” argues that we are currently in the middle of a modern extinction process. However, unlike the previous five, this one’s man-made. Consequently, it’s also preventable.

However, the extinction will probably not be prevented, because, as Kolbert shows, humans are in a state of absolute denial. She compares this denialism to the one pre-Darwinian people had in view of prehistoric mass extinction. Most of them simply didn’t believe that any event could be powerful enough to wipe down a whole species from this planet.

Now, we know for sure that they were wrong. Unfortunately, we have invested enormous amounts of energy to – well, repeat it.

The result? Kolbert demonstrates that, if our estimates are correct, almost half “of all living species on earth” may be extinct by the end of 21st century.

Bleak? In need of immediate action?

Well, that’s what books can do.

And why we need lists like this one to guide us through the libraries of history.

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Sapiens Summary

Sapiens SummaryA Brief History of Humankind

From all kinds of creatures, humans were the ones that rose to the top. Why? What is so special about them?

From the dusk of our species, up until present day – our summary of “Sapiens” tells you the story of humankind.

Who Should Read “Sapiens”? and Why?

We are so small, a fraction in the universe, and yet, we have come to dominate the planet.

How and why were we able to do this?

“Sapiens” explores all aspects of human history that brought together made us who we are at present.

We recommend this book to readers interested in evolution, and most of all to readers who want to understand how we wound up living in a capitalist community.

About Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah HarariYuval Noah Harari is an author and a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He specializes in world and military history.

“Sapiens Summary”

You know, us humans are pretty unique.

From all species, we were the ones that survived, transformed and ultimately dominated the whole planet. Now, we are even moving further and trying to colonize space.

So, whenever you feel like we are not much, think about that.

However, how did we manage to get this far?

We will start at the very beginning, from the dusk of our species.

Humans first appeared in East Africa, about 2.5 million years, and, as far as we know, evolved from Australopithecus.

These early humans, such as Homo erectus and Homo rudolfensis started migrating and moved from East Afrika to other more suitable environments.

This migration led to the need for adaptation and thus, humans evolved into more types of Homo, including Homo neanderthalensis in Asia and Europe.

Homo sapiens of what we know as modern humans appeared later, around 300 000 ago.

They were not very different in a special way. They walked upright, had big brains, were highly social and used tools, but that was no different from other types of humans.

Yet, they were the ones that preserved and spread all over the world, while the other species disappeared.

You might be asking yourself: why?

Scientists have come up with two theories to explain this.

The first one is the interbreeding theory which argues that Homo sapiens merged with other species by starting to mate with them.

Conversely, the replacement theory suggests that Homo sapiens had superior skills and technology, and thus pushed other species toward extinction. How? By violence, of course.

Both of these theories are likely, and most probably the truth lies somewhere in between.

Okay, but if other species went extinct because of Homo sapiens and the advantages they had, how did it come to the point when humans were superior to others?

The answer to this question is logical: the human brain. Humans have a uniquely structured brain, which, around 70 000 years ago got transformed through an evolutionary leap otherwise known as cognitive revolution.

This transformation made them more advanced and gave humans a sudden improvement in cognitive reasoning and brainpower.

So, humans used their improved brain capabilities to outperform and surpass their rivals.

They began forming more sophisticated communities, they improved their hunting tools and techniques and even started a primitive form of trade.

These developments, although they might seem simple from a modern point of view, were very significant. Being advanced like that meant that Homo sapiens could survive even in the harshest of environments since they could find food and resources for sustainable unlike other species of human.

Another thing that the cognitive revolution made possible was the journey to unknown places, i.e., it made humans travel and colonize even the most remote areas in the world.

Starting from Africa, humans spread out all over the world.

Soon we will move to successfully colonizing space.

Key Lessons from “Sapiens”

1.      The Importance of Language
2.      The Creation of Agricultural Societies
3.      The Future of Humanity

The Importance of Language

Language is the best symbol of human sophistication. Human language is far more complicated than communication forms that other species use.

The development of language is one of the most significant points in human history.


Language allows people to pass on valuable lessons, dangers, and most significantly – abstract concepts and ideas.

Hence, they can create myths, and as you know, myths are the basis of human culture, and therefore, identity.

The Creation of Agricultural Societies

Societies changed to agricultural communities for two reasons.

First, the change to agriculture was not overnight, and by the time people learned that farming was slow and not immediate as hunting it was already too late.

Second, agriculture has one big advantage which erases most of its faults – it is more efficient. Efficiency was crucial when the population grew.

Turning to agriculture conditioned the emergence of trade and later, money.

The Future of Humanity

We know our past, but how about what we can expect in the future?

Technological and scientific developments are moving toward finding the cure for aging and discovering eternal life.

So what are the limitations that we encounter?

At the moment are mostly of legal and ethical nature. However, such barriers cannot last long, so it is possible that soon, we will no longer exist as Homo sapiens. Instead, we will become superspecies, part human, and part machine.

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“Sapiens” Quotes

You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven. Click To Tweet How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined. Click To Tweet One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Click To Tweet The romantic contrast between the modern industry that “destroys nature” and our ancestors who “lived in harmony with nature” is groundless. Long before the Industrial Revolution, Homo sapiens held the record among all organisms… Click To Tweet History is something that very few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Yuval Noah Harari tells the history of humankind in a fun and entertaining way. His focus is on the three types of revolution: cognitive, agricultural and scientific, and how those points in evolution changed humankind.

He does not write about facts only, he also explores and discusses topics to which there is no real answer at the moment. Hence, he explores not only what happened, but what could have happened if some things were different.

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The Lucifer Effect Summary

The Lucifer Effect SummaryUnderstanding How Good People Turn Evil

How many times have you asked yourself “why are people so evil?”

Well, we have the answer!

It turns out that our nature is not the one that decides on which side of the good/evil line we fall, but the circumstances that surround us.

Now, let’s expand this conclusion more in detail.

Who Should Read “The Lucifer Effect”? and Why?

Can you guess the meaning of the title?

Lucifer was an angel who challenged God’s authority and was sent to hell along with other fallen angels. There he becomes Satan, the personification of all evil.

You can already guess what “The Lucifer Effect” is about. Good can indeed go bad.

But how does this happen? What are the preconditions for turning evil?

We recommend this book to all readers who want to get a better understanding of human nature, as well as to those who wish to know why good people can turn evil.

About Philip Zimbardo

Philip ZimbardoPhilip Zimbardo, famous for his Stanford prison experiment, used to teach psychology at Stanford University. He is also an author and a former president of the American Psychological Association.

“The Lucifer Effect Summary”

Try to think of a time when you took something that was not yours, while no one was watching.

Most people have a memory of something like that.

No, it is not the greatest of evils, but it shows that sometimes we are willing to do things which we would not do if the situation did not allow it.

However, in our conception of the world, we adopt the notion that some people are born evil, and that is it.

The truth is somewhat different. In reality, the line between good and evil is fragile, and people can pass it.

So pointing fingers and the assumptions that only evil people do evil deeds are wrong.

So, what makes good people do bad things?

Psychologists and psychiatrists focus on dispositional causes, or the inborn traits of our behavior such as character, genetic, pathologies.

However, although we do carry these attributes with us, there are some situational causes which are more responsible for our behavior than our inherent characteristics.

Just think of the way you behave around your friends and the way you act around small children. You can see a different image of yourself, can’t you?

What we want to say is that personalities and human character are not static. They do change, according to the circumstances and the social contexts that surround you.

This perception is called the situational approach to comprehending human conduct. What it means is that you become what you need to become based on the situation you are in.

Okay, it is clear that some circumstances can turn ordinary people into monsters. But what are the specific factors?

One vital aspect of the transformation of individuals is obedience to authority. It does not matter what “authority” is – it can be a human, a set of rules, or an institution.

What is important is that most people choose to be obedient even if it means to be cruel.

Authority figures, as history shows, can turn from good to evil as well. Followers rarely disobey. They also follow the change.

Another thing that can cause evil deeds to happen is a lack of personal responsibility.

In these cases we talk about deindividuation which leads to carrying out evil actions, when you believe are anonymous. Studies show that people are more tempted to be evil when they think that no one will recognize them.

Disguising one’s appearance and acting in places where the chances of being recognized are low are two ways to inspire deindividuation.

Most people around the globe believe they are morally upright. But history is full of examples of cruelty to humans, from fellow humans.

How can we justify this?

By dehumanization, or the process of stopping to see someone as fully human. Understanding this concept is critical in comprehending discrimination, prejudice, and racism.

When others are seen as inhuman, they automatically become unworthy of moral considerations and thus are targets of cruelty.

Another enabler of evil is the ability to cover evil deeds with words that make them sound justifiable and even reasonable. In other words, a cover story can justify immoral action.

The term cover story is used in social psychology, while in real life situations, we know this concept under the term “ideology.”

With the right ideological frame, evil deeds can be masked not only as good but as honorable as well.

We mentioned a lot of evil enablers. And indeed, there are many.

Right now you might be wondering about the complete opposite. If evil can happen in so many ways and because of so many things, then what does it take to be a good person?

You will find some of the answers in the key lessons below.

Key Lessons from “The Lucifer Effect”

1.      Do Not Avoid Responsibility
2.      Stop Obeying Unjust Authority
3.      What Makes a Hero?

Do Not Avoid Responsibility

Always consider yourself responsible for your choices, and stop any excuses that may arise in your mind. If no one can see you, it does not mean that what you are doing is not happening.

Stop Obeying Unjust Authority

Start thinking for yourself, and if you ever feel that authority is unjust, stop following and obeying it. Always questions the ideologies that people present to you that justify evil acts.

What Makes a Hero?

It is one thing to avoid evil, and it is entirely another thing to do something about it.

Two main characteristics define heroes.

First, heroes do something while everyone else is passive. And second, they are altruistic and put others before themselves.

We all have the potential to become a hero or a monster. The choice is yours.

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“The Lucifer Effect” Quotes

If you put good apples into a bad situation, you’ll get bad apples. Click To Tweet Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names can kill you. Click To Tweet The line between good and evil is permeable and almost anyone can be induced to cross it when pressured by situational forces. Click To Tweet Heroes are those who can somehow resist the power of the situation and act out of noble motives, or behave in ways that do not demean others when they easily can. Click To Tweet The level of shyness has gone up dramatically in the last decade. I think shyness is an index of social pathology rather than a pathology of the individual. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Zimbardo connects the dots from being an angel to becoming evil. His writing is detailed and comprehensive and is a wonderful read for all readers interested in psychology.

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Numbers Rule Your World Summary

Numbers Rule Your World SummaryThe Hidden Influence of Probability and Statistics on Everything You Do

An invisible force guides our lives.

No, it is not God, it is statistics.

But if numbers play such a vital role in our lives, why don’t we pay them more attention?

In the following summary, we give you an overview of the five principles of statistical thinking, which can make significant changes in your life.

Who Should Read “Numbers Rule Your World”? and Why?

Kaiser Fung has created “Numbers Rule Your World” as a guideline that you can use to understand statistical information and improve your world. You can use this kind of reasoning in various contexts.

We recommend this book to readers who want to reap the benefits of statistical reasoning, as well as those interested in statistics overall.

About Kaiser Fung

Kaiser FungKaiser Fung is an author and statistician, holding degrees from Harvard Business School, Princeton University and the University of Cambridge.

“Numbers Rule Your World Summary”

Have you ever been in a bank, waiting in like thinking that if they had just one more person working, all the lines would be shorter?

We get that it may seem that adding workers would lead to shorter queues, but surprisingly it is not the case.

Wait, what?

Yes! According to studies, it is the changing pattern of when customers arrive and not the average number of customers arriving that makes the queues long.

What does this mean?

Well, if businesses would accurately predict demand, they could create the capacity to accommodate it.

Unfortunately, it is easier said than done.

Let’s take another example.

At amusement parks, people also wait in lines. Statisticians argue that even if workers accurately predicted the number of visitors, a line would still form since customers come at irregular intervals during the day. And, of course, the rides’ capacities are fixed.

What we wanted to explain with this example is that planning for capacity is possible when it comes to average rises in demand, but not when it comes to fluctuating demand.

Statistics can be used everywhere!

It can be used for determining a person’s creditworthiness, for determining the sources of diseases, to deciding whether one is lying, for insurance, etc.

What is important to note is that statistic reasoning uses the differences between groups of people. It does not matter what kind of a difference is in play, in any case, differences are fundamental.

For example, statistics take into consideration these differences during designing exams. For standardized exams to be fair, statisticians must make sure that they omit the questions which give preference to one group over another.

It is logical: a question would be unfair if the phrasing is more apparent to the African-American community than for the white exam-takers.

However, how do they determine which questions are fair and which are not?

They do so by making a statistical analysis, based on the performance of black and white students on every question. However, the racial background is not the only thing that is important when conducting such an analysis.

Statisticians have to take into consideration the educational background and the success of the test-takers. In other words, they must not compare between a group of high-performers with a  group of low-performers.

What this means is that the comparison does not happen between just white and African-American students, but between both low-performing and high-performing students coming from each demographic.

It seems that nowadays it is difficult to keep the truth hidden. Just think of all methods developed to uncover the truth: from drug tests to lie detectors.

However, you have to keep in mind that there is not a 100 percent chance for anything. In other words, exceptions exist, and there will always be someone who gets away with it, whatever it is.

Key Lessons from “Numbers Rule Your World”

1.      Lie Detector Tests
2.      Finding the Cause of Diseases
3.      Questioning Obvious Patterns

Lie Detector Tests

Polygraphs are prone to some unavoidable trade-offs.

They work by analyzing the subject’s blood pressure and breathing while they answer a series of questions. The collected medical statistics show the changes in the person’s psychological state, and thus points to false information.

Detectives want to avoid false negatives, or guilty people going free. However, what this means is that many innocent people get accused because of false positives.

Finding the Cause of Diseases

Epidemiologists find the cause of a disease by using statistics to come up with causal relationships that can point to the origin of the disease’s outbreak.

For instance, let’s imagine that several patients show signs and test positive for E. coli. Just by studying these few cases, epidemiologists can predict the disease’s source and hence protect others from it.

How do they do that?

By questioning patients about what they eat, finding foods in common and using statistics to reveal the source.

Questioning Obvious Patterns

In 1999 an EgyptAir jetliner crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving no survivors.

However, before this tragedy happened, three other jets followed the same scenario around the same location, in the past four years.

As a result, many people avoided flying in the area. The logic they followed was that the crash of four planes in four years is too much of a big coincidence.

Statisticians, on the other hand, questioned this obvious pattern and looked at the bigger picture. Thet found four crashed planes and millions of others safely traveling in the same airspace.

As a result, they realized that it is all up to odds: one in ten million planes crash.

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“Numbers Rule Your World” Quotes

The safest part of your journey is over. Now drive home safely. Click To Tweet The modern obsession with measurement has made us none the wiser. Click To Tweet Statisticians do not care much for the popular concept of the statistical average; instead, they fixate on any deviation from the average. Click To Tweet Statisticians worry about how large these variations are, how frequently they occur, and why they exist. Click To Tweet We should worry more about the variability of waiting time than about its average. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

An interesting and fun read, especially if numbers are your thing. However, people that expect many facts and statistic strategies might get disappointed, since there is a significant amount of storytelling present in the book.

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A Matter of Taste Summary

A Matter of Taste SummaryHow Names, Fashions, and Culture Change

It’s quite paradoxical, when you think about it!

In a world which has acknowledged Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” as its unofficial anthem, it’s getting harder to be unique! Fashion styles seem to come and go incessantly: blink, and you’ll miss the last one.

A Matter of Taste” teaches you a thing or two about the reasons which make some things fashionable and render others outdated.

And we’ll summarize the key points here.

Who Should Read “A Matter of Taste”? And Why?

“A Matter of Taste” is not exactly your typical book about fashion. After all, its author, by the looks of his portfolio, seems much more likely to watch NatGeo over FashionTV any day of the year.

With that being said, “A Matter of Taste” may be still interesting to fad followers and fashion designers. The reason? It tries to uncover the secret ways, “the pure mechanisms” by which fashion operates. To do this, the book studies carefully how first name popularities change over time and why.

Consequently, even if you are simply in the process of choosing your child’s name, you might get an interesting insight from Lieberson’s research.

About Stanley Lieberson

Stanley LiebersonStanley Lieberson is a Montreal-born sociologist whose focus is mostly the American society. He obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago and currently works as Research Professor at Harvard.

He has written books on numerous subjects, the most important among them “A Piece of the Pie,” and “From Many Strands.” Lieberson is one of the most eminent currently active sociologists.

“A Matter of Taste Summary”

De gustibus non disputandum est.

These are probably the only few words in Latin you remember. Their meaning? You know that full well too: “In matter of taste, there can be no disputes.”

Lieberson says: “Oh, really?”

And that’s how the dispute commences.

To begin with, it seems that it’s hard to define taste and fashion. We know the two are related, but it’s hard to really pinpoint how. What is that which dictates fashion? And how something becomes fashionable? Finally, why is it that sometimes having a taste means going against the grain?

Lieberson doesn’t really study fashion per se. Clothing, makeup, hairstyle, etc. are merely afterthoughts here. His interest lies somewhere else entirely. Namely, in the changing fashions of first names. By studying them, he thinks, he can learn more about fashion in general.


Well, firstly, because, unlike other fashion practices which are less tangible and measurable, first names are always carefully recorded. Data about them is readily available at all times. And secondly, because first names are rarely influenced by economic factors.

After all, who would benefit from launching a campaign to name your son Charlie? And is anyone restricted by his class or upbringing when choosing a name?

Consequently, Lieberson may have a point! Studying the changing fashions of first names is a good way to study the “pure mechanisms” of fashion itself.

We can rephrase this even better! We’ll just need few questions.

If you can name your child any way you like, then what makes you choose a certain name? Is it your parents and religion? Or is it the fashion of today? Or, something else entirely?

In general, the exhausting process of choosing the right name for a child is a modern practice.

It was much simpler before the advent of modern societies. A name was all but chosen before the birth of a child, dictated by traditions and religion. That’s why almost every second Roman male in your history books was called Gaius. Possibly Lucius or Marcus.

Now, compare and contrast with a modern fact.


In the 1980s in France, almost 3 of the ten most popular girl’s names dropped out of the list on a yearly basis!

Naming became a matter of taste once education became free and ubiquitous. It was only then that religion and traditions made way for individuality and uniqueness.

Even so, it was a practice still affected by many external events!

For example, there are many American Franklins born in the 1930s! Why? Because of the popularity of Franklin Roosevelt after he started tackling the Great Depression. If his name had been Peter, Lieberson says, your grandfather’s name would probably have been Peter. Of course, if his name is Franklin now.

However, external forces shape name fashions only to a certain extent. That’s because they are regulated by some internal mechanisms.

How does that work?

Well, even when disruptive, external events usually can’t change naming practices radically. Unless they are appended to some existing custom and further develop it in the same direction. That’s why it’s hard to think of a newborn girl named Barbra! Streisand is so 1960s!

Barbra itself was a name which caught up because Barbara was there before it. This is another of fashion’s regulating internal mechanisms. It’s called the logic of incremental change. The name Tonya comes to mind when you hear the name Latonya. That’s why Latonya is a possibility. But no name can act as the basis for some future Jabberwockies!

A plant flourishes only on a fertile ground. You must be a real optimist if you expect a banana to grow in Siberia!

In fact, this is why immigrants choose names which will help them better assimilate. Have you thought about that? They can just import their heritage with them, but they don’t.

Of course, internal mechanisms still regulate the process. That’s why Mexican-Americans don’t name their children Joshua. You see, in Spanish, the “a” ending is reserved for girls.

This is also why popular culture only marginally influences naming practices. According to Lieberson, even movie stars rarely disrupt the naming practices. Even in that case, there has to be some precedent for an influence on work.

For example, Marylin gained in popularity after Marylin Monroe. However, Humphrey Bogart did nothing for the popularity of his name despite his stellar status.

The reason?

Humphrey was an unpopular name, to begin with.

Key Lessons from “A Matter of Taste”

1.      Naming Practices Are a Great Way to Study Fashion
2.      External Events Influence Fashion; Internal Mechanisms Regulate It
3.      Even so, Sometimes, an External Event Is Just Too Disruptive

Naming Practices Are a Great Way to Study Fashion

You’d never associate naming practices with catwalks, but Lieberson does! And he proves that by studying what’s fashionable and what’s not in the world of first names, we can discern how fashion evolves.

Names are better than clothes. First of all, because there is much more readily available data about them. Secondly, because the demands of the market do not influenced their changes. Finally, because everyone is free to name his children any way he likes. Regardless of how much money he or she has.

External Events Influence Fashion; Internal Mechanisms Regulate It

Fashion is not immune to external events. As many other things, it’s merely adaptive. And even though, usually, an external event doesn’t disrupt fashion radically, it may influence it in such a manner that it’s both visible and measurable.

Don’t believe us? Then ask yourself: how many black children were named Barack during Obama’s presidency?

However, it’s important to note that not many were afterward. It’s because Barack is an unusual name and because internal mechanisms regulate naming practices. The most important among them: the logic of incremental change.

In laymen’s terms: even though some things may seem alien in the world of fashion, they are almost definitely a product of some evolution. If, however, they really are disruptions – they won’t last.

Believe us.

Even so, Sometimes, an External Event Is Just Too Disruptive

OK, there are some exceptions to this rule. But, they are few and really, really exceptional! Because, of course, very few Germans and almost no French people would name their firstborn son Adolf!

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“A Matter of Taste” Quotes

The social order matters, but more is going on. Click To Tweet People in the United States do very well in guessing the gender of children who are given an invented name. Click To Tweet The influence of collective processes on tastes becomes powerful, and ignorance about choices being made will generate highly volatile shifts. Click To Tweet The analysis of a cultural surface involves the initial occurrence and growth of each element; its continuation in the likely event that the initial causes no longer operate; and the forces that cause other earlier elements to decline or… Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Make no mistake: “A Matter of Taste” lives up to its subtitle! It is a fascinating study in how names, fashions, and culture change and what dictates these changes. Its writing, however, is dry and erudite, and it’s not exactly an easy read. And its conclusions, ultimately, are too obvious to begin with.

Read the book if you’re a fan of sociology. Read our summary if you merely want to learn what it is about.

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ULTIMATE Why is Sex Fun Summary

Why is Sex Fun SummaryThe Evolution of Human Sexuality

Why Is Sex Fun?” is a book about sex!

That’s it: you’re all hooked up now!

We’re gussing there’s no need for an introductory paragraph.

Who Should Read “Why is Sex Fun”? And Why?

A good way to answer this question is by giving an answer to its opposite: anyone who thinks that the title “Why Is Sex Fun?” isn’t interesting enough shouldn’t leaf through the pages of this book. And, in this summary, we’ll try to make even those five guys out there reconsider.

About Jared Diamond

Jared DiamondJared Mason Diamond is an American polymath (physiologist, geographer, ecologist, biologist, anthropologist) and the author of many popular science books, such as “Collapse,” The World Until Yesterday,“ and the Pulitzer-Prize winning “Guns, Germs, and Steel.”

A professor of geography at UCLA, he was recently ranked as the 9th most influential public intellectual in a joint poll by “Foreign Policy” and “Prospect”. Read more at his personal website:

“Why is Sex Fun Summary”

It’s just like that old Salt-n-Pepa song says:

Let’s talk about sex!

And, boy, there’s so much we need to talk about it! A good place to start is certainly the one you’ve never even thought about a single second of your life. Now – wait a second – how should we phrase it?

Let’s pick up a trick of Jared Diamond’s book and try asking you something from the perspective of your dog. We’ll even try to use its dog language:

“Woof, master, woof! I have a question for you, bow-wow… now, ruff, why are you doing it so weird?”

“Weird?!,” you shriek in disgust, still bamboozled at the fact that your Golden Retriever can talk! “It’s you who’s the weird one, Buddy! You have sex in public with whoever you want!”

Cue the sound of a mic drop. You smirk in victory.

But, let’s get that smile off your face.

In “Why Is Sex Fun?,” Jared Diamond – and he’s the expert about this – says that your dog is, in fact, very right. Not one single animal shares the human sex standards. It’s us who are the weird ones in more than one aspect.

First of all, the human species is the only kind who has sex behind closed doors and with the lights out. Secondly, it is the only species which practices random sex, irrespective of whether the females are fertile or not. Finally, human males are the only animals which can go on having sex with a female even after impregnating her.

The reason?

Look at the title of the book: because sex, for humans, is a fun activity. And because nowadays it has very little to do with what it was originally all about: passing on your selfish genes.

Of course, this tells only a small part of the whole story. After all, it’s evolution! So, even the fun has to be in some way related to reproduction.

And, indeed it is.

You see, even though some say that monogamy is counter-evolutive, we’ve evolved to be monogamous exactly because it was better for our genes. And it all started with ovulation in female humans.

Have you ever wondered why ovulation is hidden from view only in humans? It’s there in plain sight even in our closest relatives. Just look at the baboons!

In fact, almost all animals have sex only when they know that sex may lead to pregnancy. Because of this, there are obvious signals who show when females are fertile in most of them. Somehow, human females evolved to hide this crucial fact from their male partners.

And get this: that’s exactly how monogamy was born!

You see, human males had no way of knowing when it’s the right time to have sex to impregnate females. So, they started having sex with the same female over and over again. And since they were able to have recreational sex, male humans gradually lost the desire to seek other females to copulate!

After all, how would they know if they are fertile? It made no difference to them whether they had sex with the partner beside them or the partner somewhere out there in the wild!

Moreover, you could even argue that staying had a comparative advantage in terms of their genes. Because, human females are physically connected with their children. Males are not: theoretically, they can leave the moment they impregnate a female.

And yet, they don’t! Why is that?

Because, in humans – as in many other animals – males are the more muscular kind. They are the hunters who fight and they are the ones who can protect the females while they are breastfeeding. Leaving a female alone while breastfeeding may spell disaster both for her and your child.

Now, we know you don’t like that much bodybuilders showing off their muscles, but there’s an evolutionary reason why they do this.

And it’s because men with muscles, in the eyes of your ancient female predecessors, were the Batmans to their Gothams. They offered them the best protection from the evil lurking around.

And, to them, that was the equivalent of love.

Key Lessons from “Why is Sex Fun”

1.      Today’s Societies Exist Because of Monogamy
2.      You Live Longer Because of Monogamy… And Menopause
3.      Size Matters… In a Way

Today’s Societies Exist Because of Monogamy

Concealed ovulation was the reason why people became monogamous. Simply put, after invisible ovulation became the fad of the pre-homo sapiens times, the best chance for a human male to impregnate a woman was to have sex with a single member of the group as often as possible for at least few months.

Of course, this led to stronger bonds, which grew even stronger after impregnation, because, unlike other animals, humans are virtually helpless during the first few years of their lives. That’s why monogamous families exist.

And that’s the foundation for a human society.

You Live Longer Because of Monogamy… And Menopause

Both impregnating a woman and pregnancy itself are energy-draining processes. Studies have shown that the less they happen in a male or a female, the longer that male or a female lives.

Mice don’t really have a choice: they spent all of their energy reproducing, because many of their children will. Their best chance at passing on their genes is by having as many children as possible.

In humans, it’s the other way around: the more energy they save from the process of creating a baby, the more energy they have for raising it properly. That’s why human females are the only animals which stop being fertile at a certain age.

They need to live longer and care for their children.

Size Matters… In a Way

Male peacocks have tails; human males have penises. In what way are they similar?

Well, evolutionary biology says that large and flashy tails should be detrimental to a peacocks’ chances for survival. Then, why are they interesting to females? Exactly because of that. The bigger and flashier they are the more they say “hey, look how great I am: despite this disadvantage, I made it this far!”

It’s the same with male penises. The more well-endowed a man is the more capable he is of producing healthy offspring. His words: “I’m so vigorous and fit throughout, that my body can focus so much of my energy on my reproductive organ.”

So, in a way – sorry to disappoint you, guys – for a completely different reason, size does matter.

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“Why is Sex Fun” Quotes

Our standards of sexual conduct are especially warped, species-ist, and human-centric because human sexuality is so abnormal by the standards of the world's thirty million other animal species. Click To Tweet Perhaps our greatest distinction as a species is our capacity, unique among animals, to make counter-evolutionary choices. Click To Tweet Sex is costly in energy, time, and risk of injury or death Click To Tweet By the criterion of services offered to mates and children, males of most mammal species are good for nothing except injecting sperm. Click To Tweet We quickly sense who attracts us physically and who doesn't. That quick sense is based on ‘sex appeal’, which just means the sum of the body signals to which we respond, largely unconsciously. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

“Why Is Sex Fun?” is part of “The Science Masters Series” – a fact which says many things about it. Number one: it’s written by a leading scientist. Number two: it’s written for the general audience. And number three: there’s not one single alternative fact inside.

“Why Is Sex Fun?” goes many steps further: it’s interesting, enjoyable, and enlightening. In fact, it has only one drawback: it’s short. We, for one, could have read Diamond talking about sex for at least couple hundred pages more.

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Brain-Wise Summary

Brain-Wise SummaryStudies in Neurophilosophy 

Time allocated to philosophical controversies without reaching a state of facts meets several mind-blowing aspects:

The understanding of God, The power of free will, and how would you describe yourself – as what?

Who Should Read “Brain-Wise”? And Why?

Whatever you take for real, another person can interpret it differently from another point of view. It is an infrastructure created by your imaginary force which contradicts the series of neural interactions. You may have heard this term before, Darwin and its theory are a perfect example of such a vision.

To understand the Neurophilosophy concept, we adopt Churchland’s approach by promoting this excessive and valuable methodology. As such, “Brain-Wise” comes highly recommended for all people keen to move beyond the daily concerns and challenge themselves on another level.

About Patricia Smith Churchland

Patricia Smith ChurchlandPatricia Smith Churchland is an expert in ancient philosophy and heads the philosophy department at the University of California. Despite her contribution to the merging process she also tries to educate other individuals on subjects related to Neurophilosophy at the Salk Institute.

As a writer, she wrote Neurophilosophy and co-authored On the Contrary.

“Brain-Wise Summary”

The brain is a complex entity capable of achieving almost anything, yet restricted in so many ways. By all means, underachievers often feel this “limited policy” on their skin not to mention, the opportunities that faded away due to lack of courage. Nevertheless, don’t feel discouraged, the best of the best is on its way.

Every individual on this planet has immense potential to accomplish almost anything! Nonetheless, underestimating one’s capacity has become societal reality – a problem that needs to be addressed with caution. Before you enter into the world of brain-philosophy, try to broaden your perspective.

According to neuroscience experts, every possible change starts and ends with you. In the light of this discovery detailed explanation rises to the surface. Every personal trait associated with you, no matter how complex or straightforward may seem, influences your everyday motion. This neuro-chemical represent the foundation for any transformation or change that may occur.

To put it differently, it’s evident that souls are of immaterial nature, according to many cultures, beliefs, and religions. However, no facts can support nor oppose this theory or philosophy.

On the other hand, free will is something that people still have a tough time understanding it. Imposed opinions promoted through media channels are trying to suffocate that freedom. Logically, every person needs to choose its path, but that’s not the case.

Souls, mind, free will are running up against a brick wall of unproven theories, probably never to be proven. Patricia Smith Churchland – the author of “Brain-Wise,” suggests a new point of view to emerge. As an illustration of this advice, she advocates for something natural to all people like consciousness.

If all other things create divisions, self-awareness despite its mystery is the only absolute merger of humanity. In order to design a pattern of perfectly instinctive and straightforward neural activities, free will cannot be missing. In what way does this affect philosophy?

Philosophers even today tend to “play” with big questions, conspiracies, and mysteries. To get one step closer to them, help from the other disciplines is crucial. Over the course of hundreds of years, science has reached a new stage and progressed to a point where the humankind has managed to resolve many questions, leaving only a dozen more left.

Neurophilosophy represents a merger between newly established neuroscience and ancient philosophy.

The mastery of writing an inspiring book is composed of precisely defined facts, breathtaking theories, and most importantly intriguing mysteries. None of them are missing, which gives a clear sign that this book will encourage you to think and separate facts from ideas.

A prodigious amount of research has been done in order to compile many things into a single masterpiece. Patricia Smith Churchland announces a new scientific discipline known as Neurophilosophy, a term used to indicate two utterly different perspectives.

According to her, relying on single one of them is going to narrow down your spaciousness and leave you strangled into your shallow thoughts. A broader view is vital to forge the brain-soul relationship which ultimately melts into a single unit.

Division exists between science for analyzing the mind and inner knowledge for understanding one’s self. Can we integrate these two types of disciplines? The answer is yes! Science remains a dusty book even today, not every mystery is resolved, and as a consequence of that, a new idea has risen.

Key Lessons from “Brain-Wise”

1.      Discover the real “Self.”
2.      Epistemology’s two vital questions
3.      Mind tricks and true self

Discover the real “Self.”

Descartes above other things declares that humans have a conscious immaterial part in themselves – known as the inner-self (which is not the egoic personality).

Although this field is far beyond the reach of Science, NeuroPhilosophy enters into a whole new world by explaining the existence of it.

Epistemology’s two vital questions

Epistemologists tend to answer two questions:

1) How to define knowledge, and

2) Where to find it?

Mind Research is perhaps the best way to solve this enigma. Seeking knowledge doesn’t make you a knowledge-seeker. You have to know where to look at.

Mind tricks and true self

The brain is like a factory – referring to its various functions. Investigate around that “I” notion – become vigilant.

Don’t take this as persuasion; your outer self is just one aspect. To understand the whole package, dig deep into your heart and find the immaterial entity.

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“Brain-Wise” Quotes

My considered opinion is that no argument for the existence of God is even a little convincing, and to that degree, I find the hypothesis that God exists to be improbable at this time. Click To Tweet Hume made the deeper and more penetrating observation that an agent’s choices are not considered freely made unless they are caused by his desires, intentions and so forth. Click To Tweet If the brain organization dictates the general form of experience, what do we actually know about the real world? Click To Tweet The most important conceptual tool for making early progress on nervous systems was the theory of electricity. Click To Tweet The weight of evidence now implies that it is the brain, rather than some nonphysical stuff, that feels, thinks and decides. That means there is no soul to fall in love. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

People use emotions to improve their decision-making abilities, but neuroscience is something more profound.

No evidence of the “immaterial” exists, but it’s one of those things you must feel rather than see! Our team contributes to the clarity and encourages you to dive into neuroscience to discover your life-mission.

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Wikinomics Summary

Wikinomics Summary

How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

We live in a world which transforms rapidly. The digital age creates many new circumstances for all of us. It poses new opportunities, new constraints. So what has changed? And how do those changes affect you and the age of Wikinomics? Our “Wikinomics Summary” explores these questions and many more.

Now, let’s dive right into it.

Who Should Read “Wikinomics”? and Why?

It is relatively challenging to specify a group of readers to whom this book would be intended. Magnificent piece of work written for HR Managers, Scientists, Futurologists, and Experts who wish to expand their views and get a broader perspective of where this digital age is going.

Students known for their thirst for new knowledge would find Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams’s work as one of the most extraordinary and exceptional business guides they have ever read. Known for its first-person examples and high-quality tips “Wikinomics” is no wonder an all-around book that can answer any business related question.

Next, before we thoroughly examine the book’s content, we’ll cover the authors’ bio and their expertise.

About Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams

Don Tapscott

Don Tapscott was born on July 1, 1947, in Toronto, Canada. He is an author, consultant, business innovator and executive that is focusing on combining different business strategies that would generate an organizational transformation in the society. As a founder of New Paradigm, that is currently owned by NGenera,  and as a CEO of the Tapscott Grouping,  Don Tapscott encourages companies to overcome organizational boundaries by associating with the latest technologies.

Anthony Williams

Anthony D. Williams is a Canadian Born author, a senior fellow at the Lisbon Council, founder of the Anthony Williams Consulting in Toronto and a strategic adviser to different governments, global institutions, and other Fortune companies. He was born in 1974 in Toronto, Canada. Anthony Williams and Don Tapscott as co-authors of Wikinomics are repeatedly dismissing any criticisms based on their book without answering any of the critics.

Okay, now that we covered the basics, let’s continue with the detailed summary.

“Wikinomics Summary”

Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams through their Wikinomics book try to intrigue readers in numerous ways. The book examines all possibilities of massive data sharing and participating in open-source software that is available to all business participants, consultants, and experts.

Back in the old days, sharing and delivering an information required a lot of effort, now all you need is a computer with unlimited access to all sorts of free encyclopedia sites. So to speak every user is familiar with the fact that the digital era contributes to a new highly educated population.

Now, what can you expect while reading the book?

Well, some of the examples that you may run into while reading Wikinomics would probably sound familiar, while others may seem a little surprising and maybe even shocking. These authors are so intently a part of the new era that makes them feel obsessed with knowledge -seekers – for instance,  sometimes specific actions or changes that are done by few enthusiasts seem like some internet transformation procedure.

However, for the majority of times, these enthusiasts fail to provide the precise definition or supporting and digital data.

Wikinomics wants to inspire readers to adjust their way of thinking to the new dynamic and digital age, by becoming critical decision makers, educated and proficient in the business sphere in almost any industry.

Here’s the thing:

The end reader would feel like he is reading some business guidebook, changing its point of view from time to time and for the majority of times, it would sound like a proclamation of ideas and concepts, valuable to the business community.

The world would continue to change and evolve. Therefore mass collaboration process would represent a vital factor in those changes. The new era would be built on openness, globalization and business integration. Organizing data would become much easier as finding data and sharing it would be a relatively easy process to conduct that can lead to minimizing organization boundaries that we’ve faced earlier.

A few broad key lessons can be extracted from the book’s content. Which are they?

Read on!

Key Lessons from “Wikinomics”

  1.      Understand Wikinomics
  2.      Four Basic Principles of Wikinomics
  3.      Ideagoras and their meaning

Understand Wikinomics

“Wikinomics” is the single letter word combined with two terms: “wiki” (that represents something being done quickly and fast) and “economics,” as such Wikinomics represent a term of quick interaction. These interactions are made possible by the digital opportunities that we’re able to take advantage of in today’s society. “Old-fashioned ” traditional businesses still maintain and keep unnecessary and evident boundaries.

These organizational barriers are backed up with a tightly controlled economic captivity of limited information that flows in and out. If you as a company implement Anthony Williams and Don Tapscott’s principles and norms, all shareholders will notice an instant “freedom” change, that would indicate long-term success.

Four Basic Principles of Wikinomics

The four primary principles that forge Wikinomics are: “Open communication, peering, sharing of information and globalization.” Openness or Open Communication refers to inciting open-society mentality with freedom of speech in a transparent, clear and concise way in favor of eliminating any organization boundaries that may occur among the shareholders.

Sharing of Information as the names tell us indicates an easy, fast and limitless way of accessing all sorts of data. “Peering” is an integral part of open society. It illustrates business and organizational interactions among the employees to be held collaboratively, not hierarchically.

Globalization makes us aware of the fact that overseas competition and partnerships are going to occur as soon as any company decides to infiltrate its product to the global market.

Ideagoras and their meaning

In ancient times, people used to meet in places called agoras (today’s marketplace), where philosophers gathered and taught the people on different subjects. Today’s online world shares the same idea as Ideagoras back then, Modern Ideagora represents something similar to a virtual “marketplace of ideas, financial solutions and concepts.

The Modern Ideagora concept is still in the process of development, yet solid and visible examples are present in every corner. As an example we would take the case where: Approximately 100,000 Scientists from 175 countries are assembled in one InnoCentive Service where they can share ideas, information, data and ask questions.

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“Wikinomics” Quotes

“Peering succeeds because it leverages self-organization—a style of production that works more effectively than hierarchical management for certain tasks.” Click To Tweet Increasingly, we are all wittingly and unwittingly co-conspirators in building one massively sophisticated computer. Click To Tweet All one needs is a computer, a network connection, and a bright spark of initiative and creativity to join the economy. Click To Tweet The new web is about verbs not nouns Click To Tweet

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Our Critical Review

In “Wikinomics” the authors try to illustrate their narrative by presenting examples of companies and projects that have succeeded by using group collaboration. Although various examples are cited, which are credible and serve their purpose, the authors use an authoritative tone to present them, which may put some readers off.

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Capital in the Twenty-First Century Summary

No economics book published in recent years has had as much impact as Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century.” The book is a masterpiece with over 600 pages, which discuss how globalization and economic development impact our lives, the economy, and the contemporary world. Piketty, after years of research, brings us a major essay on how capitalism generates inequality for society, increasing the concentration of wealth. In his work, he traces a history of how the economic regime has reached its present state and assesses a future prognosis for the world economy.

The work is a benchmark for economic studies, but the 12min team knows that not everyone has the time to devour this bible. That’s why we synthesized the book and created a micro-book so you can learn its key ideas in no time. Shall we go?


Capitalism is a powerful force in economics, with a long history of entrepreneurs who have worked hard creating companies, making money, and returning it to the economy in the form of investments. With its roots in the fourteenth century, this economic system has been central to the construction and development of many markets in the world. Economists have argued and defended capitalism over the centuries, and the system shows no signs that it will move in another direction.

However, while it is clear that the system is both fascinating and successful, it also faces an imminent and growing threat of unequal wealth. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty, takes a deep look at the issues capitalism raises. It describes the foundations of capitalism, showing how an uncontrolled capitalist economy can lead to a great and dangerous chasm between the middle and upper classes. Each statement is supported by extensive data and research, as evidence of past trends as well as actual statistics. Once the problem has been established and exploited, Piketty then proposes a revolutionary solution that if put into practice could change the face of capitalism and economies around the globe.

Capitalism Can Lead To Wealth Inequality

To understand the problem with capitalism, you must first understand how capitalism works. Capitalism, in essence, concerns the production of goods and services with the primary purpose of making money, instead of exchanging it for other goods, food and clothing, as was done in the past. A simple illustration of this is that a farmer cultivating seeds for the sole purpose of selling them on the market for profit. In time, the farmer decides to invest part of his profit in seeds and equipment to produce more. What it reinvests is known as the “capital”, which are essentially the tools or money used to generate more money. When he sells his crop to the market, the money he earns back is called “return”.

A portion of the return will be reinvested as capital again, while a portion will be used to pay those doing the work (in this case, the farmer himself) – and the cycle continues. Over time, the farmer may begin to think about his rate of return, which is the profit he recovers from his investments, expressed as a percentage. When the farmer’s operation begins to become more profitable, he may choose to hire more workers to increase his workforce and thus his productivity. It means that he will have to spend more money on labor, but now his returns must also be much higher. However, if the farmer’s profits begin to grow faster than his operation, his capital will not be needed. As an alternative, the excess of money will go directly into his pocket, and the inequality of wealth begins to develop.

The same principles that apply to the farmer apply to the rest of the economy. If the rate of return continues to grow, but the economy does not grow with it, owners and organizations end up generating a disproportionate amount of wealth to save capital. While it is true that this wealth can often be transferred to capital and used to create new jobs, the result is that, ultimately, a very small percentage of people hold a very large percentage of the wealth of an economy. Also, being the main force behind capital gives owners great power over job creation. When it comes to planning the future of our economy, placing a significant amount of power in the hands of such a small group of people can be considered dangerous.

Understanding Growth Rates As The Key To The Problem

Unless changes are made, power imbalance only worsens over time. A constantly growing global economy is healthy, but the rate at which the world’s markets grow needs to remain similar to the rate at which its capital return increases. We call these rates “growth rate” and “rate of return on capital”, respectively. If the rate of return is off the scale of the rate of growth, there is a financial imbalance, followed by social inequality. That is a problem that needs an immediate solution since even the smallest gap can grow over time to dangerous proportions. It is best viewed by comparing market growth to population growth.

If the world’s population grew at a rate of about 1 percent each year, the number of humans on this planet would grow from just over half a billion in the 1700s to over 7 billion in 2012. Although a rate of 1 % does not look like much at first, it grows exponentially, reaching large numbers over time. The same principle applies directly to capitalism and demonstrates the great problem of the way in which it currently works. If there is a small but steady difference between the rate of return on capital and the rate of growth, the imbalance will lean heavily in favor of the currently wealthy. Although it takes a long time, the results are inevitable. In the end, allowing unequal growth creates a dangerous social imbalance that only worsens over time.

Countries’ National Capital Profile Change Each Century

Simply put, the national capital is the sum of a country’s domestic capital – assets they own in their own land – and their international capital – assets that they own in other countries. Capital has increased and diminished over the decades, but possibly the most notable change has been in its nature. In the past, the land was the most important type of capital, but it gave way to industrial and housing assets. Historically, France and the United Kingdom found great value in international assets, but major global events such as world wars and the Great Depression began to exhaust the value of these assets. By 2010, foreign holdings of these two countries were almost worthless.

Domestic capital can also be divided into public and private assets. These two share an inversely proportional relationship: losses on public assets often mean gains on private assets and vice versa. It means that changes in public and private capital often do not mean changes in domestic capital, but understanding the difference between the two is important. The public assets of a government are always nonfinancial, as in the case of buildings and government structures, or financial, cash in the state. Private assets are simply assets that are not publicly traded. But capital was not the only thing which changed. The way governments deal with their debts has also changed throughout history, but some of the old methods have had unintended effects on the market.

Inflation (where the prices of goods rise) and private lending (where the government borrows from rich private citizens) are both common methods of dealing with public debt, and both present effective solutions. Unfortunately, these methods are quite brutal for the working classes, with the former reducing purchasing power and the latter by giving back power to the already wealthy. Although both methods are declining in Europe, their impacts can already be felt: as markets recover, the unbalanced distribution of wealth is still a real and present factor.

The First Fundamental Law Of Capitalism Helps Us Find National Income And More

To truly understand the complexities of global capitalism, one must understand its history, theory and carefully examine current trends. The first and second fundamental laws of capitalism are formulas that go a long way in explaining market behavior over time and do a great job of simplifying history and making real problems clearer. The first fundamental law of capitalism says that national income (α) is equal to the rate of return on capital (r) multiplied by the rate of capital/income (β). Simply put, the formula looks like this: α = r × β This small formula is powerful, making it incredibly simple to calculate national income, which is the total income received by everyone in a country.

As an example, if you know that the capital/income ratio (the rate that demonstrates how much capital can be received with a year’s income) is 5: 1 with a 4% rate of return on capital, the national income is 20 %. This law is very useful for finding national income, but it is also incredibly versatile and can be used to find its variables as well. For example, if you are looking for the current rate of return and you know the national income and the capital/income ratio, finding your answer is as simple as replacing the numbers in your formula. Because the rate of return is the measure of the amount of return received from investments, it is a very important statistic. The calculation of the rate of return is a simple formula making capitalism’s first fundamental law a powerful tool.

The Second Fundamental Law Of Capitalism Helps Us Understand The Its Monitor

The second fundamental law of capitalism says that the rate of capital/income (β) is equal to the rate of saving (s) divided by the rate of economic growth (g). For example, if an economy saves 20% of its income and has a growth rate of 4%, the capital-income ratio will be 5: 1 or 500% for the value of income of each year. This well illustrates the main problem: if a country saves a lot but does not grow at a rate high enough to keep the economy running, then the result will be an excess of capital, which is then distributed, to those who already have wealth. You can see how important growth is to the economy by simply increasing the growth rate by 1% in the example above.

The capital/income ratio falls to 4: 1, a significant drop. Simply put, this means that if in our example the economy grows only 1% more, the increase would be only 400% instead of 500%. That extra money could be distributed elsewhere, most notably to the middle and lower class families who need it. Capital is a potentially wonderful collection of resources used to create jobs and opportunities for those who do not have capital. But giving the largest share of a country’s economy to a very small percentage of the population is dangerous. These formulas allow us to see how critical the imbalance of wealth can be.

Capitalism Has Sufficient Strength To Support Great Setbacks

We have seen that inequalities can get out of control relatively quickly when not monitored. However, even with catastrophic problems affecting markets on a global scale, capitalism advances over time. In France and the United Kingdom of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a working-class, middle-class citizen was rewarded with a good life, food on the table, and money in their pockets. But it also allowed others no realistic chance of getting close to the extravagant wealth of those who inherited fortunes. That was a trend that dominated these centuries. But the world and the economy has changed, and with this, the richest soon found themselves losing more than they expected.

The period between 1914 and 1945 was full of events in the worst possible way. World War I struck hard, shaking the world both economically and politically. Just 11 years later, markets around the world plummeted in the widespread economic recession known as the Great Depression. The event began in 1929, and its effects were postponed until 1939 when combat shook the world again in World War II. These events hit the most prosperous members of society incredibly hard. In 1914, before the start of events, the top 1% of the income hierarchy in France controlled 20% of income. Between 1914 and 1945, that number plummeted to 7%. The top 10% lost control of 45% to 30% of the country’s income, bringing the lifestyle of the highest class very close to the middle class. With so many impacts on the top 10% wealth, one might think that the chasm between the upper and middle classes would be lower, but this is not the case.

Between 1945 and 2010, the top 10% recovered three percentage points, reacquiring 33% of the country’s wealth, and there is still a growing trend. Given the habit of capitalism to grow the percentage wealth at the top exponentially, this inequality is a concern for the future. Capitalism has had some setbacks impeding its efficiency and remains a powerful force that leads to wealth inequality. Research shows that citizens in the top 10% of Europe’s wealthiest countries in 2010 controlled 35% of the continent’s capital and labor. While in the United States, the top 10 percent controlled a huge 60 percent. These numbers serve only to illustrate the dynamics of capitalism: even with a world crisis spanning 31 years and markets breaking in several countries, time is all it takes to recover.

An Unnatural Interference Is Required To Reduce Inequality Significantly

Capitalism’s dynamics are powerful, able to take advantage of small growth rates to put excessive capital in the pocket of the already wealthy. The system as such only aggravates the inequality of wealth over time and shows no signs of improvement on its own. Some schools of economic thought advocate an approach without interference, believing that the economy will naturally regulate itself. However, as we have seen, even the 31 years of the economic crisis were not enough to permanently regulate the problem. What the economy needs is something unnatural. Here ‘unnatural’ simply means something that is directly created to regulate the inequality of wealth, opposing an external occurrence that unintentionally affects it. World wars are prime examples of natural interference, while progressive taxes (which are probably the best solution to regulate inequality) are unnatural interferences.

A ‘progressive tax’ is a tax that increases according to the income of who is taxed. This kind of tax would force the wealthiest and the savers to pay a higher rate than the others. Different forms of progressive tax have been and are being applied around the world. But in the United States and the UK, they are decreasing, reducing their effects and, in some cases, reversing them. For example, in 2010, the poorest 50% in France paid taxes at rates of 40-45% and the next 40% paid slightly higher rates of 45-50%. That sounds ideal until it is revealed that the rates paid by those at the top actually fell, with the top 0.1% paying only 35% and paying virtually no capital wealth tax such as land, factories, and machinery. Progressive taxes are the step in the right direction, but for there to be some permanent and real change, the capital problem needs to be pointed out.

A Global Tax On Capital Would Solve Many Problems

With capital goods commonly free of taxes, something entirely new must be created to counter the problems generated by capitalism. A new and progressive global tax on capital solves these problems by inhibiting the power of capitalism over inequality and allowing for greater balance. Doing so would be a long and severe process, including elaborating a tax plan satisfactory to the whole world, but the efforts involved in creating a tool made specifically to regulate the inequality of wealth would be worth it. To achieve this, a high level of financial transparency would be required, allowing the general banking information of countries and individuals to be monitored. That would include assets held overseas.

In today’s modern society, it would be easier to achieve this, thanks to electronic transfer records. This type of tax would be a perfect tool: in fact, too perfect to be true. It is almost impossible to get all the nations of the world to embark on this idea, as well as finding the perfect planning and support from rich countries. In fact, planning would take a long and impractical time, and the richest members of society would lose so much that they would never agree with this idea. A progressive global capital tax is a utopian concept, but that does not mean that it is not worth considering as a goal. Having an idea of perfection allows economists and governments around the world to see how a world with drastically less inequality would be and then becomes a strong reference for future policies.

Final Notes:

What started as a system that helped managers put their money back into the economy has grown almost overwhelmingly. Now, dreams of riches and fortune are virtually impossible for low and middle-class citizens in many countries around the globe. Wealth inequality is astonishingly high, and something needs to be done. These are not just theories. Careful history studies reveal the power of capitalism dynamics, even in the face of the worst financial catastrophes in history and two of the greatest wars the world has ever seen. The facts shown point to one conclusion: wealth inequality is not a problem that will solve itself. We need policy changes that focus squarely on the main issues to end the chasm and level the playing field again.

When we look at the problems of capitalism, it becomes clear that a progressive tax is the best solution. But in many countries, this type of tax does not affect capital, which is often exempt. Therefore, Thomas Piketty suggests that a progressive tax should be applied directly to capital globally. That would be accompanied by new transparency laws. Although this model is unrealistic, it demonstrates an idea for a perfect economy: an economy in which wealth inequality is minimal and the working classes have a chance to become wealthy through hard work.

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