When we were in California, my sister encouraged a daily morning look at the Electoral Vote Predictor. The picture in mid-August was serene: Kerry had a consistent, comfortable lead as chronicled on this excellent site. This morning, however, was not so pretty. A place to watch.
I’m back, and before I get to describing some of the highlights of a wonderful, restful summer break, I want to recommend two books I read.
First, The Wisdom of Crowds. I like James Surowiecki’s columns in The New Yorker, but at first I thought this book might have been better as a column. Too often, a good idea can be stretched into book length when it isn’t merited. But The Wisdom of Crowds just got better and better.
The book examines the many instances where, as the subtitle has it, “the many are smarter than the few”. It also looks at the circumstances when this doesn’t apply, and the way to design organisations to take advantage of collective wisdom. It certainly had me questioning my faith in expert opinion. A book that transforms the way you look at many things.
On a very different note, Tom Holland’s Rubicon, about the fall of the Roman Republic, is both gripping narrative history and a lesson for our own times (appropriately, Chris Lydon has some reflections on the current American empire).
Finally, a friend who is a very good and tough judge of these things says The Company of Strangers is a must read. That’s next up for me, once I finish Battle Cry of Freedom (which I should have read years ago, I know, but it’s been worth the wait).