A fascinating perspective on what it means to be human, told with a clear voice and an expansive canvas.



Why the ability to imagine the future is a cornerstone of human survival and development.

How do we think ahead? How do we incorporate new information into our plans? Is our foresight trustworthy? Australian academics Suddendorf, Redshaw, and Bulley pull together a wide range of scientific disciplines to explain the nature of foresight, beginning with humanity’s prehistoric past. They examine how the capacity of early humans to look ahead—from knowing when food would become available to carrying a bag of stones to ward off predators—allowed the species to thrive. As civilization developed, foresight became even more important; it was critical to forecast tides, seasonal changes, and planting and harvesting times. As the authors show, complex foresight is a uniquely human quality. A few animals, such as dolphins and apes, have some capacity to look ahead, but it is limited, and their ability to communicate with others does not match that of humans. “To live in the present, our brain must continually forecast what’s coming next….Prediction is not only involved in perception and motor coordination but also manifests in our capacity to run simulations of tomorrow and beyond,” write the authors. Research suggests that most people develop reliable foresight at around the age of 4, but our emotions often interfere with our rationality. One reason is “optimism bias,” which causes us to overestimate the chances of good outcomes. In fact, our foresight is often wrong, and the authors entertainingly recount predictions that went hilariously awry. Foresight is largely a matter of extrapolation, and despite challenges, we can take precautions, such as insuring our house, putting aside money for an unexpected crisis or, on a larger scale, building things like the Global Seed Vault. Sprinkled throughout the book are well-placed moments of deadpan humor to leaven the authoritative research.

A fascinating perspective on what it means to be human, told with a clear voice and an expansive canvas.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 9781541675728

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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