February and March Reads


  • The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande -- a short and engaging read about using checklists to reduce human errors in aviation, construction, and now medicine. We could probably use a lot of these lessons in software development and deployment.
  • Ishmael by Daniel Quinn -- one of those books that I stayed up late to finish. It exposes the unquestioned anthropocentric assumptions at the core of our civilization, and asks whether by taking our destinies into our own hands (as opposed to letting "the gods" look after us, as in hunter-gatherer societies), we have also chosen our destruction. This got me reading about projected population growth in the coming century. Some time ago I ran across this paper by Lutz et al. (2001) and felt reassured, but now I looked at the UN projections from 2015, and they paint a different picture: there is only a 23% chance that global population will stabilize or begin to fall by 2100. (On the other hand, so much could change in the coming 100 years, that any long-range forecast has to be taken with a proportionately large grain of salt.)


  • 60 Words by Radiolab dives deep into the Authorization for Use of Military Force -- the 60 words that became the legal foundation for the "war on terror" after 9/11.
  • Poop Train by Radiolab traces what happens to New York City's sewage, and ends up in a very interesting place.
  • Planet Money reveals how easy it is to set up a shell company abroad.

Cool stuff online: