Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirky. In retrospect, it’s surprising that it took this long for Clay to write a book. Given my past run-ins with his postulations, I approached the book with some skepticism. It won me over, though, because, unlike when he’s addressing issues of information science, when he talks about social software and social movements online, he knows what he’s talking about. In some ways, this is Smart Mobs 6 years later (which I blogged extensively at the time.)
Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely. However much I liked Here Comes Everybody, I actually believe this to be a more important, and fundamental, book. It’s a quick read — a few hours at most. It details a series of experiments that the author, with a variety of colleagues, conducted in order to probe the economic irrationality of humans. It turns out much of our economic behavior makes little rational sense. Thankfully, Ariely doesn’t propose any explanations for this irrationality (many others would be tempted to weave some evolutionary psychobabble)… But he does propose a set of implications, usually having to do with regulating our economy, because if people are simply not going to be rational, a “free market” ends up doing harm, because it inadvertently (or not) takes advantage of such irrationality. Ariely maintains an active blog on this subject.
I enjoyed the insights Ariely provides into understand human behavior. My only frustration with the book is that, because Ariely treats the population as a whole, and he’s interested in how populations behave, he doesn’t provide any insights into classes of people, and I think it would be interesting to know if there are, say, people who *do* behave rationally, and what characteristics do they possess?