Tag Archives: human psychology

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other – Sherry Turkle

Technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities. And as it turns out, we are very vulnerable indeed. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy. Digital connections and the sociable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk.

This is a very thought engaging book, looking how communication technology changes our social interconnections. It is more than social media, the book looks at how people text instead of talk, hide behind an avatar, interact in video games, comment anonymously, have virtual pets and number hundreds of online friends.

In the first part, the book focuses more on social robots and how they help people: the elderly, to deal with attachment, loss of friends and isolation, children being in other countries or cities; and the children, for whom social robots are virtual pets. In the second part, the book looks at social networks and how mobile communication technologies are affecting human communication today.

An insightful book on social robots and the effect of mobile communication technologies and social media on human communication

The book is a well-researched, well-reasoned account, much based on interviews, of the changes that communication technology brings on social level. Some things are well-known, such as the profundity of the communication diminishes with the distance and complexity. For example, text says less than a phone call, and both less than a video. But there is more to that: a letter takes time and thought, while a quick SMS, which is also a text, gives much less information to receiver.

The author, Sherry Turkle, is an MIT technology and society professor, specialized in the effects of these new communication technologies and social robots on humans. She writes in consecutive books on these topics and the results of her interviews. You can watch some of her ideas on TED Talks as well.

In a way, the author long anticipated the problems with fake news, cognitive bias and confirmation bias that we are confronting today. She looks systematically at what could be the root causes of these dangerous symptoms.

This is a book that I  really recommend reading for the insightful conclusions that her interviews show.

[Feature photo by Fraser Smith]

Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World – Stuart Diamond

Debbie Simoncini-Rosenfeld, vice president of an insurance company, was trying to deal with her eight-year-old daughter, Jessica, “screaming and yelling” to stay up later than her 8:30 bedtime. Her daughter wanted to read later at night. So Debbie traded her daughter a 9:30 P.M. bedtime in exchange for no bare-belly shirts at school and no riding her bike in the street. Debbie valued her daughter’s decorum and safety more than a later bedtime; her daughter valued a later bedtime more than decorum and safety. “Children like to be involved in making the rules,” Debbie said. “If they get something, they will give up something.”

There are many books around talking about negotiation: win-win situations, strategies, how to relate, how to present, etc.. Authors offer trainings, games and motivational speeches, have a website and recommendations from famous people. This book is no exception. Except one: it is absolutely packed with examples.

This is the best part about the book: it has hundreds of examples, of real situations when trying a negotiation worked. It has really good advice. For example, negotiation for a better price is not possible in the shops of an airport, but it is possible wherever you talk with the owner or manager of a shop. This happens a lot in the street shops. However, sometimes all vendors have the same price for the same product or type of product. In this case, the simple question: why should I buy from you and not from the next shop? makes wonders. Simply asking if the price is negotiable is enough sometimes to open the door for an unexpected saving.

Trading and negotiating

The book is having one main principle: we are different and we value differently products or services. What is unimportant for him is valuable for her and viceversa. That makes the basis of trade: diversity in value we give to products and services.

Also, what matters is how things are perceived from the other side. It is always about the other side, because it is them whom you need to convince. Therefore, it is critical to understand what they want, what is valuable for them and what is not. Hence, listen to them and then make a proposal. There is always more to trade than appears at first sight.

Frankly, it is one of the best books, from any category, I have ever read. It has a good feeling after it, reading how people got what they wanted, how things got working.

[Featured picture by Australia High Commission, Suva – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]

Manipulation : 300 trucs et astuces pour obtenir tout ce que vous voulez – Gilles Azzopardi

Les aînés, plus obéissants ?

C’est bien possible. Une étude menée par deux psys de Nouvelle-Zélande, Matthew Haley et Bruce Ellis, auprès de 350 frères et sœurs, montre que les aînés sont plus respectueux des règles et les cadets, plus rebelles. Cela serait dû au fait que les parents accordent systématiquement plus d’attention et de soin – 3 000 heures de câlins et d’attention en plus entre 4 et 13 ans – aux aînés qu’aux cadets.

Manipulation est un petit livre qui donne des conseils pour améliorer les relations interhumaines. Pour exemple, le livre parle de comment se faire obéir les enfants, même des plus coriaces ou s’imposer, même quand on n’est pas chef.

Petit livre pour être des meilleurs négociateurs

Les conseils sont généraux, mais ils sont souvent supporter par des références aux articles scientifiques. C’est un mix de conseil familiale et conseil de travail, pour trouver un lieu de travail ou pour faire mieux le lieu de travail existent.

Le livre est petit, mais mignon et utile. C’est un bon rappel pour  essayer d’être plus calmes and rationnelles dans la vie personnelle et professionnelle.

Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki

I find so many people struggling, often working harder, simply because they cling to old ideas. They want things to be the way they were; they resist change. I know people who are losing their jobs or their houses, and they blame technology or the economy or their boss. Sadly they fail to realize that they might be the problem. Old ideas are their biggest liability. It is a liability simply because they fail to realize that while that idea or way of doing something was an asset yesterday, yesterday is gone.

“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is a self-help, motivational and light financial education book. The author starts from an allegory: a poor (real) dad, with an education and a job, and a rich (adoptive) dad, with his own business. As a child, the author learns the mistakes of his real dad in making money and adopts the more successful ways of his rich dad.

Work for money or make money work for you?

Robert Kiyosaki tries to motivate the reader to have courage for his own path, not simply a job given by someone, but for creating his job. He encourages risk-taking, saying that without risk there is no reward. No one won big by playing safe. This advice I heard from other authors as well, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger in his book Total Recall.

Kiyosaki gives the example of real estate, where large sums of money can be made if enough attention and perseverance are given to an opportunity. Seen it as an allegory, or as an example, it makes sense. Taking literally, it could look as a symptom of the real estate bubble.

The author made a fortune after this book. Barnes and Noble considers it apparently the best sold Personal Finance book of all time. (source). It has a website, a game and dozens follow-up books. In 2006, he co-authored a book on advice on personal finance with Donald Trump, Why We Want You To Be Rich: Two Men, One Message.

For those books, usually you either like it or hate it. Taken literally, it doesn’t have much depth, just some advice that you can get anywhere. The book builds its legitimacy from the supposed wealth and financial success of the author. However, it has its moments with decent advice.

[Picture in the post by Gage Skidmore]

[Featured picture by Australia High Commission, Suva – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.

Hands down, this is one of the best motivational books I have ever read: practical and full of wisdom gems. It is basically a self-development book which tries to teach the reader to be a better person with others, with pragmatic advance, encouragements and a positive attitude.

A very positive, helpful book, easy to read even for those who don’t like reading.

Written in 1936, the book is a classic, almost 80 years in print, a testament of its solid advice, timelessness, deep thinking and overall, just common sense. It feels like it was written last year.

It is true that the book is addressed foremost to a readership looking for improving speaking for sales and building self-confidence. However, it does not teach duplicity nor underhandedness. It looks a bit cheesy and superficial indeed, but that makes it easy to read, re-read and motivate for every reader, even the ones that don’t like reading.

The author, Dale Carnegie, had several selling jobs, quite successful, before trying teaching public speaking, which made him rich. He wrote several other books, but this one is the most famous.

From a political philosophy viewpoint, it presents the classical liberal argument that rationally helping others, you help yourself. In essence, even forgetting empathy, we help others for a virtual social safety net. A human being doesn’t need to be nice, it just need to be rational, in order to be kind, attentive to others, helpful and polite.

To conclude, this is an easy-to-read book with timeless advice for those who look for a better self and a better place in society. A short book that I recommend wholeheartedly.

[Featured image by BK, Flickr]

Blowing my cover – Lindsay Moran

Our next instruction was to traverse by night over many more miles of hostile territory, to find a shelter serving as base for a suspected terrorist cell. Once there, we were to infiltrate the premises and collect as much detailed information, “intelligence”, as we could.

We were exhausted, but we knew there was no choice but to press on. That day we managed, somewhat miraculously, to make the entire leg of the trip undetected by the bad guys, although we could hear them patrolling the roads with their noisy Mack trucks, engaging the other groups in firefights.

Blowing my cover – My life as a CIA spy is a memoir of a former CIA operative, who ended up resigning the Agency after 5 years. Moran carefully describes her training and her motives to join (and to resign) from CIA. The style of writing is rather cynical, but entertaining in the same time.

I was interested in the book because she operated in the Balkans, but the former spy doesn’t dwell on her missions.

blowing-my-cover
Memoirs of a 5-years spy

The book presents in great detail how the CIA training for operatives takes place, such as escaping tails, noticing details, gathering intelligence, making contacts. This part was practical and quick-paced.

The other part, intertwining with her training and missions, was a psychological analysis of her reasons to work for the Agency. She considered her job a lonely, difficult, rather boring job, with little solace. However, the analysis does not go very deep. To provide a context, Moran worked in the Balkans around 2000-2003 and the 9/11 attacks were in 2001. In comparison with the CIA agents in Afghanistan, the Balkans must have been very boring.

The writing could have used more polishing, but it was an interesting reading.

The Art of Lobbying the EU – Rinus van Schendelen

Two different skills deserve special attention. One is the ability to remain cool and calm during the game, in short unagonized, in spite of all the tricks played by the opponents. Whatever happens during it, an interest group must always remain concentrated on its target in the arena, like the football player challenged by various tricks (like spitting, scolding, tackling) must keep watching only the ball, as otherwise the ball is lost. This difficult skill of remaining unagonized gives highly competitive advantage. The second special skill regards the PA research and development (R&D) for useful new resources. Many resources are so general and widespread that they hardly make a difference. The art is to develop new ones that surprise competitors and attract EU officials, thus making a difference.

The Art of Lobbying the EU – More Machiavelli in Brussels is dedicated to professionals of EU affairs, A slow, but fascinating read for the ones working in EU policies: lobbyists, officials, contractors, PermReps, NGOs, interest groups.

The author nicely summarizes, orders and analyses the techniques, tactics and strategies happening in EU politics. While it looks Machiavellian, this kind of interconnections can only happen in a democracy.

lobbying
How much of your earnings goes into taxes, set by politics? Still not interested?

A drawback is the rather poor narrative and choice of words. The text looks like it hasn’t been proofread by a good English speaker. There are  too many business words (U-turn; windows in, windows out) and some acronyms look forced.

It was fascinating to read some behind-the-door stories, see who was behind some incredible outcomes, how some political battles were taken, what mistakes were done. Framing, astro-surfing, narrowing access, influencing the right players were remainders of some realpolitik tactics used for specific outcomes, of which the professional should be aware and counter-act.

Prof. van Schendelen describes quite accurately the political process and how legislation is made, in a practical way. The numerous official and unofficial players and interactions are presented, to each given a special attention. The legislative process is followed, each step presented with the opportunities to influence.

To sum up, the book is quite technical and of interest only to those doing their bidding in EU politics.