The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness (by Meghan O'Rourke). The COVID pandemic is challenging the western medical system in two fundamental ways: 1). Human hosts can display drastically different responses to the same pathogen, challenging the prevailing pathogen centric view of western medicine as it often pays less attention to the conditions of human host. 2) Immune dysfunction can linger long after the initial infection, this is true not only for COVID, but for a variety of infections - influenza, Epstein Barr Virus. Doctors often ignore these conditions as they tend not to show up in lab tests.
Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises (by Ray Dalio). How to think about individual debt vs national debt: some debt is good for the society as it fosters development. However, bad things happen when debt service payment becomes unaffordable if debt did not lead to sufficient income growth. The fundamental difference between taking on debt as an individual vs as a nation is that the latter has more freedom to spread the pain of debt over time and over its population should debt problems arise, especially when debt is denominated in its own currency.
How to think about QE(money printing). QE does not necessarily lead to inflation this is because in a depression, credit market tightens and effectively “money” disappears in the economy. So as long as the amount of money printed matches the amount of disappeared credit, no inflation should occur. This is because printed money and credit has the same effect on the price of goods.
Skin in the Game (by Nassim Taleb). A brilliant rant is what it is. Taleb's work is as entertaining as they are informative. The book attacks the ergodicity assumption prevalent in modern decision theory -- the assumption is that ensemble probability and time probability is interchangeable. A precise definition is elusive but here's a simple example from the book. Ensemble probability: the probability of an individual going bust in a casino computed by averaging the gambling outcome of a large group of people over a single night, which is, let's say 1%. Time probability: the probability of your cousin going bust in a casino averaged over his gamling performance over an extended period of time, which is almost certainly 100%. Phrased this way, ensemble probability is clearly not interchangeable with time probability. Yet much of the society confuses these two, an implication is that one can never get the market return because of chance of ruin over a long-enough time horizon is almost certain.
Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order (by Ray Dalio). Our awareness and understanding of the big socio-economic cycles that repeatedly unfolds in history is limited by our own lifespan. One such example is that a return from fiat money system (money not backed by gold, e.g., dollars) to hard money system (e.g., gold) is not that unfathomable. Most major economies in the past (Spanish, Dutch empire) have seen their currencies significantly devalued or completely wiped out. In such events, people often lose faith in the fiat money and resort to assets/hard money. We are by no means in a fundamentally different socio-economic regime that an abrupt return to hard money is impossible.
Thinking Fast and Slow (by Daniel Kahneman). Daniel Kahneman explains in great details the systematic errors due to cognitive biases that are inherent to human nature. Such systematic errors can impair our decision making abilities and more seriously limit the efficacy of our efforts (not just in work, but life in general). Elucidating such systematic errors, Kahneman helps readers develop vigilance to counteract such biases. It’s an excellent read to improve the quality of life in general.
The Obesity Code (by Jason Fung). The prevailing cause of obesity is not fat or calories intake, but insulins. Dr. Jason Fung provides a convincing (but understandably a bit too one-sided) case explaining why our current understanding of obesity is incomplete/ineffective in combating it. The author also proposes a new framework of understanding/taking actions. This is one of the books that has a direct impact on my everyday lifestyles; I highly recommend reading it.
The Cathedral and the Bazaar (by Eric S. Raymond). Why open source model works and what’s the economic justification thereof? Having worked with multiple open source communities (Clang/LLVM, Tensorflow, ONNX) myself, I had and continue to have my share of doubt on the effectiveness and sustainability of open source development model. Eric Raymond not only provides insightful answers to the aforementioned questions, he also laid down a framework of deliberations when it comes to the questions pertinent to open source softwares. The book is invaluable to anyone who is either an active part of an open source community or considering whether or not to adopt the open source software development model.