Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union by Serhii Plokhy

The last of the old European empires was the USSR. All the other empires had fallen decades ago German, British, Ottoman. Through sheer terror and propaganda USSR had survived. A detailed analysis of the last days of the Soviet Union, its major players and events are captured in this book by Serhii Plohky. The book can be used as a text book in schools, it captures minute details and always keeps an objective tone about the last days of the last empire.

USSR was a collection of republics, some were willing others were forced in the union. Russia and Ukraine being the largest nations in the USSR. Russia was the powerhouse, and the pivot of the USSR. USSR was ruled by the communists, starting from Lenin, Stalin to Nikita Khrushchev and so forth..

USSR was the antithesis to the USA. Much of the world was divided in two blocs pro USA or NATO or pro USSR, the Warsaw countries. The two had often come close to destroying each other and the world with their powerful nuclear weapons. Hell bent on wiping each other out, the final days of the soviet union forced the two to become sort of allies.

USSR, like an unhappy marriage had run its course and the parties involved wanted a divorce. Russia felt that it carried the weight of the other countries, Ukraine wanted total independence and wanted to ally with the western European nations, Baltic nations wanted freedom and the Muslims nations of central Asia wanted to form their own separate bloc. In the middle of all this was the President of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Image result for thinking fast and slow

Daniel Kahneman, is a Noble prize winning psychologist. In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, he delves into the human psyche of decision making. The author devises two systems of our brain for our understanding. System 1 is driven by intuition, makes rapid decisions and takes less energy and effort, System 2 on the other hand is driven by slow but critical thinking, and it takes a lot of energy and mental resources. We live most of our lives depended on System 1 and System 2 is rarely invoked. The book shows experiment after experiment which prove conclusively that most of the time for most of the people System 1 makes our decisions for us at the cost of saving resources.

You see system 1 in action when you:

Detect one object is more distant than another
Orient to the source of a sudden sound
Detect hostility in a voice
Drive a car on an empty road
Answer 2+2 = ?
Read words on a large billboard
Complete the phrase "bread and ......"

System 1 is our automatic choice, who is always in the driver's seat. System 2 is invoked when we have to do deep thinking, something complex or something new. When we have to put some thought behind our actions.

System 2 requires deep attention: