I have been somewhat busy recently and not blogging as much as I had planned. So I will now cover three items briefly.
First is the book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker. This is a book which covers humans from pre-history to modern times. As the title indicates Pinker thinks that overall human violence has declined. And not just declined a small amount but has actually declined significantly. Pinker gathers some impressive evidence. Personally I am less persuaded by his discussion of pre-history however I find his discussion of the decline of violence in periods where we have good historical records much more convincing. It is a book well worth reading. Particularly if the first things that occur to you is that he can not be correct because of WWI and WWII and the death campaigns of Stalin and Mao.
Another tremendous book is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman who is a Nobel prize winner (Economics). Kahneman is a psychologist who has studied human cognitive biases and modes of thinking. This is one of those books that when you finish you realize how important are the insights and begin to think that within a few years it will be difficult to call yourself an well read and knowledgeable person if you are not familiar with the ideas in this book. It is that full of insights. Read it. In fact as much as I recommend Pinker I suggest reading Kahneman first.
The third item for this blog entry is the play Race. I saw it at the San Jose Stage. This is an extremely powerful play at many levels. It deals with race. You probably figured that out from the title. But is more that just a feel good play about race. This is a raw look at race and sex and the tangled mess of taboos, myths and hidden thoughts that surround them. It is one of the best plays I have seen. It is really that good. The production by the Stage in San Jose was brilliant. This is a play for mature people; not just mature in years but mature in emotion and intellect. This play discusses rape and uses the n-word, c-word, f-word and other words that are not for the immature. If you are mature then I most strongly recommend this play.