Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Malcolm Gladwell - Outliers (Back Bay, 2011) **

This book has been hailed by many, and it makes some interesting points, yet often I wondered what all the fuzz was about. Gladwell gives an overview of remarkable extremes - in football, wealth, intelligence, career success stories, etc. ... and comes to the conclusion that luck is a common trait, or rather, to be at the right time on the right place, and to be looked upon by the outside world in the right way. His search for reasons is often interesting, and his anecdotes well researched and presented, but then you say 'so what?'. The value of the book is that it opens new ways of looking at things, instead of just attributing success to personal talent and character. On the other hand, the scientific value of some of his conclusions can be challenged. Some of his claims - like the selection of the players in a soccer team - could be more the result of chance than anyting else.

The most interesting list in the book is the one with the richest people ever in history, including Amenophis III, Cleopatra and Crassus, and guess what, the richest men ever, all come from the same period in the US, and all were active in building railways, oil, steel or cars: Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Mellon, Ford. It is clear that some people paid insufficient taxes.

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