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The Logic of Life

I recently read “Logic of Life” by Tim Harford, and found it to be interesting reading. The subtitle, “The Rational Economics of an Irrational World” was exemplified by most of the anecdotes shared by the author. Publishers Weekly review offers “this book will be of great interest to Freakonomics and Blink fans as well as anyone interested in the psychology of human behavior” and I’d concur. Similar to Freakonomics, Logic of Life is a series of short offerings, here, grouped into 9 chapters, each chapter expanding on a common theme.

For instance, the subject of racial segregation is discussed with an analysis using a chessboard. The board is filled with black and white pieces matching the colors of the squares, i.e. half white, half black, all interspersed. We see how after randomly removing some pieces (people moving out of the old neighborhood) and adding some more (people moving in), the board no longer looks evenly arranged, there are now clusters of one color which in real life attract more of that color. (This concept was conceived by Nobel Prize winner Thomas Shelling and referred to as “The Schelling Segregation Model.”)

Tim Harford touches upon such varied subjects as gambling, the mismatched availability of single men vs single women, and the process of ordering meals when you know the bill is split N ways among the guests. Books such as this offer a different way of looking at the world, one sliver at a time. Many of the issues brought up can certainly be expanded into volumes of research, especially where the issue of race and racism were discussed, the author opening the door to a spin on a variety of issues.


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