I've pre-scheduled this post for today as I should have just arrived in New York. Seeking a relevant way to talk about the great city with a slice of insurance news involved I found that The New York Times has this fascinating piece on the history of New York Life. It includes the revelation that New York Life innovated by insuring slaves in its early history. Today New York Life is proud of its investments in diversity and support for the black community. Link.
This paper on diversity, with a focus on gender, is interesting. Not only does it point out the familiar statistics, it notes gradual improvement, and explores the main obstacles to more equality. The part I like the best is the explanation of bias based on two modes of thinking. This looks a lot like the difference between thinking fast and slow, the title subject of Daniel Kahnemann's book which also happens to be my favourite non-fiction book of the year.
A selection of favourite business books of 2016 - a handful of reviews:
Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow, Daniel Kahneman. This is the pick of the recent batch of reading. It is a little bit of a monster and not a quick read. Kahneman is a psychologist interested in how people think, especially how they think fast (using immediate reactions, often based out of instinct, prejudgment, and pattern recognition) and how they think slow, using more deliberate and logical processes. There is a lot on offer here for those interested in consumer attitudes to financial services, and those interested in perceptions of risk and reward. But although economics, and near the end a discussion of the difference between the rational school and more behavioral types, it is written for a general audience and a lot of people will find it interesting. Although, given the many exercises and challenges, it will probably hang around your breakfast table a while, as it did with me. It was also a good conversation starter, as I tried out some of the questions on Fran and the kids. Fran is very rational. The kids...less so.
Being Mortal - Atul Gawande - "Being Mortal" is both horrible, and brilliant. One reviewer described it as his best book yet. That depends on your criteria, but it may be right. This is what it is all about: You will die, but early death is so rare in modern society. Most deaths are the product of old age or long illness - which very often means the same thing. Under such circumstances people become separated from their home, their loved ones, and their purpose in life by increasingly invasive medical interventions. These can either be nursing home care or treatments of such dubious value that they may be no more than lottery tickets offering a few more days or weeks of life, but at a cost which substantially subtracts from the quality of the actual time remaining. It is a grim read. It is also a very engaging book, well written, and on a subject that we must all confront at some point - as a friend or relative and for ourselves. For those involved in the insurance industry we must often consider such issues and help clients to think about them too there is a lot to commend this book.
The visual display of quantitative information by Edward R Tufte. The Da Vinci of data was the judgement of one reviewer. This is an incredible book. Described as one of the top 100 technical books you must read. If you like that sort of thing of course. I do, and it is one of the best books of my current selection.
Global Inequality - Milanovic, Branko. Investigates the increase in inequality within rich economies as global inequality has reduced with the dramatic increase in wealth of people in Asia. He also explores the inevitability of variation in inequality, and the mechanisms by which it rises and falls. It isn't inevitable that it should always rise, or always fall. Some of the ways inequality is reduced are scary (crime, wars, revolution) and should make us care more about attending to the problems of extreme inequality. He explores why people are very concerned with immediate inequality and try to ignore inequality between people in different countries. Then looks at how that leads to migration and refugee problems. It was weirdly absorbing. Branko comes across as a fairly non-judgmental sort of character with no very obvious prior political view to push.
An honorable mention to WIRED magazine, and The Economist, also regular reads around here.
John Mayhew, the Warriors doctor has spoken about about the need for more defibrillators in New Zealand. After suffering a cardiac arrest himself recently Mayhew is pushing for heart health awareness by become a spokesperson for HeartSaver. Click here to read more.
Also, there is a real risk that for lack of knowledge you could be trying to help someone and not know that a defibrillator is within easy reach of you. Be prepared, download the AED app for your smartphone and you'll be one click away from knowing where to look. When I installed the app I was surprised to find one just 100 metres away from where I work.