There may be no such thing as a free lunch - but London has plenty of free public lectures. Readers living in the old dart have the opportunity to hear about two new and - by all acounts - exciting tomes.
This Wednesday evening (6 February, 6.30pm) undercover economist and FT blogger Tim Harford is giving a public lecture based on his new book The Logic of Life at the London School of Economics. Event details here. The event is free and no ticket is required, but I'd recommend turning up early, as these events fill up fast. Here is the jacket blurb for the US hardcover, published by Random House:
Life sometimes seems illogical. Individuals do strange things: take drugs, have unprotected sex, mug each other. Love seems irrational, and so does divorce. On a larger scale, life seems no fairer or easier to fathom: Why do some neighborhoods thrive and others become ghettos? Why is racism so persistent? Why is your idiot boss paid a fortune for sitting behind a mahogany altar? Thorny questions–and you might be surprised to hear the answers coming from an economist.
...In this deftly reasoned book, Harford argues that life is logical after all. Under the surface of everyday insanity, hidden incentives are at work, and Harford shows these incentives emerging in the most unlikely places. Using tools ranging from animal experiments to supercomputer simulations, an ambitious new breed of economist is trying to unlock the secrets of society. The Logic of Life is the first book to map out the astonishing insights and frustrating blind spots of this new economics in a way that anyone can enjoy.
The Logic of Life presents an X-ray image of human life, stripping away the surface to show us a picture that is revealing, enthralling, and sometimes disturbing. The stories that emerge are not about data or equations but about people: the athlete who survived a shocking murder attempt, the computer geek who beat the hard-bitten poker pros, the economist who defied Henry Kissinger and faked an invasion of Berlin, the king who tried to buy off a revolution.
Once you’ve read this quotable and addictive book, life will never look the same again.
Judging by this the LSE lecture should be a lively romp - though promising "an x-ray image of human life" seems just a tad over-hyped. I'm not really sure why the US edition is subtitled The Rational Economics of an Irrational World, but the UK edition subtitle (above) was chnaged.
Meanwhile, next Tuesday evening (12 February, 6.30pm), Columbia University sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh talks about his new book Gang Leader for a Day at the RSA. Even details here. The event is free, but you have to register online. The book has generally been well recieved (though Tyler Cowen thought it "somewhat evil"). Here is the blurb for the London launch:
Sudhir Venkatesh is a young sociologist who studied a Chicago crack-dealing gang from the inside; he captured the world’s attention when it was first described in Freakonomics. Sudhir befriended members of one of the hardest crack dealing gangs in Chicago in order to produce sociological research that the academic world had never managed to obtain before. He followed the gang (the Black Kings) for the best part of ten years and will give a frank, accessible account of what he learnt. He witnesses drive-by shootings, drug dealers, gun crime, prostitution but also a community spirit in the face of poverty and the inner workings of gang culture from the leader down to the "shorties" (foot soldiers).
UPDATE: Tim Harford informs us on his blog of Another chance to see… (London speaking events)
I was astonished when the enormous Old Theatre at the LSE was packed out at least fifteen minutes before I gave my talk on 6 Feb. Lots of people were turned away, including some for whom I’d reserved seats. I’m a bit embarassed about that, although obviously pleased that the event was popular.
But… there will be another chance to hear me talk about “The Logic of Life” at the Cass Business School on 12 March. Details are here - along with details of other talks in The Lake District, Glasgow, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Singapore, Wellington and several Australian cities too. Looks like we’ll arrange a couple more London events later in the spring, too.