Audio-book Review
            By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

Heart of the Machine (Our Future in a World of Artificial Emotional Intelligence)

Release Date 3/14/17

By: Richard Yonck

Narrated by: Robertson Dean

Richard Yonck (Author, futurist, consultant, TED speaker, MA from London Film School 1981-1983, Attended Univ. of Wa. 1977-1980.)

Richard Yonck argues the next step in technology is to program emotion into machines. As a skeptic, one’s first reaction is to search for information on Yonck’s background. One finds it is eclectic and more literary than science driven.

Yonck notes human learning is intimately connected with emotion. Emotions of parents and offspring arguably shape children’s view of the world as much as genetic inheritance. Yonck explains parents’ and people’s faces become a school from which children learn the characteristics of emotion. Yonck explains emotional signals reinforce human’ memory, belief, and behavior.

Yonck notes as the growth of facial recognition expands, facial expressions can be programmed into machines to interpret human emotion. The troubling thought is that machines programed with emotions may either negatively react to human facial expression or worse, become unbalanced, like children who act out of anger. With the addition of emotion, machines become capable of learning but also of becoming psychotic just like humans. Yonck suggests a safeguard like Asimov’s three robot rules that argues for programing machines to protect humanity. These rules are meant to deny machines any right to harm humans.


Assimov creates a fourth rule to preserve humanity, but a recurrent theme in his stories show ways in which these rules fail. In the real world, even if the rules were effective, who ensures all machines are programmed with Asimov’s rules?

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992, Russian born American author and professor of biochemistry.)

Programming emotions into machines gives them an essential requirement for learning but that learning can be subverted. Human nature accompanies every decision made by human beings, whether a Hitler or Mahatma Gandhi. A non-conforming leader could refuse to program machines with Asimov’s rules. Government leaders could have machines programmed to kill anyone who disagrees with their leadership.

Money, power, and prestige incentivize both good and bad leaders. The same might be said for learning machines.

Putting concern with the history of human nature aside, Yonck notes some benefits from programming emotions into machines. Machines will be able to think and learn on their own with emotion programming. The demographics of countries like China and Japan suggest an aging cohort will hinder economic growth and diminish needed help for relatives of the working population. Much of that help could be provided by programmed intelligent’ machines. Just as happened with the industrial revolution, jobs will be lost, and retraining will be required. But, a benefit will inure to the elderly who need assistance and the working young who do not have the time or inclination to care for the elderly.

Yonck suggests machines will be partners and companions of human beings. Psycho-sexual relationships will develop between machines and humans. Machines will replace work for humans while increasing product research, development, and production. Machines will reduce social inequality by increasing the general wealth of the world. That is a best-case scenario.

A consequence of thinking-machine programming is that machines will either outlast their human companions or break down and be grieved by their survivors. Of course, machine death is not much different than the birth and death of humans. Humans break down (die) and are grieved by those left behind.

Another evolutionary possibility suggested by Yonck is the melding of human mind and machine. He notes a treatment for PTSD (actually approved by FDA) that involves electrical stimulation of a portion of the brain that appears to activate anxiety from recalled traumatic events. Yonck suggests continuing brain research will reveal neuronal pathways of thought and action that can be modified by electrical stimulation. He infers this is a first step in a journey toward a human/machine singularity like the transition from ape to humanoid in geological history. He suggests a new human/machine society might be the next evolutionary change of humankind.

In the last chapters of Yonck’s book several examples of brain intervention are noted. Two interventions are direct with invasive insertions of wire into the brain and electrical stimulation from skull caps and clothing. A third type of intervention is with drugs. All have mixed results.

Yonck is a TED conference speaker. His writings have a quality of entertainment that makes him interesting if not steeped in science. On balance, Yonck appears more optimistic than pessimistic about the future of A.I. whether emotion programing for machines occurs or not.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

Rise of the Machines (A Cybernetic History)

Release Date 6/28/16

By: Thomas Rid

Narrated by: Robertson Dean

Thomas Rid (Author, political science Professor received Ph.D from Humboldt Univ. of Berlin in 2006.)

Thomas Rid’s history of the “Rise of the Machines” is a political perspective on society’s adoption of cybernetics (the science of communications and automatic control systems in both machines and living things).

Rid begins his history with the industrial age that created machines and increased worker productivity while displacing and retraining workers to meet the needs of a growing economy.

Rid’s history defines the origin and significance of cybernetics. It may be interpreted positively or negatively. Viewing the state of the world today, there is room for praise and criticism. On the one hand “Rise of the Machines” offered opportunities and prosperity, on the other, it promoted murder and mayhem. The irony of both is they come from the same source, military R & D. Like Willie Sutton said about robbing banks, military defense budgets are “…where the money is”.

Rid recognizes Norbert Wiener’s formative role in the cybernetic age. Rid notes Wiener develops communications engineering and cybernetic theory during WWII. Rid reminds listeners of the military’s radar refinement and jet pilot cybernetic helmets, long before virtual reality became available to the public. The key to Wiener’s success is experimenters’ recognition of the importance of environmental feedback when designing machines to precisely locate an enemy target or for pilots to engage an enemy plane.

Norbert Wiener (American mathematician and philosopher, 1894-1964.)

Feedback is key to efficient machine performance because it provides information for changed response in the same way humans respond differently when circumstances or environments change.

Rid gives the example of pilot helmet refinement, partly related to ideas of the Star War’s movie.

Darth Vader’s helmet became a model for pilots of newer jet fighters.

The original helmets were unwieldy and uncomfortable. In Vietnam, the rough terrain led to GE research on motorized robots. However, what they found was the rough terrain and swampy land made them too vulnerable for practical use. GE’s research shows limitations but leads to robotic mechanization for repetitive work in fixed environments of industrial production.

Rid digresses with science fictions’ contribution to the advance of cybernetics. Timothy Leery, and Scientology were early endorsers of Wiener’s theory of cybernetics. Timothy Leery extolls the virtues of LSD as an entry to a different reality. One of Leary’s friends is Jaron Lanier who created an early version of virtual reality headwear.

L. Ron Hubbard claims Scientology’s connection to cybernetics. Wiener pointedly objects to Hubbard’s claim and forbids further association of Scientology with cybernetics.

The first computer is invented in the 19th century by an English mechanical engineer named Charles Babbage. It was an early form of number computation and analysis. It was a century ahead of its time. During WWII, British codebreakers needed to decipher German miliary communications. In 1936, Alan Turing writes a paper “On Computable Numbers…” that leads to employment by the British during WWII to decode German military communications. Turing’s computer decoded Germany’s secret enigma machine’ messages. As a result, Turing becomes known as the father of modern computer science.

The early internet years came in the 1960s from the need for a communications network for government researchers to share information.

That network is called ARPANET, which is financed by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is transformed into the world wide web, now known as the internet. Rid’s book is published in 2016. The potential of cybernetics in war is clearly demonstrated by Ukraine’s ability to resist a much larger and better equipped foreign power.

The role of the military in cybernetics research and development is shown as both critical and essential in Rid’s history.

Ukraine’s use of cybernetic surveillance for military equipment targeting and drone weaponization equalizes power and effectiveness of two mismatched powers.

Though not a subject of Rid’s history, the principal value of free speech is diminished by a cybernetic world that is not properly legislated, adjudicated and enforced by rule-of-law. Internet users have been influenced by media trolls who spew lies and disinformation. Young people kill themselves because of being dissed on the internet. The internet gives voice to hate groups around the world. Gaming is a principal revenue producer in the cybernetic world that patently discounts reality. Human value is discounted by the mayhem of computer gaming.

School children shoot teachers and students with impunity, as though they are creatures in a cyber world.

As late as yesterday, 3/27/23, another school shooting occurs in Nashville, Tennessee. Three adults and three nine-year-old children are killed.

Rid notes cybernetics’ military application both protects and exposes security of nations around the world. Rid writes about an American military intelligence penetration by foreign and domestic hackers during the Clinton administration. Hackers have the tools to disrupt both economic and military operations around the world. Of course, those tools are multiplying. With quantum computing, existing passwords will become obsolete. Intelligence services of all countries are becoming more and more capable of disrupting military or domestic affairs of any foreign power.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

Old Age (A Beginner’s Guide)

By: Michael Kinsley

Narrated by: Danny Campbell

Michael Kinsley is an American political journalist and commentator. One may remember Kinsley on television a few years ago as a clever political commentator who figuratively fenced with conservatives like Pat Buchanan and William Buckley. He seemed a contrast to conservatives even while co-hosting with Buchanan on CNN and acting as moderator on “William Buckley’s Firing Line”. Kinsley exhibited a sly sense of humor. “Old Age” is a short book that exhibits that same slyness.

Kinsley notes he is 65 years old as he writes “Old Age”. He reveals his trials with Parkinson’s disease as an introduction to what it means to be nearing the end of one’s life. Though he has a less aggressive form of Parkinson’s, he notes his trembling hands and slow movement are more pronounced than when first diagnosed when he was 43 years old.

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Kinsley explains the medical treatment he has received to mitigate symptoms. He writes about brain surgery and the medicine he takes and how both have helped him cope with the disease. Kinsley recounts the effect the pills have in improving how he feels for a few hours while having to take more pills when their effect wears off. Though this is Kinsley’s explanation of his personal experience, it is not the primary message of his book. His goal is to explain to baby boomers like himself about the end game of life.

As most know, Michael J. Fox has dealt with Parkinson’s disease since he was diagnosed at the age of 29.

Boomers who are nearer the end than the middle or beginning of life understand Kinsley’s reason for writing “Old Age”. Kinsley notes the greatest change in a healthy boomer’s ageing is the loss of driving privileges. City dwellers might take exception to that observation, but his point is that losing one’s license is a loss of individual freedom.

Kinsley is preparing “baby boomers” for their future.

Kinsley suggests most boomers will realize there is no next step for their career. That may be true for boomers working for someone but less true for those in business for themselves. Nevertheless, loss of employment is a blow to many boomers who feel they have lost purpose in life when there is no next step for their career.

Kinsley argues most boomers who have mid-life success, as measured by material gain, were “losers” in high school. Interesting thought but listener/readers might want some statistical proof.

What is high school success? Is it popularity, (being class-president)? Is it being a sports star? Is it top grades? Is it just getting a basic education? It seems the last two are reliable indicators of future success. Being a sports’ star or being popular is like threading a needle while walking on a waterbed because it is difficult to transfer high school sport’s skill and popularity to the wide world.

The greatest concern a boomer may have as one ages is the potential for dementia.

An area where one may agree with Kinsley’s observation is fear of the loss of cognitive skill. Mental decline manifests in communication difficulties, getting lost in familiar places, having difficulty balancing a checkbook, knowing what day it is, or losing the desire to learn new things.

What every ageing person wishes is–to live for as long as they have their “marbles”. Once cognitive abilities cross over a threshold of self-knowledge, humans are burdens to society.  

Kinsley implies wealth is wasted on the aged who have lost self-awareness. Kinsley argues reputation is important. That seems false to the person who is dead but has relevance to those left behind. Humans are living longer but, as Kinsley notes, longevity is not the issue. It is quality of life and reputation that matter.

There may be a brief period of assisted living when one cannot take care of themselves, but hospice and in some cases euthanasia, seem more humane for one who reaches their final stage of life.

The final chapter of Kinsley’s book seems to fall off the rail of reason. Kinsley argues the wealth of modern America is largely inherited (not made) by the boomer generation and it should be confiscated to eliminate the national debt.

Kinsley suggests the wealth of America should be committed to eliminating the national debt.

This may have been a “tongue in cheek” suggestion but the idea of beggaring the boomer generation to eliminate national debt ignores the reality of homelessness, support of nations like Ukraine under siege, and the plague of inequality and discrimination in America. It also ignores baby boomers who have truly earned rather than inherited their wealth. In the end, Kinsley gives listeners a laugh while addressing a very difficult time of life, “Old Age”.


Audio-book Review
            By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

London: A Short History of the Greatest City in the Western World)

By: The Great Courses

Narrated by: Robert Bucholz

Robert O. Bucholz (Professor at Loyola University in Chicago, Graduate of Oxford and Cornell.)

Robert Bucholz’s brief history of London walks the curious through ancient and modern streets of London. Like John Wayne in “True Grit”, this history shows what grit means to British Londoners. Possibly as far back as 1750 BC, archeological remains show evidence of a community on the Thames that later becomes the site of London. Around the year 43 AD Londinium was founded by the Romans. It became the capital of Roman Britain with a population estimated at 60,000 inhabitants.

King Aethelberhtl (589-616AD.)

The Saxons displace the Romans in the 5th century AD. An Anglo-Saxon (mixture of German and British descendants) was established as King. His name is Aethelberht (spelling varies). He was the first Anglo-Saxon king to convert to Christianity.

Bucholz notes Saint Mellitus is the first bishop of London appointed when a Cathedral is dedicated to St. Paul in AD 604. Though the site (the highest point in the city, Ludgate Hill) is the same today as then, the original cathedral evolved and was replaced four times.

St. Paul Today

It was destroyed in the “Great Fire of London” in 1666 and soon after rebuilt to its current form at the direction of Christopher Wren.

“Great Fire of London” in 1666

In 1066 the Saxons are replaced by the Normans (mixture of Vikings and French). They rule into the 1400s when the Tudor’ monarchs (a mixture of Welsh and English) come to power. King Henry VII, and then Henry VIII take charge.

King Henry VIII (1491-1547, Coronation 1509)

It is the reign of Henry VIII that is most well-known, in part, because of the split that occurs between the Roman Catholic Church and England’s Protestant Anglican Church. The other reason Henry becomes well-known is because of his future wife, Anne Boleyn, whom he has beheaded. The consequence of church schism reverberates through the rest of London’s history.

Bucholz gives a brief history of Chaucer who is born around 1340 and lives until 1400. Chaucer lives in the heart of London. Though Chaucer is known to most as the author of the Canterbury Tales, he is an important servant of the crown as comptroller of customs at the Port of London.

LONDON 1600s

Bucholz reminds his audience of the first Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She is shown as a consummate politician by opening herself to the London public.

The wealth of the empire was diminished by the devaluation of money and profligacy of King Henry the VIII. Elizabeth’s political skill replenishes the royal coffers. London grows to an estimated 200,000 residents. Though the wealth of the royal coffers improves, poverty rises dramatically. Bucholz notes the population increase in London rises faster than the economic benefits to its people. The increase is not from natural births but from the country people moving into the city in greater numbers than can be handled by the local economy. Bucholz notes more babies die than needed to replace the population that dies from natural causes.

Bucholz briefly recounts the unsuccessful gunpowder revolution during James I’s reign (1601-1625). James I is not a popular King. Though he manages to bring Scotland into the empire, the rift between Catholics and protestants continues to roil the country. At the same time, poverty increases as London’s population expands.

Jumping to the 1800s, Bucholz addresses the consequence of London’s rapid growth. Now the population is nearing a million. Pollution, crime, and poverty are aggravated by industrialization. Crime is an everyday reality ranging from pickpockets to, to prostitution, to the infamous “Jack the Ripper” murders. The Thames is a running sewer, streets are spottily paved, the city is dark or poorly lit by candles, burning torches are carried by guides who will pick your pocket as often as guide you through the city.

The infamous London fog is caused by coal burning factories and home heating demands. This is the London which Charles Dickens writes of in “A Christmas Carol”, “Oliver Twist”, “Great Expectations” and “A Tale of Two Cities”.

LONDON 1800s

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850, Home Secy, Chancellor of ther Exchequer, Prime Minister served from1828-1846.)

Each 19th century problem is attacked by London’s leaders. In 1829, Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel forms a municipal police force. Initially, it was formed for the countryside on the outskirts of London but became institutionalized and eventually adopted within the London city boundaries. Those who were employed in these new police wore uniforms, including distinctive hats. They became known as “Bobbies”, possibly because of Peel’s first name. By 1851, there were 13,000 police across England and Wales.


Cholera infected the London’s population because of Thames’ pollution.

By 1858, the stink from the Thames was so great in the summer that one had to hold their nose. Cholera and the stink of the river dropped dramatically when a large system of sewers was built. It was commissioned by the Metropolitan Board of Works which became the London County Council in 1889. It was designed by Joseph Bazalgette, an English civil engineer. It took 9 years to build with future repairs and improvements as the years passed and the population continued to grow.

Its estimated length is around 82 miles of brick main sewers and 1,100 miles of street sewers.

Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891, English Civil Engineer.)

A British Clean Air Act was passed in 1956. The key to its abatement was the reduction of coal burning particle emissions. Of course, pollution remains a worldwide problem.

London fog worsened through to the 1950s. In December 1952, the pollution level grew so dense, 150,000 people were hospitalized and an estimated 4,000 died.

Bucholz reminds listeners of Londoner’s grit during WWI and WWII. WWI introduces the reality of war to every 20th and 21st century human. The consequence of war never leaves those who experience it. PTSD is not diagnosed in WWI but found as an incurable disorder in all subsequent wars. It is never cured but many have learned how to live with it. With the help of friends and medical assistance, PTSD is managed by many but not all.

Visiting London today is a great pleasure. It has some of the greatest theatres, museums, and entertainments of the world. Bucholz’s history of London shows political unrest, pollution, poverty, and crime are killers but there are solutions.


Audio-book Review
            By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

Leaves of Grass (1855 Edition)

By: Walt Whitman

Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini

Walt Whitman (Poet, 1819-1892)

“Leaves of Grass” is perfectly rendered by Edoardo Ballerini. Walt Whitman’s masterpiece shines in Ballerini’s narration. Whitman lived in one of America’s most tumultuous times. He lived through the build-up of the civil war, worker displacement from American industrialization, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Despite the horrors of his time, Whitman celebrated life.

Today is a good time to listen to Whitman’s masterwork. Living in the time of Covid19, Russia’s attack on Ukraine, January 6 violence in the nation’s capital, probable arrest of a former President, natural disasters, climate change, threat of Armageddon, American poverty, immigration, and homelessness—all can overwhelm one’s senses. Whitman understood the difficulties of his time but rises above them by celebrating what being American means.

Being American means having a written Constitution.
Being American means balance of power based on independent judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government.

Being American means being free within the context of rule-of-law. Being American means freedom to vote for representative government. Being American means freedom of speech and the press within the bounds of slander toward others.

Just as was true in the time of Walt Whitman, there is no guarantee of peace and tranquility, but his blank verse reflects on the many positive values of living life as an American. Whitman implies Americans should celebrate what they have, not what they want.


Audio-book Review
            By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

Fishing (How the Sea Fed Civilization)

By: Brian Fagan

Narrated by: Shaun Grindell

Brian Fagan (British Author, Profesor of Anthropology at U of C. Santa Barbara. PhD from Cambridge University.)

Brian Fagan reveals where humanity came from, the ways in which humans populated the world, and more particularly how early humans relied on fishing. Fagan exposes a trail of archaeological details that show humans have been fish eaters from their evolutionary bipedal hunter/gatherer beginnings.

Fagan suggests humanity evolves because hunter/gatherers were not only animal hunters and berry munchers but fishing people. Fagan’s research suggests humans have been fish eaters since the beginning of their self-awareness.

Fagan figuratively and literally travels the world to itemize artifacts of human remains that show fishing exists in the earliest known communities of the world. Fagan reinforces Graeber and Wengrow by noting communities of human beings were not created as a result of one thing like farming but on many activities based on survival and/or identity. (Few archeologists disagree on one fact. The human animal began in Africa. When “Lucy” or some being like her evolved, all became descendants of Africa.)

Ancient Fishing Spear Africa

Fagan notes fragments of rock in pre-history African’ sites were honed with barbs to stop fish from wiggling free after being speared.

The survival of any species is dependent on nourishment. In civilization’s beginning, archaeologists surmise human ancestors became hunter-gatherers to survive. Humanity formed into groups from a survival instinct that led to communal association. Fagan’s archeological research revealed artifacts that show hunter-gatherers found fishing as an integral part of humanity’s drive to survive. He notes fragments of rock in pre-history African’ sites were honed with barbs to stop fish from wiggling free after being speared. Fish skeletons were found near the homed spear heads.  Fagan finds barbed artifacts near Kenyan and Tanzanian lakes in Africa. Fagan notes, the earliest spear heads had barbs on one side while later spear heads had barbs on both sides.

A second interesting finding by Fagan is that fish farming is found in early Chinese civilizations. In 1000 BCE, a written record by Fan Li (in the Zhou dynasty 1112-221 BCE) describes a carp farm designed to feed a popular demand for fish.

It is a surprise to find fish farming has such a long history.

Fagan notes preservation techniques used by early ancestors. Salt is used to dry fish to preserve it for sailors’ consumption on long voyages and for general consumption when harvests are greater than a market can consume.

Fagan reminds listeners/readers of the immense size of fish. One fish could serve a village for weeks. Southern and Ocean sunfish weight well over 2 tons, some sturgeon and sharp-tail molas near 2 tons, Atlantic Bluefin Tuna over 1400 pounds, Pacific Bluefin Tuna over 900 pounds, a Goliath Grouper over 600 pounds, halibut, Warsaw Grouper, and Yellow Fin Tuna over 400 pounds, while lesser size cod are nearer 100 pounds.

Today, catching fish by hand or spear is limited, while all other forms are used by more serious sport and commercial fishing operations. Sport and commercial fishing, along with rising human consumption, have depleted fish populations around the world. The size of fish has fallen, along with their populations because they no longer live as long or are harvested to extinction.

A part of Fagan’s fish-eating history is shellfish harvesting and consumption. The remains of shellfish are found in ancient sites. Some cultures use the shells as a form of exchange, others as a form of adornment and sometimes as musical or tonal instruments.

Shell Fossils
Several chapters at the end of Fagan’s book recount the consequences of global warming and the insatiable demand of fish eaters that are depleting the world’s fish habitats and populations.

Fagan offers interesting insights to listener/readers on the origin of fishing’s ancient, present, and future importance to humanity.


Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

Be Like the Fox (Machiavelli in His World)

By: Erica Benner

Narrated by: Karen Saltus

Erica Benner (Author, British political philosopher and historian)

Erica Benner gives context to Machiavelli and his role as a diplomat and advisor to leaders of the 15th and early 16th century. Machiavelli is not depicted as a supporter but as a clever advisor to tyrannic leaders of Florence and city-state regions of Italian power. What Benner reminds one of is that there is no country called Italy at this point in history.

There are three centers of power in the country now known as Italy. One is Florence where Machiavelli is born and raised, the second is in city-state regions, and the third is the Catholic Church in Rome. All are centers of power.

Benner’s history infers most of Machiavelli’s life is a duel with the Medici family’s power. The Medici family initially controls Florence when Machiavelli is a young man. The Medici family is dethroned in 1494. Machiavelli comes under suspicion as a possible co-conspirator. In August 1512, the Medici’s return to control of Florence.

Nicolo Machiavelli lives (1469-1527) in interesting times. The Renaissance occurs between the 1300s and 1700s. Benner infers Machiavelli is like a fox with nine lives.

When the Medici family is overthrown, Florence comes under the rule of a Dominican friar in 1494. The new leader is Girolamo Savonarola. Savonarola is an ascetic who unwisely ridicules the Pope’s Catholic Church leadership and influence. He accuses the bishops of simony, mismanagement, and greed. Pope Alexander VI, a Borgia family descendent, becomes Pope and has Savonarola beheaded. Savonarola’s experience undoubtedly influences Machiavelli to keep his own counsel when dealing with power.

Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498, Ruled Florence from 1494-1498

Benner explains Machiavelli counsels the Borgia’s but only serves in a way that seems supportive. Benner suggests Machiavelli’s advice to the Borgias hides his real beliefs about city-state’ leadership. Machiavelli is in his twenties when serving the Borgias. These seem the formative years of Machiavelli’s future book, “The Prince”.

Cesare Borgia (1475-1507, died at the age of 31)

There are three Borgias that become Popes. It is the second, Pope Alexander VI, which has a son named Cesare Borgia which appears to be a model for Machiavelli’s “…Prince”. Benner suggests interpretation of Machiavelli is often wrong. After the Borgias, Machiavelli’s leadership beliefs are shown by Benner to be more nuanced. One might consider Machiavelli a political genius, ahead of his time. Benner explains “The Prince” is filled with irony while appearing to laud tyrannic power while his true belief is in just treatment of the ruled. Machiavelli warns of tyranny’s negative consequence.

Caterina Sforza (Noblewoman of Forli.)

An interesting acquaintance of Machiavelli in 1499, before the Medici restoration, is Caterina Sforza, an Italian noblewoman who succeeds her husband as a leader of an area identified as Forli. Women are shown as a force, even in the 15th century. She shows herself to be a tigress by facing down Borgia’s martial control of the town. The reason this is an interesting note is because Benner refers to a dream Machiavelli has of a forceful woman who counsels him to confront the new Medici rulers of Florence and offer his services as an experienced diplomat.

A not widely known contribution in Benner’s history is that Machiavelli promotes the idea of drafting citizens of a city-state into an army for defense of their homeland.

Most Italian city-states hired mercenaries to fight their battles and expand their fiefdoms. Machiavelli recognizes the concomitant risk with mercenaries who can turn on their benefactors for their own interests. Machiavelli convinces Florence’s leaders of the folly of using mercenaries because of their loyalty to whomever pays them best. Machiavelli is charged with raising what we today call a national guard. Soldiers would spend several days for training, and later be called-up when there is a threat to their country. By being citizens of their homeland, Machiavelli argues a home-grown army is more effective and reliable than a mercenary military force when defending their homeland.

Machiavelli is imprisoned and tortured when the Medici’s return to power. He is implicated in an effort to keep the Medici’s out of power in Florence.

With the support of Spain, and a Medici Pope, the Medici family returns to power in Florence. In 1513, a Medici Pope is elected by the Catholic Church. The Medici family returns to rule in the 16th century. Machiavelli’s career is partly resurrected when he writes to the Medici’s about how foreign powers should be handled. He is known to be speaking from personal experience. Though the Medici’s mistrust Machiavelli, they note the value of his understanding of negotiation and diplomacy.  Machiavelli is now in his 40s. “The Prince” is generally thought to have been published in 1513.

Another interesting note in Benner’s history is that Machiavelli becomes an accomplished playwright when the Medici family returns to Florence. His plays are comedies, dramas, and satires about Florentine customs and habits,

Two other momentous occurrences happen during Machiavelli’s life. One is Martin Luther’s attack on the Catholic Church and its purposeful belief that one can buy their way to heaven with indulgences offered for sale (aka simony) by the Church. The second momentous occurrence is the rise of the Muslim religion with the advance of Sulieman the Magnificent. Both were viewed as direct threats to the Church and Catholic faith. Machiavelli is near the end of his eventful life.

Martin Luther’s attack on the Catholic Church with the 95 Thesis in 1517.

Sulieman the Magnificent captures much of the middle east and spreads belief in the Muslim religion. (6 November 1494 – 6 September 1566)

Benner implies “The Prince” is a compilation of Machiavelli’s life as a diplomat. She suggests “The Prince” reflects on the dual nature of leadership with one side beneficent, the other maleficent. Bennet’s history suggests Machiavelli dies penniless and in obscurity because of his sly political fencing with great powers like the Borgia’s and Medici’s.

Machiavelli’s life story shows two leadership styles that effectively lead Italy’s city-states. In Benner’s opinion, Machiavelli’s life experience reinforces belief that beneficent (more democratic and enabling) rather than maleficent (autocratic, and top down) leadership is best. She argues “The Prince” satirically criticizes the second and extolls the first.


Audio-book Review
            By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

The Dawn of Everything (A New History of Humanity)

By: David Graeber, David Wengrow

Narrated by: Mark Williams

David Graeber and David Wengrow persuasively reject the view of farming as a critical step leading to tribes, hamlets, villages, cities, and future nation-states. Graber and Wengrow’s archeological research reveal human remains and structures are found in many areas of the world long before any evidence of farming. Their research suggests hunter-gatherer populations created and sustained stable communities with remnants of worship, government rule, and tools for construction, punishment, and defense. These early civilizations knew nothing of or practiced any form of organized farming.

Graeber and Wengrow argue early civilizations did not arrive as a result of organized farming.

The goal of the author’s research is to find an answer to the question of why inequality plagues civilization. They suggest inequality is (in part) created by the myth propounded  by stories like the bibles’ garden of Eden. The myth of original sin and redemption sets many precedents for inequality and redemption through good works. Their archaeological research suggests the plague of inequality has never been cured because history and archaeological evidence shows civilization wobbles between extremes. First, there is the altruism of sharing benefits of life with everyone. Second is the realism of what is mine is mine. Graeber and Wengrow argue there is history and archeological evidence proving both extremes exist but the second prevails more than the first. It would seem the first is more likely to preserve humanity, and the second to end it.

The goal of the author’s research is to find an answer to the question of why inequality plagues civilization.

Graeber and Wengrow offer a story of “sharing” by the American Indian leader Kondiaronk who saved his tribe by playing the Iroquois and French against each other to keep his tribe whole. Kondiaronk becomes an arbitrator for peace between the Iroquois and French. He secures peace for the French, Iroquois, and the Huron tribe of which he is a part.

Kondiaronk (French Canadian depiction.)

Kondiaronk becomes an arbitrator for peace between the Iroquois and French and secures peace for the French, Iroquois, and Huron tribe of which he is a part.

The authors say Kondiaronk is invited to France and finds monarchy a terrible form of government. He considers its hierarchy of wealth and privilege an abomination. His criticism revolves around the “mine is mine” hierarchal structure that impoverishes much of French society. Kondiaronk returns to Canada where he is buried in Montreal’s Notre-Dame church.

The “mine is mine” examples are more numerous than the “sharing” and distributive benefits Kondiaronk endorses. Schizogenesis is a phenomenon identified by Graeber and Wengrow in examination of Chinese, Roman, Persian, and other empires’ remains. Schizogenesis is defined as “creation of division”. It is social behavior of “get everything you can” and don’t worry about anyone else. The authors note archeological remains of most ancient civilizations are schizogenetic. Excerptions are a few North American Indian tribes and some Mesoamerican societies.

If authors’ stories of great empires schizogenesis are not enough, today’s Russian invasion of Ukraine is tomorrow’s archeological reminder of the phenomena.

There seems a slim hope for humanity in the example of Kondiaronk. Global warming is every nation’s problem. Humanity has a choice of “sharing” or continuing to fight each other until there is nothing left to fight over. In the past, many civilizations have fallen because of schizogenesis but now the world is at risk. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Global warming is every nation’s problem. Humanity has a choice of “sharing” or continuing to fight each other until there is nothing left to fight over.

This is a long book. It covers many subject areas that could be books of their own. As an example: the remains of civilization offer evidence that women’s equality, if not superiority, may have been exhibited during the hunter-gather phase of social development. The authors suggest women may have been the scientists of their time by experimenting with farming practices as farms became a part of civilization. Increasing and improving product grown on farms required experimentation. Who tended the farms?  The authors suggest it would have been women while men were hunting and gathering.

Part of the authors story covers America’s Mississippi River Valley and Etowah River area of Georgia to show how communal life grows in parts of what becomes the United States. Both areas leave burial mounds filled with hints of how their civilizations were formed, how they were governed, and why they disappeared. Both are founded on hereditary male leaders with some influence exercised by democratically elected council members. The authors note there is a belief in the importance of dreams that presage Freudian thought and its influence on lived life. It seems both areas grew with hierarchical governance by Tribal chiefs who lived, worked, and died in conflicts with competing tribes. (This is more evidence of schizogenetic life.) Farming is certainly a part of these societies but not as a formative cause of creation.

America’s Mississippi River Valley burial mounds.

The greater chiefs were memorialized by ritual mounds.

This is not light reading or listening, and it remains a speculative story of civilizations’ growth, and organization. It seems a more careful examination of archeological evidence than the farming explanations from different authors like Fukuyama, Diamond, Pinker, and Harari.

Of course, Fukuyama is a political theorist, Diamond and Harari are historians, and Pinker is a cognitive scientist. All are well regarded professionals. What Graeber and Wengrow add is evidence that suggests a different interpretation of the past.


Audio-book Review
            By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland

By: Fintan O’Toole

Narrated by: Aidan Kelly

Fintan O’Toole (Author, award winning Irish journalist and political comentator for The Irish Times)

Fintan O’Toole helps one understand something about mid-20th century Ireland. O’Toole is born in Northern Ireland in 1958. That year becomes the beginning of his story. O’Toole touches on pre-1958 Ireland but only through literature and brief mentions of earlier history.

O’Toole’s story is fascinating but knowing an Irish population as an “…Ourselves…” is elusive. O’Toole is an excellent writer who reveals his self-understanding, but it is a vain effort to understand a singular society’s self-understanding. No population in the world can understand itself because of its complexity.

O’Toole explains post-WWII’ aid did not come to Ireland because of its neutrality during the war. The hardship in Ireland is difficult in years before and after WWII.

One suspects most Americans do not know that Ireland remained neutral in WWII. (This is not to say the Irish did not side with the west because thousands joined Allied forces on their own.) Education levels in Ireland were low because of little industrialization that would provide taxes or revenues needed for teachers and classrooms. The teaching available is through the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland and it is only after 1958 that the church began to fund education beyond grade school.

Great emphasis is placed on classroom order in Catholic schools with a ruler or open hand slap at young students who have wrong answers or who act in what is considered disruptive behavior.

Conditions of school in Northern Ireland were harsh with Catholic brethren who severely punished students for minor classroom disruptions. O’Toole notes many who experience that disciplinary environment retrospectively praise it as a character builder. However, O’Toole notes some students were sexually abused by their Catholic school masters. Pedophilia is a festering sore in Catholic church’ history. O’Toole implies it is a pox spread in Ireland’s 1960s Catholic schools. As history has shown, Catholic pedophilia extends far beyond Ireland.

O’Toole tells of many conflicts in the sixties through the nineties, without enough context. Because there is a mixture of religious conflict and Irish independence, it is difficult for a reader/listener to have perspective on O’Toole’s history of 30 years of “Troubles”.

Even we self-centered and ignorant Americans know one of the great conflicts of the world is between Irish Catholic’s and Protestant’s. The violence of each against the other is unfathomable to most Americans. O’Toole underestimates American knowledge of the causes and consequences of the “Troubles” in Ireland.

It seems most religions argue there is no God but God or Allah but Allah. Whether one calls themselves Catholic or Protestant, God seems the only concept upon which the largest religions agree. Religious conflict in Ireland is made more complex by the desire of some Irish to be independent of England while others wish for union. It would have been helpful to have a clearer explanation of the origin of the “Troubles”.

The cruelty during the time of the “Troubles” is horrendous. O’Toole’s stories of IRA atrocity are mind-numbing, including children in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the same time, captured IRA prisoners are as poorly clothed and cared for as though they were abandoned dogs. Many lived in their sweat, and excrement which made them either sick or dead. Some went on hunger strikes to resist with death as their end.

The Ireland of which O’Toole writes is Catholic because he is raised Catholic.

O’Toole explains “don’t ask, don’t see, don’t say” is a mantra of those who plan and do wrong. It applies to Irelands loosely explained “Troubles”, but he argues it also applies to the Catholic Church, and later the financial industry in Ireland in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As wealth accumulates among those who benefit from Ireland’s economic growth, they look for ways to hide their earnings. The earnings are sometimes legitimately earned, sometimes not, but all wish to evade taxation and/or incarceration. O’Toole explains Ireland’s banking industry colludes with those money makers who wish to hide their income.

On February 6, 2002, Allied Irish Bank – Ireland’s second-biggest bank was investigated for apparent currency fraud at its Baltimore-based subsidiary, Allfirst, perpetrated by a trader named John Rusnak. 

Irish bankers and businessmen colluded to make it appear Irish residents lived abroad and should not be taxed for their income in Ireland. O’Toole explains the Irish government loses millions of pounds that could have been used for public services because of that collusion.

O’Toole’s notes women in Ireland of the 1950s and 60s are treated as child bearers and servers to men. They could not sue for divorce for any reason. They could not work outside the home. Women could not practice any form of birth control. Women were subject to their husband’s desires and could not object to either beatings or sexual intimacy.

O’Toole shows that any intelligent human being will overcome denied rights by fighting, fleeing, or subverting unequal treatment. Many Irish emigrate, some surreptitiously rebel. The example O’Toole gives is Irish doctors and pharmacists provide birth control pills to women based on falsely claimed menstrual problems to hide their real intent of avoiding pregnancy. Women had to fight unequal treatment or flee.

Misogyny in Ireland seems even more pernicious than in the earlier years of America.

O’Toole explains how prosperity comes to Ireland with acceptance into the European Union. (Northern Ireland later rejects the E.U. along with Great Britain.)

Eliminating trade barriers enriches farmers and begins industrializing the country while broadening economic diversification. To the church, O’Toole explains there is a concern over the loss of Catholic influence on the population. To the public there is great hope for an improvement in the Irish standard of living.

The benefit to farming is significant because of the price paid for goods within the E.U. O’Toole explains success in industrial growth is less significant, undoubtedly because of lack of infrastructure. There were also displaced workers in trades that could not compete with European prices. However, O’Toole notes women were significantly benefited by job opportunities created in a growing economy. Women were finally liberated from only working at home.

O’Toole explains economic improvement did not cure all Ireland’s ills and in fact created new 20th century problems beyond sexual inequality.

The gap between rich and poor did not change with economic wealth. Drugs became a serious health problem that O’Toole compares to the slums of New York. The biggest beneficiaries of joining the European Union were Irish farmers who were able to get better prices for their produce. Industry lagged and craftsmen disappeared. The truth of O’Toole’s view is that human nature is the same everywhere. America, China, Russia, Ukraine, North Korea- all are motivated by money, power, and/or prestige. Human nature corrupts us all, regardless of government form, rule of law, or intent.

O’Toole chooses to become a journalist despite discouragement by a local paper that might have hired him out of college. O’Toole explains his life in a way that infers he is smarter than many of his peers. That intelligence paves his way through college and on to a successful career as an investigative journalist and author.

In the end, O’Toole shows himself as a Catholic heretic, if not atheist or agnostic, by not following the dictates of the church. Neither Ireland nor the world have reason to believe they are morally or economically better or worse than other nations of the world. We are all in the same leaky boat. Only time and societal evolution will cure or kill us.


Audio-book Review
 By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog: awalkingdelight)

The Chessboard and the Web

By: Anne Marie Slaughter

Narrated by: Jo Anna Perrin

Anne-Marie Slaughter (Author, foreign policy analyst, served as Director of Policy Planning under Hilliary Clinton.)

“The Chessboard and the Web” is not about rebuilding Ukraine. However, Slaughter presents an insightful view of diplomacy that confronts international conflict with an idea that applies to Ukraine’s future.

Ukraine is invaded by Russia in 2022, nearly 5 years after Anne Marie Slaughter’s book is published.

Inevitably, either Ukraine or Russia will sue for peace. Ukraine will survive as an independent nation-state. Neither Ukraine nor Russia will come away from this war with a satisfactory resolution. Ukraine’s challenge will be to rebuild their country within whatever boundary is part of a yet-to-be-determined peace agreement. No one knows what will happen to Putin, but President Zelensky will face the complex task of rebuilding Ukraine.

Slaughter gives several examples of how interconnectedness has changed the course of history in modern times and aided thousands of people impacted by natural disasters and internecine conflicts.

Slaughter argues natural disaster relief and international conflict is more constructively addressed by the interconnectedness of the world wide web.

Slaughter offers examples of how interconnectedness changes the nature of management. Though General Stanly McChrystal is discharged for disrespecting President Obama’s administration, he is instrumental in establishing a rebel fighting force in Afghanistan. McChrystal eliminates Al Qaeda’s leader by creating a web of interconnected Afghan rebels that advise the American military of Al Qaeda’s movements. McChrystal is widely acknowledged as an effective leader and accomplished soldier.

General Stanley A. McChrystal (Commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan.)

In one way, the world wide web is an unstoppable technological change that invades everyone’s privacy. On the other hand, it offers a tool for cultural understanding, team building, and actionable public policy to deal with natural disasters, war’s destruction and its aftermath.  

Slaughter gives the following example: With web interconnectedness, two former Marines create a 38,000-person volunteer group called Team Rubicon that aids Haiti survivors after a 7.0 earthquake.

Either by design or circumstance, Ukraine citizens set up decentralized teams of fighters to repel the Russian army. Ukrainian fighters’ interconnectedness came, in part, from Elon Musk’s satellites. With that interconnectedness, Ukrainians successfully fought off Russia’s invading army. Zelensky is the leader of Ukraine’s defensive effort. But it is individual group leaders, connected by the web, that have successfully defended Ukraine. Zelensky is the President and leader of the country, but he wisely allows respective team leaders to conduct the war against the Russian invaders. That same system can be used to rebuild Ukraine when peace is achieved.

What Slaughter reveals is an idea that should be adopted by President Zelensky to rebuild Ukraine when Putin’s criminal invasion is defeated. Zelensky has done a heroic job of leading his country in war. He shows the capability of being a leader for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

The team leaders of Ukraine’s defense are prime candidates for team leadership when the war is over. President Zelensky knows who the best team leaders have been during the war.

Slaughter is not arguing this is a simple way of rebuilding a country, managing re-construction after a natural disaster, or resolving political crises. Her point is the complexity of international relations, war, and reconstruction can be met by decentralized teams organized around competent leaders using the internet. Their interconnectedness can address complexity based on intimate knowledge and decentralized command. Zelensky would need to establish a financial review process to monitor team results and discipline bad actors, but field decisions would be left to interconnected on-site leaders.

Human nature is what it is, and some leaders will succumb to the lure of money, power, and prestige.  However, through careful oversight, theft can be mitigated, and team leaders can be replaced as circumstances demand.

No leadership system, interconnected or not, is full proof. Slaughter’s service in Obama’s government, under the wing of Hillary Clinton, did not eliminate mistakes. The murder of Libya’s leader created a political mess during Clinton’s and Obama’s watch. Syria’s use of chemical weapons killed Syrian civilians. Obama is certainly right to not have invaded Syria for that transgression, but Obama and his red-line comment unnecessarily made America look weak. There were Obama successes. By the same token, re-construction of Ukraine will suffer from mistakes, but Ukraine’s President has shown how mistakes can be corrected. Zelensky acted against corruption by Ukranian team leaders who tried to profit from war material scams.

Slaughter’s last chapters explain the difference between leadership styles of the past and present. In the internet age, wide interconnection of disparate interests suggests a new leadership style, more like being a gardener than a martinet who insists on followers doing it her or his way.

The world wide web and interconnectedness is a two-edged sword. As with all ideas, web interconnectedness can be good or evil.  As with any plan for action, there is always potential for unintended consequence. Re-building is going to be a major undertaking for the Ukrainian people and government. Every American hopes the war will be over soon and Ukraine’s reconstruction can begin.