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Prologue to Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast" 
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Post Prologue to Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast"
Please use this thread for discussing the Prologue to Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast."



Tue Nov 17, 2009 9:18 pm
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Post Messianic Capitalism
I've just finished reading The Genius of the Beast, and as others have suggested, it is an extraordinary transformative and innovative book. Harold Bloom is one of the great publicists of history. Through his philosophy of understanding the minds of the audience and considering capitalism as service, he helped to transform the rock music industry. The Genius of the Beast is written as a response to the loss of confidence in capitalism associated with the current economic downturn, arguing that only capitalist values have the basis and resources to liberate and save humanity. Hence his recurring theme is that capitalism is messianic in essence, from JP Morgan and John Rockefeller, who gave America working railways and fuel, through to contemporary firms and bands who focus on tuning in to the dreams of their customers.

There is something confronting in Bloom's use of the term 'messianic' to describe capitalism. I recently read a book by Norman Cohn called Pursuit of the Millennium, about the millennial movements in Europe from the Crusades through to the Reformation. The messianic idea at that time was strongly associated with revolution, with a perception that the dominant forces of the world are evil and that Jesus is on the side of the poor against the rich. Bloom also says Jesus is on the side of the poor, but the examples he gives force a complete rejection of Marxist ideas of communism and class struggle. Instead, Bloom points out that the mass production of soap and cotton in the nineteenth century, with the profit-driven marketing that gave us soap operas, added twenty years to the average lifespan of the poor, as well as immense improvement in quality of life. He says capitalism is service, and utterly rejects the idea that the criminal CEOs who bled their companies dry in the crash are typical. Instead, profit comes from understanding your customers, what Bloom calls 'tuned empathy', and focussing on service. For Bloom, the parable of the talents is at the centre of the messianic identity of Christ.

Bloom took artists such as Prince, Joan Jett and REO Speedwagon who were hated by the musical industry but loved by their mass fan base and helped make them into stars. He tells about his experience in the pop industry, which gained him a reputation, among other things, for inventing the heavy rock magazine genre. This experience led him to some intensely perceptive experience in engineering the perceptions of the mass audience to deliver us from boredom into a sense that our own identity is validated in music.

My own interest is to establish a major new world industry in the transport of fresh water around the ocean and production of algae biofuel, as I have discussed at Booktalk threads on the Spragg Waterbag and the Algae City in the Gulf of Mexico. Bloom points out it is crazy people like me who have had the vision and confidence to transform our planet from general stagnant poverty into the current global work in progress, where everyone has the potential to be rich and free beyond the dreams of past days.

If I have a criticism of The Genius of the Beast, it is that from the get go Bloom assumes that his Jewish heritage of entrepreneurial hustling is the answer to the problems of the world. Yes, he has a point that without these values we are lost, but the criticism I would make is that the Beast, which he identifies with capitalism, also has a shadow (and a number) as well as a genius. The hatred of genius by the shadow seems to me a main source of anti-Semitism. Jews often seem unable to see that their entrepreneurial style is hated by people who lack their values of personal drive and ambition. Hence socialist collectivism remains a very seductive dream for millions of people. I don't want to make too much of this as a criticism, as Bloom is relentlessly positive and creative in his vision and that is a superb thing. I just mention it to help analyse why this vision is not seen by the majority. For example, Bloom points out that most people in nineteenth century America cheered when JP Morgan and Rockefeller were attacked by the muckrakers, while Bloom points out that they were the messianic geniuses of the railroads and oil, enabling hitherto undreamt of wealth and mobility. Bloom observes that people do focus on the negative rather than the positive, and I would like to join him in focussing on the positive, but the issue is that we need to understand the real constraints to making our vision a reality.



Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:58 am
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Post Re: Prologue to Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast"
In the prologue these are some comments that I think are worth discussing.

p14: Bloom says to many people capitalism is a word that has become a curse, but it hides astonishing abilities. This is a main theme that runs through the book.

He says all cultures need a creation myth, and he is trying to provide a radically new factual one based on history and science, a new way to see. This is an exciting use of the concept of myth, as the ideas that give meaning to life, rather than as a false and obsolete theory. We will get into this regarding astronomy and biology.

p18: In his apology for capitalism, Bloom claims that good CEOs want to serve the world by doing something of value to society with real meaning. He says German friends told him they envy the USA because it has the best way of life in the world. What nags Bloom is the question of what is good about America.

Smart liberals think America is doomed. Bloom disagrees. He points out that capitalism offers more things to believe in than any system that has ever come before, lifting the poor and helping them live their dreams, eg through cotton, soap, mobile phones, railways. In speeded up evolution, capitalism has given us new arms, legs, ears, eyes and brains, through technology for profit. The main product is the middle class.

p21: The messianic imperative is to arouse our brains by engaging our feelings to create new industries. We make meaning in work. "Salesmanship, cash flow, profits and marketing hide a strangely messianic core." Cash is emotional need. He plans a strange trip through the looking glass of capital.



Wed Dec 02, 2009 2:44 pm
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Post Re: Prologue to Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast"
Capitalism is a system that essentially says this: the best way to organize the economy is to hang dollar bills from strings, and have the populace lunge at them. The energy expended in the lunging will spin off into desirable effects for society. We hope.

When we say as a society that materialism is a pretty admirable trait, and the pursuit of money brings out the best in people, it is hardly surprising that many that rise to the top are driven by greed. As we have seen again and again, many of these folks have no intention of spinning off anything if they can avoid it, and will go to great lengths to stop that from happening, including the arm-twisting and outright purchase of politicians.

Fortunately for us, not everyone is locked in the pursuit of money, and many of the best attributes of society today have come from origins that have nothing whatsoever to do with capitalism. Social security, the civil rights movement, the UN, the Peace Corps, the exploration of space, the list goes on.

Capitalism has lurched from crisis to crisis, including the great depression in the 30s, stagflation in the 70s, the savings and loans scandal in the 80s, the dot.com bubble, the real estate bubble stemming from the sub-prime fraud. All driven, for the most part, by folks lunging at dollar bills on strings.

Anybody notice a gap here? Indeed there is, the 40s through the 60s; what happened there? What happened there was WW2, and when a real crisis came along, it was suddenly deemed ok to tax and spent lots when one’s own skin depended upon it. This ended the depression in the US. The end of the war presented a dilemma for a number of countries. Going back to 30% unemployment, and going hungry was not on, not after it was made clear that there were resources available if push really came to shove. And certainly not after all the blood and sacrifice. And so we had social security and progressive taxation, which in turn meant a middle class with disposable income, creating the modern society we value today. This system did well, even though there were massive war debts to pay (which were paid).

We have been sliding in recent years, even though we have seen some of the most right-wing governments in some time, starting with Regan in the US, and Thatcher in Britain. Coincidence? Maybe Bloom has an explanation for that.

As for corporate CEOs wanting to serve the world, well just give me a minute to chuckle here…..there, that’s better. Maybe some do, and that’s why they have awarded themselves a $30 million/yr salary. A lot could be done with that. But there is probably the yacht to pay off, the diamond rings, the skiing trip to Switzerland…well, there are priorities.


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Robert Tulip
Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:26 pm
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Post Re: Prologue to Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast"
Quote:
My own interest is to establish a major new world industry in the transport of fresh water around the ocean and production of algae biofuel, as I have discussed at Booktalk threads on the Spragg Waterbag and the Algae City in the Gulf of Mexico. Bloom points out it is crazy people like me who have had the vision and confidence to transform our planet from general stagnant poverty into the current global work in progress, where everyone has the potential to be rich and free beyond the dreams of past days.



Robert,

The general theme of the book is well represented, in my opinion, by your words in this topic, as it aught to be. My contentions concerning the book, so far as I’ve read it, concern specifics, not generalities, so my response here is to lead into what may become a more specific resolution to any contentions – as progress occurs in time.

Do you think, or do you know, that some people could conceivably lose (in a big way) as your work progresses into fruition? I mean to point out specific problems with specific ideals, or understandings, or perceptions, of this capitalism stuff. In other words: if your bio-fuel product gains market share, will current fuel producers lose market share – and the presumption is a big loss associated with a big gain?

I ask this not out of total ignorance, I’ve seen some of the numbers, specifically the numbers associated with how much power required compares to how much power is produced, and one example of that measure involves the reproduction rate of algae compared to sugar, for one example.

So the supposition is such that bio-fuel can (and almost inevitably will) take market share from current fuel producers, in a big way, and for an example of how this prediction is not without practical support (not another “conspiracy theory”): just look at Brazil and how much market share has been taken over by sugar made fuel – alcohol.

What then do you think the competitors will do in reaction to such a loss? Is there a measure of costs associated with any defense required to avoid being subjected to what may be done by the competitors in the scenario suggested above?

I have a few practical examples.

Example one is Elon Musk’s Electric Car business; where evidence points toward internal efforts to sabotage the effort to produce a competitive form of transportation that runs on a competitive form of fuel.

Example two is found in a study of a man named Stanley Meyer.

Example three could be, deeper into the abyss, a study of the legal effort to abolish alcohol production in the U.S.A. after the discovery of oil and the invention of the automobile.

This ends my current effort to connect to this part of the network; I have other things to do – too. I will expend the time and energy to return with some measure of understanding - as I see it.



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Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:13 am
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Post Re: Prologue to Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast"
Joe Kelley wrote:
Do you think, or do you know, that some people could conceivably lose (in a big way) as your work progresses into fruition? I mean to point out specific problems with specific ideals, or understandings, or perceptions, of this capitalism stuff. In other words: if your bio-fuel product gains market share, will current fuel producers lose market share – and the presumption is a big loss associated with a big gain?


Thanks Joe. Yes, you are right, the corruption of the world prevents innovation. In fact, many people have their heads so far up their own arses that they are completely blind to analysis of what homo sapien is doing to the planet, and the considerable risks posed by global warming.

The engineering industry puts its own income stream through consultancy well ahead of any analysis of the public good. This can readily be seen in the response to Terry Spragg's waterbag proposal, which has not been field tested since 1996. This failure is largely due to the opposition of vested interests in the engineering profession who see waterbags as a threat to their income from desalination, dams and pipelines. Waterbags promise abundant low cost fresh drinking water for all, and practical rapid methods to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The creative destruction that waterbags would wreak on the current water industry is immense. Waterbags are also the key to large scale controlled production of algae at sea, what I have termed the white blood cells of Gaia. Public interest in these questions makes it harder for corrupt interests to prevent testing of these new methods.



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Post Re: Prologue to Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast"
Robert,

My interpretation of your viewpoint on this part of this discussion is one of near perfect agreement. The introduction to the book lays out a specific goal and from there the book proceeds to follow through with that goal.

I am going to move ahead to the next topic in this well organized discussion after addressing the other topic response here.

etudiant,

Quote:
This ended the depression in the US
.

My answer to that statement is two sources of information from which my response is based. I will leave these two links as my response since it may be difficult to preserve some connection to to the topic when traveling down this specific path.

http://reformed-theology.org/html/books/bolshevik_revolution/index.html

http://www.reformation.org/wall-st-hitler.html

If there are good things that are worthy of conserving within this stuff called capitalism it may be a good idea to accurately identify those good things and then to effectively communicate those things to other people – somehow – and that may be the promise of the book in question.

I am more than interested in traveling down the path indicated by that quote concerning ends of depressions. I don’t want to hog up the bandwidth. Depressions are degrees of a cycle, no?



Sat Dec 26, 2009 4:48 pm
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Post Re: Prologue to Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast"
“Depressions are degrees of a cycle, no?”


Yes, I guess you could say that. The cycle goes something like this: There is a pack of lemmings, milling about. One looks up, and sees what looks like a good food source, out near the horizon. They all start moving. Excitement builds, and soon some are running. Then they are all running, the whole pack.

Sadly, geography being what it is (more uneven than one might think), many do not make it. They fall from heights, drown in streams; get trampled by their fellow lemmings.

When they arrive, there is often the sense, as the Buddha might have advised them, that what they find is less than imagined, and ultimately unfulfilling; all material pleasure is transitory. Yes, a few nuts and berries go down pretty well, especially after all that running, but then what?

There is more milling about, and soon a lemming looks up, and sees a wonderful food source in the distance. They all start to move, and some start to run……………..


During the great depression, many thought that they could get rich quick. The magic of “wealth creation” would work for them. They could borrow money to invest in dubious stocks, which would of course rise in value, and then they could recover their loans as well as make a big profit. They bid against each other, until things became unsustainable. When this house of cards collapsed, two things became apparent.

One was that few really had much confidence in this kind of financial system, after all the folly was exposed, and would therefore keep their money in a sock, thank you very much, which then torpedoed much of the economy.

The other was that things were going to stay torpedoed until some money got moving, and preferably into some redeeming projects, not just more smash and grab capitalism. In other words, projects that created real wealth, such as jobs and infrastructure, rather than the ponzi schemes of Wall Street.

It was in this second point that the US lagged behind much of the rest of the world in coming out of the depression. Many in positions of power had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, flailing their arms, and shouting denial, to the realization that Adam Smith’s invisible guiding hand was not only invisible, but pretty much A.W.O.L.

Much of Europe was well on the road to recovery before the war. In Europe there was much less resistance to government intervention in national economies, and resources so spent were starting to pay off. In the US, FDR struggled hard, but had a lot of resistance from the right-wing fraternity. When Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor, the economy in the US was still in bad shape, with massive unemployment.

When war came, the US government started spending on a large scale, and employing people wholesale. And we know what happened then, when there was an enemy that everyone could agree on. The common wisdom was then: screw that Adam Smith guy, and lets rally around and get the community organized and using resources the way we really want them to be used, because we have to.

That was all a while ago, but some of the lemmings remembered, and when the house of cards started shaking this time around, they decided that Adam Smith and his followers could take a little vacation for a few months, go and sit around the pool in some expensive resort, until the fire department finished its job.

But they will likely be back.


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Post Re: Prologue to Howard Bloom's "The Genius of the Beast"
Quote:
Yes, I guess you could say that. The cycle goes something like this: There is a pack of lemmings, milling about.


etudiant,

I have a way of working forums, developed for more than a decade of time and some effort, and that method is to simulate conversation by reading some of the text offered, responding as I read, instead of reading ahead, instead of reading the whole response first, before responding.

I read that far, above, and I smiled a broad smile (not LOL); this I think, is going to be an interesting simulated conversation, and it might have something to do with the book – an after thought (while I went to make some coffee).

Quote:
There is more milling about, and soon a lemming looks up, and sees a wonderful food source in the distance. They all start to move, and some start to run……………..


Nice work. You captured my attention in spades, well written, very good stuff in my view. I hope to read much more of the same stuff. I am inclined to interject a main point of what I see in the book, and this is a perspective that I share – intimately – with Howard Bloom.

Lemmings are very far from colonizing other planets as this planet moves closer to a condition where it can no longer support life, and perhaps we humans, I’m not willing to bet my life on it, perhaps human beings are closer in the run to get to greener pastures.

These thoughts are probably not lemming thoughts, lemmings probably don’t think very far into the future, not on a personal level, not an aware type level, not an individual ownership type self-aware level, but such is my condition. I think in terms of human time, our species is an experiment, and I wonder if the example can work, or if it will fail.

If the experiment can’t get off this planet: it will fail when the planet fails, or so goes my thinking on those types of thoughts.

Quote:
But they will likely be back.


I am keen on going down this path further, very much so, since your viewpoint appears to be very interesting and worthy of knowing, in my estimate so far. I may be wrong about that, as the meanings I read into the words you typed out may be misinterpreted by me.

I need to know more, to confirm or deny estimates I have concerning your viewpoint.

For example:

Quote:
Much of Europe was well on the road to recovery before the war.


I sent two links in the response I offered to your first post, previous to your second post – quoted above. Please note those links or let me know that you dismiss them entirely, dismiss them after a cursory look, or dismiss them after careful perusal.

My guess is that you understand the implications derived from the meaning of the data contained in those links. My guess is based upon that sentence where you communicate a historical fact, where “much of Europe was well on the road to recovery”.

I’m going to link one more link because this link addresses that road to recovery in a specific manner, a manner that has to do with some of the power that is necessary in economic production, this power is oil power, and this power, in this case, is synthetic oil power, power made from coal, the power that was used by the German war economy as it began recovering from the previous war economy. The subject here, and now, appears to be focusing on war economies. We, for example, happen to be involved in such an economy. The U.S. Federal economic power, one of the main sources of this power, isn’t synthetic oil, rather, the power feeding this current war economy is natural stuff.

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/sociopol_igfarben02.htm

I’m going to quote from that book, to offer some of my perspective on this thing we two are looking at, assuming that we are looking at the same thing, and by this method we may compare (in a competitive manner) our viewpoints for their validity, their utility, and even their relative economy.

Quote:
“The construction of I.G. Auschwitz has assured I.G. a unique place in business history. By adopting the theory and practice of Nazi morality, it was able to depart from the conventional economics of slavery in which slaves are traditionally treated as capital equipment to be maintained and serviced for optimum use and depreciated over a normal life span. Instead, I.G. reduced slave labor to a consumable raw material, a human ore from which the mineral of life was systematically extracted. When no usable energy remained, the living dross was shipped to the gassing chambers and cremation furnaces of the extermination center at Birkenau, where the S.S. recycled it into the German war economy – gold teeth for the Reichsbank, hair for mattresses, and fat for soap. Even the moans of the doomed became a work incentive, exhorting the remaining inmates to greater effort.”


Torture and mass murder were legal there, and it is legal here (U.S.A. inc.) now (defacto if not fully disclosed).

Here is an example, in my view, of the demarcation line between involuntary socialists and involuntary capitalists (i.e. criminals hidden behind nice sounding labels), to see which one wins the contest.

Quote:
“Conditions were such that sickness was a pervasive fact of life among the inhabitants of Monowitz. The hospital wards built by I.G. were so inadequate that even the S.S. suggested additional wards be built. I.G. refused because of the cost.”


The government workers were kinder, gentler, wielders of the machine gun hand.

The book linked above, from which the quotes were found, exposes, in part, a deal made between Limited Liability Legal Fictions in New Jersey (Standard Oil) and in Germany (I.G. Farben) where synthetic oil production could legally be produced only in Germany.

Without that synthetic oil production: the tanks, bombers, and fighter planes would need the natural stuff. Germany had coal.

It may be a good time for some comic relief:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5267640865741878159#

The I.G. Farben link and quotes were meant to address this (for my own sense of conformity):

Quote:
Much of Europe was well on the road to recovery before the war.


As to the cause of the depression in the legal fiction known as U.S.A. Limited (a legal fiction) it may be a good idea to incorporate into the viewpoint a measure of the effects caused by the Federal Reserve Officers manipulation of the supply of legal purchasing power previous to the crash of 1929 and just before that event.

I can link sources on that path if requested.

I hope my effort hasn’t gone too far off the topic, and hasn’t gone beyond acceptable limits of common sense.



Sun Dec 27, 2009 11:00 am
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MurdockThe Glass Bead Game: A Novel by Hermann HesseA Devil's Chaplain by Richard DawkinsThe Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Moral Landscape by Sam HarrisThe Decameron by Giovanni BoccaccioThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Grand Design by Stephen HawkingThe Evolution of God by Robert WrightThe Tin Drum by Gunter GrassGood Omens by Neil GaimanPredictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki MurakamiALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean by Richard Logan & Tere Duperrault FassbenderDon Quixote by Miguel De CervantesMusicophilia by Oliver SacksDiary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai GogolThe Passion of the Western Mind by Richard TarnasThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Genius of the Beast by Howard BloomAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Empire of Illusion by Chris HedgesThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner The Extended Phenotype by Richard DawkinsSmoke and Mirrors by Neil GaimanThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsWhen Good Thinking Goes Bad by Todd C. RinioloHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiAmerican Gods: A Novel by Neil GaimanPrimates and Philosophers by Frans de WaalThe Enormous Room by E.E. CummingsThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher HitchensThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama Paradise Lost by John Milton Bad Money by Kevin PhillipsThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettGodless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan BarkerThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Limits of Power by Andrew BacevichLolita by Vladimir NabokovOrlando by Virginia Woolf On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton50 reasons people give for believing in a god by Guy P. HarrisonWalden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David ThoreauExile and the Kingdom by Albert CamusOur Inner Ape by Frans de WaalYour Inner Fish by Neil ShubinNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthyThe Age of American Unreason by Susan JacobyTen Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson & David HabermanHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradThe Stuff of Thought by Stephen PinkerA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniThe Lucifer Effect by Philip ZimbardoResponsibility and Judgment by Hannah ArendtInterventions by Noam ChomskyGodless in America by George A. RickerReligious Expression and the American Constitution by Franklyn S. HaimanDeep Economy by Phil McKibbenThe God Delusion by Richard DawkinsThe Third Chimpanzee by Jared DiamondThe Woman in the Dunes by Abe KoboEvolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie C. ScottThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanI, Claudius by Robert GravesBreaking The Spell by Daniel C. DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

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