Steven Johnson remains one of my favorite nonfiction writers and his new book is a perfect example of why: he asks smart questions in ways somehow different and then searches for answers through wide-ranging disciplines. Here, he explores the big long-lasting decisions we make, those that change whole lives and histories, but it is his curiosity and narrative ease that makes reading it an easy choice for me.
The hardest choices are also the most consequential. So why do we know so little about how to get them right?
Big, life-altering decisions matter so much more than the decisions we make every day, and they're also the most difficult: where to live, whom to marry, what to believe, whether to start a company, how to end a war. There's no one-size-fits-all approach for addressing these kinds of conundrums.
Steven Johnson's classic Where Good Ideas Come From inspired creative people all over the world with new ways of thinking about innovation. In Farsighted, he uncovers powerful tools for honing the important skill of complex decision-making. While you can't model a once-in-a-lifetime choice, you can model the deliberative tactics of expert decision-makers. These experts aren't just the master strategists running major companies or negotiating high-level diplomacy. They're the novelists who draw out the complexity of their characters' inner lives, the city officials who secure long-term water supplies, and the scientists who reckon with future challenges most of us haven't even imagined. The smartest decision-makers don't go with their guts. Their success relies on having a future-oriented approach and the ability to consider all their options in a creative, productive way.
Through compelling stories that reveal surprising insights, Johnson explains how we can most effectively approach the choices that can chart the course of a life, an organization, or a civilization. Farsighted will help you imagine your possible futures and appreciate the subtle intelligence of the choices that shaped our broader social history.
About the Author
Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of eleven books, including Where Good Ideas Come From, Wonderland, and The Ghost Map. He's the host and co-creator of the Emmy-winning PBS/BBC series How We Got To Now, and the host of the podcast American Innovations. He lives in Brooklyn and Marin County, California with his wife and three sons.
Praise for Farsighted:
“Riveting... As a deep thinker and gifted storyteller, Johnson is the right author to tackle the topic. He’s at his best when analyzing impossibly complex decisions... One of Johnson’s thought-provoking points is that [people who excel at long-term thinking] read novels, which are ideal exercises in mental time travel and empathy. I think he’s right.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Johnson is explicitly focused on real-life decisions that (ideally) involve serious deliberation... [He]reminds us that, fundamentally, choices concern competing narratives, and we’re likely to make better choices if we have richer stories, with more fleshed-out characters, a more nuanced understanding of motives, and a deeper appreciation of how decisions are likely to reverberate and resound.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Johnson is well-placed to dig into these dilemmas of decision-making, as he gracefully serves up examples ranging from 17th-century urban planning to contemporary artificial intelligence.” —Financial Times
“Johnson is a succinct, colorful, and skillful writer, and this book is one of those rare works that is highly relevant to the daily functioning of just about everybody.” —Publishers Weekly Praise for Steven Johnson:
“Mr. Johnson’s erudition can be quite gobsmacking.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A great science writer.” —Bill Clinton, speaking at the 2013 Clinton Foundation Health Matters conference
“A first-rate storyteller.” —The New York Times
“A maven of the history of ideas.” —The Guardian
“Steven Johnson’s mind works in wondrous ways.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer