This week’s reading list includes a murder mystery set in a South Bombay building complex, a history and analysis of social research in India, and a book on how the human ability to frame issues will allow us to have the upper hand in an age of artificial intelligence and big data. (HT Team)
This week’s reading list includes a murder mystery set in a South Bombay building complex, a history and analysis of social research in India, and a book on how the human ability to frame issues will allow us to have the upper hand in an age of artificial intelligence and big data. (HT Team)

HT Picks; New Reads

A closed door murder mystery in South Bombay, a history and analysis of social research in India from independence to the present, and a book that looks at the importance of framing issues in the age of machine learning and big data -- all that on this week’s list of interesting reads
By HT Team
PUBLISHED ON MAY 28, 2021 08:48 PM IST

A whodunit set in Colaba

264pp, ₹399; Speaking Tiger
264pp, ₹399; Speaking Tiger

Colaba, May 2020; Lockdown, Day 46: Baman Marker, the Chairperson of Daisy and Lily Apartments, is found poisoned in his home. He dies soon after. The twin apartments are sealed, so the murderer could have only been one of the residents. The news shakes fifteen-year-old Nandini Venkat, a devourer of murder mysteries, out of her stupor. After all, didn’t she spot a pair of legs climbing up and down the stairs that deadly night…With her not-so-alert twin,Ved, and BFF Shanaya, she begins an investigation. But the Chairperson knew every little dirty detail about every single resident, so the list of suspects is long. Was it Mr Carvalho — Nandini’s crush Daniel’s father — with his shady past? Or Shanaya’s mother, Amrita Aunty, who had a running feud with Baman? Or mean old retired principal Lina Almeida who now makes lethal detox smoothies? Or the old and immobile Mr Alimchandani with a long-buried secret? The seemingly listless days of the lockdown, when secrets and tensions bubbled below the surface, come back to life in this gripping and entertaining whodunit. With Murder at Daisy Apartments, author Shabnam Minwalla brings her gift for dramatic storytelling to a new genre.*

Rise of Populism, Decline in Social Research

304pp, ₹599; Speaking Tiger
304pp, ₹599; Speaking Tiger

A first-of-its-kind history and analysis of social research in India from Independence to the present day, this book discusses many of India’s most important research projects and the programmes and policies based on them. This includes the family planning programme, the five-year plans and the decennial census. The book is also very forthright. “With political parties dominating policies, there has been a greater emphasis on winning elections. This concern has become the priority for research,” writes Rao. “This obviously meant conducting studies that cater to the populist appeal which included election studies and pool surveys meant to influence voters while change measurement and long term implications became secondary,” he adds. The Third Eye of Governance is a valuable investigation of public policy successes and failures of governments led by different prime ministers, from Nehru and Indira Gandhi to Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi.*

Human advantage in an age of technology

272pp, ₹799; Penguin
272pp, ₹799; Penguin

As humans we are at our best – our most creative and effective – when we choose the constraints through which we approach problems. We come up with different ‘frames’ through which to look at issues and give us new ways to thinking about solving them. As Daniel Kahneman has written, this ability to ‘frame’ issues is a uniquely human skill – it may be a crucial skill that has made humans so successful as a species -- and one that we do instinctively. But we can learn to do it better. Focusing on and improving our ability to frame is all the more critical in an age of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data. When we overvalue the role of machine intelligence, we are at risk of forfeiting the essential elements of human progress. Causality, counterfactuals and constraints are the basis of framing. Framers start with causality, making mental models of cause and effect, and then apply counterfactual ‘what if’s of problem solving. Counterfactuals allow for imagination, but only within limits – constraints – based on how the world really works. From Copernicus to the Wright Brothers to the discovery of biomarkers for PTSD, Framers builds upon surprising and insightful examples of these three factors at work. It goes on to show how we can choose the best frames and can switch between them or improve upon them as the situation demands. The better we are at doing so, the more certain we can be that control over the most important decisions will remain in the hands of people rather than machines.*

*All copy from book flap.

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