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Sex, Science and Profits: How people evolved to make money [Hardcover]

Terence Kealey


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Book Description

July 25 2006
A clever, thought-provoking look at the biological roots of economics -- Kealey’s insightful work illuminates in the tradition of Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and Jared Diamond.

In this highly original work, the author makes a groundbreaking and exciting connection between the
evolutionary and economic history of humanity. He explains how the roots of barter, trade and the contract are embedded in human nature, and how markets work on the evolutionary patterns of natural selection.

Splendidly multi-faceted, the book travels across human history from Neolithic times, through Ancient Egypt and the Renaissance European explorers, to the failure of the Soviet economy in recent years. Through this journey Kealey skillfully demonstrates how an understanding of biology and natural selection radically transforms our view of economics, business, technology and the economic history of the human species. This exceptional study will appeal to anyone who enjoys popular science, history or serious business books. Sex, Science and Profits is witty, magnificent, thought- provoking and provocative. It promises to be an important and highly controversial book.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann (July 25 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434008249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434008247
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 4.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 721 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,774,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for Kealey’s The Economic Laws of Scientific Research:
“A brilliant book. One of the most appetizing and sustained polemics ever concocted on a serious
topic” -- Economist

“One of the most intelligent, trend-changing and courageous books I have ever read” -- Matt Ridley, Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Terence Kealey is a clinical biochemist at the University of Cambridge and at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, specializing in the biochemistry of hair. He writes regularly for the Spectator and the New Scientist.

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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for scientists who want to think about what drives science Dec 27 2012
By Daniel Lemire - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The author asks what is science, but he never actually comes up with a definition, except maybe to tell us that there is no difference between pure science and applied science. Nevertheless, he ends up equating science with whatever companies do as part of their R&D. And there lies his thesis: there is no need for public science funding because individuals and companies will do R&D just to "stay in business". He points to some evidence, such as the fact that richer countries spend more, proportionally, on R&D, irrespective of government funding. Thus, Kealey's thesis is simple and it seems to fit the facts. At the end of the book, the author had me convinced.

It is not entirely clear, however, why government funding for science would be a bad thing in this context. Kealey points to some government waste (e.g., the famous Japanese AI research project), and he could have collected more examples, but the reader is hardly shocked to learn that governments can be inefficient. Would Kealey also acknowledge that large corporations can be equally wasteful at times?

As another quasi-definition, he equates science with the "invisible college". He is trying to convey the idea that science is like a private club... and hence science is more of a private good that a public good. The key argument supporting this thesis is that research papers are unusable without the tacit knowledge that researchers unavoidably fail to include. This is certainly true broadly speaking. However, he fails to acknowledge that there are countless examples of breakthroughs coming from "outsiders" (people who would not belong any "invisible college"). In any case, I found this general line of discussion rather pointless... as the distinction between private and public good is a coarse abstraction. It is simply not useful to apply this language to science. It seems to me that it suffices to point out that science gets funded even when government withdraw funding. There is no need of this extra theory.

The book is filled with interesting facts and references. However, I am quite certain to have read the same argument 3 times, a few pages apart. Thus, the book could have used better editing.

I can't help but to compare this book with Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (which appeared roughly a year later). I think that Ridley's book and thesis is stronger. He makes roughly the same point, but he goes further, explaining why leaving out science to governments can be dangerous.

Still, I give this book, the highest possible rating because I think that anyone interested in science should read it.

Note: the title and cover were badly chosen. This book deserved better.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bacon was wrong! Feb. 12 2010
By J - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you ever had anything to do with innovation, you would now that Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626) laid the philosophical foundations that to this day define our thinking on how innovation should be driven and funded. Kealey, Vice-Chancellor at Buckingham University in the UK convincingly demonstrates that Bacon was wrong and how we will get countries to become more innovative. The sex in the title refers to the one main stream of Darwinian theory, sexual selection, and the profit, to the other Darwinian force, natural selection. According to Kealey government and academic programs are driven by sexual selection, more show off than real results. The private sector on the other hand, grapple with real problems to be solved, are seeking competitiveness (natural selection!) and clear the way for science eventually to catch up. In the Baconian view science, state funded came first and is subsequently applied to technological issues. You should read the book only if it is for the way in which Kealey shows Bacon's interpretation of Prince Henry, The Navigator be wrong. This is a book that should be required reading for government officials that attempt to manage innovation and also by academics. I have used this book to great effect in consultation with a client in the process of establishing a centre for excellence.
5.0 out of 5 stars Demolishes the Myth that Government Funding of Science Can Be Productive... Aug. 19 2014
By Il Padrone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
You want a 'deep book'? This is deep; it a) analyzes precisely why the funding of science is done more efficiently from private funding and by private institutions, b) describes in detail the de facto development of a 'knowledge marketplace' that only knowledgeable researchers can utilize, c) gives many concrete examples which illustrate how private individuals and institutions got better scientific or technological results for a fraction of the cost, and d) combs the literature for relevant academic results. All in all, one of the best books ever written on why a free society does science better than a coercive one.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not Convincing Oct. 11 2009
By Jiang Xueqin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The worst part about "Sex, Science & Profits" is its tabloid title because the content of the book is serious, intelligent, and focused. The book examines Francis Bacon's thesis that government-funded science leads to technology leads to wealth creation, and contrasts it with Adam Smith's explanation that markets and competition create technology which leads to both science and wealth creation. The book's author Terence Kealey overwhelmingly believes that Adam Smith is correct, and despairs at the fact that vested interests and general stupidity have made Francis Bacon's thesis the mainstream belief in the Western world today, limiting both the progress and advancement of science and technology.

The book is essentially a tirade written a scientist angry and annoyed at the status quo of too much government interference in science: parents, government-subsidized research, and government-funded science. Terence Kealey believes that markets evolve organically, and when they're permitted to evolve organically then technology will do so as well. Companies that do not invest in research and development will be out-innovated by companies that do, and every company - no matter how small - must invest in research and development in order to have scientists that can understand and communicate in an "invisible college" of scientists. That's why patents are self-defeating: science requires constant communication and co-operation, and if anyone tries to hoard information then that would have negative repercussions for the advancement of science as a whole as well as for that individual. Companies themselves can decide what the proper amount of funding for research is based on its needs, and government subsidies to encourage corporate research are either ineffective or counter-productive. Most pernicious of all is government-funded science which "crowds out" everything else: the best scientists working with the most resources but without proper motivation, incentives, and feedback loops to ensure that their research is efficient and purposeful.

I'm always suspicious of neat arguments, and Terence Kealey's arguments seemed too neat to be true. Nevertheless, he does raise interesting questions and concerns about science today.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only half of Adam Smith Dec 7 2010
By Dubiel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I made this book a gift to several of my friends, but only to those I was sure they wouldn't believe everything. There are some obvious cases as Kealey's treatment of Rhenanian capitalism against anglo-american turbo-capitalism or each case when Kealey speaks about Germany. But this is Brit folklore and unimportant.

More important is when the private sector and the state do the same and Kealey argues that schools financed privately were free" although the pupils had to pay when state financed schools, free for the pupils, were not free" in her sense.

The point is not who financed it but what has been done with the money, a point Kealey is blind on. Certainly in most cases the market knows better, but not in all cases as classical economists know.

Inevitably Kealey cited Adam Smith and inevitable she understands only half of his lectures. When Smith and classical economists denounce unproductive labour" they denounce not only most of the money spend by the state but also private money lost for economic growth because the products and services bought are no input into the next economic reproduction cycles. Kealey praises the us-American galleries privately financed. For Smith they have the same economic importance as useless Government spending in basic science. Typically, for modern economists unproductive labour" is an aberration.

A final point: Generous private donations proceed from wealth normally not earned on a very competitive market. They result very often from some kind of monopoly, unearned income for classical economists. So one might say they are robbed from the consumer and given back graciously. Did we have very competitive markets, Kealey's conviction that nearly everything could be funded privately might receive a blow. It's no surprise therefore, that Kealey ridicules "perfect markets" and favours oligopolies and monopolies in the last chapters. No doubt, this is the way to obtain donations for a government free society.

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