The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

  • Interesting summer reading: The Power of Habit.

    Caught my eyes the story in the prologue: The author is in Iraq and get the word that a US army major is trying a habit modification program in Kufa.


    He was an army field major who has analyzed videotapes of recent riots and had identified a pattern: violence was usually proceeded by a crowd of Iraqis gathering in a plaza or other open and space and, over the course of several hours, growing in size. Food vendors would show up, as well as spectators. Then, somehow threw a rock or bottle and all hell broke loose.

    When the major met Kufa's mayor, he made an odd request: could they keep food vendors out of the plaza? Sure, the mayor said. A few weeks later, a small crowd gathered [...] it grew in size [...] Some people started chanting angry slogans. [...] At dusk, the crowd started getting restless and hungry. People started looking for the kebab sellers normally filling the plaza, but there were none to be found. The spectators left. The chanters became dispirited. By 8 PM everyone was gone.

    The Ks do not strike me as book readers or great planners, but they surely knew their stuff. Replace kebab with chori... and make them free, with transport included. Sounds like a deal to me!