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Shaping agent behaviors

Jordan Petersen, a Canadian professor and practicing clinical psychologist who has developed a reputation as one of our leading intellectuals. He grew up in the isolated, frigid wastelands of Northern Alberta. That experience gave him the motivation and confidence to become an adventurer, having flown a hammer-head roll in a carbon-fiber stunt-plane and explored an Arizona meteorite crater with astronauts.

Petersen is also steeped in culture, having constructed a Kwagu'l ceremonial house on the upper floor of his home, which is also decorated with artwork depicting the tragedy of totalitarian societies which have adopted communism. Not exactly what one might expect from a person that spends their lives helping people sort out their lives.

As an educator, he's received the top student rating at both Harvard and the University of Toronto, where he currently teaches. He's also spent twenty years helping clients manage depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia, and has published over a hundred scientific papers, focusing around the modern understanding of personality, and 

Petersen has been attracting increasing attention as an intellectual who is trying to reconcile the multiple viewpoints and interests of people, groups, and societies over time. In 2017, he launched a YouTube channel the Old Testament, hardly the topic that typically would attract millions of views from millennials. The explosion in his popularity seemed to follow immediately from a tv interview which he conducted on controversial issues as diverse as equal pay for equal work, gender pronouns and postmodernism.

This book, Twelve Rules for Life, is the result of his effort to condense his 20 years of teaching, clinical practice, and research into nothing less than a framework for living in modern society. He speaks carefully, argues rationally, and weaves together examples as diverse as lobster dominance theory, the fallibility of human thought processes, and the complexity of social interactions in the modern world.

Like the classical Bible stories to which he so often returns, this book doesn't simply list these rules, as lawyers, legislators or administrators might. Instead, it animates and illustrates them through narratives that explain why we need such a framework, and which demonstrate why the best rules don't restrict freedom, but instead facilitate achieving collective goals for better lives for all, both now and in the future.

We need more people to think the way Dr. Petersen does, and this book explains how to get started in that process.


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