Summary of The Deals That Made the World

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8 Overall

8 Importance

9 Innovation

8 Style


Jacques Peretti – a United Kingdom-based investigative reporter – spent years talking to people with firsthand knowledge of backroom negotiations and secret or overlooked deals that had tremendous consequences in various spheres. Peretti’s stories are fascinating. He fleshes out individual actors, provides vivid details of specific meetings and explains their repercussions. Despite his appealing narrative, some readers may question whether the world would in fact be so dramatically different if not for the deals or individual contributions Peretti highlights. Maybe the time was merely ripe for such developments, which, in reality, seldom stem from a single cause. Yes, PayPal was significant when online shopping began, but it seems likely that some such development would have happened anyway. However, that realization doesn’t damage Peretti’s crucial take-away: the idea that an insightful individual’s decision, an arrangement among a few influential people or a less-observed negotiated deal can have drastic, far-reaching consequences. Peretti’s insights, research, narrative skill, reportorial talent and background knowledge make this a rewarding read that is equally entertaining and eye-opening. 

In this summary, you will learn

  • How private negotiations and secret deals affect how people buy, work, pay and eat;
  • How one insurance statistician launched the diet industry; and
  • How AI made workers redundant at Tokyo’s Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Company.

About the Author

Jacques Peretti is an award-winning investigative reporter for the BBC and a journalist for The Guardian



“Engineering Dissatisfaction” 

When Apple comes out with a new iPhone, the newness alone makes the model so attractive that consumers barely care that its improvements and updates are incremental. The modern commercial history of people’s desire to replace and upgrade may have begun with a clandestine meeting in 1932 of five major light bulb manufacturers. To guarantee their continued business, the companies agreed to limit the life span of a light bulb to six months – and to collaborate to quash any competitor that extended a bulb’s scheduled expiration date.

From then on, manufacturers built “obsolescence” into their products. The light bulb cartel Phoebus agreed how long an object should last and designed it accordingly. Their ploy made people buy more, which was pivotal in bolstering the ailing global economy. By the 1950s, planned obsolescence itself was in jeopardy: Manufacturers knew consumers would realize that certain goods kept breaking – and stop buying. Around that time, GM’s CEO Alfred P. Sloan Jr. thought of a way to manipulate consumers into replacing...

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