Review: Eat People, or Get Rid of People To Increase Productivity

Eat People

The title had me. When the email came through asking me if I was interested in this book, I did a double-take. A book on cannibalism?

No. It turns out to be a book on entrepreneurs, and as the email explained, how productivity makes entrepreneurship possible.

So I started to read this oddly-titled book. It has twelve rules, laid forth in an orderly fashion, each one with a catchy phrase:

  • If it doesn’t scale, it will get stale. Talking about how if prices comes down, new applications will pop up.
  • Waste what’s abundant to make up for what’s scarce. I’m still grasping the theory on this one, and it keeps unfolding on me.
  • When in doubt, get horizontal. Go for horizontal applications rather than vertical.
  • Intelligence moves out to the edge of the network. Information is where the power is, and the fastest access to that information wins.
  • Wealth comes from productivity; everything else is gravy. The more productive you are, the more you can do. And wealth will follow.
  • Adapt to humans; don’t make them adapt to you. This is not about machines – but figuring out what the people using your product want next. Before they do.
  • Be soylent — eat people. Get rid of people and replace them with machines.
  • Markets make better decisions than managers. A long chapter to say what was already apparent to me after the advent and popularity of pet rocks.
  • Embrace exceptionalism. These are the few who are “making” versus “taking” and paving the way to the future.
  • By a market entrepreneur and attack political entrepreneurs. Political entrepreneur is someone who leverages political power to tax us for using their item. Market entrepreneurs go for the market.
  • Use zero marginal cost to create a flood (or someone else will). Cheapest gets bought. Make sure you’re the cheapest.
  • Create your own scarcity with a virtual pipe. Example: Apple and iTunes.

Summary of book

I would like to say that I enjoyed this book. But I was put off within the first 20 pages, and it took me multiple tries to get through it. It wasn’t the content. Some of his ideas were great. It was the way it was presented.

Mr. Kessler wrote an op/ed piece for the Wall Street Journal that appeared last week. I went out and read it, and at the time had generated 200+ comments. (See the article at the Wall Street Journal) I wasn’t surprised it had generated so many comments. He basically labeled pretty much everyone in the country who works with some unflattering title. Like “slimer” or “sponges” or “sloppers”.


See, the thing is, I believe that we don’t need to add any more anger and venom to our world. It takes more skill to say something nicely; it doesn’t take talent to call people names. And honestly, those who do call people names end up looking like the children I see at my daughter’s playground.

In the introduction, there are five pages concerning Mr. Kessler’s reaction to a conversation he eavesdropped on while watching a basketball game. A conversation which nettled him so much he called a friend on the other side of the country (who was sleeping) to be calmed down.

He could have just minded his own business and saved him and us the aggravation.

Why do I bring this up? Because this type of chiding name-calling was peppered throughout the book, and it colored my ability to hear what he was saying.

In other words, his words were eclipsed by his taunts.

Oh, and just for the record, not everyone likes Tim Ferris.

OK, on to actually critiquing the content.

Replace people with machines? Hmm. Not everyone is made to be an entrepreneur. We are varied people with varied talents. If we are to do away with the service industry jobs and replace them with machines, well, what happens to all the people out there who are struggling to feed their families? Sure, we could teach them to assemble computers. But that doesn’t mean they’d be any good at it or be happy doing it.

For the most part, with the exception of the second rule (which I still cannot grasp, despite two readings; all I retain is he got someone drunk), these things are not earth-shattering or new. And they probably are the key to wealth. But what about the humanity? What about happiness? What about satisfaction?

Life isn’t about making wealth. Perhaps it is to some people, but not to me. And trampling over people and calling them names isn’t likely to make me subscribe to the idea.

Book Information

Book: Eat People: And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs
Author: Andy Kessler
Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin
ISBN-13: 978-1-59184-377-1


Portfolio/Penguin, the publisher of this book, provided me with a free copy of the book enable me to write this review.


  1. says

    I applaud the book for having a very intriguing title and subtopics. However I do share the same sentiment with you LJ regarding your disagreement with getting rid of people and replacing them with machines. Although the advent of technology nowadays has made it almost possible for machines to handle everything, but then what will happen to our own creativity as humans if we would let all these technology take over? Maybe, it would be wiser to balance the two – people and technology. We can always opt to increase our productivity without relying to machines. All we need to do is manage our time well, or if we find ourselves having insufficient time to handle everything, we could always ask the help of someone to assist us.

    • LJ Earnest says

      I think you have hit on a great point – balance is necessary. And while some things may be able to be replaced by machines, many experiences are made richer by interacting with people. I *like* being able to get recommendations from local sales clerks, and a machine couldn’t do that!

  2. says

    I’ve read the book. And you’re correct about the book’s presentation. Nonetheless, I finished the book.

    The book is not for everybody. And that is obvious from the title. It is address to Entrepreneurs and Startups.

    The basis of the authors argument is this: “Productivity creates wealth”. For the business, that means profit. For the rest of us, that means better life. That’s what Apple did.

    On the rule “Be soylent – eat people”, he didn’t outrightly say “let’s replace people with machines”. I think that is the wrong way of reading the text. What he meant by “eat people” is “eliminate unproductive job”. And he’s just describing facts. The society has been “eliminating unproductive jobs”. He laid out all this in the book.

    Give the book the benefit of the doubt. Read the book in entrepreneurship context. If you would just set aside your personal lenses and use the author’s, then you’ll understand the book. When you do that, I know you’ll enjoy the book as much as I have.

  3. LJ Earnest says

    I appreciate the viewpoint. I have no problem with most of the author’s content; except that applied in a broad sense it would never work in a society as ours. Applying it to entrepreneurs, yes, that would work.

    I *still* don’t understand the second rule. Since you read the book and absorbed it, can you explain what it was about? While the book was a read that required thinking, most of the ideas were laid out in an orderly fashion.

    My main problem with his delivery is his name-calling and belittling attitude. I don’t know that I can get past that to a state of enjoyment. It doesn’t take a clever person to taunt another, and I do think there is enough unkindness in the world without adding to it.

    The book seems to be selling on its controversy, but I have to wonder if his ideas would be better received if presented in a kinder way? I suspect it would be.