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This is a good book. I would have given it a better rating if much in the book had not already been documented by other authors. It covers the topic of critical thinking from the perspective of what we don’t know. Of course we can’t know what we don’t know, but I believe the author is suggesting we need to be aware of that which we don’t know. Inevitably you will come to the same critical thinking awareness that other authors have already arrived at.
There are some graphs that I found overly simplistic and a little contrived - but overall helpful.
On page 75 (hardcover edition) the author quotes excerpts of Ted Kaczynski’s (the Unabomber) manifesto. The author points out that you may not be “unsettled” if you read the entire document, then adds, “What’s disturbing is the level of conviction”. The author goes on to say, “If he had developed the capacity to discover that he was wrong, would he still have ended up doing something so wrong?”. But was Kaczynski wrong? Not entirely if you remove the level of conviction. There has been consequences from The Industrial Revolution; to some extent it has destabilized society; and it has inflicted greater damage on the natural world. If the author is attempting to arrive at a better truth by questioning what we know we know, then we need to be critical of the use of example so we don’t cherry pick ideas out of context. There is no doubt that Kaczynski was wrong to do what he did, but what he knew was not entirely wrong.
Other books I have read on this topic in order of copyright date:
On Being Certain, 2008, Robert A. Burton M.D. Being Wrong, 2010, Kathryn Schulz Willful Blindness, 2011, Margaret Heffernan Thinking, Fast and Slow, 2011, Daniel Kahneman Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), 2015, Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson The Memory Illusion, 2017, Dr. Julia Shaw
As an aside:
Quiet (The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking), 2012, Susan Cain
He rarely works or interacts with other men, or at least it seems that way.
The book is an interesting read with some useful information. But he doesn't seem to have male friends or coworkers or colleagues or scientists or professors and so on. I get why he chose Ellen from NASA, an all-around brilliant person whose changes could effectively save lives. But with almost every single reference or quote being from a woman it is like he is trying to make a point. I've seen this before and it ends up being a distraction.
Adam may want to dig a little deeper into the vaccine issues instead of taking Bill Gates’ word for it. Try “Miller's Review of Critical Vaccine Studies: 400 Important Scientific Papers Summarized for Parents and Researchers
I was interested in exploring the book's premise, 'the power of knowing what you don't know', and practical suggestions on how to put it to good use. However that's not what this book is about, so I was disappointed. Grant mostly talks about the power of being humble in a roundabout way, meandering from subject to subject, relying quite a bit on well known works of third parties, much like a live blog googling stuff as they go along. Just flying from flower to flower without ever engaging with the subject in depth.
In the end I feel that I have not really learned anything new.
This has really great advice and I enjoyed the book until I started picking up little messages that I felt we’re trying to sway me to believe a certain way. Some ideals he mentions I do agree with, but it felt like a sneaky way of swaying those who may think otherwise. Specifically on vaccines, abortion, climate change to name a few. You could say, he’s only presenting arguments and showing you how to debate them but something just didn’t feel right about the commentary around these sensitive topics. Therefore, I have to give this book 3 stars.
Very entertaining and thought provoking book. Dr. Grant does a great job playing with ideas that are culturally and politically relevant. It gave me pause to hear some errors in how he's sort of glossing over to the point of misinterpreting some psychological research, as well as his outdated reference to the "lizard brain" (McLean's triune brain theory is WAY out of date) made me wonder about all the rest of the content. He also seems eager to pick sides in interpreting research, like assigning value to one particular outcome/type of behavior in a research subject vs another. I'm also hearing him discuss studies, particularly social science research, more like "just so" stories. I'll admit, that really bugs me, even in a book for a popular audience. Its not that I don't agree with his points about thinking, I came to the content already agreeing with most of his points, and he makes excellent ones about questioning our own beliefs and being open to re-assessing your priors, but "Brown M&Ms" ya' know?
A better title, if it wasn’t already taken, would be How to Make Friends and Influence People. The prologue presents an interesting anecdote of someone thinking outside the box and saving his life. That grabbed me and along with the title made me think the book would present other examples of unconventional thinking or use of information. Alas, that vignette is the last we hear of quick, unusual or outside the box thinking.
The remainder of the book is uninspired organizational psychology teaching that you are more likely to change someone’s mind if you sit and respectfully talk with them than it you actively try to convince them that they are wrong. Unfortunately, even in that effort, Dr Grant struggles. For example, he suggests that Al Gore should not have painted the issue of climate change as black and white because there are many shades of opinion held by the public. But his references show that approximately 98 percent of scientists believe in man made climate change. Similarly he references a very long paper to support his argument that when news articles include caveats, readers are more receptive. That misrepresents the conclusions of the study authors who state that caveats can decrease confidence in the findings although they are still engaged.
Dr Grant attempts to portray his recommended open-minded approach as that of a scientist. As a former researcher with dozens of peer reviewed publications, I would categorize his approach as more that of a therapist or pastor than a scientist. A scientist is always willing to look at new evidence that is obtained with appropriate rigor. Dr Grant preaches what is essentially unconditional positive regard. It is a helpful approach for those trying to gently change beliefs that hinder a person. But it is ludicrous to suggest that a scientist must stop and rethink his beliefs every time someone who has not actually looked at evidence disagrees or claims to be confused because they read a post from a troll on Facebook.
The way references are shown in the Kindle edition is unhelpful. There are no indications in the text that a reference or annotation exists. Instead, there are references at the end, some of which hyperlink back to the text. That might be helpful if your reading style is to read the references and when you find a reference that is really interesting, you read the portion of the book to which it applies.
The concern with how people change their minds and adopt new thoughts is an important area of knowledge and Dr Grant might have succeeded in obtaining my approval if he had engaged me with a title that was more appropriate for his topic and if he followed his own advice and took a more nuanced approach