Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach



I was alerted to this book while reading an interview starring Alan Jacobs who has just published a new book, "How to Think", so I decided to borrow it from the library.

It does not disappoint.

I learnt about how we think we know more than we do. Try explaining how a zipper work in detail. Or a toilet. (The book actually explains to us how a toilet works and you'd be surprised how even people who seem very certain will miss out a detail or two - I did an experiment and asked a friend, so you're welcome).

The authors then explain why this is dangerous - we read stories of plane crashes and ships running ashore due to an over-familiarity coupled with a lack of understanding of the technology that powers these modern machines.

And when you find out that people who are against genetically modified food not only want those types of food to be labelled when surveyed, but also insisted on having food containing DNA to be labelled, you know that perhaps they don't know as much as they think.

Politics is also like that, and the authors suggested that instead of a pure democracy, where people might vote for things they do not have a complete understanding of, having a representative democracy where people choose those most well-informed to make decisions for them might be a better alternative.

Yet, we also find out how humans managed to progress because of the fact that they shared their knowledge.

Filled with witty remarks throughout, this makes for an entertaining read.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who'd like to find out what gaps in knowledge they might have and what they can do to remedy it.

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