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Blink, Take 2 172

Posted by timothy
from the lose dept.
A few weeks ago, reader James Mitchell reviewed Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Now book_reader (Gary Cornell) writes with a very different take on Blink. "When I finished this book I was impressed. Then I blinked -- and realized that I was taken in by its surface attractiveness. After the initial glamour wore off, I was left deeply unsatisfied. This book is over-hyped, and so underperforms. The point of this book can be summed up as: "Trust your intuitions. Well, not quite; trust them, if and only if they are good." Gladwell tells lots of anecdotes to indicate that sometimes less is more. But of course he also tells anecdotes that tell us sometimes less is less." Read on for the rest of Cornell's thoughts on the book.
Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
author Malcolm Gladwell
pages 288
publisher Little, Brown
rating 4
reviewer book_reader
ISBN 0316172324
summary Over-rated and over-hyped; lukewarm anecdotes but no real meat.

I wonder why is this book so popular. Any reasonably intelligent person, especially one with a penchant for Dilbert cartoons, already knows what the author is getting at. For example, the (fun) chapter on Warren Harding where Gladwell points out that this terrible president became president because he looked so presidential, is nothing more than the various Dilbert cartoons on "pointy haired boss" writ large. Scott Adams said it better in just a few panels: because we intuitively equate certain kinds of look and feel with positive qualities: tall people do better, beautiful people do better. Or, to put it another way: human beings tend to be shallow and stupid, and prone to letting their unconscious rule them at times when they shouldn't. Why? Because as he says: "our unconscious attitudes may be utterly incompatible with our stated values." (As he points out, the number of women in orchestras went up dramatically when blind auditions became commonplace.) So trusting our intuitions may lead to incorrect conclusion. Except when they don't.

Forget Dilbert cartoons for a second: all this book does is bring attention to a phenomena that should surprise no one, least of all someone who has had any contact with research scientists, research mathematicians or inventive computer scientists. It simply tells us that smart people can have really good intuitions about problems that emerge in a "blink." He then coins a word for this phenomenon: "thin slicing." Whoopee, a new word for an old phenomenon. When I was a research mathematician, we used to call it a "sense of smell." I like our term better, much more concrete.

I can't remember how many times I was sitting in front, or for that matter was myself in front, of a blackboard, writing something down, and overheard people saying "that doesn't smell right," or "that smells good." If it didn't smell right, we took another path to the proof, or made another conjecture. If it did "smell right," we tried to prove it or look it up. How developed your sense of smell made up a great difference in what you accomplished. Trouble is, at least in mathematics, the field I am most familiar with, nobody ever figured out how to develop a person's sense of smell: that's why so few people ever did much research beyond their Ph.D. And nothing in this book will help you do so. Or, take chess: anyone who has watched grandmasters play speed chess and looked at the amazing beauty of some of these games knows that quick pattern matching is one of the keys to their amazing talents. Car salesman who can read people do very well, etc. Intuition is a great thing -- if it is good intuition.

Anyway, I am of course pleased to have discovered that what I and every scientist/mathematician had been doing, probably since the days of Archimedes, is "thin slicing." I'm being a little harsh actually: I did find parts of this book worthwhile: the parts where he describes attempts to algorithmatize good intuition (such as the amazing work by Paul Ekman on teaching the understanding of facial expressions so as to help us see what's really going on "in there"). Of course, this isn't new either: the expert-systems approach to artificial intelligence has tried to do this with varying amounts of success. He highlights what is actually one successful example of this approach in the book without pointing out that this is actually old hat: heart attack detection from the constellation of symptoms that will present themselves in an emergency room. What he doesn't say is that there have been many other interesting approaches for automating the intuitions great clinicians have about medical diagnostics that go back at least thirty years.

So there is some good to this book. We should try not to use the intuitions of the many, but rather understand, learn and ideally, algorithmitize the intuitions of the few. The only trouble is the importance of this was described far more beautifully 90 or so years ago by the great philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead in one simple paragraph from his great book "An Introduction to Mathematics:
"It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle--they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments."

In sum, this is not so much a bad book as one that is much ado about nothing. "Know that your intuitions can be useful, but take your intuitions with a grain of salt" doesn't seem all that insightful to me. Come to think of it, I think my mother told me this.

I'd go further, actually: calling this is a book is simply to acknowledge its appearance between a single cover: it's essentially a collection of New Yorker articles with all the virtues and vices that that magazine is known for. All the sins of Gladwell's previous best seller The Tipping Point are written larger and are more obvious here. He describes, but gives little insight into the phenomena of intuition. Likewise, he rarely tells you how to take advantage of intuition when it arrives (the fatal flaw of the Tipping Point). Personally I suggest that we try harder to algorithmatize intuitive genius, by those rare individuals who have it, and thus follow Whitehead's intuition on how to make civilization progress.


You can purchase Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Blink, Take 2

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  • by Nine Tenths of The W (829559) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:12PM (#11748898)
    Why do people always expect self help books to be useful? Doesn't that defeat the whole point?
    • The BEST self help book goes to: Depression for Dummies [dummies.com]

      The title is comedy gold
    • by millennial (830897) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:17PM (#11748962) Journal
      "I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose."

      -- George Carlin
      • Re:Sounds familiar. (Score:2, Informative)

        by mjm1231 (751545)
        That's the Ziggy cartoon version. What Carlin said was, "If you're looking for self-help, why would you read a book written by somebody else? That's not self-help, that's help! There's no such thing as self-help."
    • I couldnt even find the self-help section at my local bookstore, though I did see a sign telling me not to help myself to their merchandise.

      It left me thoroughly confused. Can you recommend a book to me that will help me help myself?

      And technically, isn't every section of Amazon.com self-help?
    • Would you really consider this a self help book?
    • Shhh! If people who buy self help books actually went out and helped themselves, then this market would disapper!
    • Re:Self help books (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bersl2 (689221)
      Self-help books are for people who have absolutely no idea what they are doing. A good self-help book will at least tell you how to do something pragmatically and where to look for a more detailed take on the subject. If those two things do not appear in a self-help book, then it probably shouldn't be called a self-help book.
    • Blink! isn't a self-help book. It falls into the category of "popular science."
      • Nope, it's "popular pseudoscience".

        It uses facts that are carefully hand-picked to support the theory, and ignores the equally large body of facts which disprove the theory. So "pseudoscience".

        Unfortunately Borders haven't got a "pseudoscience" section for homeopathy, crystal healing and "Blink!" so it'll probably end up in the "popular science" section - thereby pissing off those of us who believe that books about science should bear some resemblance to the real world and use reasonably scientific method
        • Unfortunately Borders haven't got a "pseudoscience" section for homeopathy, crystal healing and "Blink!" so it'll probably end up in the "popular science" section - thereby pissing off those of us who believe that books about science should bear some resemblance to the real world and use reasonably scientific methods.

          Borders do - it's called the New Age section.

          And Blink does indeed contain a lot of science - the FACS encoding system, for example, is well known and used around the world by (amongst other
    • Self help books only work if you read them yourself.
  • In other words... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by millennial (830897) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:14PM (#11748919) Journal
    The book is extremely ambiguous, not very helpful, and basically words things most people already know in ways that make it seem like it's new and insightful. That's pretty sad. I'm sure there will be a bunch of people who are completely absorbed by this and will say that it "changed their life", or some such rubbish.
    • by Tha_Big_Guy23 (603419) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:27PM (#11749071)
      The book is extremely ambiguous, not very helpful, and basically words things most people already know in ways that make it seem like it's new and insightful.

      Strange... sounds alot like /. to me, yet we're all still here...hmmm must be something to it.
    • Sounds like how I made it through college with all my papers. Sound and act smart and intelectual and people will trip over themselves to drink from your fountain of wisdom.
    • I've been watching closely the trend between supposedly "self-help" book. Many end up taking you to the new age and esoteric alley - so that you can get in touch with your inner self and awake the cosmic karma hidden thru the eons - WTF?

      If you remember the previous discussion on the self-help market [slashdot.org], you'll realize most self-help books are just means to gain more money at the expenses of others' suffering. I made a joke about it [slashdot.org], but in the end, it's more or less the same:

      "trust your self. Take away the n
    • by micromoog (206608)
      I'm sure there will be a bunch of people who are completely absorbed by this and will say that it "changed their life", or some such rubbish.

      If they believe it changed their lives, then it was effective as a self-help book, yes? The whole field is subjective.

      • by millennial (830897)
        The point of self-help books is actual objective improvement, not believed subjective improvement. At least, it should be...
        • It's arguable that they're the same thing.
    • The book is extremely ambiguous, not very helpful, and basically words things most people already know in ways that make it seem like it's new and insightful.

      So you've taken a criticism of that book that we've all heard before, reworded it, and gotten modded +5 insightful. Oh, how the irony gods smile on you.

      On a more serious note, sometimes being insightful is just that: rewording a common conception into a clearer form. In another sense, insight might be said to be the taking of an idea that we all kn

      • On a more serious note, sometimes being insightful is just that: rewording a common conception into a clearer form. In another sense, insight might be said to be the taking of an idea that we all know and take for granted, an idea that's grown stale from being said too many times in tired colloquialisms, and making it fresh again.
        I often wind up doing this kind of translation for fellow employees and friends. What's baffling to me is that often what they say and what I say seem almost entirely identical.
        • I know what you mean. On the other hand, when you said, "what they say and what I say seem almost entirely identical," it occurs to me that it might be those slight changes that make your statements more clear. Sometimes the difference between clear and obscure is very fine.
    • The book is extremely ambiguous, not very helpful, and basically words things most people already know in ways that make it seem like it's new and insightful.

      So basically, the book boils down to "Use the Force, Luke."


    • basically words things most people already know in ways that make it seem like it's new and insightful. That's pretty sad.

      The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction. It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order. It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden. The best books, he perceive

    • The book is extremely ambiguous, not very helpful, and basically words things most people already know in ways that make it seem like it's new and insightful. That's pretty sad. I'm sure there will be a bunch of people who are completely absorbed by this and will say that it "changed their life", or some such rubbish.

      I haven't read the book, but my experience of deeper truths is that they are ambigous. It is also inexpressible, meaning you can only point in the direction, not really express it in its full
  • by flinxmeister (601654) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:16PM (#11748944) Homepage
    The cover just didn't feel right.
  • Strange... (Score:5, Informative)

    by davidoff404 (764733) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:16PM (#11748945)
    This review is extremely similar to one that appeared in the Times Literary Supplement a few weeks back. Curiouser and curiouser...
  • Right on the money (Score:5, Informative)

    by prostoalex (308614) * on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:17PM (#11748959) Homepage Journal
    I bought the CD version of the book after I read the previous Slashdot review, since it has been on my wishlist for a while. Right now I am on disk 6 (out of 7) in my car, and generally it's underwleming. Interesting, but nothing new, you don't learn a whole lot.

    The author does bring up good stories and examples about the Aeron chair and cola sampling methods and some musical artists and TV shows that were rejected by public, approved by someone with a gut feeling, and then re-recognized by the public as masterpieces.

    In a nutshell? Trust the gut feeling, but it can fool you sometimes.

    And then he spends almost an entire chapter telling you how racist you are based on some test, where more people associate the black race with "bad" than with "good", and then same people have troubles putting the words "good" and "black" in one basket. Interesting, but still, not really useful as far as personal growth and self-education.
    • I haven't read the book or reviews or anything... but it's my experience that, when the gut feeling is wrong, and i mean really wrong, it's usually your mind tainting and interpereting the feeling - making it something else, assuming a lot. That's the key - is to see it just as it is, with nothing else, especially not grandiose dreams.
      • by prostoalex (308614) *
        Yes, you're totally right. It's like brain kicks in some processing where processing is not due. He talks about the case where people are asked to choose a jam they like, so the choice is made, but when they asked to rationalize their choices on some criteria (like smell, texture, taste) suddenly a new winner emerges.

        They apply mental energy that overpowers the gut feeling and somehow you're now required to rationalize the jam texture on the scale of 1 to 10 (what the hell is texture anyway, and did you ev
        • So, what it comes down to is, when made to think about things we don't think about, our thinking is different than our usual actions, making psychological introspection somewhat useless. Perhaps I've taken it too far.
          • Yes, basically the decisions are made in the firmware of your brain, for which you have the sources, but they are written in language you hardly understand, so you think you know how a certain decision is made, since it's your brain, after all, but in the reality you start making up stuff as you go (I guess I like this jam because my grandmother made something similar when we lived on the farm).
        • by Otter (3800) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:41PM (#11749239) Journal
          (what the hell is texture anyway, and did you ever pay attention to it in your life?)

          Pour yourself a bowl of cereal and milk, place it in the refrigerator and wait 60 minutes. Pour a second bowl of cereal and milk. Taste both.

          Notice the difference? That's texture. If you still can't understand why it's important, I think I'll decline to eat your cooking...

        • what the hell is texture anyway, and did you ever pay attention to it in your life?

          I admit that textures in jam aren't generally all that exciting - unless you count gooseberry jam, which will have you picking seeds out of your teeth for years in the future - but if you want a graphic demonstration of textures in food, try eating either tripe (lining of a cow's stomach) or tongue. Not the squished and re-formed into convenient shape variety, either; the original version. Either one will leave you with a g
  • by TrippTDF (513419) <hilandNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:20PM (#11748991)
    ... that read this, and then went NUTS telling us to think faster and go with our instincts.

    Of course, then we got screamed at by her for not thinking and making more screw ups than normal.

    She was also more concerned with what I was having for lunch than what I was doing for the company.
    • Now you've got me curious. What were you having for lunch?
      • It didn't matter... as long as it had an order that carried out of my office, she would come running from where ever, seeing what I had. She never quite asked me for any. If she had, I would have killed her considering the hours I was forced to work and the low pay.

        Never, ever work at a talent agency.
  • by MBraynard (653724) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:22PM (#11749014) Journal
    In her essays - especially in her Art of Fiction, Art of Non-Fiction and her collection of essays - Philospohy, Who Needs It discusses how to order your mind to automize certain assessments.

    A simple example is that in typing these sentences, I'm not conciously trying to decide each and every word I am typing (and mispelling - yes, I know). You can gradually autamatize many functions through practice - taking concretes, making them abstracts, and then re-applying those abstracts to other situation where they arize. One such automization that Rand writes a lot about are emotions.

    • And she probably thoroughly ripped this idea off of Miyamoto Musashi [wikipedia.org].
      • I really don't see it at all. Rand and Blink are about developing intuition (if there is such a thing) and automatizing of thoughts. The Five Rings only touches on this in a very vague way. Further, I doubt Rand read or was even aware of the five rings and did not hold the Oriental culture in high esteem.

    • "I'm not conciously trying to decide each and every word I am typing (and mispelling - yes, I know)."

      Hmm...not so sure about that. How could anyone misspell the word "arise" unless they were doing it deliberately? Looks like your example is bust :0

      I hope that means you're lying - the alternative is rather scary :)

      Oh and in response to your actual comment...Wouldn't there be some theoretical point at which you would actually start automizing these assessments? So, before you've automized such thing
      • I wasn't even thinking about arise. My mind just goes totally phonetic sometimes.

        Rand's focus is how to develop this automatizing conciously. Some of it happens on it's own and can be incorrect. EG - fearing a parent yelling at you when you try something unusual/new.

        Re: Hume/Descarts, Rand disagrees with both of them and says that knowledge comes from both the mind and experience. She is not a pure empiricist nor a pure... whatever Descarts is.

        Anyway, I'd encourage you to get her book "Philosophy: Who Ne

        • Rand disagrees with both of them and says that knowledge comes from both the mind and experience.


          Is there any other source of knowledge? Or is Rand simply trying to to synthisize the two prevailing viewpoints at the time when she wrote these things.

        • And after that, you can complete the fourth and final referral for the link in my signature.

          I'd like to hear your ideas on why polluting the commons with garbage for personal gain is an ethical act.

          • You're asking an Ayn Rand that question? The answer is predictable.
          • All of my posts are for personal gain. I enjoy discussing and learning. I also enjoy Xbox. Hence I was able to mix multiple personal gains into a single post.

            It seems I have all I need for the free Xbox. I already got the free Ipod Mini. I think that next I will either go for the Nintendo DS or maybe a full size Ipod. Or maybe the shuffle.

            Anyway, those are my ideas on mixing highly ethical personal gains.

            • So the key, then, is just not thinking about the damage your actions cause to the world. I suppose professional email spammers and white-collar criminals are similarly ethical?
              • You are psychotic.

                Comparing me putting a reference to my ongoing attempt to get free stuff - including a way for others to get $10 from me - in a post to illegal embezzelement...

                • putting a reference to my ongoing attempt to get free stuff - including a way for others to get $10 from me - in a post

                  That's one way to put it. "Unsolicited advertisement" is another way. "Spam" is another.

                  And I never directly compared your spamming to embezzlement . . . what I did was point out that white-collar crime could just as easily pass your "personal gain" ethics test. Do you really believe that acting purely for personal gain is always ethically right? Or only if it's legal? You do realize

                  • So you oppose doing anything for personal gain?

                    Personal gain, obviously in my context, means not in a way that coerces others. Duh. But I guess you consider my reference coercion?

                    Law is not just a codification of someone's ethics - it can be more than that - namely a recognition of the objective right and wrong, moral and immoral.

                    You seem to enjoy this converasation but I do not. I will, however, continue going back and forth for another 5 posts if you take up my offer to help me get a nintendo DS for fr

                    • So you oppose doing anything for personal gain?

                      That would be ridiculous.

                      Personal gain, obviously in my context, means not in a way that coerces others. Duh. But I guess you consider my reference coercion?

                      "Coercion" is a very limiting word. How about "your spam infringes on my right to enjoy Slashdot without absorbing commercial garbage spewed out by its readers"?

                      In other words, it's personal gain AT OTHERS' EXPENSE. Isn't the "at others' expense" part non-Randian, even?

                    • You claim a right that you do not have. I guess you think you have a right to free healthcare and a right to walk into cages at the zoo and molest the goats.

                      I am giving you one freebie here with the offer that I will continue if you DO a referral for me OR if you put my link in your unused signature slot.

                    • So, you are saying, then, that your philosophy supports harming others for personal gain.
                    • If "harming others" involves not giving money to every bum I pass by on the way to work, or "harming others" means selling my services for the highest price I can get for them, or "harming others" means speaking in a reference in an uncensored forum about *gasp* a job creating initiative involving the Gratis Network, Microsoft, eFax, Blockbuster, etc., yeah, I guess it does.

                      So what -you want to censor me, you Nazi?

                      BTW - I see you have not kept your end of the bargain up by putting my referal link in your

                    • speaking in a reference in an uncensored forum about *gasp* a job creating initiative involving the Gratis Network, Microsoft, eFax, Blockbuster, etc.

                      However many words you use to express it, it's still unsolicited commercial advertisement. As in spam. As in abusing a public forum, for personal gain, to the detriment of others. Like all spam. There is no difference between you and any other spammer, besides scope (and perhaps legality).

                      Wouldn't it just be easier at this point to admit that your act is

                    • There is no "detriment" to others other than it seems to aggrivate your inability to... not let it bother you.

                      It's remarkable how you dirty hippies abuse the english language. I am "polluting?" Please. Polluting is what happens to the local lake when dirty hippies go there to bathe.

                      Lets talk instead about your unethical behavior in breaking our agreement. You did not put in a referral or put it in your signature.

                      I don't really know about the ethical nature of email spam. It can't be any more unethical tha

                    • We never made an agreement.

                      And spam is unsolicited. That's very different from a response to people attempting to contact you. It's currently a huge drain on the Internet infrastructure, caused by people freeloading on the shared medium for personal gain. The personal gain involved is demonstrably MUCH less than the toll on society; is this a good thing?

                      And, again, your advertisement is the exact same thing, just lesser in scope. You cannot defend it, and rather than admit it's just your own selfishness

  • by swimmar132 (302744) <{joe} {at} {pinkpucker.net}> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:22PM (#11749019) Homepage
    This "blink" sounds awfully similar to Pirsig's idea of "Quality" in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance...
  • A Good Read? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SamHill (9044) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:29PM (#11749103)

    Whether or not Gladwell has any stunning insights, one reason for the book being popular is that he writes well and the book is entertaining.

    I watched him talk about the book on C-SPAN [c-span.org], and enjoyed the talk. I also read and enjoyed his previous book (The Tipping Point), which was similarly enjoyable without being incredibly insightful or a great learning experience.

    It's okay to have nonfiction that isn't dull or stodgey. It's even possible for such popular books to encourage people to read more about particular topics.

    Fun is good!

  • NPR talk on Blink (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    NPR has several mentions [npr.org] and talks [npr.org] on blink. He also spoke at the Commonwealth Club [bizjournals.com]

    Overall, some of his discussions (for example, about the police shootings in New York or the effects on a high speed car chase on one's lack of judgement) were interesting and worthwhile to understand. But his inaccurate comments on the Getty Kouros [getty.edu] turned me off on the work. Factual inaccuracies have a tendency to make you, um, blink. He presented it as obvoius that it was a forgery, but the tremendous amount of s

  • poetry time! (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by aendeuryu (844048)
    And so it came to pass that a new form of dupe
    hit Slashdot's front page, and Gary's got the scoop.
    He's given us an opinion, on this new book called "Blink"
    So that we may compare what these two guys think.
    While James thought that "Blink" had passed the test,
    This new guy, Gary Cornell, remained unimpressed.
    James thought that Blink would spark conversation,
    But Gary can't quite understand James's elation.
    There's a lack of depth here, Gary purported,
    and a theory that the author inadequately supported.
    But let's n
  • thats why i get all the flamebaits.
  • by pimpinphp (860536) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:37PM (#11749198) Homepage
    We WILL eventually run out of things to write books about.

    That said I think the reviewer is over thinking the "act on your instincts book".

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:39PM (#11749215)
    Maybe the bigger point is that intuition is just another datapoint. As such it can be good or bad, precise or noisy, accurate or biased. To place too much trust in intuitiion is as dangerous as placing too much trust in any given, more "scientific" data point. Yet to ignore intuition is to ignore potentially valuable data..

    But the value of intuition-provided data is hard to analyze. On the one hand, intuition does tap into many million years of the evolution of intelligent social animals. The subconscious mind runs some very impressive pattern recognition algorithms that can often recognize what the conscious, analytical mind cannot. On the otherhand, modern global technological civilization is a long way from pre-technical, tribal subsistence. Anyone who studies human decision making and cognition will become quickly aware of its rather severe limitations and curious quirks.

    The core problem with intuition is that it seldom yields to analytical introspection. Intuition is a blackbox to the more rigorous processes of vetting and weighing data for more formal decision making processes. Thus, many people, especially people of a quantitive/analytical mindset, don't trust their intuition because they cannot analyze it. For better or worse, that makes the data provided by intuitive feelings suspect even if they are sometime 100% correct.
    • This she calls 'using her intuition'. I call it 'crap', and it gets me very irritated because it is not logical

      From the Logician [mwscomp.com]

    • Maybe the bigger point is that intuition is just another datapoint. As such it can be good or bad, precise or noisy, accurate or biased....The core problem with intuition is that it seldom yields to analytical introspection.

      I personally believe that one's intuition is the result of background processing going on in one's brain. I cannot count the number of times I've intuitively known something without being able to explain why, only to later reason through the whole process and come to the same conclus

    • On the one hand, intuition does tap into many million years of the evolution of intelligent social animals

      Intiution comes from the head and not the egg - watch a one year old in action and you will realise that there is no magic racial memory repositry between their ears. You get better at it with different topics the more you know - people are very good at matching patterns and we may not necessarily know in detail why a pattern does or doesn't fit. We still need pattern for different things in our head

  • Tipping Point... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mindpixel (154865) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:40PM (#11749236) Homepage Journal
    Here's my March 24th, 2000 amazon.com review of the author's previous book, "The Tipping Point":

    "This is pop-psych trash at it's worst. I gave away my copy because I'm embarrassed to have people see it on my bookshelves."

    Everytime I see his name I cringe.

  • Another day, another shoddily written piece of self help junk. Seriously, people talk about quacks as a thing of the past, but they still exist in full force, and usually make names for themselves through books like this one.

    Then again, with depression, anxiety and mental illness constantly on the rise in Western countries, I can't see his sales declining anytime soon.

    Rather than purchasing such inept diatribe as this, I suggest opting for books related to Buddhist teachings, as these often provide much p
  • This is the first time I've ever seen a book get a bad review on /.. I just assumed they thought every book was fanastic.

  • by sprocketbox (636698) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:44PM (#11749273)
    The fine women at Pop Goes The Culture [popgoestheculture.com] do a very nice job of talking about and breaking down the writing of Malcolm Gladwell.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:45PM (#11749291) Homepage Journal
    You can't review a book on Slashdot unless you summarize each chapter in mind-numbing detail!
  • by ParadoxicalPostulate (729766) <saapad AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:48PM (#11749310) Journal

    "When I finished this book I was impressed. Then I blinked -- and realized that I was taken in by its surface attractiveness. After the initial glamour wore off, I was left deeply unsatisfied."

    Maybe Gladwell was banking on people learning to trust their first instincts after reading his book.

    Since you obviously chose to second guess your first assessment of the book, it's pretty clear that you didn't pick up on Gladwell's meaning.

    It's irrelevant whether or not your second assessment is more correct than your first - how dare you second guess yourself after reading through an entire book that tells you how great your instincts are!

    Looks like you're in a fix there, buddy ;)

    ( Yes, I'm being facetious...thanks for the review I'll now second guess my planned decision to buy this book)
  • by Dark Paladin (116525) * <jhummel&johnhummel,net> on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @05:57PM (#11749421) Homepage
    This is not from a read of the book, but from watching a Book TV lecture (I'm sure somebody's going to make a joke about that, but anyhow).

    The author described the situation of how negative intuition can be managed. In the case of police officers, the shortening of time by rushing into a situation can turn an innocent man holding out a wallet into a perceived gunman. To counteract this, good police officers are trained to pull up behind a suspect, wait in the car to fill out reports, then walk up to the car, stand behind the driver's shoulder before asking for a driver's license and insurance.

    Why all this time? To prevent the adrenaline/short bad decision making procedures from taking over and making a threat out of nothing.

    So I'm still interested in reading the book to see what it says about using intuition controlling techniques to minimize bad decision making - but I can see the reviewers point that a good chunk of the book is going to be one long exercise of "duhhhhhh".
  • by magi (91730)
    "Trust your intuitions. Well, not quite; trust them, if and only if they are good."

    I wonder if that equivalence is intentional.

    I mean, the above says that (implication <=) if your intuitions are good, you should trust them. That sounds fine. Rather obvious and therefore useless, but fine.

    But it also says that (implication =>) if you trust your intuitions, they are good.

    That sounds like...excellent. All we need is blind faith in our intuitions and everything always turns out just as we thought. Wh
  • by Nuclear_Physicist (794448) on Tuesday February 22, 2005 @07:05PM (#11750084)

    One reviewer comments about how they hated the book (only after thinking about it after the fact).

    Then a set of individuals who haven't even read the book incorrectly categorize it as self-help, and delight in adding manure to the top of the pile.

    I, for one, have actually read the book and I can tell you it's a great read. I've recommended it to all my friends and family. Not because it will change the world, but because, for me, it opened the door on a set of psychological experiments of the subconcious. There were fascinating anecdotes and, more importantly, actual research that addressed the issue of subconcious behavior and thinking I truly enjoyed. The author is not trying to convince you he has a new take on the subconcious -- but, instead, pointing out where current research is and how it relates to our intuitive understanding.

    The first time I heard of relativity I thought it was very strange. Then the more I considered it the more I realized how completely intuitive and obvious it is. Then followed a 'duh' moment where I realized the universe must behave in this fashion. That doesn't take away from the fact that relativity was revolutionary.

    The fact that there is research on the subconcious that, after you've considered it, seems obvious doesn't detract from the point that it's original and interesting.

    Open your mind.

    And please ... enjoy the book. You can bitch at me later if you think I've wasted your time. The whole book took me a two legged flight from Oakland to Albuquerque and I couldn't put it down.

    YMMV

    • I've recommended it to all my friends and family.

      Oh, you're one of those.

      In all seriousness, I suspect that this book would not play too well with Slashdot readers simply because a large proportion of us are programmers or other technical types. We're already more than usually familiar with the subjective experience of the intuitive "blink". We're also, by nature, fairly practical, so if the book doesn't offer any useful information on harnessing intuition, it's going to be an exercise in been-there-done
  • While the idea of mathematics "smelling" good or bad is interesting (and matches my own experience -- although we tended to talk in terms of looks and not smell), I think that it's equally interesting to look at less atypical subjects.

    When a person looks at someone across the street and thinks "that person is up to no good" or turns a faucet and thinks "this feels like it's about to break" a whole lot of powerful subconscious reasoning is at work, and it's worth considering this, as well as the ability of
  • The problem with overreliance on intuition is that one can easily fall prey to "cognitive illusions" [amazon.com]. It is easy to slip into these errors unless you are consciously aware of them. Many of them are very seductive, and much like optical illusions probably reflect "bugs" in our inbuilt algorithms for making judgments.
  • Sounds like he rewrote the most important idea from "Power of Silence," from Carlos Castaneda.

    Now that is an great book to read, even if you don't believe a word of what he says.
  • I for one nominate _Hackers_(http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de t ail/-/0141000511/qid=1109137981/sr=8-3/ref=pd_csp_ 3/102-6123180-1256115?v=glance&s=books&n=507846 [amazon.com], the classic history of computer geekery starting with the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT in the late 1950s to the rise of Apple and Microsoft. Spellbinding, page-turning stuff. It was like, as a geek, I finally understood my heritage.

    Anybody else? Reading suggestions?

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun

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