Books, from Zubin Al Genubi

October 6, 2021 |

1. Human Error, James Reason. A rather disappointing academic treatise on cognitive analysis of how humans make errors which is really dragged down by obtuse academia speak. Two major sources of error are lapses and slips, and secondly errors of reason and rules. Slips are when you forget steps, lose your place, get distracted, fall into a habitual practice inappropriate for the situation. Errors of reason are using the wrong rule for the situation, where the plan does not go as expected, or the plan was wrong. When the rule doesn't fit, the expert acts like a novice.

There are the raft of heuristics. One is how humans utilize familiar patterns rather than calculate or optimize a current new situation. It is cognitively difficult to consciously think through a new situation.

An interesting section was about how the brain uses "autodrive" to do many familiar things to make room for conscious thought. I was driving down somewhere thinking, and look up and arriving at my destination, realize that I basically had no recollection of the drive there - just on autopilot. A lot of daily life is on auto pilot thus ripe for error.

It's a difficult read. Better to rent, than buy.

2. The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality, by Kathryn Paige Harden

A flawed book addressing a difficult subject. Galton's biggest failing was his theory on eugenics. One of Harden's main points is to debunk the misconception that the genetics of race has any meaning. Race is close to meaningless in genetics. For example, people with genes from people from Africa have a much larger variation in genes than in all the other races, and the categorization of Black and White becomes meaningless.

Genetics does have an effect on personal traits. It predicts certain diseases. The attempt at connecting genetics with achievement in education, life satisfaction, and wealth, suffers from too many variables to have any use.

Their statistical studies, not disclosed, I think will not be robust.

3. John Steinbeck, Sea of Cortez, recommended by Andrew Moe. A beautifully written book and a joy to read.

4. Yottam Ottolenghi, Plenty More. Highly recommended cook book with smashing recipes for vegetarian dishes with a mideastern influence. He has other cookbooks such as Jerusalem with recipes that are real home runs. I've made a number with great success.

5. Michael Lewis, The Premonition. Excellent book about the sad state of the lack of preparedness for a pandemic in the US. Outlines some of the goings on in California to deal with pandemics and disease. Lewis is a fine writer and easy to read.

Pamela Van Giessen comments:

Lewis is a facile writer who performs a parlor trick by bringing forward, in Vanity Fair like story telling, that which will convince you that his view is the correct view. He will not be remembered 100 yrs from now.

A reader writes:

There are three sentences in the short review of The Genetic Lottery that are utter nonsense:

"Galton's biggest failing was his theory [sic] on eugenics."
"Race is close to meaningless in genetics."
"The attempt at connecting genetics with achievement in education, life satisfaction, and wealth, suffers from too many variables to have any use."

These sentences could probably be accepted in, say, the NY Times given that and other leading publications' denial of much of genetic science, but not on this Spec List.

James Lackey appreciates:

Fantastic report! I dig Lewis because moneyball was a great movie lol but really love him because his Wife is so amazing that he must be a good dude to keep her.

Duncan Coker

Thanks for the list. Has anyone read the latest from Steven Pinker, Rationality? It seems like a more scientific analysis of what Kahneman failed to do. We humans have trouble with advanced probability in every day life, so appear to be irrational, but there is more to the story. Do the shortcuts we use help or hurt. Try doing Bayesian Analysis at the grocery story. I think Pinker is one of the best writers we have at present.

An excerpt from Pinker's latest:

Why You Should Always Switch: The Monty Hall Problem (Finally) Explained
By Steven Pinker





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