Feb. 21st, 2009

eirias: (Default)
So I am reading this book, which my in-laws kindly got me for Fake Christmas (so long had passed since Real Christmas that I'd forgotten I asked for it). The book is about the effect of, as an economist friend put it, low-probability, high-cost events: things whose impact dwarfs the events we can predict, making prediction itself a fool's errand. I am so far really blown away by how he's taken a topic and ideas that are very exciting to me and encased them in a book that deeply annoys me.

  • The author is, simply put, a jerk. This is his attitude: "Look at me! I'm a Real Intellectual! Not one of those effete morons who have tenured professorships and publish in peer-reviewed journals, oh no, that's not for me! Tenure is for charlatans! Peer review is for sheeple! Editors enforce mediocrity! The mark of truly Novel and Important ideas is that you develop them on long walks with brilliant people and then publish them on an ugly website!"
  • Ahem. Anyway, while discussing most of the social sciences in a way that veers past provocation into simple bad manners -- for instance, liberal use of scare-quotes, as when describing economics as a "profession" -- he inexplicably spares psychology. I genuinely don't understand this; I think that to the extent that the criticisms he levels at social science are apt, the judgment and decision-making world he loves has to cope with them also. I'd love to ask him to clarify, but see exhibit A, and also it appears from his site that he's getting a lot of email.

Perhaps I will flesh out my thoughts more thoroughly when I have finished the book, but I just had to vent a bit.


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