Mistakes were made

Kluge by Gary Marcus should have been just right for me. As someone who’s had more than my share of mistaken beliefs, I’m interested in the psychology of bad reasoning and irrational behavior, and so is Marcus. A kluge is an inelegant, but cheap and effective solution to a problem, a bit like a MacGyverism, and Marcus’s Big Simple Idea (can one write pop-sci without one?) is that the human brain is full of evolutionary kluges. Memory, belief, language, decision making, all our effective but flawed abilities reflect nature’s quick-and-dirty approach to the problem of survival. Evolution aims for good enough, not perfect. This is a good pretext to summarize interesting psychological research, but I’ve read it all better and more insightful elsewhere. Marcus’s commentary adds little to the research he cites, and his attempt to connect everything to evolutionary advantage is strained and irrelevant. The nicest thing I can say of Kluge is that it summarizes good books on important subjects, with the intention of helping people think smarter. What you should read instead is How We Know What Isn’t So by Thomas Gilovich, and Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and then just follow the thread from there. (Do it! Please! Help decontaminate the meme pool one person at a time.)

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