Everything is Obvious *once you know the answer by Duncan J. Watts

Everything is Obvious by Duncan J. Watts is part of the same genre as Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Taleb, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely (who even provides a blurb on the back), and the books of Malcolm Gladwell. Yet it brings an original perspective, and even takes a skeptical view of one of Taleb and Gladwell’s ideas. Furthermore Watts was the researcher who designed and ran the “Music Lab” experiment that I believe Taleb wrote about the results of. In my opinion Everything is Obvious is even better than Fooled by Randomness. Watts (who has some impressive credentials including having been a professor of Sociology at Columbia), has written a highly readable yet intellectual book about cognitive biases with a theme of how common sense thinking leads us astray. This is one of those that you could spend weeks thinking about the ideas in any one chapter, so although it’s a relatively quick and easy read in terms of Watt’s clear and unpretentious writing style, to fully consider all these profound ideas would take more time and you can put into it what you want. This highlights something I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older, that is that time and effort spent thinking is often worth more than carrying out physical tasks. This was hard for me to realize at first because sitting in a chair pondering things doesn’t seem to accomplish anything at the moment, as say, chopping firewood or cutting a gemstone out of rough does. But like Boxer the horse in Orwell’s Animal Farm, whose solution is always “I will work harder”, unthinking physical labor is often counterproductive to the worker. I believe this is even called the “Buckets of Sweat” fallacy. I should endeavor to think more. In the context of reading this calls into question the whole concept of challenges to read a certain number of books in a given time. We all like to have “read a book” because the number of books we read is a concrete measure of our accomplishment, but without additionally knowing the person’s reading comprehension and how much they’ve considered fully the books concepts, the number of books read by itself is meaningless.

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