Thursday, April 7, 2022

Buy this book ASAP: "Rationality" by Steven Pinker

Rationality: what it is, why it seems scarce, and why it matters was an eye-opener for me. As an economist who both teaches rationality and and uses it in my research and consulting, I was thrilled ("shocked" in a positive way) to discover how narrow my perspective is. Pinker approaches rationality from so many different angles (logic, psychology, statistics), and gives so many fabulous examples of how we (mis-)use it that that I found myself underlining examples to borrow (with attribution) for my econ class. 

 His articulation of statistical reasoning was so good that I made two coauthors--under deadline--rewrite our article for the Antitrust Law Journal stealing his brilliant description of the signal processing problem. No one better at communicating than Pinker. 

Of course, the NY Times gave it a lukewarm review, warning that his "jaunty demotic and occasional bar-stool sermons will not be to everyone’s taste." I suspect that they were particularly irked that one of their own (a liberal Democrat) would admit that many of their favorite policies defy reason. Of course, Pinker also eviscerates many right-wing policies, and notes that what he calls "motivated reasoning" is not reason at all.  

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