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Head in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy…

– tekijä: William Poundstone

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
784269,261 (3.35)2
Looks at the state of knowledge in the American public, and demonstrates how many areas of knowledge correlate with quality of life, politics, and behavior, arguing that being knowledgeable has significant value even when facts can be looked up with little effort.
  1. 00
    Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (tekijä: Neil Postman) (themulhern)
    themulhern: These books have an affinity: Postman looks at the bigger picture and Poundstone is relatively trivial. Poundstone is a great deal more contemporary. They both are about a technology that can take away all our capacity to think.
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näyttää 4/4
The author argues that the whole population of the world is getting stuck in a Dunning-Kruger mindset: everybody thinks they know everything because they can look up something about anything on Google. This is probably true, sadly.

However, the book annoyed me w/ it's statistics about people who don't know the "right" answers to questions that are, at least in some cases, vague or really ambiguous. Everybody has different areas of knowledge, and the cheapest trick in the world is to put someone down because there is something they don't know about and you do.
1 ääni themulhern | May 21, 2019 |
As a professor who sometimes teaches gen-ed physics, I frequently come across the common student question: "buy *WHY* do I have to know this?" For some, learning is not necessarily a goal in and of itself. It requires some kind of justification. I was hoping this book would help me come closer to a satisfying answer to that question.

Unfortunately, and as my intuition had sort of indicated as I picked up this book, as with most popular "science" books, it really just falls flat. The author has conducted a lot of surveys asking people to answer many trivia type questions, and then also gathers demographic information about the participants. He is then able to correlate the accuracy of the trivia responses to things like education levels, salary, net worth, etc.

I will give the author a lot of credit for clearly explaining the basis of his research. He makes convincing arguments into how his internet surveys are representative of a good segment of the population and is more representative than the previous gold standard of random phone calls. He clearly explains the correlation doesn't equal causation argument and explains what other possible conclusions can be made from correlated data.

However, he then goes on to provide correlated data points and makes (maybe?) assumptions about them. People who make more money can answer these 10 questions about history (or whatever the survey happened to be about). But, being a good scientist, he of course doesn't come to the conclusion that understanding history leads to making more money. He does explain the other possibilities. But it does not lead to any type of satisfying answer. He never does get around to answering his own question of "why knowing things still matters when facts are so easy to look up."

Another thing that really irked me about this book is that, at times, when the author would graphically tabulate his data, he would only show the two extreme points and show a perfect fitting straight line between them. (Answered 1 question right, made $5,000/year to answered 10 questions right, made $80,000/year, as if there was some kind of PERFECT correlation between the two pieces of data.) That is a terrible, horrible, awful thing to do with data. It made me cringe every time I saw it, which was, unfortunately, frequent.

In all, just another pop-sci book with a catchy title and cover with little to no real substance between the covers. ( )
  lemontwist | Feb 17, 2018 |
Why should I learn anything when I can just look it up on Google? That's the question this book attempts to answer.

Many areas of knowledge correlate with the quality of our lives, including areas like health, wealth and happiness. The author is not suggesting that everyone should be smart enough to appear on a TV show like "Jeopardy." It's totally fine if a person's knowledge is "a mile wide and an inch deep." The author found strong correlations between income and scores on general knowledge quizzes (even if they are multiple choice). It's possible that learning improves cognitive abilities that are useful almost anywhere, including in a career.

How bad is the ignorance of the average American? Less that 10 percent of Americans don't know what country New Mexico is in. About the same percentage of younger Americans can find Afghanistan on a map, according to a 2006 National Geographic poll. More than half could not find Delaware on a map.

People who don't know which city has an airport called LaGuardia correlates with thinking that there are at least twice as many Asians in America than there actually are. Not knowing that the Sun is bigger than Earth correlates with supporting bakers who refuse to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples. Thinking that America has more people has more people than India correlates with refusing to eat genetically modified food. Not knowing how many US Senators there are, or thinking that early humans hunted dinosaurs, correlates with refusing to vaccinate children for measles, mumps and rubella.

According to a 2015 report from the Educational Testing Service (the people behind the SAT's), more than half of Millennials don't know the poison that killed Socrates; they can't name the Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson; they don't know who recorded "All Shook Up" and "Heartbreak Hotel"; they don't know who (in popular myth) designed and sewed the first American flag; they can't name the secret project that built the first atomic bomb; they can't name the largest ocean on Earth, the longest river in South America or the city whose airport is Heathrow.

Wow (and not in a good way). These people are going to be running America in the near future? This is a very disheartening book, and is extremely highly recommended. ( )
  plappen | Sep 4, 2017 |
William Poundstone argues that knowledge for its own sake is important, and because of the Dunning-Kruger effect - that annoying fact where when you don't know much about something, you think you know it all - the American public doesn't realize their own ignorance about a lot of things.

At least, that's how the book starts out. And ends. And if the meat of the book had in fact been "why knowing things still matters when facts are so easy to look up," I probably would've been singing its praises instead of giving a lukewarm review. Because what the majority of the book is isn't explaining why you should know things, but a series of randomized surveys the author did showing how much the general public doesn't know about anything from politics to sports to science to religion, and everything in between. He does have one of the best general explanations of statistics used in such studies that I've ever read in a popular nonfiction book. But am I really going to equate knowing who your vice president is with being able to spell "accommodate" correctly on the first try? He doesn't try to make a distinction between the facts that one "should" know and the ones that are less important. I know a lot about literature, and I'm a decent speller and grammarian, and gosh dark I know shrimp isn't kosher... but there are a lot of facts he tests on that I'm not sure it's all that important that I do know.

Beyond the broad range of facts with no attempt to argue their relative importance to each other, I was not convinced by the main statistically significant correlation he does draw on, that people who did better on the tests had higher household income. He did spend some time discussing the difference between correlation and causation, which was good, but I was left unconvinced that the higher household income really mattered much. Wouldn't it be a fairly convincing argument that those with higher income have more free time to pursue sports, the arts, and more and have the leisure time to learn all these trivia facts? The other piece of this is context matters. If I'm given a random multiple-choice quiz with imagery of "menu," "exit" and other visual signs, I'm probably going to get things wrong - yet still understand them when I see them in context, say, at the airport. I tried to follow along some of the quizzes and sometimes I was saying to myself, "I have no idea..." only to go "Oh yeah, that's right, I remember that now!" when given the answer.

While the facts he presents are at times sobering, funny, and interesting - and that's why this has as high a rating as I'm giving it, because it was engaging - he hardly convinced me (a librarian, to boot) that accumulating random facts would really help me in my day-to-day life. He's not really analyzing "why knowing things still matter" but emphasizing once again that we don't know everything, something that's not all surprising given how our brains work and how much information is out there. The one thing I did take away from the final chapters was that I want to more systematically keep track of the news and current events. ( )
  bell7 | Sep 23, 2016 |
näyttää 4/4
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Looks at the state of knowledge in the American public, and demonstrates how many areas of knowledge correlate with quality of life, politics, and behavior, arguing that being knowledgeable has significant value even when facts can be looked up with little effort.

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