Range, misinformation and the fine line between stupid and clever

24th May, 2019

Over the past couple of week’s I’ve been enjoying David Epstein’s Range – about the value of being a generalist. As I may have mentioned it’s in sympathy with my latest TED talk, which cites Epstein. I had the pleasure of seeing Epstein dig up a lot of interesting new research that supports some of what I argued in Messy – about the virtues of moving between fields, switching contexts and improvising. (It felt a bit like an out-of-sample check of my expectations.) Epstein skillfully blends stories with argument and evidence, and he makes it look easy (it isn’t).

Also impressed by The Misinformation Age by Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall (he also wrote the very nice Physics of Wall Street). O’Connor and Weatherall cover the territory very well – again, some nice stories, many of which I hadn’t heard – and they use a lot of network analysis to show how true and false ideas can spread or be propagated by various devious pieces of propaganda. Fairly nerdy but easy and fun to read.


Next on the pile, The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes by David Robson. This comes recommended to me but I have not yet cracked the spine. Looks v. interesting, though.

(While I’m here, I should mention that I just bought a new Moto G7 Play phone for £130 and I’m delighted with it. Seems to be a heck of a lot of phone for not a lot of money.)

My book “Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy” (UK) / “Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy” (US) is out now in paperback – feel free to order online or through your local bookshop.

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