The Guide to Lies – a great review of Daniel Levitin’s book

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Imagine reading an article whose author draws disappointing conclusions about the future intellectual level of humanity. Still, after all, statistics show that the number of books that the average person reads is steadily decreasing every year of his life. What horror and degradation – you might think. But before we grieve and take the side of the author of the article, let’s think about it – is the number of books read an adequate measure of intellectual development? Indeed, in elementary school we can read many books, but they are all very short. In high school, we can read a lot of voluminous books, but still little to learn from them. And even if in adulthood a person reads only one book a year, this does not mean at all that he has degraded, because this book can be, for example, Feyman’s “Lectures on Physics”. In addition, a person can draw all new knowledge from articles in professional scientific journals. At the same time, another person can read dozens of books a year, but if they are pulp fiction, this is unlikely to have a positive effect on his intellectual development.

The goal of the author of the article could be noble, despite the fact that he used distorted information. But what if, in the same way, unscrupulous people use false information against you, who want to lure you into a financial pyramid, force you to buy what you don’t need, and even make an expensive operation that will not improve anything?

According to Daniel Levitin, author of The Guide to Lies, in the modern world such a veiled lie can be used as a weapon against your interests. And the problem of our time is that in a huge flow of information it is especially difficult to distinguish truth from half-truths and beautifully presented lies. Lies become weapons of mass destruction. But there is a defense against this weapon – critical thinking. The good news is that it can be developed. And Daniel Levitin’s book tells you how. The book has three full-fledged sections, each of which reveals a certain side of critical thinking. Let’s consider each of them in more detail.

Section No. 1. “Evaluation of numbers”

From it we will learn how to correctly interpret statistics. Valuable advice – if someone shows you beautiful graphs – carefully look at the designations on the abscissa and ordinate axes – as “for beauty” values ​​that are unfavorable for presentation may be deliberately excluded from there. And when you hear something like “Four out of five dentists recommend Colgate toothpaste” in an ad, it’s probably true. But surely not all, since dentists could simply list different types of pastes, including Colgate, and marketers then turned it around as if four advised only Colgate, and only one – something else. Well, if someone tells you that they have reduced costs by 200 percent, then they are definitely lying to you.

Section number 2. “Assessment of words”

From it, we learn how to correctly look for reliable explanations for events and not fall into typical mental traps. This section teaches you how to evaluate bias of opinion, including not harboring illusions about your point of view. For example, you thought of a friend and after a short period of time you met him. Amazing! Our brains are designed to create stories as it absorbs the diversity of the world, in which billions of events occur at every second. It seems that the astrology craze is connected precisely with this desire to look for patterns where they do not exist.

Section number 3. “Assessment of the world”

From it we learn about logic and the scientific method, how to use them in everyday life to make intelligent decisions. By the way, in this section, the author says that the main method of Sherlock Holmes is not at all deduction, as is commonly believed. And no, not induction, as you might imagine. His method is abduction. “Almost all of Holmes’s conclusions are reasonable assumptions based on fact, but they cannot be said to be irreproachable or inevitable. In abductive reasoning, we start with a few observations and then come up with a theory that explains them all. And from all the infinite variety of the most diverse theories that could explain something, we choose the one that is most likely. “

We definitely recommend all lovers of intellectual reading to read The Guide to Lies. By the way, we assume that the same thing can happen to this book as to The Psychology of Influence by Robert Cialdini – it will be used not only for defense, but also for attack. Because with its help, you will not only be able to protect yourself from manipulators and distinguish truth from lies, but you yourself will learn how to create beautiful, but not reflecting graphs, tell stories touching the soul that take listeners away from facts, and use statistics in the way you need.

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August 28, 2020 |
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