What The Dog Saw by Malcom Gladwell

What The Dog Saw

What The Dog Saw: And Other Adventures is a compilation of the Gladwell’s best work from The New Yorker. Gladwell has been a staff writer since 1996. Because they’re short pieces the book lacks the grand themes of his other books. But it also means you can read a chapter in a short period of time and be entertained. “What The Dog Saw” is divided into three Sections: 1. Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Genius; 2. Theories, Predictions, and Diagnoses; 3. Personality, Character, and Intelligence.

Section One covers Ron Popeil, Ketchup, Taleb and the Black Swan, Hair Dye, birth control, and Cesar Millan- the dog whisperer. Section Two covers information theory: homelessness, photography, plagiarism, national intelligence reform, choking vs. panicking, and the Challenger Explosion. Section Three covers: What is genius, hiring practices, criminal profiling, the myth of talent, interviews, and pit bulls. All of these chapters were interesting in their own way. I would certainly read and other compilation book if Gladwell were to release one.

444 pages

Excerpts From My Kindle

What Empirica has done is to invert the traditional psychology of investing. You and I, if we invest conventionally in the market, have a fairly large chance of making a small amount of money in a given day from dividends or interest or the general upward trend of the market. We have almost no chance of making a large amount of money in one day, and there is a very small, but real, possibility that if the market collapses we could blow up. We accept that distribution of risks because, for fundamental reasons, it feels right. – location 869-873
 [This is covered in depth in Taleb’s “Anti-Fragile” I’ve been trying to figure out how to use it in practice.]

Power-law solutions have little appeal to the right, because they involve special treatment for people who do not deserve special treatment; and they have little appeal to the left, because their emphasis on efficiency over fairness suggests the cold number-crunching of Chicago school cost-benefit analysis. Even the promise of millions of dollars in savings or cleaner air or better police departments cannot entirely compensate for such discomfort. – location 2442-2445
[This is the theme of Thomas Sowell’s masterpiece “A Conflict of Visions“]

Gerald Wilde in his book Target Risk, is quite simple: under certain circumstances, changes that appear to make a system or an organization safer in fact don’t. Why? Because human beings have a seemingly fundamental tendency to compensate for lower risks in one area by taking greater risks in another. – location 3550-3552
[Again covered in Taleb’s book.]

The Center for American Progress – have investigated whether it helps to have a teacher who has earned a teaching certification or a master’s degree. Both are expensive, time-consuming credentials that almost every district expects teachers to acquire; neither makes a difference in the classroom. Test scores, graduate degrees, and certifications – as much as they appear related to teaching prowess – turn out to be about as useful in predicting success as having a quarterback throw footballs into a bunch of garbage cans. – location 4027-4030
[This chapter shows why spending money on College Quarterbacks in the NFL draft is a waste. And it also shows the answer to the education crisis in America.]

The talent myth assumes that people make organizations smart. More often than not, it’s the other way around. – location 4517-4518
[I’ve long thought this is true. My favorite example is the NDSU Bison football team. There are no true superstars players on this team (or superstar coaches, or superstar administrators), but the system itself is the star.]


About craigmaas

I do a little web design work and support a couple web sites and blogs. My primary focus is lighting and energy consulting where I use a number of computer tools to help my customer find ways of saving money and improving their work environment. See my web site for more information: www.effectiveconcepts.net
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