Back in my days of building software for a living, bug-tracking lists were something of a necessity. Build up a list of problems, and attempt to fix as many of the serious ones as you can before you release the software. Rolf Dobelli’s book The Art of Thinking Clearly is a bug-tracking list for the human mind.

Dobelli, a occasional dinner mate of Nassim Nicholas Taleb (of Black Swan fame) somewhat oversells with the title, but fairly clears up any confusion in his introduction: this isn’t a “how to” self help book, more a chronicle of the cognitive malfunctions that the slow pace of evolution has yet to iron out of the human mind. Specifically, 99 ways in which we mal-process information and the world around us.

Many are inter-related (we focus on information that supports our viewpoints, for example, or we are generally a bit rubbish with big numbers), but the handful of pages devoted to each of these fallacies and  sources of bad judgement is an interesting awakening into how often we are able to effectively fool ourselves. Taken in another (somewhat evil) context you could see this as the ultimate guide to becoming a con artist, playing on the soft underbelly of our poor mental processing.

It’s easy to read (Rolf by day is a novelist), and makes you think afresh about how one perceives the world around us. Or maybe that, in itself, is another example of the grey matter playing tricks on me…

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