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Product and Book reviews
Product and Book reviews
Let´s be straight about this: book reviews are in most cases a form of advertisement. Just like many websites only exist for the sole purpose to direct you to some content in order to cream off an affiliate commission for sending you there. Book reviews intend the same by making a potential reader interested (or by intention: the opposite) into buying a book
This is why book reviews usually do not tell you very much about the actual book content nor the conclusions/resolutions of the writer´s thought process.
My book review the art of thinking clearly by ralf dobelli is a bit different.
Lets start with the author. I had actually never heard of Rolf Dobelli before. One of my friends living in Germany recommended reading one of Dobelli´s books. He said that Dobelli was very popular in Germany recently and had made it onto some book bestseller lists.
I did a quick search on Amazon and randomly ordered one of his books and ended up with “the art of thinking clearly”.
The book is a quick read, actually I wouldn’t even describe it a real book in the regular sense. Thats the first problem: It is more like a LIST, than a real book (even though it has a book cover). A LIST ? Yes. Dobelli compiled a list of 99 – what he calls- cognitive biases or “thinking errors”. These 99 items are listed one after the other.
Well, we all know that lists are important in daily life: house wives use shopping lists so they don’t forget, what they wanted to buy (but then again, you always forget some items, because the most important product pops up while you are in the shower or jogging around lake Zurich).
So turning a simple list into a book, is already a bit daunting, or lets say Dobelli is testing his audience and wants to find out, what he can get away with.
(It reminds me of Tim Ferris 2nd book “the 4 Hour Body“ – but then again, Tim actually told everyone that he “compiled” the book for the sole reasons to prove a) he could “produce” a best-seller on -demand and b) make a lot of money with his compilation technique).
The good part : Dobelli condenses each cognitive bias into tight 2-3 pages so you just need a few hours to read the whole piece.
The disappointing part : I actually knew most of them already. (And I really don’t read many books, maybe 2-3 a year. In this case it seems that I had read the right/wrong ones.)
Whether one can classify these “thinking errors” as actual errors or whether they are just part of being a human being may be of some debate and a worthy question, which Dobelli can not or does not want to elaborate on.
So what are Dobellis conclusions ? The reader waits for the last 2-3 pages to find out that:
a) Dobelli, in his own daily life, just follows his instincts (so much for lists helping in daily life).
b) For big and important decisions though, he developed a “decision tree” based on his findings to guide him though his own thought process and help him make “better” decisions.
His “decision tree” could been something of interest and might be worth the price of the book, but then again: Dobelli disappoints once more: he doesn’t share it with his readers.
So when you finish Dobellis´s list of 99 thinking errors, you will not have found a real conclusion. When my spouse asked me what the book was about, I realized that I had already forgotten most of the “thinking errors”. Dobelli himself calls this the “recency effect” (the man actually has humor).
If, in any case, you are still interested in this topic, I recommend reading some of the original sources which cover 99% of Dobelli´s book:
• Daniel Kahnemann: Thinking, fast and slow
• Nassim Taleb: The Black Swan (and other books)
• Peter Gruber: Tell to Win
• Rolf F. Baumeister and John Tierney: WILLPOWER
• Robert Levine: A Geography of Time
If psychology is not your hobby, I suggest to avoid this book altogether. You wont find any unique new ideas, nor valuable conclusions of any kind.
Its just a list.
So in the end I agree with Nicholas Taleb who supposedly advised Dobelli not to publish this book under any circumstances ! Thanks Mr. Dobelli for sharing that piece of information with your readers in the “acknowledgements” section on page 313 (which by the way is the car license plate number of Donald Duck and may be of similar importance as the 99 errors).
Have your read the book ? Any thoughts on this book review the art of thinking clearly ?
Are you still interested in this topic ? Then you might as well read the list of “cognitive biases” on Wikipedia.
The German magazine DER SPIEGEL picked up on smart phone breathalyzers which have been around for a year or so.
Breathalyzers help to measure the Blood alcohol content (BAC) of a person. This is important to measure when it comes to driving a vehicle after having alcohol.
The European breathalyzer trend started in 2012 when France introduced a law that requires motorists to carry a alcohol testing device with them at all times. Tourists travelling to France are also required to carry alcohol testing devices. What most people do not know: Until now there are only few brands which have been approved by the french authorities and carry the blue circular “Norme Française” (NF) Logo. Smartphone breathalyzers are NOT among those approved !
Ok let´s get started with the review smartphone breathalyzer look at some models:
A very basic model with monochrome display, which is a bit pricy though. Mostly seen on Ebay/Amazon.
A newer version by another factory with improved and colorful display indicating the alcohol level additionally by green, yellow and red colors.
Newer versions/connectors for iPhone 5 and for Samsung are supposedly under development.
New, but not yet on the market, is the so called Breathometer which collected almost USD 75,000 on Indiegogo until today and promises to deliver nothing more than already available on the market but without a display. This reduces the cost substantially with industry experts estimating the production cost to be below USD 1,00 per piece. Without the display, results will be transferred to the iPhone and are shown by its App and can be saved for future reference (?).
Main advantage over the early models is, that the Breathometer connects via the headphone socket and is therefore not bound to one smart-phone brand and universally useable.
The app is said to include a button which allows to call a Taxi in case you are over the allowed alcohol limit for driving. Nothing new here aswell, as there are a bunch of Taxi-apps on the market already.
What all these breathalyzers have in common is that they try to appear to consumers as being “life saving devices” by repeating their sales mantra of “help to save lives by checking whether you are still fit to drive“. Well how about not drinking in the first place ? Even the consumption of alcohol within legal limits may lead to accidents.
Once beyond the sales-talk let´s look at the actual results and that´s when depression sets in:
The results of the breathalyzers are not very exact, to say the least.
They do NOT give you a clear indication as to whether you are still fit to drive. Instruction manuals clearly point that out and often ask you to wait for 30 minutes after eating, drinking and smoking before you do a breath test. That might be difficult for many in a real-life situation. Breathometer states: “Our device is as accurate as other consumer breathalyzers on the market”.
Result: smart-phone breathalyzers are not much more than a party- or smart-phone gimmick which may quickly end up collecting dust.
There is no apparent reason as why not to use a regular consumer breathalyzer with a battery (random example) which comes at less than half the price of above gadgets and doesn´t even need to connect to a phone.
If you really want to check your blood alcohol level accurately, you should use a professional breathalyzers such as the police use. These are in a different price range though due to their fuel-cell technology for professional use.
But then again: If you fail that one, the police usually requires for a blood test, to actually verify the results.
My impression: save the money spent on such gadgets and make an “either-or” decision between drinking and driving instead of asking a gadget to clear you to do both.