May 24th, 2012

unleash the furry

Dumbth, by Steve Allen

Dumbth was Steve Allen's term for... well, dumbth. Ignorance, poor reasoning, inefficiency, laziness, etc. The first portion of the book is essentially a catalog of dumbth, as seen in the news, or experienced directly in Allen's life. Unfortunately, since the book was published in 1991, and this update was ten years later, and Steve was an old old codger, many of the examples are from long long ago. Worse, some of them are cranky grandpa stories about how they didn't have the right kind of onions for his belt at the store, even though they had stocked quite passable onions formerly. It's also a bit much, just having dumbth after dumbth laid on you.

Fortunately, the second portion of the book is generally much better. Here he provides his 101 ways to improve your thinking. There's nothing earth-shattering here, but he presents a lot of good rules, and does it in an accessible, humorous style. Avoiding bias, recognizing bias, relying on evidence, not getting too attached to your first hypothesis, keeping up with the news, and so on. Alas, the book is probably least likely to be read by those who could most benefit from it. Give a copy to that aged relative who forwards things to you that have been debunked by snopes, or who instantly decided that George Zimmerman should be let go (or summarily executed).