What’s it about?

Whatever you think you know, you’re probably wrong, at least in part. This book charges that communal knowledge is one of the reasons we, as a species, have made it this far. We include in our knowledge not just what we have learned, but what we know we have access to learning quickly, such as experts or search engines. We use our thinking for action and this results in forgetting, or never knowing, many of the details. Additionally, our memory’s often fail us because though we may recognize knowledge as having once studied or simply read about it, we confuse this as actually knowing this information, but merely being unable to remember it fully.

The book ends by making a case for being smarter and making smarter decisions. Nudging ourselves through behavioral science gets us a little closer to making better choices by changing the environment instead of ourselves. People inherently, as laid out in the book’s chapters, don’t seek out the explanation, but rather choose a more go-with-the-flow approach. It’s easier to accept thingsĀ as is than to worry ourselves about the details. Lastly, through four lessons, the authors give us ways to improve the decisions we make based on the information we think we know.

Why should anyone read it?

This book is an eye-opener about how you make decisions because it ironically exposes what you actually know about what you thought you knew. Our shallow perceptions aren’t alarming enough to bring your life to a screeching halt, but the real beauty is that you change how you think about things. Should you invest in that financial opportunity? You might not know everything about it, or perhaps you’re using the tools at your disposal in the wrong way, all because you haven’t taken a second look at why you think the way you do.

What I really gathered form this book is that humans simplify their thinking so they can do more. However, those shortcuts are totally subconscious and without reconsidering them, we jump off a bridge because our friend did. Understanding more about why we think a certain way and how we categorize knowledge will help you slow this process down and make smarter decisions. It will help us utilize the hive mentality where it does the most good. We are social beings, so at an individual level, we are doing our collective whole a favor by processing information more deeply and becoming a more valuable member of society.

Select Quotations

“How can you prepare for something when you don’t know what you’re preparing for?”

“Perhaps the most common way that people pass causal information to one another is by storytelling.”

“Communal knowledge is distributed across a group of people. No one person has it all. So what I as an individual know has to connect to the knowledge that other people have.”

“We are like Goldilocks: We have a sweet spot for explanatory detail, not too little and not too much.”

“Humans aren’t built to become masters of all subjects; humans are built to participate in a community.”

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