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Malcolm Gladwell critique: David and Goliath misrepresents the science.

Stashed in: Basketball, Football, Influence!, Ideas, Stories, New Yorker, Why not both?, Science Too, @gladwell

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I've gone on at length with these examples because I think they also run counter to another claim that is sometimes made about Gladwell's writings: That he does nothing more than restate the obvious or banal. I couldn't disagree more here. Indeed, to his credit, what he writes about is the opposite of trivial. If Gladwell is right in his claims, we have all been acting unethically by watching professional football, and the sport will go the way of dogfighting, or at best boxing. If he is right about basketball, thousands of teams have been employing bad strategies for no good reason. If he is right about dyslexia, the world would literally be a worse place if everyone were able to learn how to read with ease, because we would lose the geniuses that dyslexia (and other "desirable difficulties") create. If he was right about how beliefs and desires spread through social networks in The Tipping Point, consumer marketing would have changed greatly in the years since. Actually, it did: Firms spent great effort trying to find “connectors” and “mavens” and to buy the influence of the biggest influencers, even though there was never causal evidence that this would work. (Read Duncan Watts's brilliant book Everything Is Obvious, Once You Know the Answerreviewed by me here—to understand why.) If Gladwell was right, also in The Tipping Point, about how much news anchors can influence our votes by deploying their smiles for and against their preferred candidates, then democracy as we know it is a charade (and not for the reasons usually given, but for the completely unsupported reason that subliminal persuaders can create any electoral results they want). And so on. These ideas are far from obvious, self-evident, or trivial. They do have the property of triggering a pleasurable rush of counterintuition, engaging a hindsight bias, and seeming correct once you have learned about them. But an idea that people feel like they already knew is much different from an idea people really did know all along.

It's like Inception if Leonardo were just unlocking an idea already in the brain, rather than implanting a new idea.

Malcolm Gladwell is like the Wizard of Oz -- he gives you things you already had!

The author believes that Malcolm Gladwell is a successful, entertaining writer but not a valid speaker for scientific facts, yet most of Gladwell's readers believe what what they read from him as fact.

Those are both true.

those are both true gif

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