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Blind Spot: Why We Fail to See the Solution Right in Front of Us Hardcover – April 30, 2013
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“A wonderful work…Rugg has succeeded in pulling off the almost impossible task of presenting a highly complex subject area in a way that can be understood by all.” (Wesley Vernon, O.B.E., professor at Jordanthorpe Healthe Centre, Sheffield)
“Rugg is at the cutting edge of research into one of the biggest questions of our time: when can the pronouncements of experts be trusted? This book applies Rugg’s groundbreaking methods to a fascinating range of issues, with sometimes shocking consequences.” (Robert Matthews, Department of Mathematics at Aston University, Birmingham, and author of 25 Big Ideas: The Science That's Changing Our World)
“Blind Spot provides a template for making sense of failure and divining a strategy for success. A unique and invigorating read; compelling and entertaining, informative and inspiring.” (David J. Parkes, associate director of Information Services at Staffordshire University)
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I've wondered why nobody who knows search engine design, big data algorithms, and "mistakes" made by computers in machine learning hadn't applied that knowledge to human problem solving-- and here it is! This book is a smorgasbord of high tech algorithmic prioritization methods, good old deductive reasoning, just plain fascinating story telling, and a sprinkling of "aha" moments, not on how the brain confuses the figure for the ground, but how simply failing to apply the tools we have at the right time in the right way can continually keep us making the same mistakes.
The amazing thing is that the author is really presenting the brain like a complex software program (AutoCad, Maya, various SDKs come to mind), which today are filled with multiple tools, tool trays, pull downs, hover overs, and other sophisticated GUIs. The interfaces themselves are like a genius with unlimited tools, with the genius not being the tools, but knowing which one to select when! "Experts" are supposedly those who know the tools, but... hmmm, what if they were applying them wrong? The image that comes to mind is a physicist pulling out a really astonishing looking metric tool, then using it to pry open his briefcase. Given the sophistication of the author's arguments, my first reaction would be: DRY! Not so! This isn't yet another "how to" management advice column, but a series of spellbinding "Holmes" like stories about how supposedly sound reasoning can go awry, even in the hands of "renowned experts." The interesting thing is the odd feeling you get when you're done with this ride-- about who you can trust and who you can't, and why! It puts a spotlight on trust in a way I've never seen before.
Here's the thing: Sure, information is better than ever, with Wiki and all that floating all around us. But how do we filter the gems from the fool's gold? Old methods aren't cutting it! In some ways this author is a true maverick-- suggesting, of all things, we think for ourselves and actually BELIEVE that we can figure things out ALL the experts are getting wrong! The tools he uses are at once high tech and yet simple-- occam's razor at it's best, reminding us not to rule out what's staring us in the face just because it is TOO obvious. If you're from a "show me" State, you'll love this. Someone said that as we get older the path between naievete and skepticism gets perilously thin. This book is a must read in navigating that razor's edge, in an age where "assumptions" abound, "signed off" by someone we all trust! Highly recommended, and way fun. Can be life changing, a deep yet easy read -- that kind of flavor.
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"Blind Spot" has sparkling prose and is as interesting and fun to read as any famous novel. Dr. Rugg weaves his thesis throughout his story of debunking the Voynich Manuscript. Dr. Rugg's story of the Voynich manuscript reads like "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown. The story is chock full of medieval mystery that intrepid investigators using modern science try to unravel. This story alone makes "Blind Spot" a valuable read. Dr. Rugg uses a vast amount of historical and scientific references, from Roman battles to torpedo design. Just getting a glimpse into the kind of mind Dr. Rugg must have makes reading "Blind Spot" worthwhile.
At the end however I'm not sure if Dr. Rugg's Verifier method (principle idea of the book) is about solving human error or about identifying error in academic publications. While Dr. Rugg gave us a working outline (the steps) of the Verifier method there isn't a practical application to solving daily human errors or errors outside of those extensively documented with peer reviewed and published articles. The Verifier process is:
1. Decide if a problem really exists.
2. Try to determine if the problem has already been solved by experts in a different discipline.
3. Determine if there are any expertise gaps.
4. Identify the key themes and chains of evidence that people are using.
5. Carefully study the concepts and representations used by experts in the field.
6. Deliberately avoid writing anything down or using formal diagrams too early.
7. Deliberately avoid actively looking for errors in the material you're reading; concentrate on getting a feel for the big picture.
8. Now home in on the things that feel wrong.
9. Choose tools that will let you check whether you really have found an error.
We desperately need to rethink how we think. Dr. Rudd's book is very useful for making us aware of that need.
Blind Spot does a nice job of capturing Rugg's notions of the ways to elicit and structure information (Chapters 1-5) and to examine that information for strengths and weaknesses (mostly in Chapter 10), although it would be nice to have his methodology summarized and mapped out here as a clearer working hypothesis. Sandwiched between those two parts is a recounting of his work on the Voynich manuscript (which some will find interesting in its own right and others perhaps a tad long for a case study) and Jo Hyde's work on different medical diagnoses (more useful as case studies here, if a bit less colorful than the Voynich story).
Overall, Blind Spot takes a novel approach to sharing some interesting ideas in the growing field of information theory.