- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (May 15, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 046509760X
- ISBN-13: 978-0465097609
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 72 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect Hardcover – May 15, 2018
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One of Science Friday's "Best Science Books of 2018"
"Illuminating... The Professor Pearl who emerges from the pages of The Book of Why brims with the joy of discovery and pride in his students and colleagues... [it] not only delivers a valuable lesson on the history of ideas but provides the conceptual tools needed to judge just what big data can and cannot deliver."―New York Times
"Cause and effect is one of the most heavily debated, difficult-to-prove things in science and medicine. This book really gets you thinking about cause and effect as it applies to issues of our time, such as: How come cigarettes were around for years and we never showed they were causing cancer or heart disease? The authors goes through these cases like an interrogation, and it's just extraordinary."―Science Friday
"'Correlation is not causation.' That scientific refrain has had social consequences...Judea Pearl proposes a radical mathematical solution...now bearing fruit in biology, medicine, social science and AI."―Nature
"Lively and accessible...Pearl was one of the visionary leaders of the causal revolution, and The Book of Why is his crowning achievement."―Jewish Journal
"Anyone interested in probing connections between cause and effect, and their relevance for the future of AI, will find this a fascinating and provocative book. Highly recommended."―CHOICE
"Pearl's accomplishments over the last 30 years have provided the theoretical basis for progress in artificial intelligence... and they have redefined the term 'thinking machine.'"―Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, Google, Inc.
"Judea Pearl has been the heart and soul of a revolution in artificial intelligence and in computer science more broadly."―Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow and Director, Microsoft Research Labs
"If causation is not correlation, then what is it? Thanks to Judea Pearl's epoch-making research, we now have a precise answer to this question. If you want to understand how the world works, this engrossing and delightful book is the place to start."―Pedro Domingos, professor of computer science, University of Washington, and author of The Master Algorithm
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Pearl has written many other textbooks introducing his graphical approach. But in this book, Pearl provides an engaging narrative of the history of causal inference, the important distinctions he sees in his branch and its importance for the future of Artificial Intelligence.
Briefly, Pearl views classical statistics as seriously flawed in not having developed a meaningful theory of causality. While able to demonstrate correlation, Pearl asserts that in classical statistics all relationships are two-way: that is 2x=3y+6 can also be written 3y=2x-6. We are left in doubt as to whether x causes y or y causes x.
Fundamentally, Pearl sees this problem as still plaguing all artificial intelligence and statistics. In its place, Pearl argues that the exact causal relationship between all variables should be explicitly symbolized in graphical form and only then can mathematical operations tease out the precise causal effect.
To be transparent, I am trained in the Rubin approach to causal inference and disagree with some of Pearl’s history and characterization of statistics. But that is not the point. The history is well-written, engaging and understandable by the lay reader. Similarly, his account of graphical causal inference theory is followable even for someone like myself who did not learn these techniques in graduate school.
The last part of the book, where Pearl opines on the future of AI, is the most sensational. Pearl believes that if computers were programmed to understand his symbolization of causal inference theory they would be empowered to realize counterfactuals and thus engage in moral decision making. Furthermore, since Pearl himself was a pioneer in deep learning, his characterization of contemporary AI as hopelessly doomed in the quest to replicate human cognition because of a lack of understanding in causal inference will be sure to garner attention.
But one would be misguided to think that speculations about AI or mischaracterizations of other kinds of causal inference make this book any less of a classic. For the first time, Pearl has written a popular, interesting and provocative book describing his branch of causal inference theory—past, present and future.
This book is a must read then, not only for causal inference theorists, but more widely for those with any interest in contemporary developments in computer science, statistics or Artificial Intelligence. A book that, like Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, is a triumphant summary of a lifetime of work in scientific topics that have ramifications, not only for fellow scientists, but for all of humanity.