DRMacIver's Notebook

Book Review: The Knowledge Illusion

Book Review: The Knowledge Illusion

This book is 80% great and 20% red flags, but that doesn’t mean it averages out to a book that is merely good, instead it is a great book that should be consumed well salted.

What do I mean by this?

Well, I really like the conclusions of the book and it has taught me a number of useful and interesting things, but it is fundamentally written in a popular science style. This means that its claims are stated with much higher confidence than I think is warranted, especially given the replication crisis, and it is often overly credulous about things outside of the authors’ area of expertise - apparently blockchain is an amazing technology that is going to change the community of knowledge, and I nearly permanently put the book down when they started waxing lyrical about chaos theory and fractals early on. I feel like the authors should take their own advice and write causal explanations of the things they are referencing in their book in order to evaluate their own understanding.

But it’s a really useful framing of how knowledge, cognition, and understanding work, and I think I would recommend it to everyone despite the above reservations.

The following are some of the interesting things in it:

The titular knowledge illusion is probably the main thing that I didn’t know something about before reading this book, but I found the rest of it significantly increased my understanding of it. I think there is a decent chance that I will do a reread and take copious notes the second time through.