The one sentence summary
To be brilliant, you have to be irrational – ideas that don’t make sense have surprising power.
WHAT THE BOOK SAYS
- The author sets out 11 rules of alchemy:
- The opposite of a good idea can also be a good idea.
- Don’t design for average.
- It doesn’t pay to be logical if everyone else is being logical.
- The nature of our attention affects the nature of our experience.
- A flower is simply a weed with an advertising budget.
- The problem with logic is that it kills off magic.
- A good guess which stands up to observation is still science. So is a lucky accident.
- Test counterintuitive things only because no one else will.
- Solving problems using rationality is like playing golf with only one club.
- Dare to be trivial.
- If there were a logical answer, we would have found it.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
- Economic logic assumes that everyone makes rational decisions, but they don’t. Psycho-logic takes the vagaries of irrationality into account.
- Alchemy is not pure irrationality – it is second-order social intelligence applied to an uncertain world. Simple economic models have a narrow view of human motivation and so pose a threat to the human imagination.
- If we could resist the urge to be logical just some of the time, and devote that time instead to the pursuit of alchemy, what might we discover?
- As American physicist Richard Feyman explains, when we look for a new law, first we guess it, then we compute the consequences of the guess.
- Just a few wrong assumptions in statistics can lead to intelligent people being spectacularly wrong. When you multiply bullshit with bullshit, you don’t get a bit more bullshit – you get bullshit squared.
- What really is and what we perceive can be very different.
- Perception may map neatly on to behaviour, but reality does not map neatly onto perception.
- Behaviour comes first; attitude changes to keep up.
- We spend a lot of time signalling to ourselves – a form of self-placebo. As an active verb, evolutionary psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls this self-placebbing.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
- Nothing. The footnotes alone are an inspiring read.