Official Book Announcement

by admin on February 13, 2018

Going off topic today! I hope that my readers will forgive me.

As many of you know, for the last two years I have been working on a big, non-chess book. It’s called The Book of Why, and we are now entering the home stretch. Publication date is now just three months away (May 15). It no longer seems like a distant, magical city on the horizon: It is really about to happen.

In brief, The Book of Why sounds the death knell for a decades-old scientific taboo. Scientists and statisticians are all taught the aphorism “correlation is not causation.” (The photograph below shows how to scare the bejeebers out of a statistician.) For example, countries with more per capita chocolate consumption also win more Nobel Prizes. But this does not mean that feeding chocolate to children will make them into great scientists; nor does it mean that showering scientists with Nobels will increase the demand for chocolate.

However, scientists have taken this common-sense observation and used it as an excuse to avoid discussions of cause and effect altogether. Millions of people died or had their lifespans shortened unnecessarily because scientists had no agreed-upon methods for proving that smoking causes cancer (or that anything causes anything). Tobacco companies were able to portray this lack of methodology as a lack of certainty, and thus sow confusion among the public.

My co-author, Judea Pearl, has dedicated the last thirty years of his life to debunking the conventional wisdom and reclaiming the language of causality for science. He has proved that, by a judicious combination of data with pre-existing scientific knowledge, you can tell which causal questions are answerable and which are not. His students have automated the procedure to the point where a computer (or an artificial intelligence) can do it. Our goal in The Book of Why is to replace the evasive “Of course we can’t answer that question” with the assertive “Of course we can!”

I would like to invite all of you to visit my newly updated website, where you can read all about The Book of Why (as well as my previous books and articles). And second, I would like to invite you to visit the book’s Amazon page and pre-order the book.

I know you’re wondering, “Why pre-order it? Why not wait until it appears in bookstores?” Actually, there’s a reason I’m asking you to do this. My editor explained it to me this way:

The number of pre-orders is a major variable in Amazon’s computation of its initial orders, and has significant knock-on effects should we get good publicity around publication, as Amazon will rapidly go out of stock if their initial order is low. We cannot send books unbidden to Amazon (or anyone). All we can do is influence how many they take. Better to do that now.

So if you would like to support the book, the most effective way to do it is to order in advance. And as an extra bonus, you can be the first person on the block to know about this scientific revolution! If I see you at a chess tournament, I’ll be glad to sign your copy. And yes, one of these days I will start playing in chess tournaments again — probably after the book comes out.

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