Kicking My Ass: Rolf Dobelli’s “The Art of Thinking Clearly”

Thinking Clearly

[ Disclaimer: There is evidence that Rolf Dobelli plagiarized many ideas from Nassim Taleb’s published books and unpublished manuscripts. You can read about that at Fooled by Randomness. ]

Now I know what to buy everyone I know for Christmas. Sorry to ruin the surprise.

But seriously: I read this book in two days and I have to admit I’m not intellectually competent enough to retain any of it. So I’m going to read it again. And again. I’ve promised myself to keep it around at all times until I’m less stupid.

The good news? It’s easy to read. Broken up into little pieces, well-organized. Like Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.

The Art of Thinking Clearly contains 99 ways my thinking is not clear. Cognitive biases, etc. Exactly what I need. I found it at a book store in Santa Barbara (Chaucers) after asking if they had anything about “logic” and “thinking.” I want to become a better decision maker, and this is how I plan to do it.

Plenty of references inside to Charlie Munger, too. And the Cialdini book. Except this one isn’t blatantly about how to trick people.

Here it is on Amazon.

I think it’s the most valuable book I’ve read since The Outsider by Colin Wilson.


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Stupid Lifehacker Article About Creative Geniuses With Messy Desks


I just read this stupid Lifehacker article: Why Creative Geniuses Often Keep a Messy Desk.

1.) It mistakes Correlation for Causality, by suggesting that having a messy desk will make you a creative genius: “In case you are trying to be more creative, here are some ideas: instead of throwing out those magazines right after you’re done with them, leave them hanging around your desk.”

2.) Thirty-four Dutch students being rated as “More Creative” on a scale of 1-3 (as explained in the original study this article cites) is not the same thing as being a multi-billionaire businessman like Mark Zuckerberg. I would wager he is creative in spite of his messiness, not because of it.

3.) Regarding the photo examples of famous entrepreneurs with crappy workstations, it is likely you could find just as many “Creative Geniuses” who have clean / organized workspaces.

See also: Cargo Cult. If you want to read a good book on Creativity, I recommend the classic: A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative by Roger Von Oech.

Now, go clean your desks, you slobs.


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How To Be A Bad Arguer: The Sorites Paradox

Republicans are calling Barack Obama a Socialist, based on his proposal to raise the highest income bracket from 35% to 39%.

This is a Logical Fallacy known as the Sorites Paradox, or the Paradox of the Heap. It is explained thusly: if you have a heap of sand and gradually remove grains of sand, at which point will it no longer be a heap? It is also called The Paradox of the Beard: how many whiskers must one have on his face for it to officially be considered a Beard?

Similarly, at which point DOES a particular tax bracket become Socialism? 36%? 37%? You have four percentage points to choose from. Which one is it?

The intention of “Redistribution of Wealth” is for everyone to pitch in and pay to use common public services. One way this is done is through Income Tax. The rich pay a larger percentage and amount, because it is understood that they can afford to. Another 4% will PROBABLY not greatly inconvenience those on the Forbes List of Humans Who Have More Money Than You Can Imagine.

As Colin Powell recently stated in a YouTube video, “Taxes are ALWAYS a Redistribution of [Wealth].”

The Republicans are using the word Socialist as an Ad Hominem Argument, which is attacking an opponent without addressing the substance of the argument. In other words, it is intended as an insult (or an Appeal To Emotion). If we accept the premise that Socialism is bad, does that mean that all forms of Socialism are bad? Or only the forms that Obama advocates simply because he is the opponent?

If all forms of Socialism are bad, and if they are elected, will McCain and Palin pledge to eliminate all forms of Socialism?
Or will they still adopt some Socialist policies while doing away with others?

The word Socialism can mean many different things, and The Republicans have failed to define the term. Dr. Zoltan has no choice but to take a guess at what they are referring to. (The following is not a Straw Man or Red Herring — it is merely “fun” conjecture.)

In the current political context, Socialism might mean Central Planning.

Will McCain and Palin do away with ALL Central Planning, which includes the Interstate Highway System, The U.S. Postal Service, Public Schools, NASA, Parks, Beaches, City Buses, and The Armed Forces?

But to be more specific, The Republicans are most likely referring to Socialism as meaning Central Planning of the Economy At Large. And if that is true, why are they the ones who pushed for the $700 Billion Bail-Out and Centralization of Power within the Treasury Department?

Dr. Zoltan digresses. In summary, if you want to be a Bad Arguer, do the following:

1.) Use an important and powerful term such as Socialism without defining what it is you are referring to,
2.) Ignore the specifics of your opponent’s proposal, and
3.) Join the Republican Party and embrace a morality built on Logical Fallacies.

Dr. Zoltan is now obsessed with Logical Fallacies. Visit to find out more.

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How To Be A Bad Arguer: Contextomy

Contextomy is a logical fallacy / term that refers to the act of “Quoting Out Of Context.”

How to do it: simply remove a statement or phrase (or even a sentence fragment) from the rest of the entire context surrounding it, thus changing the meaning to suit your purpose.

One of the best examples of this is CNN. Instead of publishing unedited texts written by important world political figures, the reader is simply given second-hand bits and pieces which will stir up the most controversy (and thus generate more advertising revenue).

In marketing, Contextomy is known as Quote Farming. By leaving out a few words, “It is incredible that this music sounds so bad, I would never buy it,” turns into, “It is incredible music. Buy it.”

Another example of Contextomy is the contemporary practice of religion, which was made famous for its tendency to take entire books out of context.

Contextomy continues to exist because:

1.) The truth consists of many (often complex) facts
2.) Facts can be difficult to verify by individuals, particularly on advanced subjects
3.) One sentence is easier to understand than a hundred sentences

It is often easier to simply remove the context and focus on only one detail of the truth to get your intended point / agenda across.

With that in mind, Dr. Zoltan will leave you with a stunning piece of Contextomy entitled, “Science.” I wonder who the author is… I will give you a hint: he is a famous professor at a University.

Science is a light. It is a discovery of reality, and only a pure scholar and researcher, free from wrong ideologies, superstitions, selfishness and material trappings, can discover the reality.

My dear friends and scholars, distinguished participants, science and wisdom can also be misused, a misuse caused by selfishness, corruption, material desires and material interests, as well as individual and group interests. Material desires place humans against the realities of the world. Corrupted independent human beings resist acceptance of reality and even if they do accept it, they do not obey it.

There are many scholars who are aware of the realities but do not accept them. Their selfishness does not allow them to accept those realities. Did those who in the course of human history wage wars not understand the reality that lives, properties, dignity, territories and the rights of all human beings should be respected? Or did they understand it but neither have faith in nor abide by it?

My dear friends, as long as the human heart is not free from hatred, envy and selfishness, it does not abide by the truth, by the illumination of science and science itself. Science is the light and scientists must be pure and pious. If humanity achieves the highest level of physical and spiritual knowledge, but its scholars and scientists are not pure, then this knowledge cannot serve the interest of humanity, and several events can ensue.

First, the wrongdoers reveal only a part of the reality which is to their own benefit and conceal the rest, as we have witnessed with respect to the scholars of the divine religions in the past too. Unfortunately today we see that certain researchers and scientists are still hiding the truth from the people.

Second, scientists and scholars are misused for personal, group or party interests. So in today’s world, ruling powers are misusing many scholars and scientists in different fields, with the purpose of stripping nations of their wealth.

And they use all opportunities only for their own benefit.

For example, they deceive people by using scientific methods and tools. They, in fact, wish to justify their own wrongdoings, though, by creating nonexistent enemies, for example, and have insecure atmosphere. They try to control all in the name of combatting insecurity and terrorism. They even violate individual and social freedoms in their own nations under that pretext. They do not respect the privacy of their own people. They tap telephone calls and try to control their people. They create an insecure psychological atmosphere in order to justify their warmongering acts in different parts of the world.

As another example, by using precise scientific methods and planning, they begin their onslaught on the domestic cultures of nations, the cultures which are the result of thousands of years of interaction, creativity and artistic activities. They try to eliminate these cultures in order to separate the people from their identity and cut their bonds with their own history and values. They prepare the ground for stripping people from their spiritual and material wealth by instilling in them feelings of intimidation, desire for imitation and mere consumption, submission to oppressive powers, and disability.

Making nuclear, chemical and biological bombs and weapons of mass destruction is yet another result of the misuse of science and research by the big powers. Without cooperation of certain scientists and scholars, we would not have witnessed production of different nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Are these weapons to protect global security? What can a perpetual nuclear umbrella threat achieve for the sake of humanity? If nuclear war wages between nuclear powers, what human catastrophe will take place? Today we can see the nuclear effects in even new generations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima residents which might be witness in even the next generations to come. Presently, effects of the depleted uranium used in weapons since the beginning of the war in Iraq can be examined and investigated accordingly. These catastrophes take place only when scientists and scholars are misused by oppressors.

Another point of sorrow, some big powers create a monopoly over science and prevent other nations in achieving scientific development as well.

This, too, is one of the surprises of our time. Some big powers do not want to see the progress of other societies and nations. They turn to thousands of reasons, make allegations, place economic sanctions to prevent other nations from developing and advancing, all resulting from their distance from human values, moral values and the teachings of the divine prophet. Regretfully, they have not been trained to serve mankind.


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How To Be A Bad Arguer: Godwin's Law

Godwin’s Law is also known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies. It was created in 1990 by Mike Godwin (later known for his legal work with The Electronic Frontier Foundation).

What it means is this: whenever you are in a discussion, argument, debate, or conversation and someone invokes the name of Hitler or The Nazis, this is probably a good point to stop taking your opponent’s argument seriously.


Obama is a powerful public speaker.
Hitler was a powerful public speaker.
Therefore, Obama is as bad as Hitler.

It is a form of the Logical Fallacy known as “argumentum ad Hitlerum,” which would state that since Hitler is bad, any regular thing Hitler did must be also be bad. Godwin invented this “Law” because he “wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the Holocaust.”

From Wikipedia:

• There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically “lost” whatever debate was in progress.

• In October 2007, the “Last Page” columnist in The Smithsonian stated that when an adversary uses an inappropriate Hitler or Nazi comparison, “you have only to say ‘Godwin’s Law’ and a trapdoor falls open, plunging your rival into a pool of hungry crocodiles.”

Godwin’s Law
Reductio ad Hitlerum
Mike Godwin

Dr. Zoltan is now obsessed with Logical Fallacies. Visit to find out more.

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