"Everything Is Obvious" by Duncan J. Watts

Review by Borodutch

"Everything Is Obvious" is about, well, everything; however, it fails to have an established underlying narrative. Even though the chapters are somewhat connected and valuable as they stand alone, it was tough to figure out what the author was trying to lead to. In a sense, it was even more challenging to read "Everything Is Obvious" than "Rationality: From AI to Zombies" by Eliezer Yudkowsky. And this is a shallow bar to clear.

The book's primary premise is that common sense fails us more often than we admit. I guess this is the "obvious" part of the title! The author then discusses the circumstances when common sense fails us almost every time: when applied to large groups of people. He says we can't use common sense when discussing politics, economics, sociology, etc.

Duncan discusses cognitive biases such as priming, anchoring, the halo effect, gambler's fallacy, fundamental attribution error, and more. It feels like the book is about cognitive biases and logical fallacies, but I can't be sure. The issue is that the author goes on so many tangents and rambles that it is difficult to follow. Granted, the edition I've read was published in 2012, which might justify how weirdly written the book is — it was only the very beginning of the popularization of cognitive biases.

Should you read "Everything Is Obvious?" It wouldn't hurt but maybe search for a better and more modern book on cognitive biases and logical fallacies.