I’ve been working on this one for a long time. How Not to Be Wrong was a hard book for me — a mental boot-camp in which I spent about six months groaning with the weight of one concept, only be handed two more. The fact that I finally made it to the end of the book, a gasping, sweaty, much improved human being, is down entirely to Jordan Ellenberg’s supreme skill as a teacher.
How Not to Be Wrong shunts the reader smoothly and with refreshing humor between geometry, military history, computer science, politics, statistics, gambling, medicine, morality, and philosophy. I emerged at the end shaking with not only a wealth of new information about all these stops on the rail, but with the conviction than now I know what they’re for. Science doesn’t tell you what you ought to believe; it tells you what you ought to do. We don’t vote to determine the best leader; we vote to give everyone an excuse to continue not committing crimes. The best way to treat your most cherished beliefs is by attempting to disprove them.
I know that all sounds like nonsense, but I honestly can’t think of a more concise or convincing way to talk about Ellenberg’s insights than the book that he wrote. Start with plotting a line, and end with the reason you get up in the morning.