A version of my Quadrant essay ” The Wise Delinquency of Decision Makers” was recently broadcast on ABC Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor program. Audio and transcript available here.
Robyn Williams, the great science journalist and host of Ockham’s Razor, introduced it thusly:
Robyn’s anecdote, and his instinctive antipathy to the officially mandated, matrix-based method, are certainly consonant with the themes of Wise Delinquency. It is just a pity about the passing reference to Blink, a book whose beguiling readability concealed the simplistic and misleading nature of its main message. My point was not the Gladwellian idea that rigorous and painstaking methods should give way to gut feelings or intuitive “blinks”. Rather, it was the certain kinds of rigorous and painstaking methods should not be applied by force in situations where qualitative deliberation is more appropriate. And there are lots of such situations.
A recent article in Slate describes how one of the flagship examples in Gladwell’s book, the supposed predictive ability of marriage researcher John Gottman, only seems impressive because of egregiously lousy statistical methods. These problems had been made public well before Blink was published. I’m told that Gladwell had been informed of these problems, but apparently chose not to mention them; the truth of the matter would have interfered with a good story. That seems like delinquency, but not of the wise kind.