The confirmation bias rational optimist

I tried reading “the rational optimist” by Matt Ridley. Here is a summary of the book chapters

  1. Stats and anecdotes showing the world got better.
  2. Stats and anecdotes from the next era showing the world got better.
  3. Stats and anecdotes from the next era showing the world got better.
  4. Stats and anecdotes from the next era showing the world got better.
  5. Stats and anecdotes from the next era showing the world got better.
  6. Stats and anecdotes from the next era showing the world got better.
  7. Stats and anecdotes from the next era showing the world got better.
  8. Stats and anecdotes from the next era showing the world got better.
  9. Stats and anecdotes from the next era showing the world got better.
  10. Some Pessimism: Africa is doomed, but it is gonna be alright. Climate change will kill us all if we don’t react to it, but it is also gonna be alright.
  11. Extrapolation of the stats and the anecdotes from chapters 1-9 to the coming 100 years.

The end

I am an optimist myself. It is the first word in my bio. But the book looks like it is written for optimists looking to support their confirmation bias. No wonder most of the people recommending it such as Bill Gates, and Naval are known to be optimists themselves.

I totally agree that the world got and is getting better. I keep telling everyone that someone like myself, born in Egypt fifty years before I was born, and have the same disease I have, would had far lower chance of living a comfortable life as the one I enjoy, let alone having a decent job and living by themself in a different country.

The book almost dismisses randomness and the role it plays in social, political, and economic boom and bust cycles. It forgets that the turkey after 1000 days of getting fed, it thinks tomorrow will be the same until thanksgiving comes.

It also dismisses the point, that individualization and capitalism, the same things that led the world becoming better, are making people unhappy feeling they lost their sense of belonging in the society, which on a longer run might have a reversal effect by people wanting this progress to stop. The book ignores that the rapid technological advancements are making tech and tech companies controlling humans more than ever, driving us towards a dystopian world where we become slaves of those technologies.

Those are just few points of pessimism – among many others – that I expected to be addressed in such a book. I expected it to have stronger arguments targeted towards real pessimists, and not a compressed dose of statistics and anecdotes that anyone could argue against, even if they are true.


My manager wanted to surprise me with a gift of books. He knows I love my Kindle so he went to my profile and bought me 3 books from my “to-read” list. How sweet is this?

I didn’t update my goodreads for long time. It was cool back then during the social media boom. It was nice because it allowed sharing all things books. No wonder it got bought by Amazon.

Luckily, my manager figured out that the list wasn’t updated and he bought me three books of his choice. However this reminded me that I should update or delete my goodreads account. I decided to go with the latter.

I stopped reading physical books. All my readings are now on Kindle. I hate physical books. They are heavy and I can’t hold them for long. Kindle gives me all I want. And I can share what I am reading with the world, which removes the need for a goodreads account. So came the deletion.

On the other side I decided to list all the books I read & listened to. You can check the full list at the end of this post. This will save me time whenever someone asks me to recommend a book.

My takeaways from listing these books is that I read a lot about psychology. I deeply care about understanding the people & the world around me. I like books that are thought provoking, and books that carry a contrarian thought.

My biggest two authors are Dan Ariely & Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell was recommended to me by Amr Samir. The first book I read by him was Outliers. Since then I read all his books except blink. I know he is being criticized for using his amazing storytelling abilities to convey messages that may not be scientifically proven or using weak studies. Still, something is captivating about his writings. And it gets better if you listen to his books. He reads them himself. You feel the excitement in his voice.

Dan Ariely I think was recommended by Ahmed Essam, or Amr Samir. I don’t really remember. Dan’s books are revealing. They show you how many of what you think about human behavior is wrong through simple experimentation and observations. I recommend reading Predictably Irrational as a start.

Another takeaway is that I read four books about social media marketing. Those were from my days at Microsoft where I was doing smm. Once I left I stopped reading about the topic.

Here is a link to the full list:

The truth is revealed: Stirring tea doesn’t cool it faster

Yesterday I finished the book: “What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions”. The book is written by a physicist who used to work for NASA who decided to quit and start drawing comics on his website If you are a nerd you are probably familiar with the site.

Few of the answered I liked were “Can I create a jetpack using downwards pointed guns?”, “What happens if a woman self fertilizes her egg with a sperm carrying her own DNA?”. The latter one was more interesting as I finally learned why relatives marriage might result in retarded kids, and why genetic disorders such as the one I have which resulted on not being able to walk has a 50% chance of passing down to every kid.

Yet, the funniest one which I should shock my dad was about, if you stir tea, will it cool down faster? Short answer is NO.

The physical effect of stirring is actually a little complicated.[6] Most of the heat is carried away from teacups by the air convecting over them, and so they cool from the top down. Stirring brings fresh hot water from the depths, so it can help this process. But there are other things going on — stirring disturbs the air, and it heats the walls of the mug. It’s hard to be sure what’s really going on without data.

Fortunately, we have the internet. StackExchange user drhodes measured the rate of teacup cooling from stirring vs. not stirring vs. repeatedly dipping a spoon into the cup vs. lifting it. Helpfully, drhodes posted both high-resolution graphs and the raw data itself, which is more than you can say for a lot of journal articles.

The conclusion: It doesn’t really matter whether you stir, dip, or do nothing; the tea cools at about the same rate (although dipping the spoon in and out of the tea cooled it slightly faster).

You can read the whole answer here, where you will find out if you can boil a cup of water by stirring very quickly.

If you have great book recommendations feel free to add them as comments. All things non-fiction are welcomed.