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Blink, Take 2

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the lose dept.

Books 172

A few weeks ago, reader James Mitchell reviewed Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Now book_reader (Gary Cornell) writes with a very different take on Blink. "When I finished this book I was impressed. Then I blinked -- and realized that I was taken in by its surface attractiveness. After the initial glamour wore off, I was left deeply unsatisfied. This book is over-hyped, and so underperforms. The point of this book can be summed up as: "Trust your intuitions. Well, not quite; trust them, if and only if they are good." Gladwell tells lots of anecdotes to indicate that sometimes less is more. But of course he also tells anecdotes that tell us sometimes less is less." Read on for the rest of Cornell's thoughts on the book.

I wonder why is this book so popular. Any reasonably intelligent person, especially one with a penchant for Dilbert cartoons, already knows what the author is getting at. For example, the (fun) chapter on Warren Harding where Gladwell points out that this terrible president became president because he looked so presidential, is nothing more than the various Dilbert cartoons on "pointy haired boss" writ large. Scott Adams said it better in just a few panels: because we intuitively equate certain kinds of look and feel with positive qualities: tall people do better, beautiful people do better. Or, to put it another way: human beings tend to be shallow and stupid, and prone to letting their unconscious rule them at times when they shouldn't. Why? Because as he says: "our unconscious attitudes may be utterly incompatible with our stated values." (As he points out, the number of women in orchestras went up dramatically when blind auditions became commonplace.) So trusting our intuitions may lead to incorrect conclusion. Except when they don't.

Forget Dilbert cartoons for a second: all this book does is bring attention to a phenomena that should surprise no one, least of all someone who has had any contact with research scientists, research mathematicians or inventive computer scientists. It simply tells us that smart people can have really good intuitions about problems that emerge in a "blink." He then coins a word for this phenomenon: "thin slicing." Whoopee, a new word for an old phenomenon. When I was a research mathematician, we used to call it a "sense of smell." I like our term better, much more concrete.

I can't remember how many times I was sitting in front, or for that matter was myself in front, of a blackboard, writing something down, and overheard people saying "that doesn't smell right," or "that smells good." If it didn't smell right, we took another path to the proof, or made another conjecture. If it did "smell right," we tried to prove it or look it up. How developed your sense of smell made up a great difference in what you accomplished. Trouble is, at least in mathematics, the field I am most familiar with, nobody ever figured out how to develop a person's sense of smell: that's why so few people ever did much research beyond their Ph.D. And nothing in this book will help you do so. Or, take chess: anyone who has watched grandmasters play speed chess and looked at the amazing beauty of some of these games knows that quick pattern matching is one of the keys to their amazing talents. Car salesman who can read people do very well, etc. Intuition is a great thing -- if it is good intuition.

Anyway, I am of course pleased to have discovered that what I and every scientist/mathematician had been doing, probably since the days of Archimedes, is "thin slicing." I'm being a little harsh actually: I did find parts of this book worthwhile: the parts where he describes attempts to algorithmatize good intuition (such as the amazing work by Paul Ekman on teaching the understanding of facial expressions so as to help us see what's really going on "in there"). Of course, this isn't new either: the expert-systems approach to artificial intelligence has tried to do this with varying amounts of success. He highlights what is actually one successful example of this approach in the book without pointing out that this is actually old hat: heart attack detection from the constellation of symptoms that will present themselves in an emergency room. What he doesn't say is that there have been many other interesting approaches for automating the intuitions great clinicians have about medical diagnostics that go back at least thirty years.

So there is some good to this book. We should try not to use the intuitions of the many, but rather understand, learn and ideally, algorithmitize the intuitions of the few. The only trouble is the importance of this was described far more beautifully 90 or so years ago by the great philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead in one simple paragraph from his great book "An Introduction to Mathematics:
"It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in a battle--they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments."

In sum, this is not so much a bad book as one that is much ado about nothing. "Know that your intuitions can be useful, but take your intuitions with a grain of salt" doesn't seem all that insightful to me. Come to think of it, I think my mother told me this.

I'd go further, actually: calling this is a book is simply to acknowledge its appearance between a single cover: it's essentially a collection of New Yorker articles with all the virtues and vices that that magazine is known for. All the sins of Gladwell's previous best seller The Tipping Point are written larger and are more obvious here. He describes, but gives little insight into the phenomena of intuition. Likewise, he rarely tells you how to take advantage of intuition when it arrives (the fatal flaw of the Tipping Point). Personally I suggest that we try harder to algorithmatize intuitive genius, by those rare individuals who have it, and thus follow Whitehead's intuition on how to make civilization progress.

You can purchase Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Self help books (4, Funny)

Nine Tenths of The W (829559) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748898)

Why do people always expect self help books to be useful? Doesn't that defeat the whole point?

Re:Self help books (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748955)

The BEST self help book goes to: Depression for Dummies []

The title is comedy gold

How about (1)

aristus (779174) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749095)

Alzheimer's For Dummies [] ?

Dear Slashdot, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749121)

Unless you're a newly hatched pod person, you already know that my comments about Slashdot can serve as a provisional response to its conclusions until a more comprehensive treatment becomes available. But let me add that it may seem excessive to note that its convictions are as appealing as braces, acne, and a wooden leg at the senior prom. To organize my discussion, I suggest that we take one step back in the causal chain and straighten out its thinking. Slashdot will sue people at random long before it can convert me into one of its peons. Slashdot's trained seals do not concern themselves much with the people around them. History offers innumerable examples for the truth of this assertion.

A great many of us don't want Slashdot to push our efforts two steps backward. But we feel a prodigious pressure to smile, to be nice, and not to object to its avaricious, humorless apologues. Make special note of that point, because I do not appreciate being labeled. No one does. Nevertheless, I unmistakably think that Slashdot's opinion is a lazy cop-out. We can therefore extrapolate that anyone who says that Slashdot can clear-cut ancient forest lands and get away with it can be branded as both sadistic and sinful. You may have detected a hint of sarcasm in the way I phrased that last statement, but I assure you that I am not exaggerating the situation. Our long-corrupt legal system is parlously close to establishing a precedent that will enable Slashdot to lead people towards iniquity and sin. Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement, but for all of you reading this who are not cold-blooded Neanderthals, you can understand where the motivation for that statement comes from. Morally questionable, footling gutter-dwellers generally insist that Slashdot has no intention to encourage every sort of indiscipline and degeneracy in the name of freedom, but Slashdot's often-quoted generalizations belie this notion. This is a lesson for those with eyes to see. It is a lesson not so much about Slashdot's sordid behavior, but about the way that Slashdot is right about one thing, namely that fear is what motivates us. Fear of what it means when tendentious sociopaths till the pathological side of the feudalism garden. Fear of what it says about our society when we teach our children that Slashdot never engages in jackbooted, quasi-apolaustic, or fork-tongued politics. And fear of imprudent spoilsports like Slashdot who twist the truth.

I know more about revisionism than most people. You might even say that I'm an expert on the subject. I can therefore state with confidence that almost every day, Slashdot outreaches itself in setting new records for arrogance, deceit, and greed. It's sincerely breathtaking to watch it. If it weren't for self-absorbed wheeler-dealers, Slashdot would have no friends. I truly don't know what Slashdot's problem is, but it's easy to tell if it is lying. If its lips are moving, it's lying.

Slashdot seems to have a bitter ideological conflict with my statement that it has a hidden agenda. Yet I am surely not up on the latest gossip. Still, I have heard people say that there are two types of people in this world. There are those who use terms of opprobrium such as "cuckoo cheapskates" and "addlepated, lackluster publishers of hate literature" to castigate whomever Slashdot opposes, and there are those who combat the macabre ideology of commercialism that has infected the minds of so many loathsome propagandists. Slashdot fits neatly into the former category, of course. Aside from the fact that Slashdot makes it sound like it's some perfect angel of unstained ethical standards, from secret-handshake societies meeting at "the usual place" to back-door admissions committees, Slashdot's pals have always found a way to commit confrontational, in-your-face acts of violence, intimidation, and incivility. The salient point here is that Slashdot is inherently prolix, delirious, and brusque. Oh, and it also has an insolent mode of existence.

The really interesting thing about all this is not that Slashdot is intentionally being uncompromising. The interesting thing is that it will not be easy to push the envelope on our knowledge of the world around us. Nevertheless, we must attempt to do exactly that, for the overriding reason that immature, power-hungry pissants often take earthworms or similar small animals and impale them on a pin to enjoy watching them twist and writhe as they slowly die. Similarly, Slashdot enjoys watching respectable people twist and writhe whenever it threatens to force us to adopt rigid social roles that compromise our inner code of ethics. Sometimes it seems stuck-up deadbeats are like a farmer who, in the spring, would work the ground, plant seeds, fertilize, and cultivate the ground for a period of time. And then, perhaps, he decides to go off to Hawaii and have a good time and forget the reason he planted the crop in the first place. Well, a farmer wouldn't do that. But Slashdot would ignore compromise and focus solely on its personal agenda if it got the chance.

How dare Slashdot criticize my values when its are so obviously raving? Slashdot advertises its strict morality solely to shift attention away from its many vices. In that context, one could say that if I were to compile a list of Slashdot's forays into espionage, sabotage, and subversion, it would fill an entire page and perhaps even run over onto the following one. Such a list would surely make every sane person who has passed the age of six realize that if Slashdot gets its way, I might very well languish along beneath the thousand eyes of disingenuous, malodorous apostates. One other thing: To say that the laws of nature don't apply to Slashdot is disreputable nonsense and untrue to boot.

I, hardheaded cynic that I am, have to laugh when Slashdot says that its smear tactics prevent smallpox. Where in the world did it get that idea? Not only does that idea contain absolutely no substance whatsoever, but of all of its exaggerations and incorrect comparisons, one in particular stands out: "Slashdot acts in the public interest." I don't know where it came up with this, but its statement is dead wrong. Slashdot is known for walking into crowded rooms and telling everyone there that if it kicks us in the teeth, we'll then lick its toes and beg for another kick. Try, if you can, to concoct a statement better calculated to show how chauvinistic Slashdot is. You can't do it. Not only that, but its prognoses exude palpable pessimism. I mean, think about it.

Slashdot's writings are like hothouse plants. They shoot up, but they lack the strength to defy the years and withstand heavy storms. Slashdot claims to have turned over a new leaf shortly after getting caught trying to make me the target of a constant, consistent, systematic, sustained campaign of attacks. This claim is an outright lie that is still being circulated by Slashdot's thralls. The truth is that I am convinced that there will be a strong effort on Slashdot's part to crush the will of all individuals who have expressed political and intellectual opposition to its projects within a short period of time. This effort will be disguised, of course. It will be cloaked in deceit, as such efforts always are. That's why I'm informing you that the law is not just a moral stance. It is the consensus of society on our minimum standards of behavior. Slashdot once heard some prurient, obtrusive loudmouths say, "The cure for evil is more evil." What's amazing is that Slashdot was then able to use that single quotation plus some anecdotal evidence to convince its lapdogs that a richly evocative description of a problem automatically implies the correct solution to that problem, which indubitably makes me wonder, "Why is it so compelled to complain about situations over which it has no control?" You know the answer, don't you? You probably also know that if the human race is to survive on this planet, we will have to put to rest the animosities that have kept various groups of people from enjoying anything other than superficial unity.

Accompanying this recognition of the indeterminateness of verifiability with regard to an external, objective reality has been a crisis regarding our ability to know that if we don't remove the Slashdot threat now, it will bite us in our backside by next weekend. Slashdot's coadjutors want to advocate fatalistic acceptance of a salacious new world order for one purpose and one purpose only: to vandalize our neighborhoods. Believe you me, Slashdot and I disagree about our civic duties. I maintain that we must do our utmost to direct your attention in some detail to the vast and irreparable calamity brought upon us by Slashdot as expeditiously as possible. Slashdot, on the other hand, believes that genocide, slavery, racism, and the systematic oppression, degradation, and exploitation of most of the world's people are all totally justified. Alarmism has never been successful in the long run. Enough said. One indication of this is the fact that Slashdot claims that the Universe belongs to it by right. That claim is preposterous and, to use Slashdot's own language, overtly fastidious. No history can justify it.

Yet there's more to it than that. I've heard of selfish things like quislingism and scapegoatism. But I've also heard of things like nonviolence, higher moralities, and treating all beings as ends in and of themselves -- ideas which Slashdot's ignorant, unthinking, dodgy brain is too small to understand. I have a problem with Slashdot's use of the phrase, "We all know that...". With this phrase, it doesn't need to prove its claim that it is the best thing to come along since the invention of sliced bread; it merely accepts it as fact. To put it another way, if we can understand what has caused the current plague of disaffected riffraff, I believe that we can then acknowledge that it should judge not, lest it be judged. This letter has gone on far too long, in my opinion, and probably yours as well. So let me end it by saying merely that I certainly seek nothing but justice.

Sounds familiar. (4, Funny)

millennial (830897) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748962)

"I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose."

-- George Carlin

Re:Self help books (1)

cephyn (461066) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748987)

I couldnt even find the self-help section at my local bookstore, though I did see a sign telling me not to help myself to their merchandise.

It left me thoroughly confused. Can you recommend a book to me that will help me help myself?

And technically, isn't every section of self-help?

Re:Self help books (1)

geofferensis (808339) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749000)

Would you really consider this a self help book?

Re:Self help books (1)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749016)

Shhh! If people who buy self help books actually went out and helped themselves, then this market would disapper!

Re:Self help books (2, Insightful)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749225)

Self-help books are for people who have absolutely no idea what they are doing. A good self-help book will at least tell you how to do something pragmatically and where to look for a more detailed take on the subject. If those two things do not appear in a self-help book, then it probably shouldn't be called a self-help book.

Re:Self help books (1)

spectecjr (31235) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749593)

Blink! isn't a self-help book. It falls into the category of "popular science."

Re:Self help books (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749708)

Self help books only work if you read them yourself.

Saw it in TIME (1)

adlaiff6 (810221) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748901)

...but it is definitely true. I've personally seen many times where this has worked for me, something which I imagine most people have.

Why do you think they tell you to go for your first guess on tests?

My opinion (0, Offtopic)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748911)

Follow your heart. Use your brain to train your heart.

Re:My opinion (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748965)

Blood goes in , blood goes out , blood goes in , blood goes out

Re:My opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749181)

be on your guard, or you might fart

In other words... (5, Insightful)

millennial (830897) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748919)

The book is extremely ambiguous, not very helpful, and basically words things most people already know in ways that make it seem like it's new and insightful. That's pretty sad. I'm sure there will be a bunch of people who are completely absorbed by this and will say that it "changed their life", or some such rubbish.

Re:In other words... (4, Funny)

Tha_Big_Guy23 (603419) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749071)

The book is extremely ambiguous, not very helpful, and basically words things most people already know in ways that make it seem like it's new and insightful.

Strange... sounds alot like /. to me, yet we're all still here...hmmm must be something to it.

Re:In other words... (1)

mbrewthx (693182) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749152)

Sounds like how I made it through college with all my papers. Sound and act smart and intelectual and people will trip over themselves to drink from your fountain of wisdom.

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749398)

My english teacher use to tell us "Dazzle me with your brilliance, don't baffle me with bull."

Apparently baffling the public with bull == profit

/wants to sue english teacher for loss income I want to see a list of great Blink achievement -maginot line defense -Global Crossing, -Enron -Worldcom

Self help: SPAM on paper (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749409)

I've been watching closely the trend between supposedly "self-help" book. Many end up taking you to the new age and esoteric alley - so that you can get in touch with your inner self and awake the cosmic karma hidden thru the eons - WTF?

If you remember the previous discussion on the self-help market [] , you'll realize most self-help books are just means to gain more money at the expenses of others' suffering. I made a joke about it [] , but in the end, it's more or less the same:

"trust your self. Take away the negative from you and be happy." Say, those are the nicest $29.95 i've ever heard.

IMHO, the book of proverbs [] is FREE, and I've found more hints on helping yourself than this overhyped "literature" of today.

Re:Self help: SPAM on paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749520)

IMHO, the book of proverbs is FREE, and I've found more hints on helping yourself than this overhyped "literature" of today.

It has some awesome erotica in it too! Oh wait, no, that's Song of Solomon.

Re:In other words... (2, Insightful)

micromoog (206608) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749412)

I'm sure there will be a bunch of people who are completely absorbed by this and will say that it "changed their life", or some such rubbish.

If they believe it changed their lives, then it was effective as a self-help book, yes? The whole field is subjective.

Re:In other words... (2, Insightful)

millennial (830897) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749670)

The point of self-help books is actual objective improvement, not believed subjective improvement. At least, it should be...

Re:In other words... (1)

micromoog (206608) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749709)

It's arguable that they're the same thing.

Re:In other words... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749811)

The book is extremely ambiguous, not very helpful, and basically words things most people already know in ways that make it seem like it's new and insightful.

So you've taken a criticism of that book that we've all heard before, reworded it, and gotten modded +5 insightful. Oh, how the irony gods smile on you.

On a more serious note, sometimes being insightful is just that: rewording a common conception into a clearer form. In another sense, insight might be said to be the taking of an idea that we all know and take for granted, an idea that's grown stale from being said too many times in tired colloquialisms, and making it fresh again.

And stranger yet, one man's insight is another mans obfuscation.

My take (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748922)

I didn't read the review, but the split- second impression I got was that it a little half- baked.

Yes, but... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11748935)

What should any self respecting troll use now? I know there's LM and all, but I for one feel that nothing beats a good old goatse. yes.

Re:Yes, but... (-1, Troll)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748972)

Barbara Streisand wav files. Or Bette Midler. Or both. People would be BEGGING for goatse to return....

I didn't buy this book. (5, Funny)

flinxmeister (601654) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748944)

The cover just didn't feel right.

Re:I didn't buy this book. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749482)

Redundant and troll? If my mod points hadn't expired yesterday, I'd have modded the parent up as funny. I think some of the mods are missing the joke.

Re:I didn't buy this book. (1)

lewp (95638) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749819)

Yeah, that was at least mildly funny. Even if you don't get the joke... "Troll?"

Humorless mods! (1)

flinxmeister (601654) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749807)

Oh come on! I thought it was funny!

Strange... (4, Informative)

davidoff404 (764733) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748945)

This review is extremely similar to one that appeared in the Times Literary Supplement a few weeks back. Curiouser and curiouser...

Informative?? (2, Insightful)

johndiii (229824) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749447)

Do you have a link? Or perhaps the name of the author of that review?

Hey Zelda, (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749494)

where is Link?

Right on the money (5, Informative)

prostoalex (308614) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748959)

I bought the CD version of the book after I read the previous Slashdot review, since it has been on my wishlist for a while. Right now I am on disk 6 (out of 7) in my car, and generally it's underwleming. Interesting, but nothing new, you don't learn a whole lot.

The author does bring up good stories and examples about the Aeron chair and cola sampling methods and some musical artists and TV shows that were rejected by public, approved by someone with a gut feeling, and then re-recognized by the public as masterpieces.

In a nutshell? Trust the gut feeling, but it can fool you sometimes.

And then he spends almost an entire chapter telling you how racist you are based on some test, where more people associate the black race with "bad" than with "good", and then same people have troubles putting the words "good" and "black" in one basket. Interesting, but still, not really useful as far as personal growth and self-education.

Re:Right on the money (1)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749049)

I haven't read the book or reviews or anything... but it's my experience that, when the gut feeling is wrong, and i mean really wrong, it's usually your mind tainting and interpereting the feeling - making it something else, assuming a lot. That's the key - is to see it just as it is, with nothing else, especially not grandiose dreams.

Re:Right on the money (2, Interesting)

prostoalex (308614) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749116)

Yes, you're totally right. It's like brain kicks in some processing where processing is not due. He talks about the case where people are asked to choose a jam they like, so the choice is made, but when they asked to rationalize their choices on some criteria (like smell, texture, taste) suddenly a new winner emerges.

They apply mental energy that overpowers the gut feeling and somehow you're now required to rationalize the jam texture on the scale of 1 to 10 (what the hell is texture anyway, and did you ever pay attention to it in your life?), so the decisions are changed.

Re:Right on the money (1)

Koiu Lpoi (632570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749131)

So, what it comes down to is, when made to think about things we don't think about, our thinking is different than our usual actions, making psychological introspection somewhat useless. Perhaps I've taken it too far.

Re:Right on the money (1)

prostoalex (308614) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749433)

Yes, basically the decisions are made in the firmware of your brain, for which you have the sources, but they are written in language you hardly understand, so you think you know how a certain decision is made, since it's your brain, after all, but in the reality you start making up stuff as you go (I guess I like this jam because my grandmother made something similar when we lived on the farm).

Re:Right on the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749553)

So then, spending time thinking about thinking should help clear it up, right? Wouldn't your introspective skills get better with practice?

Real-life experience seems to bear this out.

Re:Right on the money (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749965)

A lot of 'thinking' is rationalizing actions we're already in the middle of doing.

Re:Right on the money (4, Funny)

Otter (3800) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749239)

(what the hell is texture anyway, and did you ever pay attention to it in your life?)

Pour yourself a bowl of cereal and milk, place it in the refrigerator and wait 60 minutes. Pour a second bowl of cereal and milk. Taste both.

Notice the difference? That's texture. If you still can't understand why it's important, I think I'll decline to eat your cooking...

Re:Right on the money (1)

prostoalex (308614) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749374)

He was talking about that property applied specifically to jam. Can you describe in detail the texture of the last jam you tried? Or how would you rate the texture of that jam on the scale of 1-10 and why? What would you improve in the jam texture?

When brain of anyone but a professional food taster faces with these questions, it starts making stuff up.

Re:Right on the money (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749862)

When brain of anyone but a professional food taster faces with these questions, it starts making stuff up.

Nonsense. Whether a jam has (for instance) little seeds or is smooth, and how cohesive it is (runny? thick?) is obvious and apparent to the novice.

The last jam I tasted was smooth -- if it had been any smoother, I'd think it ought to have some additional thinkening agent in it. That's a judgement of its texture.

I had a boss... (4, Funny)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 9 years ago | (#11748991)

... that read this, and then went NUTS telling us to think faster and go with our instincts.

Of course, then we got screamed at by her for not thinking and making more screw ups than normal.

She was also more concerned with what I was having for lunch than what I was doing for the company.

Re:I had a boss... (1)

Life2Short (593815) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749700)

Now you've got me curious. What were you having for lunch?

Ripping off Ayn Rand... sort off (2, Insightful)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749014)

In her essays - especially in her Art of Fiction, Art of Non-Fiction and her collection of essays - Philospohy, Who Needs It discusses how to order your mind to automize certain assessments.

A simple example is that in typing these sentences, I'm not conciously trying to decide each and every word I am typing (and mispelling - yes, I know). You can gradually autamatize many functions through practice - taking concretes, making them abstracts, and then re-applying those abstracts to other situation where they arize. One such automization that Rand writes a lot about are emotions.

Ripping off Miyamoto Musashi... (1)

temojen (678985) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749360)

And she probably thoroughly ripped this idea off of Miyamoto Musashi [] .

Re:Ripping off Miyamoto Musashi... (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749525)

I really don't see it at all. Rand and Blink are about developing intuition (if there is such a thing) and automatizing of thoughts. The Five Rings only touches on this in a very vague way. Further, I doubt Rand read or was even aware of the five rings and did not hold the Oriental culture in high esteem.

Re:Ripping off Miyamoto Musashi... (2, Insightful)

temojen (678985) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749573)

If you think the ichi ryu is not about developing intuition to see the connection in all pursuits, and practicing your craft until you can perform without thought, you have not understood the Book of Five Rings.

Re:Ripping off Ayn Rand... sort off (2, Interesting)

ParadoxicalPostulate (729766) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749406)

"I'm not conciously trying to decide each and every word I am typing (and mispelling - yes, I know)."

Hmm...not so sure about that. How could anyone misspell the word "arise" unless they were doing it deliberately? Looks like your example is bust :0

I hope that means you're lying - the alternative is rather scary :)

Oh and in response to your actual comment...Wouldn't there be some theoretical point at which you would actually start automizing these assessments? So, before you've automized such things, you would consciously look at someone's hair, nose size, height, hair color, facial expression, neatness, etc. in order to develop opinions about them? Only time this could happy is childhood...and, well, I don't know about that ;)

Anyway, it reminds me of Hume's explanation for the emergence of cause and effect relationships - mainly, the habit of associating two things together (remember, Hume said that all knowledge comes from experience, as opposed to say Descartes who thought that the mind was the source of all knowledge).

Re:Ripping off Ayn Rand... sort off (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749510)

You pretty much described exactly what happens to people's thought processes as they get older. At some point (or rather more and more as you get older and older) everything you see you have experienced so many times in so many combinations before that, yes, you completely automatically make fast judgements about any situation.

Sometimes this works to an advantage, it prevents you from being caught up in a lot of hype or scams that other people seeing them for the first time fall prey too, but it also hurts in that you may completely gloss over and ignore something that truly is unique to your life experience becuase you've already pre-judged it's parts.

Re:Ripping off Ayn Rand... sort off (1)

MBraynard (653724) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749571)

I wasn't even thinking about arise. My mind just goes totally phonetic sometimes.

Rand's focus is how to develop this automatizing conciously. Some of it happens on it's own and can be incorrect. EG - fearing a parent yelling at you when you try something unusual/new.

Re: Hume/Descarts, Rand disagrees with both of them and says that knowledge comes from both the mind and experience. She is not a pure empiricist nor a pure... whatever Descarts is.

Anyway, I'd encourage you to get her book "Philosophy: Who Needs It?" You can buy it for $5.90 shipped right here. []

And after that, you can complete the fourth and final referral for the link in my signature.

Re:Ripping off Ayn Rand... sort off (1)

TedTschopp (244839) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749649)

Rand disagrees with both of them and says that knowledge comes from both the mind and experience.

Is there any other source of knowledge? Or is Rand simply trying to to synthisize the two prevailing viewpoints at the time when she wrote these things.

Re:Ripping off Ayn Rand... sort off (2, Insightful)

micromoog (206608) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749657)

And after that, you can complete the fourth and final referral for the link in my signature.

I'd like to hear your ideas on why polluting the commons with garbage for personal gain is an ethical act.

Re:Ripping off Ayn Rand... sort off (1)

temojen (678985) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749680)

You're asking an Ayn Rand that question? The answer is predictable.

Re:Ripping off Ayn Rand... sort off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749449)

One such automization that Rand writes a lot about are emotions.

That explains why the sex scenes in her fiction are as cold as Condoleeza Rice's teat in a brass brassiere.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (2, Interesting)

swimmar132 (302744) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749019)

This "blink" sounds awfully similar to Pirsig's idea of "Quality" in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance...

Re:Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (2, Insightful)

Deinhard (644412) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749460)

This is actually related to the Zen concept of Mushin - the state of No Mind. Power flows from instinctive wisdom.

"Literally "no mind". A state of cognitive awareness characterized by the absence of discursive thought. A state of mind in which the mind acts/reacts without hypostatization of concepts. MUSHIN is often erroneously taken to be a state of mere spontaneity. Although spontaneity is a feature of MUSHIN, it is not straightforwardly identical with it. It might be said that when in a state of MUSHIN, one is free to use concepts and distinctions without being used by them."

Re:Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1)

swimmar132 (302744) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749875)

How can one be used by a concept or a distinction?

Re:Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11750096)

By reacting.

NLP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749043)

Personally I suggest that we try harder to algorithmatize intuitive genius, by those rare individuals who have it, and thus follow Whitehead's intuition on how to make civilization progress.

Some of Neuro Linguistic Programming tries to do just that. Check out Robert Dilts work on modeling geniuses. []

A Good Read? (4, Interesting)

SamHill (9044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749103)

Whether or not Gladwell has any stunning insights, one reason for the book being popular is that he writes well and the book is entertaining.

I watched him talk about the book on C-SPAN [] , and enjoyed the talk. I also read and enjoyed his previous book (The Tipping Point), which was similarly enjoyable without being incredibly insightful or a great learning experience.

It's okay to have nonfiction that isn't dull or stodgey. It's even possible for such popular books to encourage people to read more about particular topics.

Fun is good!

NPR talk on Blink (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749120)

NPR has several mentions [] and talks [] on blink. He also spoke at the Commonwealth Club []

Overall, some of his discussions (for example, about the police shootings in New York or the effects on a high speed car chase on one's lack of judgement) were interesting and worthwhile to understand. But his inaccurate comments on the Getty Kouros [] turned me off on the work. Factual inaccuracies have a tendency to make you, um, blink. He presented it as obvoius that it was a forgery, but the tremendous amount of scholarship to date cannot confirm or deny whether it was a genuine or forged work. It's hard to trust a work's conclusions when the facts they are based on ignore the truth.

Re:NPR talk on Blink (1)

th3space (531154) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749722)

I've read a few books since finishing Blink, but IIRC, he wrapped up his annectdote about the Kouros by stating that the Getty had suspended it from display indefinitely while more research was done to either confirm or deny it's authenticity...

That said, his telling of the story was very stilted to favor what he was trying to accomplish as a whole. He wanted a high-drama story to lead off the book, and that's exactly what he squeezed out of it.

poetry time! (1, Offtopic)

aendeuryu (844048) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749123)

And so it came to pass that a new form of dupe
hit Slashdot's front page, and Gary's got the scoop.
He's given us an opinion, on this new book called "Blink"
So that we may compare what these two guys think.
While James thought that "Blink" had passed the test,
This new guy, Gary Cornell, remained unimpressed.
James thought that Blink would spark conversation,
But Gary can't quite understand James's elation.
There's a lack of depth here, Gary purported,
and a theory that the author inadequately supported.
But let's not get caught up in Gary and his dissing,
Since it's possible that there are some points that he's missing.
So let's all begin our analyses microscopic,
while this particular post gets modded offtopic.

ROR!!! LOL!!!111 President Bush Reads a Book!!! (0, Flamebait)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749170)

From the original review:

Similarly, an authority figure can dress and behave in a particular fashion to influence subordinates. Warren G. Harding made overwhelmingly positive first impressions throughout his political career, although he is considered by historians to be one of the worst American presidents. Despite his consistently lackluster performance, his attractive bearing and appearance camouflaged his shortcomings.

So tha[tt] explains how Bush pulls off his illusion. He must have read this book! I guess some of us must be impervious to the way he dresses and acts since I don't feel like he has made many positive moves. ;P

Re:ROR!!! LOL!!!111 President Bush Reads a Book!!! (1)

bdobyns (443603) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749971)

Actually, No. President Bush did not read this book, but Karl Rove sure did.

Review is a colon catastrophe! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749179)

"I'd go further, actually: calling this is a book is simply to acknowledge its appearance between a single cover: it's essentially a collection of New Yorker articles with all the virtues and vices that that magazine is known for."

Ugly, ugly sentences! I think: that the reviewer: needs to study his: punctuation. What a: mess.

/. mods think without thinking all the time (2, Insightful)

GatesGhost (850912) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749188)

thats why i get all the flamebaits.

so it's true (3, Funny)

pimpinphp (860536) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749198)

We WILL eventually run out of things to write books about.

That said I think the reviewer is over thinking the "act on your instincts book".

Intuition: Just another (blackbox) data point (5, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749215)

Maybe the bigger point is that intuition is just another datapoint. As such it can be good or bad, precise or noisy, accurate or biased. To place too much trust in intuitiion is as dangerous as placing too much trust in any given, more "scientific" data point. Yet to ignore intuition is to ignore potentially valuable data..

But the value of intuition-provided data is hard to analyze. On the one hand, intuition does tap into many million years of the evolution of intelligent social animals. The subconscious mind runs some very impressive pattern recognition algorithms that can often recognize what the conscious, analytical mind cannot. On the otherhand, modern global technological civilization is a long way from pre-technical, tribal subsistence. Anyone who studies human decision making and cognition will become quickly aware of its rather severe limitations and curious quirks.

The core problem with intuition is that it seldom yields to analytical introspection. Intuition is a blackbox to the more rigorous processes of vetting and weighing data for more formal decision making processes. Thus, many people, especially people of a quantitive/analytical mindset, don't trust their intuition because they cannot analyze it. For better or worse, that makes the data provided by intuitive feelings suspect even if they are sometime 100% correct.

Re:Intuition: Just another (blackbox) data point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749401)

You have laid things out pretty well.

But if push comes to shove, you should let your brains, NOT your intuition, decide.

Your intuition, just like your eyes and ears, provide valuable input, that needs to be analyzed, judged and weighed by your brain.. no matter how good your intuition functions in its natural primitive sense, no matter how good your eyes see and your ears hear, it is in the end your BRAIN that decides that magicians are playing a trick on you.

Required Monty Python Quote (1)

bstadil (7110) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749803)

This she calls 'using her intuition'. I call it 'crap', and it gets me very irritated because it is not logical

From the Logician []

Re:Intuition: Just another (blackbox) data point (1)

McSpew (316871) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749838)

Maybe the bigger point is that intuition is just another datapoint. As such it can be good or bad, precise or noisy, accurate or biased....The core problem with intuition is that it seldom yields to analytical introspection.

I personally believe that one's intuition is the result of background processing going on in one's brain. I cannot count the number of times I've intuitively known something without being able to explain why, only to later reason through the whole process and come to the same conclusion I reached intuitively.

This specifically works best for me in "smell test" scenarios. I may intuitively know that something is a good idea or a bad idea, but I won't know why until I sit down and think through all of the possible steps and consequences. This can take days or weeks, and sometimes, the reason I didn't like something or knew that a specific option was the best will burst into my consciousness without warning when I'm thinking about something completely unrelated.

The only explanation I can come up with is that intuition is a lot like getting the Cliff's Notes version of a thought process. You know how it ends, but you don't necessarily know all the details that led to that point.

For that reason, intuition can be good or bad. If your thought processes are muddy and undisciplined in conscious thought, it's tough to imagine your intuition will race quickly to a significantly better conclusion on a consistent basis. If your mind is cluttered with subliminally-planted falsehoods, such as "tall people are more trustworthy and people with narrow-set eyes are untrustworthy," then you're likely to intuit the wrong answer a lot of the time. This is the danger of modern advertising and political campaigning.

Today's advertisers and political strategists no longer try to lure consumers and voters with facts or details. They work overtime to find words with positive connotations, and then use those words to build unconscious positive feelings for the associated products or candidates.

Why do we elect morons, or buy overpriced toothpaste? Because experts have figured out how to make us feel better about ourselves when we select their candidates or products.

The quick version of what I've written (for those of you skipping to the end) is: I trust my intuition most of the time--it's hardly ever steered me wrong, and most of the time, I can eventually reason through to the same answer. Your mileage may vary, so you should be cautious because anyone's intuition can be manipulated (and is being manipulated every day).

Tipping Point... (2, Interesting)

mindpixel (154865) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749236)

Here's my March 24th, 2000 review of the author's previous book, "The Tipping Point":

"This is pop-psych trash at it's worst. I gave away my copy because I'm embarrassed to have people see it on my bookshelves."

Everytime I see his name I cringe.

Re:Tipping Point... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749820)

I gave away my copy because I'm embarrassed to have people see it on my bookshelves

Would you say that was the tipping point?

Re:Tipping Point... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11750017)

Everytime I see his name I cringe.

Yeah, your review was pretty insightful too!

Re:Tipping Point... (1)

mindpixel (154865) | more than 9 years ago | (#11750108)

At least you didn't have to pay for it. Or have people see it in your house.

Not that I expected my review to be popular, only 18 of 125 people found it useful on amazon. But I would be interested to see how IQ partitions between the two clusters...50/50 I would guess.

Oh well... (1)

Robotron23 (832528) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749260)

Another day, another shoddily written piece of self help junk. Seriously, people talk about quacks as a thing of the past, but they still exist in full force, and usually make names for themselves through books like this one.

Then again, with depression, anxiety and mental illness constantly on the rise in Western countries, I can't see his sales declining anytime soon.

Rather than purchasing such inept diatribe as this, I suggest opting for books related to Buddhist teachings, as these often provide much piece of mind, aswell as physical practices (namely Yoga and Meditation) rather than just repetitive thought patterns that do a lot less good for ones peace of mind.

Someone didn't like a book? (1)

Raypeso (851771) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749270)

This is the first time I've ever seen a book get a bad review on /.. I just assumed they thought every book was fanastic.

A nice audio blog about this book (4, Informative)

sprocketbox (636698) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749273)

The fine women at Pop Goes The Culture [] do a very nice job of talking about and breaking down the writing of Malcolm Gladwell.

Instinct? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749285)

Don't ever follow your instinct blindly!

Instincts are usually a very superficial judgement of a situation.. it is a primitive level on which to make judgements.

In cases where you must respond quickly and have no time to think, analyze, research and verify, primitive REFLEXES can help out.

In all other cases, leave decision making based on instinct to animals.

Those who claim you should follow your heart, do what makes you feel good, not what IS good, and follow your instincts, are both the SHEEP and the SHEPHERD.

Going by intuition is going by feelings and vague subconcious analyzations.

FUKKIT!, that didn't make mankind smarter than animals. Leave intuition up to animals.

It is commerce who wishes to teach you to 'follow your heart, follow your guts'.. I think if you follow your guts, it'll only lead to shit.

No, your brains should verify your feelings, not the other way around.. follow your higher conciousness, not your lower.. follow your reason, not your 'gut feeling'..

Commerce, politicians and whoever wishes to gain and remain in control, preach this practice, since they thrive on lust and impulsive behavior (purchases) and physical and emotional needs, they want you to base your decision making on the same things SHEEP do!

Not allowed! (3, Funny)

fm6 (162816) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749291)

You can't review a book on Slashdot unless you summarize each chapter in mind-numbing detail!

Pretty little problem... (2, Funny)

ParadoxicalPostulate (729766) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749310)

"When I finished this book I was impressed. Then I blinked -- and realized that I was taken in by its surface attractiveness. After the initial glamour wore off, I was left deeply unsatisfied."

Maybe Gladwell was banking on people learning to trust their first instincts after reading his book.

Since you obviously chose to second guess your first assessment of the book, it's pretty clear that you didn't pick up on Gladwell's meaning.

It's irrelevant whether or not your second assessment is more correct than your first - how dare you second guess yourself after reading through an entire book that tells you how great your instincts are!

Looks like you're in a fix there, buddy ;)

( Yes, I'm being facetious...thanks for the review I'll now second guess my planned decision to buy this book)

Reaction to the obvious (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749318)

Much of your review smells to me of the "that's obvious" response. Yes, much of what Gladwell writes about is "obvious" in the sense that other people have felt, hinted or alluded to the same phenomenon. However, it takes a talented writer to make it coherent and identifiable for a large audience (you're reacting to the "identifiable" part). I know when I read the book, I could point to a lot of things he writes that I had intuited before. But what's useful about the book is how he synthesizes many different types of examples to show that this is not simply a quirk of some people.

That you can identify with what he says so readily is why it's a good book in the first place. I do agree, however, that he leaves you feeling incomplete because there's no applicable, take-home message in the end, but I'm sure this is by design, not by omission or inability. Tacking on a how-to at the end would change the tone and focus of the book. Gladwell, or some other author, can focus on that separately in another book.

anticipation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749327)

anticipation is more relavent then intuition. blinking isn't a reaction for no reason.. it is based on anticipation of a scenario. preparing for what will happen before it happens. our muscles are actually preparing for the next step before we make the next step...

read anticipation by minhai nadin or google anticipation..

review ~= book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749332)

How ironic - an enormously redundant review on how enormously redundant a book is. For once, the summary of the review did a better job than the review itself ...

Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749370)

Wow even book reviews are being duped now.

One area that I found useful (4, Interesting)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749421)

This is not from a read of the book, but from watching a Book TV lecture (I'm sure somebody's going to make a joke about that, but anyhow).

The author described the situation of how negative intuition can be managed. In the case of police officers, the shortening of time by rushing into a situation can turn an innocent man holding out a wallet into a perceived gunman. To counteract this, good police officers are trained to pull up behind a suspect, wait in the car to fill out reports, then walk up to the car, stand behind the driver's shoulder before asking for a driver's license and insurance.

Why all this time? To prevent the adrenaline/short bad decision making procedures from taking over and making a threat out of nothing.

So I'm still interested in reading the book to see what it says about using intuition controlling techniques to minimize bad decision making - but I can see the reviewers point that a good chunk of the book is going to be one long exercise of "duhhhhhh".

Try this book instead for explaining our thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749592)

"Influence" by Robert Cialdini. explains why "thinking without thinking" isn't necessarily good, and how marketers use it against us.

My Eyes Are Bleeding! (1)

kmactane (18359) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749604)

Please repeat after me: one phenomenon. Two or more phenomena.

"That's a very interesting phenomenon."

"No, it happened five times. Those are five very interesting phenomena."

Thank you.

Aside from that, I liked the calling out of the book for its unclothed-emperor-ness.

when to trust the gut feeling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749606)

Maybe this is what the author omitted.

You can trust your intuition when it's advising you to do something not purely for your own benefit, when it means going out of your way, when it's not all about you.

Now there's REALLY no reason to buy the book. Oops, sorry.

Reminds me of another book... (1)

dcfix (65207) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749620)

I bought a copy of "The Millionaire Next Door". It basically talks about how most millionaires are actually average folks that are somewhat frugal with their money.

When I finished the book, I thought to myslef "Well, one thing that the millionaire next door certainly wouldn't have done is spend $25.95 on this book..."

Make more people underestimate me

Another take on the book (1)

johndiii (229824) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749706)

From CNN [] .

Tipping Point or Fad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11749720)

Gladwell is everywhere lately. I haven't read his books but his persona irritates the hell out of me.
I'm annoyed they're selling him for this great thinker when he's just another popular non-fiction writer (who, of course, milks it for all he can, including consulting gigs etc.)

It's all a fad. I'll be glad when it passes.

iff (1)

magi (91730) | more than 9 years ago | (#11749818)

"Trust your intuitions. Well, not quite; trust them, if and only if they are good."

I wonder if that equivalence is intentional.

I mean, the above says that (implication <=) if your intuitions are good, you should trust them. That sounds fine. Rather obvious and therefore useless, but fine.

But it also says that (implication =>) if you trust your intuitions, they are good.

That sounds like...excellent. All we need is blind faith in our intuitions and everything always turns out just as we thought. What a relief.

Has anyone but the reviewer even read this book? (5, Interesting)

Nuclear_Physicist (794448) | more than 9 years ago | (#11750084)

One reviewer comments about how they hated the book (only after thinking about it after the fact).

Then a set of individuals who haven't even read the book incorrectly categorize it as self-help, and delight in adding manure to the top of the pile.

I, for one, have actually read the book and I can tell you it's a great read. I've recommended it to all my friends and family. Not because it will change the world, but because, for me, it opened the door on a set of psychological experiments of the subconcious. There were fascinating anecdotes and, more importantly, actual research that addressed the issue of subconcious behavior and thinking I truly enjoyed. The author is not trying to convince you he has a new take on the subconcious -- but, instead, pointing out where current research is and how it relates to our intuitive understanding.

The first time I heard of relativity I thought it was very strange. Then the more I considered it the more I realized how completely intuitive and obvious it is. Then followed a 'duh' moment where I realized the universe must behave in this fashion. That doesn't take away from the fact that relativity was revolutionary.

The fact that there is research on the subconcious that, after you've considered it, seems obvious doesn't detract from the point that it's original and interesting.

Open your mind.

And please ... enjoy the book. You can bitch at me later if you think I've wasted your time. The whole book took me a two legged flight from Oakland to Albuquerque and I couldn't put it down.


I think the review is too focussed on elites (1)

podperson (592944) | more than 9 years ago | (#11750100)

While the idea of mathematics "smelling" good or bad is interesting (and matches my own experience -- although we tended to talk in terms of looks and not smell), I think that it's equally interesting to look at less atypical subjects.

When a person looks at someone across the street and thinks "that person is up to no good" or turns a faucet and thinks "this feels like it's about to break" a whole lot of powerful subconscious reasoning is at work, and it's worth considering this, as well as the ability of academic researchers to bypass huge amounts of tedious work with a sudden insight ("yes, but the quantum case won't work out" says Albert Einstein to Richard Feynmann in "Surely you're joking..." -- something it takes his supervisor six weeks of difficult math to confirm).

When considering the value of intuition it's worth considering the cost/benefit. E.g. if you think "something doesn't look right" and investigate it, you might be wrong nine times out of ten, but the cost of those nine times might be miniscule to the benefit of the tenth. (Let's say you're a safety inspector at a nuclear power plant.) OTOH if you discard a line of research on the grounds it doesn't "smell right" you may be losing out on a Fields medal. There are entire fields of mathematics that don't "smell right" to large numbers of mathematicians. (Then there's the "Axiom of Choice" which doesn't smell right to many of us -- but smells no worse than its contradiction.)
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