The best books on realistic knowledge and decision making for the uncertain future

Who am I?

My core value is realistic education—learning from each other’s errors and successes, but with full awareness of the difference between the determined past and the uncertain future. We can benefit from uncertainty, which I’ve been doing for a living as an engineer, academic researcher, and inventor. I make use of knowledge and science as much as possible, but I also know that strategic decisions for the uncertain future require skepticism and thinking to deal with the differences in a new circumstance. With my core value, I am passionate about sharing insights and knowledge that our formal education does not provide.

I wrote...

Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

By Sima Dimitrijev, PhD, Maryann Karinch,

Book cover of Trial, Error, and Success: 10 Insights into Realistic Knowledge, Thinking, and Emotional Intelligence

What is my book about?

The fundamental insight in this book is that everything in nature evolves by trial and error, which means the rigid laws of physics don’t rule nature and don’t inhibit your free-will decisions to try, fail, and succeed. As a guide to success, the book shows how skepticism, prudent use of science, and thinking lead to strategic decisions for the uncertain future. Presenting real-life examples, the thinking in the book combines sharp analyses with broad analogies to show: how to identify realistic knowledge and avoid harm due to overgeneralized concepts; how to create new knowledge and solve problems by trial-and-error thinking; and how to reduce personal risk and maximize benefits by collective application of the trial-and-error process.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

Sima Dimitrijev, PhD Why did I love this book?

Nassim Nicholas Taleb published several bestselling books, including The Black Swan and Antifragile, after his Fooled by Randomness established randomness, luck, and uncertainty as concepts that nobody should ignore when analyzing the past and making decisions about the future. Some people dislike Taleb’s arrogance but I do recommend this book because I dislike the arrogance of the establishment, especially when they attribute all their successes to skill while blaming others for their failures. We all like order and certainty, so it’s easy to swallow the nice but misleading theories of experts and scientists who ignore the reality of randomness and uncertainty. I became more alert to this issue after reading Taleb’s hammering of ignorant experts. 

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Fooled by Randomness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everyone wants to succeed in life. But what causes some of us to be more successful than others? Is it really down to skill and strategy - or something altogether more unpredictable?

This book is the bestselling sensation that will change the way you think about business and the world. It is all about luck: more precisely, how we perceive luck in our personal and professional experiences. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the markets - we hear an entrepreneur has 'vision' or a trader is 'talented', but all too often their performance is down to chance rather than…

Book cover of The Selfish Gene

Sima Dimitrijev, PhD Why did I love this book?

I was familiar with the theory of evolution when I read this book several decades ago, but it deepened my understanding, and I also liked Dawkins’s writing style. The most impactful insight was the role of spontaneous replication. As humans we replicate with a purpose, but that does not diminish the impact of purposeless replication of the simpler units that make us, such as our genes. The book explains how spontaneous replication of random mutations results in the dominance of new organisms that are better adapted to a changed environment. This insight and my familiarity with physics and math helped me understand that everything in nature evolves by trial and error—from the physical processes that create order out of quantum chaos, through evolution in biology, to how humans learn and think.   

By Richard Dawkins,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Selfish Gene as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The million copy international bestseller, critically acclaimed and translated into over 25 languages.

As influential today as when it was first published, The Selfish Gene has become a classic exposition of evolutionary thought. Professor Dawkins articulates a gene's eye view of evolution - a view giving centre stage to these persistent units of information, and in which organisms can be seen as vehicles for their replication. This imaginative, powerful, and stylistically brilliant work not only brought the insights of Neo-Darwinism to a wide audience, but galvanized the biology
community, generating much debate and stimulating whole new areas of research. Forty…

Book cover of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sima Dimitrijev, PhD Why did I love this book?

I am not a fan of the history genre, but this book glued me to its pages. I like how this scholarly presentation of our evolutionary history became a publishing phenomenon that surprised publishers and booksellers. I like its in-depth but clear explanations and the distilled messages that can help us make better decisions for the future. The most impactful message for me was how the stronger and bigger-brained Neanderthals disappeared whereas we, the Sapiens, evolved rapidly because our predecessors were able to communicate and operate as teams of individuals with diverse skills.

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Sapiens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the…

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Sima Dimitrijev, PhD Why did I love this book?

I like how William James—the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States—distinguished reasoning from mere knowledge by the following sentence: “Reasoning helps us out of unprecedented situations—situations for which all our common associative wisdom, all the ‘education’ which we share in common with the beasts, leaves us without resource.” With the authority of a Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman uses his terminology of fast and slow thinking to popularize the distinction between “associative wisdom” and “reasoning.”

I recommend Thinking, Fast and Slow because it is important to understand this distinction and Kahneman provides many examples that illustrate it. However, I disagree with the interpretation of examples such as people’s choices between the certainty of taking $400 and a 50 percent chance to win $1,000. The 50 percent chance is better if we could make this choice many times, but we usually have only one bite at a cherry. Therefore, it is wrong to brand people as irrational because they select the certainty of $400. 

By Daniel Kahneman,

Why should I read it?

38 authors picked Thinking, Fast and Slow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The phenomenal international bestseller - 2 million copies sold - that will change the way you make decisions

'A lifetime's worth of wisdom' Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics
'There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Thinking, Fast and Slow' Financial Times

Why is there more chance we'll believe something if it's in a bold type face? Why are judges more likely to deny parole before lunch? Why do we assume a good-looking person will be more competent? The answer lies in the two ways we make choices: fast,…

Book cover of Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts

Sima Dimitrijev, PhD Why did I love this book?

Certainty is a black-or-white concept, either zero or hundred percent; uncertainty is something between zero and hundred percent, and this grayness is a difficult concept. In the context of dealing with uncertainty and making better decisions, I find Annie Duke’s use of poker in Thinking in Bets clever for two reasons: (1) People can engage with the concept that winning or losing in a poker game is neither exact science nor pure luck. (2) Given that poker games are so different from our everyday reality, there is no danger that people would expect decision recipes for dummies. 

By Annie Duke,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Thinking in Bets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Wall Street Journal bestseller, now in paperback. Poker champion turned decision strategist Annie Duke teaches you how to get comfortable with uncertainty and make better decisions.

Even the best decision doesn't yield the best outcome every time. There's always an element of luck that you can't control, and there's always information hidden from view. So the key to long-term success (and avoiding worrying yourself to death) is to think in bets: How sure am I? What are the possible ways things could turn out? What decision has the highest odds of success? Did I land in the unlucky 10%…

You might also like...

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

Book cover of The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

Alexander Rose Author Of Empires of the Sky: Zeppelins, Airplanes, and Two Men's Epic Duel to Rule the World

New book alert!

Who am I?

A long time ago, I was an early-aviation historian, but eventually realized that I knew only half the story—the part about airplanes. But what about airships? Initially, I assumed, like so many others, that they were a flash-in-the-pan, a ridiculous dead-end technology, but then I realized these wondrous giants had roamed and awed the world for nearly four decades. There was a bigger story here of an old rivalry between airplanes and airships, one that had since been forgotten, and Empires of the Sky was the result.

Alexander's book list on Zeppelin airships

What is my book about?

From the author of Washington’s Spies, the thrilling story of two rival secret agents — one Confederate, the other Union — sent to Britain during the Civil War.

The South’s James Bulloch, charming and devious, was ordered to acquire a clandestine fleet intended to break Lincoln’s blockade, sink Northern merchant vessels, and drown the U.S. Navy’s mightiest ships at sea. Opposing him was Thomas Dudley, an upright Quaker lawyer determined to stop Bulloch in a spy-versus-spy game of move and countermove, gambit and sacrifice, intrigue and betrayal.

Their battleground was the Dickensian port of Liverpool, whose dockyards built more ships each year than the rest of the world combined and whose merchant princes, said one observer, were “addicted to Southern proclivities, foreign slave trade, and domestic bribery.”

The Lion and the Fox: Two Rival Spies and the Secret Plot to Build a Confederate Navy

By Alexander Rose,

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Washington's Spies, the thrilling story of the Confederate spy who came to Britain to turn the tide of the Civil War-and the Union agent resolved to stop him.

"Entertaining and deeply researched...with a rich cast of spies, crooks, bent businessmen and drunken sailors...Rose relates the tale with gusto." -The New York Times

In 1861, soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, two secret agents-one a Confederate, the other his Union rival-were dispatched to neutral Britain, each entrusted with a vital mission.

The South's James Bulloch, charming and devious, was to acquire…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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