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“Everybody wants to be Jared Diamond”

As the saying goes, “Everybody wants to be Jared Diamond, that’s the problem.” (See also here and here.)

The funny thing is, this principle also applies to . . . Jared Diamond himself! See this review by Anand Giridharadas, sent to me by Mark Palko.


  1. Well, we should have learned by now that historical reporting contains biases, including selection/confirmation biases as two primary ones. Base rate neglect confounds history reporting. It’s extremely difficult to capture history. At least it in a way to reduce dumb decisions making and reasoning. I learned that lesson from reading David Hackett Fischer’s Historian’s Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought. Although it doesn’t cover cognitive biases, it is a useful narrative of fallacies discerned in histories. I also found Analogies at War by Yuen Foong Khong insightful.

    • rm bloom says:

      Fischer’s book is fascinating; but it is tendentious in its own peculiar way: it leaves one with the curious impression that, per Fischer, there is scarcely anything that can be said at all in Historical discourse which is not fallacious.

      • I had the same reaction while reading certain chapters. At the very end, he endorses social psychology in a very general way. I would go further and say that it is also important to understand the sociology of expertise and the emergence of the modern university.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks for the link to your 2013 Chance essay. I often have to push back against my own coauthors and their tendency to overstate claims in our papers about causation in the systems we study. I will keep your Chance essay on hand in arguing for conservative interpretations & writing that don’t overstate or oversell our discoveries. Unfortunately this will keep our papers out of the tabloid journals. Or at least that’s what I tell myself :)

  3. Not Trampis says:

    But I was told diamonds are forever

  4. anon e mouse says:

    I don’t know if he’s seen this way in the other fields with which he’s affiliated, but in academic geography (one of his appointments) he’s considered something of a joke. I once attended a conference he keynoted where the keynote absolutely hemorrhaged people as he droned on and on drawing early 20th century cultural anthropology generalizations about entire cultures based on anecdotes.

  5. John Williams says:

    I think Diamond’s (born 1937) problem is not knowing when to quit. He did important work in both physiology and ecology before he shifted to geography, and the early work for which he became generally famous was useful, in the sense of raising questions that others have explored more carefully.

  6. Adede says:

    How sad to see Jared Diamond sink to the level of Tom Friedman.

  7. Joshua Pritikin says:

    More brilliant work from Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.

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