Head in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look Up

Head in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look Up

by William Poundstone

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The real-world value of knowledge in the mobile-device age.

More people know who Khloe Kardashian is than who Rene Descartes was. Most can't find Delaware on a map, correctly spell the word occurrence, or name the largest ocean on the planet. But how important is it to fill our heads with facts? A few keystrokes can summon almost any information in seconds. Why should we bother learning facts at all?

Bestselling author William Poundstone confronts that timely question in HEAD IN THE CLOUD. He shows that many areas of knowledge correlate with the quality of our lives--wealth, health, and happiness--and even with politics and behavior. Combining Big Data survey techniques with eye-opening anecdotes, Poundstone examines what Americans know (and don't know) on topics ranging from quantum physics to pop culture.

HEAD IN THE CLOUD asks why we're okay with spelling errors on menus but not on resumes; why Fox News viewers don't know which party controls Congress; why people who know "trivia" make more money than those who don't; how individuals can navigate clickbait and media spin to stay informed about what really matters.

Hilarious, humbling, and wildly entertaining, HEAD IN THE CLOUD is a must-read for anyone who doesn't know everything.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316256537
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 07/19/2016
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 827,545
File size: 10 MB

About the Author

William Poundstone is the author of fourteen books--including Rock Breaks Scissors, Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?, How Would You Move Mount Fuji?, and Fortune's Formula, which was Amazon Editor's pick for the number one nonfiction book of the year. He has written for the Believer, the Economist, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Esquire, Harper's, Harvard Business Review, the New York Times op-ed page and Book Review, and Village Voice. Follow Poundstone on Twitter (@WPoundstone) and learn more at his website, home.williampoundstone.net.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Facts Are Obsolete 3

Part 1 The Dunning-Kruger Effect

1 "I Wore the Juice" 9

2 A Map of Ignorance 40

3 Dumb History 71

4 The One-in-Five Rule 95

5 The Low-Information Electorate 102

Part 2 The Knowledge Premium

6 Putting a Price Tag on Facts 115

7 Elevator-Pitch Science 130

8 Grammar Police, Grammar Hippies 148

9 Nanofame 163

10 Is Shrimp Kosher? 170

11 Philosophers and Reality Stars 177

12 Sex and Absurdity 189

13 Moving the Goalposts 200

14 Marshmallow Test 206

15 The Value of Superficial Learning 219

Part 3 Strategies for a Culturally Illiterate World

16 When Dumbing Down Is Smart 233

17 Curating Knowledge 251

18 The Ice-Cap Riddle 273

19 The Fox and the Hedgehog 287

Acknowledgments 297

Notes 299

Sources 315

Index 325

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