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Self-Promotion (Authors) > The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect

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message 1: by Dana (new)

Dana (oddodddodo) | 26 comments One week until publication of my new book, "The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect," jointly written with Judea Pearl.

Nearly everybody agrees that the end goal of science is to understand causal processes, such as: What will happen if I give a patient this medication? What will happen if we ban cigarette advertising? Why did this self-driving car run into a pedestrian, and how could it have been prevented?

Yet the scientific establishment prevents us from talking about causality except in limited cases. From the Journal of the American Medical Association editors last year: "If it isn't [a randomized clinical trial] then all cause-and-effect language must be replaced," by language such as "association."

The AMA's advice is outmoded and unrealistic. It would be unethical to do a randomized controlled trial to tell whether smoking causes cancer, yet the question is of utmost importance to society. The fact that scientists had no methodology to talk about causation greatly impeded their efforts to warn the public of the dangers of smoking; tobacco companies were only to happy to portray their lack of methodology as a lack of certainty.

Judea has spent the last 30 years of his life reclaiming the language of causation for science, and this book is the fruit of his efforts. Not only are his methods becoming widely practiced in public health and other sciences, they also have fascinating consequences for artificial intelligence. Within a decade, he believes, we can build machines that can understand and answer questions about intervention or counterfactuals ("What would have happened if...") He argues that this is a prerequisite for truly human-like AI.

As the co-author of this book, I am delighted to bring Judea's ideas to a general audience for the first time.

For more information, see our book page at Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... or visit my home page at http://danamackenzie.com. Thanks!


message 2: by Angus (new)

Angus Mcfarlane | 71 comments Thanks for the note Dana. I thought cause and effect was implicit to science but as you suggest perhaps not so prevalent as I might have assumed. Something to consider further...


message 3: by Dana (new)

Dana (oddodddodo) | 26 comments Hi Angus,

One of the challenges of writing this book is that causality is so obvious to humans, perhaps even hard-wired into our brains, that it is hard for many people to believe that large parts of science avoid talking about causes. Judea minces no words about this: he says it is an "indictment of science" that it avoided causal language for so long (and is still doing it, as per the JAMA policy).

I hope you enjoy our book!


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