Sunday, December 1, 2013

Want to think like a nerdy detective?

It’s been almost a year since Maria Konnikova’s book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Homes, hit the bookstores – or, mostly, their virtual reincarnations. Since then, the author has produced countless articles and online video appearances aimed at hawking her thinking manual. They all leave, however, one vital question unaddressed: Why would anyone in her right mind want to think like Sherlock Holmes? So, here is how Arthur Conan Doyle once introduced Holmes:

It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler.  All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was ... the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer -- excellent for drawing the veil from men's motives and actions. But for the trained teasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his.


If I had a choice, I would much prefer to think like Hercules Poirot.  But I guess that would place me outside of Ms. Konnikova’s target audience – which, judging by her Amazon rankings, seems to be pretty substantial (the book is #28 in the “Applied Psychology,” a.k.a. “self-help,” category right now. I guess pretty soon people thinking like Sherlock Holmes will no longer appear to be the kind of weirdos he once was.