Making Waves

Why does the stream have circular ripples?

Which leaf caused them?

Which leaf did not?

Which ripples do we lack enough information to explain?

It’s unlikely that you struggled to answer any of these questions. Yet for an artificial intelligence, they would be almost impossible! Many human data scientists, too, would declare them out of bounds — not answerable in any rigorous, scientific fashion.

The Book of Why is about giving scientists (and everyone else) the tools to answer questions about causes and effects, such as “Does smoking cause cancer?” or “Was this heat wave caused by global warming?” Until recently, scientists and statisticians have observed a self-imposed taboo against speaking about causation, preferring to use the term “correlation” — which falls short of proving anything.

Judea Pearl’s work has shattered this taboo and shown that questions about causation can be given mathematically rigorous answers. In this book we explain the simple procedures that he and other researchers in causation have devised. The Book of Why will replace “Of course we can’t answer that” with “Of course we can.”

Publication Date: May 2018.

Pre-order from Basic Books.

Judea Pearl has been the heart and soul of a revolution in artificial intelligence and computer science more broadly… He is an Alan Turing of our time.” – Eric Horvitz, Managing Director, Microsoft Research

About the Authors

JUDEA PEARL, Professor of Computer Science at UCLA, has been at the forefront of not one but two scientific revolutions. In the 1980s, he introduced a new approach to artificial intelligence called Bayesian networks. Since 1990, his principled, mathematical approach to causality has made new insights possible in almost every field of science and social science. The Book of Why brings these ideas for the first time to a mass audience. Pearl was the winner of the 2011 Turing Award, often considered the “Nobel Prize of computing.”

DANA MACKENZIE, a mathematician turned science writer, is the author of The Big Splat, or How Our Moon Came to Be (2003) and The Universe in Zero Words (2012). Booklist described him as “a popular-science ace — magnetically readable, preternaturally clear, amazingly concise.” The Italian translation of The Universe in Zero Words was a finalist for the 2017 Premio Asimov.

     

Previous Books by Dana Mackenzie:

 
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