Book Review: Critical Mass, How One thing Leads to Another
I don’t often read the work of chemists or physicists but Philip Ball is an exception. Ball applies what he knows from his Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM-only) worldview to the world of Social Psychology. It is an ambitious adventure. However, he comes at this exploratory adventure suspending many of the assumptions of Scientism and with an open Transdisciplinary mind to what he doesn’t know.
Ball’s popular book Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another is a must read for people interesting in risk, human judgment and decision making. Ball is a prolific writer as can be observed by his many books, often around the same theme: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Ball
A few of Ball’s books are freely downloadable:
Ball is focused on two critical questions:
· Why do humans do what they do? and,
· What is human being/consciousness?
For those in the safety world convinced that: ‘all accidents are preventable’, ‘safety is a choice’ and ‘zero is possible’, Philip Ball will help you dispose of those delusions very quickly. Ball doesn’t rip these delusions apart as a social psychologist but uses all he knows about chemistry and physics to demonstrate that life is fallible, uncertain and random. Ball’s research and articles can be viewed here: https://www.philipball.co.uk/articles/physics-of-society
In all of Ball’s explorations he finds himself ending up in mystery. No amount of STEM Mentalitie can answer the critical questions he poses, to his idea of ‘the physics of society’. In his discussions he always ends up in dialectic between: certainty-uncertainty, determinism-choice, freedom-determinism, systems-chaos, prediction-randomness, causality-wickedity and, rational-arational.
The reason why I would recommend this book to safety people is that Ball speaks STEM language to the questions Safety asks but comes up with challenging responses. He shows through STEM methodology, that ideas of: certainty, predictability, choice and control are absurd, especially when applied to human society through the lens of physics. This is because Ball doesn’t get answers to his questions from the framework of STEM. The moment he drifts into anything that borders on the metaphysical, his discussion stops and acknowledges mystery and absurdity, the reality of faith. Ball doesn’t then proceed on in his discussion but certainly espouses the limits of STEM knowing.
You can download a copy of Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another here: https://alphamedia.technology/show/critical-mass-how-one-thing-leads-to-another.html