The Meaning of it All by Richard Feynman

The Meaning of it All by Richard Feynman


Lectures so good that they were turned into a 124 page book.

3 Points:

  • The USA was created on the foundation of doubt. Everything was written by the creators (founding fathers) to be agile/iterative.
  • Statistical sampling is often done incorrectly. (And this was said in 1963, before data took off.)
  • Many people make jumps in logic. There are 4 stories he tells that illustrate this beautifully. Simplified: Don’t confuse causation with correlation.


Favourite Quotes:

Newspaper reporters and commentators — there is a large number of them who assume that the public is stupider than they are, that the public cannot understand things that they [the reporters and the commentators] cannot understand.
I feel a responsibility to proclaim the value of this freedom and to teach that doubt is not to be feared, but that it is, to be welcomed as the possibility of a new potential for human beings. If you know that you are not sure, you have a chance to improve the situation.

Would I re-read this?

Maybe if I go on another Feynman reading rampage in the future. Probably not. Since this book is written from 3 live lectures he gave at the University of Washington (Seattle) in 1963 it can feel a archaic or feel a bit off without intonation or an audience. Despite this, the concepts have aged well and are worth consideration.

While I wouldn’t re-read this in the next few years, I may pick it up after 5. It’s a 124 page book that can be finished in an afternoon. I feel like I was able to garner a better understanding of the US during the 60’s…Feynman mentions Russia, the Space Program, and other things that are quintessential 60’s. I would recommend this to anyone with any amount of interest in Feynman’s life.

What did I implement?

  • I embrace uncertainty where I can. Feynman mentions that good systems and great thinkers are almost never 100% sure of anything.
  • Reading the news/listening to podcasts with greater scrutiny. (See the quotes above.)

In Summary...A fun short blog-post style book of lectures. A Sunday afternoon hammock read.