The Book of Why: Preface

Over the next weeks (or months?), I’m reading Judea Pearl and Dana MacKenzie’s “The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect.” As I read each chapter, I’m going to post what I learn and general thoughts as a blog post.

This post covers the Preface.

The book is written in the first person, presumably Pearl’s voice. The Preface begins with Pearl thinking back to their 2000 book Causality, in which they claimed causality was undergoing a transformation. Now, Pearl thinks they were “somewhat shortsighted” because causality was really undergoing a “revolution,” which many refer to now as the causal revolution.

[Comment: Similar here to the credibility revolution in economics associated with the work of Leamer (1983) and recently Angrist and Pischke.]

The Book of Why has a three-pronged mission:

  1. Explain the Causal Revolution and how it’s affecting our lives and future,
  2. Share some heroic journeys scientists have gone on when pursuing cause-effect questions [Will we hear about John Snow and cholera, David Freedman’s favorite example?], and
  3. Describe how robots can be trained to communicate in the language of cause and effect.