Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Eye Test by Chris Jones

The Eye Test by Chris Jones is by one of my favorite writers, someone who writes great kickers, or endings to stories. The book is subtitled A Case for Human Creativity in the Age of Analytics and the book jacket notes that Jones makes the case for the human element-for what smart, practiced, devoted people can bring to situations that have proved resistant to analytics. There's some great stories told in the book, with the ones that stood out to me from each section noted below...

Entertainment - Written about is the movie Chef, how it had two rather than three acts, never with the expected turn for the worse. Also there's a great quote from Teller, of Penn & Teller fame, with "sometimes magic is just someone spending more time on something that anyone else might reasonably expect." 

Sports - There's stories about baseball managers Mike and Justin Jirschele, pitcher Barry Zito, and carpenter Mark Ellison, profiled in a New Yorker piece.

Weather - Jones writes that "the more abnormal the situation, the more likely a skilled human will outperform a machine." This ties into the story of amateur weather forecaster Eric Berger, who through his website Space City Weather guided people through Hurricane Harvey and the calamitous rain and flooding it brought to Houston.

Politics - There's mention of the painstaking approach to research that Robert Caro took for his book The Power Broker. Also covered is the humanity of John McCain, and how that had scaffolding built around it as he became the Republican nominee for President, but then came out again in his concession speech. 

Crime - It's noted how something like facial recognition technology can be completely wrong if built built on faulty algorithms, often by people with biases. There's also a great quote from retired NHL player Shawn Thornton on time of possession, with it told by Eric Engels on his Twitter account. Also covered is the 2010 police interrogation of Russell Williams, later the subject of the CBC documentary episode The Fifth Estate.

Money - Jones tells the story of Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer who dispensed the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. He met with every person who was to receive money, and the first he met with, the widow of a firefighter, said that she wanted the money quickly, within 30 days. This was because she had terminal cancer and needed to establish a trust fund for her two soon to be orphaned children. Jones also covers how Feinberg on back to back days met separately with women who lost their partner and father of their children, with neither woman knowing that the deceased had a second family. Also covered in this section was the 2018 retirement news conference of Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and the story of Peter Good and his designing the iconic Hartford Whalers logo, with its use of negative space. 

Medicine - Narrative medicine is covered, the idea of treating patients not as cells that are either sick or healthy, but as people, with this humanizing of medicine something to benefit both patients and care providers.