The Tipping Point
by Malcolm Gladwell
How does fashion trends emerge, opinions and behaviors change across
society? Gladwell suggests it is analogous to epidemics. Small change
spread from person to person, until it reaches a tipping point and all
of a sudden ends up with big effect.
This book is wildly popular. It is also highly overrated.
It starts off with a lot of excitement. His theory hold a lot of
promises and his stories are captivating. But beneath the exuberance my
critical mind started to ask, "can this be true?" Further reading failed
to bring forward any strong evidence. Instead the same theme grows
increasing tired and the stories get more far fetched. Until it got to
some absurd idea like the 'rule of 150'. Which basically says the most
effective human group size is around 150, a magic number hardwired in
our brain during the evolution process. It would be hard pressed to find
any empirical evidence to support this. Astute reader might even notice
this actually contradict with the Connectors chapter, where his studies
shown the number of connects among any group of people varies greatly
from very low to very high. All the same he devoted an entire chapter to
this 'discovery' and went about this as enthusiastically as anything
Our human society is complex. It is often impossible to attribute any
event to a simple cause. So when he reduce complex social phenomenon into
a single cause, a lot must be missing from his interpretation. Just what
does he say about the dramatic drop of crimes rate in New York subway?
"Clean up the graffiti and all of a sudden people who would otherwise
commit crimes suddenly don't" Magic solution? Or hasty conclusion?
Gladwell's talent is really in writing and journalism rather than
sociology and science. There is a lot of excitement, big surprises, big
discoveries, big theories but ultimately with weak scientific basis.
Sounds familiar? This is sociology done in the style of popular