If only life existed in 2 or 3 variables, we could have solved all our problems using simple theories. Alas, real life has many more variables and all the problems which in isolation look very simple are equally complex in the web of the real world.
Raghunathan seems to be someone who lives in the academic world. Where every problem is stated hypothetically and hence the solutions are also hypothetical. And there is no way or even reason to test out the solution. It is only in the theoretical world that you can think about these paradoxes, puzzles, conundrums, dilemmas as simplistic 2 variable problems. In the real world, they hardly hold any relevance. So if you are betting your life earnings on a coin tossing game, no theory can predict your fate. People who sit on sidelines and watch the game are the ones who do all the useless analysis. People who are playing the game only know the dynamics they have to play with. They are driven by their motivations and by their value systems.
If the author had studied value systems and how they drive human behavior in the face of dilemmas, it would have made the book far more interesting. When faced with dilemmas we do not do probability calculations. We are driven by our circumstances and our values. In my opinion, a probability is just that – A probability.
What you can refer to this book for is a dictionary of paradoxes without going in depth of any of them. All possible kinds of paradoxes are listed and some explained at times with examples. They do render humor to the reader. And if that was the intent of the book then it has served that purpose to a large extent. Sometimes there is an attempt to co-relate a theoretical paradox with situations in newspapers. Most of the times examples given are unrealistic. For e.g. I had a good laugh at his Microsoft example where people would be put in different rooms and asked to bid for projects in a way that is absolutely funny.
Sometimes there is beating around of data to show how the same data can give you different answers. And since this is a book on paradoxes, the author looks at paradoxical answers. Well, have you not heard that if you beat the data enough, it will confess to anything you want it to? At times I had a feeling that I am being introduced to the official jargon for common sense.
There are quite a few editorial errors like spelling mistakes in the book. But the biggest goof up is the wrong citation of most famous Geeta shloka. I double checked the shloka of Geeta before writing this. And realized that some of the websites have misquoted it and perhaps the author/editor referred it from there. I think a book on dilemmas can take a lot from Bhagwad Geeta. After all, it is nothing but a detailed resolution of a dilemma and a view on various dilemmas that humans face throughout their lives.
More than two years back I had reviewed the other book written by Raghunathan ‘Games Indians Play’. This book The Corruption Conundrum more or less maintains my views about the author and his writing. He has borrowed liberally from his earlier book and not said anything essentially different from what he said earlier. This time he has kept himself away from analysis of human behavior which is good. This book may be well received by people who have not thought much about every day or famous paradoxes in and around their lives. But I am still wondering why did he write this book?
If you are curious about paradoxes, read the book The Corruption Conundrum. Otherwise, you can skip it.