[[ Download Audible ]] The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds Author Michael Lewis – Vansonphu.com

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds To start with the mundane and annoying for a book with this much technical content, terms, and names an index almost seems a necessity, yet none was provided More foot endnotes and perhaps a fuller bibliography would be helpful, too We must support the popularization of scholarly topics, and I ve read that it takes, on average, at least 20 years for new ideas, analyses, and discoveries to move out of the academic curriculum of higher education to what we teach our children in secondary school To start with the mundane and annoying for a book with this much technical content, terms, and names an index almost seems a necessity, yet none was provided More foot endnotes and perhaps a fuller bibliography would be helpful, too We must support the popularization of scholarly topics, and I ve read that it takes, on average, at least 20 years for new ideas, analyses, and discoveries to move out of the academic curriculum of higher education to what we teach our children in secondary schools I would have been less annoyed with the single reference to the importance of Gestalt theory here without Kurt Lewin, utility theory without Bentham s utilitarianism, etc I have read the criticism that the theory isn t taught so much here, but Lewis is clear it s about the friendship , after all, and the context of discovery as well as the influences in and around their mathematical psychology behavioral economics but, still, how much time and money does it take That Lewis books are so plentiful, popular, and apparently all on cutting edge issues, yet the books don t include full references has to be part of some problem However, to his credit, he does mention the issue of the academic popular divide in non fiction writing on scholar topics in his endnote I did enjoy Lewis good writing, even if nothing is clearly explained except for about the two, their friendship and thinking, and the environs of that Early on Lewis reminds us of the folly of our never ending desire to have experts who know things with certainty I don t need that in writing, and maybe I ve graded too many papers, but I want a clear thesis Lewis writes about a ton of interesting things, but I want to see some kind of argument through line, even if it s to poke fun at an argument One of the delightful facts, also hidden in his endnotes, is the coincidence by which Lewis got to know Tversky s family including access to his papers Lewis was a teacher of one of Tversky s sons He ended up meeting the mother while giving the child a recommendation I was studying Sociology of Science and researching probability theory in social science when I learned about Tversky and Kahneman s theory, and heard a talk by Gigerenzer that I think Lewis dismisses unfairly, discussed below We know that decision making in Behavioral Economics and applied market analyses were studied throughout the latter half of the 20th century with the same, central question what does mind do when it s deciding on something, when we re uncertain about if and how to make a choice Of course, our emotional brain emotes on it Otherwise, we often cannot make decisions I d understood from Damasio Descartes Error Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain and LeDoux Synaptic Self How Our Brains Become Who We Are that emotions must often be applied to our reason in order to make a decision, the former noting the example of the man that in an accident had his neocortex separated from the limbic system emotional center and he ceased ability to make decisions, merely calculating and considering one possible decision after another without emotions to force a choice As Lewis shared, humans don t make decisions over a number, but need a story We can t remove the human mind from our decision making processes, and we often experience failure s of human intuition like with the Thorndike s well known halo effect , when we make judgments of others based what we want to see, and don t often recognize what we aren t expecting to see In the last decade or two, computer software and algorithms have improved data analysis and predictive strength, but we can t program a computer to remove surprises and the unexpected from our perceptions That is a goal of the undoing project Data driven decision making in sports isn t an interest of mine as I don t like sports and even avoid sports metaphors , so the first part of this book was a bit painful to get through Certainly, the read became to me muchinteresting when it switched to Kahneman s life and early influences.In their early work, Kahneman and Tversky contrast formal, scientific, statistical thinking with our everyday judgments of probabilities in real life situations They claim everyone commits the fallacies, including our expert statisticians when they estimate probabilities in everyday situations They grant that people are not economic men sic rational logical, unbiased, with calculator brains However, they think this divergence between everyday estimates and statistical, formal thinking to informal thinking is bad They themselves are normatively defending the explicit, rational approach I loved their criticism of statisticians irrationality as I d taken and somehow passed Advanced Statistics at the same time working on an independent study project critiquing the use of probability theory in social sciences When I mentioned to my stats prof that only one of several versions of probability theory underlies all of statistics, he threw up a bit of the salad he was eating true story I was also concerned with the growing prestige of math in the social sciences or what others have called physics envy instead of social and behavioral sciences focusing on important questions It didn t help that my doctorate statistician professor was what I called an asocial sociologist how does that happen who casually mentioned that most all his best students appeared to be males over the years, with only two females in a class of a dozen or so, then gave me lower grades than my lazy male buddy who I helped work out some of the assignments He also said that only students who can t do statistics well read Marx and Weber.Thaler and Redelemier were also two interesting people we meet in Lewis story Thaler argued that it is the anticipation of regret that affects decisions, along with the anticipation of other consequences We decide in ways not to maximize utility but to minimize regret , sinceutility happiness, in Bentham s calculus tops out but regret is the gift that keeps on giving negatively Redelemeier became Tversky and Kahneman s pet schnauzer protegee, and noticed that while medical school professors made errors in a systematic and traceable way they did not assume errors were in their data I love that he became a doctor because he loved Hawkeye Pierce on MASH, and also the observation that since most diseased people get better, it s difficult for the doctor not to believe they had a definitive role on it In math you check your work, in medicine, no , in part as to acknowledge uncertainty is to admit error , as Lewis summarizes Stanford s head of cardiology advocated against motorcycle helmets, and Redelmieier was amazed at the stupidity that a medical doctor could do that, but I understand the macho Western man mentality The use of medical decisions here and in several other places in this book are poignant in the context of the news this week that a Harvard study claims that female physicians save 10s of thousands of patientsthan male physicians hummm Towards the end, the economists were explained almost as the manifestation of their Neo classical economic views of human nature They were egotistical and wanted to prove their points, while psychologists wereintrospective and wanted to sort out different positions Psychologists saw economists as immoral and economists say psychologists as stupid I m not sure if this dichotomy is true or based in any real analysis of personality types besides anecdote I ve known economists that were the inquisitive, collaborative type and the psychologists were the cut throat, competitive pedants, out to not learn the best perspective but to promote their own In any case, Comte believed that psychological was not a science, or at least the introspective part of it, and it s it interesting to compare this cross disciplinarity with how Marx took up biological terms in his economic analysis, and now psychology as decision science uses the market terms of economics utility, value, choice.I was close to finished with the book last weekend when I read Leonhard s NYT review that seemed to shift at the end between the descriptive claim of Kahneman and Tversky that people think fallaciously in everyday estimates and their normative claim that the rational, statistical approach is better and ought to be followed Leonhard s clumsy analogy to Trump came after Lewis better comment in the book, noting the failure of accurate assessment by journalism as few to none shoe leather reporters saw Trump coming Leonhard s claiming Trump undermines Kahneman and Tversky s approach confuses what they describe as happening with what the advocate as good to do He seems to claim that the Trump victory shows that rational thinking is not successful in that Trump won But this seems to be assuming that Trump s win is desirable which Leonhard obviously doesn t believe On the other hand, voters behavior electing Trump does illustrate the irrational nature of everyday thinking that Kahneman and Tversky describe Leonhard s saying that Trump undermines Kahneman and Tversky seems confused He shows what they claim people actually do However, if Kahneman and Tversky advocate rational thinking, and this rational thinking failed to stop Hitler and Trump this shows emotional biases trump statistical thinking It would seem the solution is for the advocate of rational, statistical thinking to study the Trumpites and figure out how to sway them away from Trump This means attempting to rationally understand the irrational, for instance, Marx tried to do Marx was a rationalist in his own position, but wasn t a rationalist in the sense of believing society was driven by people s purely rational reasons Kahneman and Tversky s implicit advocacy of pure rationality vs irrationality is oversimplified in that reason must understand and channel irrationality This is somewhat like Freud, who was a nineteenth century rationalist, but believed most human thinking was irrational, and advocated a technique to change the irrational into the rational Wilhem Reich and the Frankfurt School critical theorists, albeit unsuccessfully, attempted to do this kind of social psychoanalysis to counter fascist movements Something like this is needed to deal with social irrationality Perhaps what is needed is a successful version of this project, that includes clarifying what we mean by success.I am disappointed in movements for data driven decision making, as they get co opted for corporate purposes I m a bit embarrassed to have organized with others the first two data driven decision making conference for education in the US 93 and 94 and by the end of that decade the DD DM phrase was clich , but Big Data and decision making in education is a mess today I must get to Weapons of Math Destruction How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy because Lewis reminds of strongly of how mathematical modeling is over and misused, as if the models represent anything real or useful, and often include serious oversimplification I used to argue with my Stats prof whether the Central Limit Theorem was found or created What I ached to read about here and was left empty, is where is the real undoing of the paradigm of Enlightenment thought that held that the twin pillars of science and rationality that were taken up by Western capitalism would make humanity better Wouldn t a success model focus on social problem solving The problem with the ideology of the never ending, always expanding Western notion of progress is that the focus on better results through statistically complex decision making is only for the win, the sale, the deal, the pitch in both sports, as Lewis reminds, and in advertising Some of the most interesting threads were about their Jewish heritage and early and later life in Israel Both of these collaborators had Rabbi grandfathers, were atheists, and influenced heavily by their involvement in the 73 Yom Kippur War a time that was referenced when a provost, whose Israeli brother was killed during that fighting like one of their nephews were, told my friend, an academic colleague who d started a local Palestinian Rights group, that my colleague was the type that loved dead Jews but hated live ones So, I ve sensed the strong impact of that particular war on the Jewish psyche Going through tragedies makes us all wiser and stronger on the other end, even often at long last, and it was good for Lewis to note the war made them both less academic in the bad sense over specialized, theory without application but focused on real life practical solutions to problems It was good for this staunch pro Palestine heart to imagine how in 48, as I never had before, that some parents and children would recognize each other on the Tel Aviv streets fleeing the gas chambers of Nazi Germany Lewis discusses Tversky s stereotypical Jewish self conception as a brain without a body a strong mind with a weak body Tversky had no friends growing up and was intellectually precocious perhaps autistic or Asperger s, like Einstein and wondered why humans needed religion as a young person He did not have to do the regular conscription in the Israeli Army as his academic achievement was obvious I thrilled to the visions of Post war Israeli who by that point had the most remarkable scholars from around the world and especially in the sciences and the philosophy of science Tversky taught himself statistics in is a psychology that was largely behavioristic I adored the distinction between WASP psychology white rat behaviorism and Jewish psychology , that accepted the great wet mess of the human experience and the problem of objectivity Israeli psychologists were among those making the humanist turn in psychology to Gestalt field like thinking Moshe Dayan spoke to a group of Israel youth, and said that Nahal a youth group that coaxed people into the Kibbutz were traitors and should be becoming paratroopers and presumably fight Arabs instead of farmers As Tversky lay dying, Netanyahu was elected, and remarked he d never see peace in his lifetime, and knew he wouldn t, in fact.Gigerenzer in various articles and in a popular book version, Gut Instinct, disagrees with Kahneman and Tversky s theory He thinks that the rough and ready heuristics of intuitive thinking often do better than the explicit, statistical decision analysis It is not true, as Lewis claims, that Gigerenzer totally ignored their work and did accurately criticize their statistical fallacies, showing that many were not fallacies in alternative theories of statistics Gigerenzer happened to go through their fallacies and went in detail in a public talk I attended at the Univ of NH when he was brought it by a psychology prof with whom I d studied I don t believe that Gigerenzer described only the object of his scorn as he wished it to be rather than as it was , as Lewis claimed Gigerenzer s claim that the fallacies that Kahneman and Tversky claim to identify are only fallacies on a certain kind of Bayesian probability and not on the most commonly used scientific probability, the frequency theory Again, even well known statistics professors do not always understand the varieties of probability theory Lewis admits that neither Tversky or Kahneman were eager to counter Gigerenzer, but leaves the impressed Gigerenzer is dismissed while Lewis stoops a bit to link Tversky s rapid hatred of Gigerenzer to the latter s connection to the Nazi Germany that Tversky naturally hated The best aspect of the book were the recounts of the intense friendship of Kahneman who sounds textbook high functioning Autistic to me formal, serious, solitary, nervous, pessimistic, and Tversky informal, irreverent, social, happy, optimistic Living with two of the former, both partner and child, with me squarely the latter, I enjoyed noting and comparing what Lewis revealed about their relationship the Oscar and Felix of TV s Odd Couple of decision sciences They loved each other an ending salutations on a letter from Amos to Danny gave goosebumps from emotion , and they had that passion, loud voiced exchange I m used to from Eastern Europeans and New Yorkers we re Israeli, so we yell at each other A Jewish friend tells me in her culture people interrupt each other not out of rudeness but because we re so eager to talk to each other to communicate with someone we love, and with the ability to be each other s strongest and most helpful critics, too They understood the key to getting along is good faith of the Sartre kind and good humor and Lewis mentions the almost constant, hearty laughter between them, or at least when they weren t arguing for hours on end This intense of a relationship is the best we can get with friends and lovers in both our short and long term relationships The two reminded me to be grateful for having similarly powerful relationships including with the friends that when if you don t connect with each other for too long a spell the hearts do ache for it When we re older and as secure as we re going to get, we admit thatto each other, don t we Their story is one of communication, of mutual need and enjoyment of just being together, and brings us a bit of awe to realize how fragile relationships are how we can t always know what brings people together and drives people apart, and why, indeed, it seems imperative to spend quality time with some people and not with others, a focus on how various couplings can create something bigger than both, and how random changes can occur in relations Even though they experienced divorce of each other and admitted the frustration and pain each caused the other, they were compelled to come back forDanny and Amos love and connection to each other is probably the real story of the human condition here Michael Lewis interview earlier this month on Charlie Rose has a number of juicy details that weren t in the book, and is worth the watch if you want to know First of all, I feel somewhat guilty about the rating Some parts of the book I liked very much Michael Lewis writes well but I believe he has fallen short here Lewis is best at setting up an underdog who beats the system in sports, the financial markets, etc He has attempted the same here about Tversky and Kahneman But reading about academics who challenge conventional wisdom in the field of psychology is less interesting than financial traders who short the mortgage market, or adopt First of all, I feel somewhat guilty about the rating Some parts of the book I liked very much Michael Lewis writes well but I believe he has fallen short here Lewis is best at setting up an underdog who beats the system in sports, the financial markets, etc He has attempted the same here about Tversky and Kahneman But reading about academics who challenge conventional wisdom in the field of psychology is less interesting than financial traders who short the mortgage market, or adoptive parents who help their talented son beat the odds and get drafted to the NFL, or who compile a winning sports team through metrics.The first chapter is not at all about Kahneman and Tversky, but about the use of metrics by the Houston Rockets in the NBA Very interesting to me, but it appeared to be some creative recycling by the author of some good material he never worked into book length Then the book launched into some very interesting biographical information about Kahneman and Tversky, By the middle of the book, however, I was bogged down into what I felt were interminable descriptions of faculty politics, and various surveys designed by K and T to demonstrate irrational thinking Then they broke up, and spoiler alert Tversky died I felt the book could never really decide if it was a biographical appreciation or an explanation of their theories.Given that Kahneman wrote his own successful book aimed at a popular audience Thinking Fast and Slow , is this book merely the result of Lewis pitch to possible movie producers I suspect that Lewis made muchmoney from the movies made from his books than from the books themselves Originally reviewed in January, 2017After reading about this book, I pre ordered it, six months before its release date It s about the work of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who published Thinking, Fast and Slow in 2011 and his late collaborator, Amos Tversky Thinking, Fast and Slow had a big impact on me Moreover, The Undoing Project s author is Michael Lewis, of Moneyball and The Big Short fame That s about all I knew of him Around the book s release date there was a flurry of publicit Originally reviewed in January, 2017After reading about this book, I pre ordered it, six months before its release date It s about the work of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who published Thinking, Fast and Slow in 2011 and his late collaborator, Amos Tversky Thinking, Fast and Slow had a big impact on me Moreover, The Undoing Project s author is Michael Lewis, of Moneyball and The Big Short fame That s about all I knew of him Around the book s release date there was a flurry of publicity interviews I watched several, including the long one with Charlie Rose Michael Lewis could hold his own and articulate his subjects work Besides being a writer of best selling nonfiction, some of which have been made into popular movies, Michael Lewis has an undergraduate degree in art history and a Master s in economics He s worked as a trader, then resigned to write his first book, Liar s Poker, published back in 1989 just after he d turned 29 He became a financial journalist and has written for an array of well known magazines, including a stint as a senior editor at The New Republic.This book, The Undoing Project, focuses on the biographies of Kahneman and Tversky, not only on their ideas and work That s not why I read it That that s what Lewis had to do to appeal to his usual wide readership made me a little cynical In the book, Daniel Kahneman becomes Danny The ups and downs of their relationship and the whys and wherefores of their collaborative creativity are a large part of the book In my mind s eye I foresee a movie turning the two men into marketable personalities such as Oliver Sacks became in the movie Awakenings I wonder how Danny is feeling about that Yet that may be the price of cluingpeople into their work The Undoing Project is a best seller, and Lewis role here is as a popularizer.He uses biography with its temporal correlate as one of his organizing principles, proceeding through ideas to some extent in the order they were hatched, but that doesn t necessarily help in the reader s grasping and ordering the ideas That s one of my complaints You won t necessarily be impacted by the ideas You won t necessarily see that they apply to you, although they do For that, read Kahneman s own book, Thinking, Fast and Slow Lewis says Kahneman is a star in the classroom, a contention supported by the fact that he s a star in that book, a genius of a teacher Kahneman has a subsection in his own book called CAN PSYCHOLOGY BE TAUGHT which I transmuted into the broader question, Can people be led to look at themselves and, on the basis of his book, I answered Yes Another of my complaints about The Undoing Project is the first chapter, which is completely dedicated to basketball Although Lewis touches on the ideas he s going to bring out later in the book, the chapter is not that comprehensible to those who don t follow basketball I guess it s another nod to his general readership.Now for the good part.Despite the way the book is organized, the overload of biography, and that opening chapter, Michael Lewis is able to write clearly and succinctly about the cognitive illusions that bias our decisions Having been previously introduced to those concepts, I experienced the book as a refresher course, and directly upon plunging in, breathed a sigh of relief as I felt my perspective clearing under its influence.The book covers the usual territory heuristics, bias, the weakness of expert judgment relative to algorithms, the cognitive illusions to which humans are subject Heuristic the term coined to reflect quick and dirty rules of thumb that, to a degree, work, except when they don t and lead us astray For example, the availability heuristic theeasily something comes to mind, theimportant and right we think it is.And, yes, it s science, not theory, that is, all research based.Rather than going into a lot of detail to describe it, though, I can attach a link or two, and then use most of my space here to describe some fun parts.For example, knowledge is prediction What do you think about that In the basketball chapter, Lewis describes how expert intuition failed to predict hence the relative success of algorithms in giving an advantage to the team depending on them instead of conventional expert judgment.Transitioning from basketball to baseball, here s an informative 2003 review of Moneyball by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, who figure in The Undoing Project Surprisingly, when Michael Lewis wrote Moneyball, he d never heard of Kahneman and Tversky or their work He cites this review in his introduction The picture is of Billy Beane, not Lewis Lewis uses the technique of embedding the stories of various individuals whose careers and lives were impacted by Kahneman and Tversky s work That technique I find useful, maybe because I, too, find their work impactful Richard Thaler , one of the authors of The New Republic article I linked, is an economist who was having trouble finding his way in a field then based on the assumption that people were rational The assumption had entailed that although people did err, they were essentially rational their errors thus could be assumed to be randomly distributed outweighed and meaningless Instead, people s behavior was characterized by systematic error If error was systematic, it could not be ignored.Thaler got someone to send him a draft of Value Theory He instantly saw it for what it was, a truck packed with psychology that might be driven into inner sanctums of economics and exploded The logic in the paper was awesome, overpowering The paper blew a hole in economic theory for psychology to enter That really is the magic of the paper, said Thaler, showing you could do it Math with psychology in it The paper was what an economist would call proof of existence It captured so much of human nature That sounds like such a thrill really gets my iconoclastic juices flowing There are so many examples of ways our thinking and decisions are shaped framing for example for people, perception of a loss depends on framing, which is manipulable Two monkeys are satisfied when each is rewarded by a cucumber, but let one get a banana and all hell breaks loose You earn a certain amount that you think is reasonable for work on a project an amount that is greater than others in your group Now say you earn the exact same amount but discover your peers received twice as much Suddenly the previously sufficient amount is grossly inadequate That s just one example but one with which I d become familiar since framing or reframing had entered the therapeutic lexicon.Another personage whose life and work surfaces in the book is Donald Redelmeier, a physician, who, as a result of having come across Kahneman and Tversky s work on judgment under uncertainty as a teenager, came to oversee decision making in a trauma center as a preventive for systematic errors The article was called Judgment Under Uncertainty Heuristics and Biases It was in equal parts familiar and strange what the hell was a heuristic Redelmeier was seventeen ykears old, and some of the jargon was beyond him But the article described three ways in which people made judgments when they didn t know the answer for sure The names the author had given these representativeness, availability, anchoring were at once weird and secudtive They made the phenomenon they described feel like secret knowledge And yet what they were saying struck Redelmeier as the simple truth mainly because he was fooled by the questions they put to the reader He, too, guessed that the guy they named Dick and described so blandly was equally likely to be a lawyer or an engineer, even though he came from a pool that was mostly lawyers He, too, made a different prediction when he was given worthless evidence than when he was given no evidence at all He, too, thought that there werewords in a typical passage of English prose that started with K than had K in the third position, because words that began with K were easier to recall This wasn t just about how many words in the English language started with the letter K This was about life and death That article wasthrilling than a movie to me, said Redelmeier.Let me not forget to mention that people are geniuses of rationalization We can t predict what s going to happen, but, once something does happen, we connect the dots to make whatever it was appear to have been inevitable An occupational hazard of historians, thus, is to connect observed facts into a confident sounding theory while neglecting the unobserved or unobservable facts A similar hazard for social science experimenters is to take results that contradict the hypothesis and rationalize them, rather than discarding the hypothesis as flawed Thus it is that talking heads of all sorts can often cover up their errors in prediction and simply keep on talking.At one point Kahneman and Tversky were enad of something called Decision Theory, thinking that presidents and prime ministers could be educated and aided in logic like emergency room physicians until coming up against the fact that powerful people usually men mostly had no interest at all in knowing about their mistakes Here is a New York Magazine review of The Undoing Project that tells a littleabout that, shares an additional quote from the book, and makes the frightening connection to the Age of Trump article makes reference a Social and Behavioral Science Team in the Obama White House Yes, most but not all leaders wish to remain oblivious to their gaps in making good decisions former President Obama had a team in place to aid the government in using the new cognitive knowledge for the common good of the American people, and it remained in place until the last minute Here s a link to an article about it from the January 23, 2017, issue of The New Yorker now, the team, if it even continued to exist in the new Administration, would soon belong to one of the most anti science President elects in history, who has called climate change a hoax, spread unproven claims about vaccinations ties to autism, and mocked new brain science backed N.F.L guidelines to prevent concussions, saying that football had grown soft Sad, what we are losing Two steps forward and, it appears, a giant step backward But we can still learn Little simple things that make a difference.Such as from the same New Yorker article The team advised Obama officials on how to quash false claims that the President was a Muslim Instead of saying, No, Obama is not a Muslim which simply increased association by repetition it was better to counter with Actually, Obama is a Christian In the Kahneman vernacular, just denying Obama is a Muslim played on the availability heuristic Even though the content the words deny the charge, by repeating it they made it come to mind easier and thus seemtrue and relevant The second option, stating that Obama is a Christian, interfered It threw a little bit of a monkey wrench into promulgation of the problematic belief.This stuff is useful If this is how our minds work if that s the sort of thing that is working on our minds, anyway then what constitutes free will is grasping that knowledge and using it for the sake of better thinking Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.There was little advantage in reasoning clearly, while much was to be gained from winning arguments Elizabeth Kolbert, Why Facts Don t Change Our Minds, Issue of February 27, 2017 And here s a new review of The Undoing Project from April 20, 2017, in which the reviewer is concerned about the potential for unconscious manipulation, that is, that cognitive science is being used to manipulate rather than to remove the sources of bias But he may be missing the degree to which cognitive science concerns how things are not pushing how things should be that we re already swimming in a sea of pressures and biases that reason isn t what we think it is October 11, 2017 When I was reading and reviewing this book, I was critical of Michael Lewis focus on relationship issues I even thought that focus was in the service of an eventual movie But subsequently an aspect of the relationship and its eventual breakdown is what has stayed with me The two principals had an extraordinarily intense and creative working relationship that they described as instantaneous sharing of ideas and uncritical acceptance as though two people were sharing one mind Then they moved to another country One of them got divorced and remarried They no longer worked at the same university One of them wascharismatic and impressive and got disproportionately rewarded by the world, so that he became convinced he was thevaluable partner and even began to take sole credit for work they had done together Yet the other may have been the main source of their new ideas Amos changed, said Danny When I gave him an idea he would look for what was good in it For what was right with it That, for me, was the happiness in the collaboration He understood me better than I understood myself He stopped doing that my italics.What changes people What frees them and lets them be who they are supposed to be What saves them or activates them and really makes the difference Something like what was going on with Kahneman and Tversky But it can t be applied mechanically or as a technique And it has nothing to do with being nice I don t think I m in Kansas the territory of cognitive psychology any Richard Thaler has just won the Nobel in Economics This is a great story about two genius psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky They did groundbreaking research that led to improved understanding of how we make decisions Although their personalities were total opposites, they found themselves enthralled with one another, and collaborated closely for fifteen years Kahneman grew up in France just before and during World War II His father helped his family narrowly escape from the grips of the Nazis over and over again After the war, This is a great story about two genius psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky They did groundbreaking research that led to improved understanding of how we make decisions Although their personalities were total opposites, they found themselves enthralled with one another, and collaborated closely for fifteen years Kahneman grew up in France just before and during World War II His father helped his family narrowly escape from the grips of the Nazis over and over again After the war, he moved to Israel, where he enrolled in the psychology department at Hebrew University He found that there were no highly qualified professors, so he really taught himself Then he joined the Israeli army, where his psychology training was put into use He was ordered to figure out which candidates for officer training school were most likely to succeed So, he designed strange tasks for the candidates to perform, and evaluated their test results Amos Tversky, on the other hand, was born in Israel His personality was totally the opposite of Kahneman s he was outgoing, popular, and always the optimist He volunteered for paratrooper school, and became a platoon commander He received a high award for bravery, by saving the life of a fellow soldier, at great risk of his own life While handing Tversky the award, Moshe Dayan said to him,You did a very stupid and brave thing and you won t get away with it againDuring the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Tversky again was in the heart of the battle, and he did some brave, but very stupid things.While both Kahneman and Tversky were academic research psychologists, they found themselves working on practical problems of real interest to their country They were required to design tests and tasks that would help determine the future careers of young soldiers, and also help to make other difficult decisions for the country Just after that war, Tversky gave soldiers questions about what motivated them during battles It was not love of country it wasobvious soldiers fought for their friends and families.At a certain point in their careers, the unlikely pair of psychologists got together and began collaborating Their capabilities complemented one another Kahneman was the idea man , and Tversky was the genius mathematician Neither of them could say, this was my work , because it was always a true collaboration They worked on decision theory, and the biases and prejudices that keep people from making optimal decisions The book describes their experiments and results, and makes for some very interesting reading They showed how people do not really understand probability people are not very good at evaluating the odds of some event happening, or evaluating which of two events islikely to happen The book relates how relatively simple algorithms can yield better,reliable medical diagnoses than experienced doctors This is also true in many other fields where experts think they have unique gifts for making decisions The first chapter in the book discusses how this is even true for the case of recruiting basketball players into NBA teams.Michael Lewis book is fascinating throughout, and goes through the logic of many of the insights and discoveries that this pair of psychologists made I did find it a little strange that no mention was made of the fantastic, best selling book by Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow I whole heartedly recommend Kahneman s book to anybody seriously interested in psychology Michael Lewis book is better suited for the general public, it is easier reading, but not as in depth I have read a few other books by Michael Lewis The Blind Side Evolution of a Game, Flash Boys A Wall Street Revolt and also saw the recent movie made from his book The Big Short Inside the Doomsday Machine The Undoing Project is just as good as Lewis other books, and I recommend it just as highly Amos Tversky and David Kahneman are psychologists who met in Israel in the 1960 s Though very different in personality, they became very close friends and went on to collaborate in producing a number of papers concerning what came to be known as behavioural economics or in layman s terms, the psychology of judgement and decision making In essence, they argued that departures in human rational thought can be predicted and its impacts calculated To demonstrate this, they concocted numerous sc Amos Tversky and David Kahneman are psychologists who met in Israel in the 1960 s Though very different in personality, they became very close friends and went on to collaborate in producing a number of papers concerning what came to be known as behavioural economics or in layman s terms, the psychology of judgement and decision making In essence, they argued that departures in human rational thought can be predicted and its impacts calculated To demonstrate this, they concocted numerous scenarios and asked students and others to choose between various courses of action In so doing, they demonstrated that some favoured choices were just not logical They went on to share their thoughts on why these illogical choices were dominant and how such responses could be anticipated The theories they propounded have been largely accepted and have had significant positive impacts in many fields economics, science, law and public policy, to name just a few This book explains their theories to some degree but it s main focus is on them as individuals their lives, personalities and backgrounds and on how they worked together They effectively set themselves up in a room, away from others, and verbalised and their thoughts and built on and challenged the ideas that surfaced In so doing they effectively became one voice, it was very much a working marriage Like any marriage it eventually suffered ups and downs and the human side of this account is both fascinating and, at times, sad I can t claim that I became an expert in behavioural economics as a result of this book, but a basic understanding of the rudiments was enough to give me insight into the significance of their work Ok, it s a bit dry in places but I did enjoy dipping my toe into the water of an area in which I had no previous knowledge I will be bold, and confidently tell you what this book is all aboutHumans making decisions are inherently handicapped by systematic biases that make them think they are being logical, but often, or possibly usually, are not And Mankind longs for certainty but we live in an inherently uncertain word Man is a deterministic device thrown into a probabilistic UniverseKindle Locations 2619 2620.There, no need to read anyor my review.BUT, I do ramble on, so here goes The two psychologis I will be bold, and confidently tell you what this book is all aboutHumans making decisions are inherently handicapped by systematic biases that make them think they are being logical, but often, or possibly usually, are not And Mankind longs for certainty but we live in an inherently uncertain word Man is a deterministic device thrown into a probabilistic UniverseKindle Locations 2619 2620.There, no need to read anyor my review.BUT, I do ramble on, so here goes The two psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman starting in the 1960 s, discovered when people make decisions in times of uncertainty, they are influenced by biases in place of statistical thinking, and sometimes flying in the face of statistics, make decisions quite confidently Sometimes with deadly results.There are tons of cool psychology terms like heuristic, availability heuristic, representativeness heuristic I am not going to define heuristic for anybody, until I actually figure it out, and that may be my first criticism, Lewis mentions something about rules of thumb and somehow I m supposed to understand what heuristic means I think I picked it up from context, but I don t want to embarrass myself by mis defining it.OK, refocus SO, we humans live in an uncertain world, but in general we bend our thinking and our memory so we arecertain of things than we ought to be And Daniel Kahneman was uniquely qualified to investigate this kind of thing The closest he came to certainty was in his approach to making decisions He never simply went with his first thought He suggested a new definition of the nerd a person who knows his own mind well enough to mistrust itKindle Locations 245 247.And they go on to identify and the multitude of ways people reassure themselves they are right Theeasily people can call some scenario to mind theavailable it is to them theprobable they find it to beKindle Locations 2506 2507Consequently, Amos and Danny wrote, the use of the availability heuristic leads to systematic biases Human judgment was distorted bythe memorableKindle Locations 2531 2533.As it relates to the last US presidential election the key insight is that people simply don t make decision because of factual analysis Apparently the director general didn t want to rely on the best estimates He preferred his own internal probability calculator his gut That was the moment I gave up on decision analysis, said Danny No one ever made a decision because of a number They need a storyKindle Locations 3359 3361.And of course one big argument is between this thinking and economist and their related political parties who claim people will act logically in their own self interests Thereby letting the invisible hand of capitalism solve all our problems von Neumann and Morgenstern transitivity axiom If he preferred A to B and B to C, then he should prefer A to C Anyone who preferred A to B and B to C but then turned around and preferred C to A violated expected utility theoryKindle Locations 3429 3432 Like the other rules of rationality, the independence axiom seemed reasonable, and not obviously contradicted by the way human beings generally behavedKindle Locations 3437 3438.Too bad it is just a crock of, well something.People don t make decisions because of the utility of how it will improve their life The point is people make decisions because of the story line they construct in their head The story generated either from memory or from cultural outside influences Which definitely explains the whole business of advertising Too bad we are running the world because of the stories But these stories people told themselves were biased by the availability of the material used to construct them Images of the future are shaped by experience of the past, they wrote, turning on its head Santayana s famous lines about the importance of history Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it What people remember about the past, they suggested, is likely to warp their judgment of the future We often decide that an outcome is extremely unlikely or impossible, because we are unable to imagine any chain of events that could cause it to occur The defect, often, is in our imaginationKindle Locations 2569 2575 INTERMISSIONI have to point out that any smart person reading this or the book itself will think HEY , that is not me , I am logical and make logical decisions.And it does get fuzzy, because a lot of their evidence is from psychological test with a bunch of hypothetical situations So, sure, maybe in real life we would straighten up and not let our natural biases rule us And I bet a lot of people believe that But seeing some of the real life choices I ve seen or heard aboutI m gonna stick with Amos and Danny There is a bunch , and some pretty shocking examples of how susceptible experts are to all these same biases.On a final note, most of what I said above is from the first of the book And the last part is about The Undoing Project that is not covered as well, to the point I wonder why Lewis chose that title Unless he is saying A D are undoing the thinking of the conventional world Orprobably it was some wordplay and only refers the undoing of their friendship, maybe.Conclusion 1 Great points on how screwed we are as a civilization and how making good decision is an uphill battle.Conclusion 2 Even though they were both brilliant psychologist and I m just a poor schlub reading about them, I think they are so into discounting traditional psychology they miss a big part of being human I don t think either of them give much credence that we are anythingthan decisions making machines Not much for the unconscious or subconscious or any non measurable part to living So my irrational notion there is somethingto life than the measurable, keeps me from beingenthusiastic about this book, and I wish Lewis had addressed that It is a testament to Michael Lewis writing that chunks of the psychological research featured in this book were beyond my comprehension, and yet I still enjoyed reading it. He suggested a new definition of the nerd a person who knows his own mind well enough to mistrust itMichael Lewis, The Undoing Project A Friendship that Changed Our MindsTversky Intelligence TestThe faster you realized Tversky was smarter than you, the smarter you were I love Michael Lewis His ability for finding an idea that is centered on a person and then telling that person s story is phenomenal He isn t the only one that does it John McPhee is a master at this angle perhapsHe suggested a new definition of the nerd a person who knows his own mind well enough to mistrust itMichael Lewis, The Undoing Project A Friendship that Changed Our MindsTversky Intelligence TestThe faster you realized Tversky was smarter than you, the smarter you were I love Michael Lewis His ability for finding an idea that is centered on a person and then telling that person s story is phenomenal He isn t the only one that does it John McPhee is a master at this angle perhaps THE master Lewis just does it very, very well This book is basically a book about the development of behavioral economics, or at least the thread of behavioral economics that came from two Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky These men were two brilliant academics drawn together by a marriage of knowledge and they created a family of ideas related to Cognitive psychology Judgment and decision making Behavioral economics Hedonic psychologyThey wrote revolutionary papers on anchoring and adjustment availability heuristic base rate fallacy conjunction fallacy framing behavioral finance clustering illusion loss aversion prospect theory cumulative prospect theory representativeness heuristicI first heard of these men when I was studying public policy back in my young college days The professor I worked under had his PhD from Chicago and was constantly throwing various funky economic articles, etc., at us It was through this professor I was first exposed to Steven Levitt and Stephen J Dubner see Freakonomics , Dan Ariely, AND Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky I loved behavioral economics I m not sure what it is about multi disciplinary approaches, but I ve always loved them I often find academic fields to be too insular, too artificial In a way, there are huge gaps that never get covered because they don t fit easily into one field or any field Those academics who are willing to learn another language and take their search for truth beyond economics, or math, or physics, biology, chemistry, or psychology and utilize the language and processes of other fields THRILL me So, while there wasn t much on the academic side here I wasn t already familiar with from things I ve read the lsat 20 years, I LOVED reading about Kahneman and Tversky and some of the other minor players in this book Being a baseball lover, one of my favorite books is Michael Lewis Moneyball where he follows the low budget 2002 Oakland A s during their remarkable, division winning season I found this book informative while also exploring the business of baseball What made this book special is that Lewis made baseball interesting for people who are not usual fans of the sport Lately I kept seeing reviews of Lewis new book The Undoing Project appear on my Goodreads feed While economics usually bores me, Being a baseball lover, one of my favorite books is Michael Lewis Moneyball where he follows the low budget 2002 Oakland A s during their remarkable, division winning season I found this book informative while also exploring the business of baseball What made this book special is that Lewis made baseball interesting for people who are not usual fans of the sport Lately I kept seeing reviews of Lewis new book The Undoing Project appear on my Goodreads feed While economics usually bores me, I decided to read this book anyway If Lewis is capable of making baseball appeal to non sports fans, then he can also make behavioral economics and psychology accessible to a person like myself who is either finds the subject matter dull or tedious As with the other Lewis books I have read, I was not disappointed Rather than jumping straight into theories on economics or psychology, Lewis chooses to open The Undoing Project with a reference to Moneyball, followed up with a chapter on how a psychologist with no sports background became an NBA general manager in charge of selecting potential players in the draft Sports is not the first thing the average person evokes when discussing economics, yet, opening with a discourse on basketball immediately makes a difficult subject accessible to the average person Yet, Lewis is not just discussing basketball He offers psychological scenarios as to what people think of when they think of an NBA player Usually that person is over six feet tall and athletic Yet, in this situation, the general manager was also searching for players with good character and who respond favorably to a battery of questions Lewis with this chapter put me in a positive mind frame to read about an otherwise tedious subject matter Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman were the least likely of friends Both were among the pioneers of the new nation of Israel, Kahneman surviving the atrocities in Europe and Tversky born a sabra native Israeli Tversky was always the most popular and the life of a party whereas Kahneman was a natural introvert who barely felt comfortable in their own skin After participating in wars at the formation of the Israeli state, both their paths eventually lead them to the psychology department at the brand new Hebrew University of Jerusalem Kahneman leaned toward behavioral psychology whereas Tversky favored the mathematical aspect of the science Despite being polar opposites in personality, their brilliant minds lead them to each other, and by the 1960s they began to collaborate on a series of game changing papers The duo began to think as one mind and often could not remember who came up with each idea The partnership was a match made in heaven, and for Kahneman, Tversky, and the science behind psychology, four decades of Undoing Freudian psychological theories would ensue Lewis alternates biographies of Kahneman and Tversky with the scientific data of their findings that eventually lead Kahneman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics The majority of economists, according to Lewis, look down upon psychologists as inferior to them however, Kahneman and Tversky over the course of their joint careers published findings that could not be ignored by either field Listing four heuristics, the psychologist team set out to change the way people think about a series of outcomes Lewis cites various positive and negative gambling scenarios and writes in a way that even those not versed in economics can understand his writing The psychologists may have posed their original questions to graduate students and doctors, but in this book, these questions became accessible to the average reader I was especially interested in knowing that these findings benefitted medical doctors, NBA general managers, the US free lunch program, as well as the Israeli Air Force training program The most commonly cited finding in a variety of forms was A over B, C over A, then why in the end do people select B over C or A These behavioral findings that were revolutionary in the 1970s are now the basis of a widely studied field called behavioral economics, which was the result of this unique partnership Michael Lewis himself has an advanced degree in economics He actually had the opportunity to teach Tversky s son without knowing who he was He has made a variety of timely economic issues accessible to the average reader in a way that is both engaging and even humorous I found myself being enthralled in behavioral theories and actually would be interested in reading Kahneman s Thinking, Fast and Slow even if normally this is not a topic that interests me While Moneyball is a special book, Lewis writing on economics and other money matters has explained complex issues in a way that is engaging and informative A gifted writer and economist in his own right, I look forward to readingof Lewis works in the future 5 stars Forty years ago, Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote a series of breathtakingly original papers that invented the field of behavioral economics One of the greatest partnerships in the history of science, Kahneman and Tversky s extraordinary friendship incited a revolution in Big Data studies, advanced evidence based medicine, led to a new approach to government regulation, and made much of Michael Lewis s own work possible In The Undoing Project, Lewis shows how their Nobel Prize winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality


About the Author: Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis, the best selling author of Liar s Poker, The Money Culture, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic, Home Game, The Big Short, and Boomerang, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.


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