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comment by humanodon
humanodon  ·  3677 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: 'bl00's Reviews #1: "Thinking Fast & Slow" (AKA "Scumbag Daniel Kahneman")

    I was ready to conditionally recommend the book after the end of Section 1

Which is pretty much where I was in the book when I recommended it. I actually just finished it this past week and last night just read through "Appendix A" which is the study published in 1977. I have no desire to read "Appendix B" and wholeheartedly agree that Ariely's book is far better.

Though I wasn't really bothered by the tone, the statistical stuff had me scratching my head. Hang on, that's not quite right. I wasn't bothered by the tone until part 3 when he talks more about gambling. Kahneman basically says that most people don't learn from their statistical mistakes because they have no idea that they can frame things differently by "zooming out" and looking at the big picture. I'm not saying I'm the greatest gambler ever, but most of the low-level gamblers I know and including myself, did learn to do just that, at least to a degree.

I do feel like the book could have been much condensed, say from 450 pages to around . . . I dunno, 200?

I will say though, that the book made me aware of the Premortem exercise, which was conceived by Gary Klein, a guy with whom Kahneman disagrees on almost everything, except this exercise. Here's a link to the procedure, if anyone is interested. Personally, I think that's really great and can be applied to other social science scenarios, for example conflict management situations.

Anyway, I'm glad you finished around the same time as I did and were able to put into words exactly what it is that bothered you about the book. I'm still having trouble articulating what it is that doesn't quite sit right for me, but this helps. Next book I recommend, I'll make sure to finish before doing so! Sorry dude.

kleinbl00  ·  3677 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Right. You bring up two aspects of the book that I should have.

1) The premortem thing is fucking awesome. For those following along at home, this is basically where the same team that put together your brilliant idea that can't fail is assembled in a room and asked "Okay, so how did this all come apart so catastrophically?" before any real money is spent or any real effort is invested. The idea is that the people who came up the smart ideas might be suffering from "ideological blindness" right when you need them the most and if you get them to forecast the cockup they've been working against, not only will they start thinking about stuff they might not have considered, but it's pretty much righteous fun.

2) I think things started going pear-shaped when Kahneman congratulated himself proving mutual fund managers are no better than blind luck. This is hardly a revelation. Further, when a manager told him in the car "I made my company a lot of money" Kahneman chortled to himself. Nate Silver made the point that the only way to beat the market long term is insider trading - which is also not a revelation. In other words, there were two people in that car and one of them thought he was describing a "market" instead of a "racket."

And really, that's the thing about the book - it's written from the point of life-as-Game-Theory. None of the messiness is ever investigated. Corner cases do not exist. Everything is a bell curve, and that's all you need to know.

humanodon  ·  3677 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Yeah, the thing about mutual fund managers turned me off too. Like you, I'm still glad I read this book. I've been really enjoying reading about behavioral psych and I know you've recommended The Upside of Irrationality to me before, but sadly it's not available at my library. Any others you've read that you'd recommend?