Michael Lewis’s recent book, The Undoing Project, details the groundbreaking work of two Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Twersky. Their work explored the way we make decisions and how we justify, after the fact, those decisions. Mr. Lewis helps us to understand how these two scientists moved our decision making towards data and away from intuition.
In late 1973 or early 1974, Danny gave a talk, which he would deliver more than once, and which he called “Cognitive Limitations and Public Decision Making.” It was troubling to consider, he began, “an organism equipped with an affective and hormonal system not much different from that of the jungle rat being given the ability to destroy every living thing by pushing a few buttons.” Given the work on human judgement that he and Amos had just finished, he found it further troubling to think that “crucial decisions are made, today as thousands of years ago, in terms of the intuitive guesses and preferences of a few men in positions of authority.” The failure of decision makers to grapple with the inner workings of their own minds, and their desire to indulge their gut feelings, made it “quite likely that the fate of entire societies may be sealed by a series of avoidable mistakes committed by their leaders.”
I can’t think of a more important paragraph to share with you today, January 20, 2017. Health Care, Nuclear Proliferation, Trade – all of these decision will affect us all.