A Book Worth Gutting

23 12 2011

Picked up “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Nobel Economics Laureate Daniel Kahneman at Changi on my way to NZ 3 weeks ago, and spent most of my evenings there reading it thoroughly. Will be going back over it with a fine tooth comb in the weeks ahead.

In some ways an impossible book to summarise, representing as it does a life-time’s worth of enquiry into the workings of intuition and perception. Kahneman ranges over topics as diverse as statistics, marriage and pupillometry, but a core theme is the nature of intuitive judgement, both its value – effortless judgement – and its dangers – error-laden and often substituting the actual question or problem for another more easily answered. Another is the role that luck plays in performance; Kahneman suggests that regression to the mean accounts for a great deal of failure to sustain apparently stellar performance (in other words, that a great deal of stellar performance is in the first place just statistical variance).

One of the nicest features of the book is Kahneman’s stated intention to influence water-cooler gossip; each (short) chapter ends with examples of how the chapter’s themes could appear in casual conversation, and thereby correct typical, systemic misperceptions of business and life situaions.

A book to read and gut and read again.

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