Published On: Sun, Dec 11th, 2016

Michael Lewis’ New Book ‘the Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds’ Is Blowing Them Away

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Michael Lewis‘ new book about Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky “The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds” is getting rave reviews.

The best selling author who has written mostly about the world of finance with books like “The Big Short, ” “Flash Boys” and “Liars Poker” is getting into new territory here. This book is about a collaboration between two men who have the dimensions of great literary figures. They became heroes in the university and on the battlefield—both had important careers in the Israeli military—and their research was deeply linked to their extraordinary life experiences.

But the psychological theories propounded by Twersky and Kahenman are applicable to the world of sports. As such, they fit in with Michael Lewis’ book “Moneyball, ” which is about the use of statistical analyses in baseball. The two Israeli psychologists worked on the patterns of human irrationality which can be applied to anything from why certain athletes fail to live up to their potential to why certain markets defy conventional wisdom. This can also be used to explain why the polls were so wrong about this year’s American Presidential elections.

Amos Tversky was a brilliant, self-confident warrior and extrovert, the center of rapt attention in any room; Kahneman, a fugitive from the Nazis in his childhood, was an introvert whose questing self-doubt was the seedbed of his ideas. They became one of the greatest partnerships in the history of science, working together so closely that they couldn’t remember whose brain originated which ideas, or who should claim credit. They flipped a coin to decide the lead authorship on the first paper they wrote, and simply alternated thereafter.

This led the two to realize that people are often fooled by what they believe to be common sense. Randomness, they argues, is not taken into consideration often enough by experts in fields such as economics.

Bloomberg says: “Michael Lewis has found a compelling way to mine this seam. He’ll likely get another movie out of it; if you saw The Blind Side, Moneyball, or The Big Short, you have Lewis to thank for the raw material. He casts Danny and Amos, as he refers to his protagonists, as mismatched men who enjoyed an intellectual bond so intense that it resembled a marriage. “What they were like, in every way but sexually, was lovers, ” Lewis writes in what will probably be the book’s most quoted sentence. The Undoing Project is a history of the birth of behavioral economics, but it’s also Lewis’s testament to the power of collaboration.”

 

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The New Yorker was also impressed: “Lewis accomplishes this in his usual way, by telling fascinating stories about intriguing people, and leaving readers to make their own judgments about what lessons should be learned. He provides a basic primer on the research of Kahneman and Tversky, but almost in passing; what is of interest here is the collaboration between two scientists. Having written several articles and one book together, we have firsthand experience in both the joys and struggles of getting two minds to speak with one voice, and the conflicts that can arise when one author is a fast writer and the other likes to linger over each word. And while one gleans a good deal about teamwork from the book, Lewis doesn’t spell the lessons out. Instead, the reader learns through observation, getting as close as anyone could to being in those closed rooms where the two men worked.”

And USA Today says that, “Lewis is gifted at making scientific and financial jigsaw puzzles fit together easily. But, as Tversky and Kahneman are dismantling conventional economic theory later in the book, it’s slow going. Eventually, Tversky and Kahneman find paths into the everyday world where Moneyball becomes Moneymedicine, Moneylaw, Moneydiplomacy, etc.”

Michael Lewis himself explained to CBS This Morning, “It was a book about how people get misjudged by markets and how their values are hard to perceive. And the misjudgment was coming from people trusting their gut instincts – ex-baseball experts – and they couldn’t always see who was a baseball player and who wasn’t. I never really go to question, ‘Why do people misjudge other people?’”

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