"The Undoing Project" Book Writeup

February 13, 2017

What’s the point?

“The Undoing Project” is a look at the research partnership of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – a pair of Israeli psychologists that have done groundbreaking work on how humans make decisions. The book explores how the complementary personalities of Kahneman and Tversky led them to start collaborating, excel, and then ultimately drift apart.

What are my takeaways?

You may know Kahneman from his seminal book “Thinking Fast and Slow” – a somewhat laboring tome about how humans process information and defer to one of two “systems” when making decisions. Tversky seems to be lesser known of the pair, but was more outgoing and skillful at communicating their work. It was interesting to read how the pair worked together to achieve something greater than the sum of the parts.

The book covers a whirlwind of topics around Kahneman and Tverksy’s research, including anchoring, the availability heuristic, loss aversion, and prospect theory. These ideas are now common nomenclature among those discussing the intersection of decision making and psychology.

My favorite sections were the detours to cover how the work of Kahneman and Tversky were being applied outside of an academic setting. One section showed our Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey evaluated players while taking into account biases and fallacies; another section covered how human errors at hospitals were caused by predictable flaws in decision making or lack of statistical intuition.

While these psychologist have a unique background (including time as special ops in the Israeli military), I ultimately wanted more of these detours that illustrated the principles in practice. This probably isn’t the next great Michael Lewis film adaptation – but you never know!

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