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The Undoing Project

It’s a Michael Lewis book.
That alone, is enough for me to tell you to go read it.

Kahneman and Tversky’s work has probably been the biggest influence on my life in recent years, since Taleb.1
We cannot think in probabilities in our daily lives.
We keep fooling ourselves, with various biases.
And the intuition we have, is because we are really amazing biological machines. And even that is subject to error. Unless the intuition is backed by extensive experience. And even then we can easily be fooled.
That basically is the gist of their work (to me, so far).
I flunked nearly every experiment in Danny Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.2
We need to think slowly, through every implication, when it comes to the few big decisions in life.

So how did this work come about?
The Undoing Project tells us the story.
Of Kahneman and Tversky’s friendship and years of collaboration.
Of how a MacArthur Fellow and and Nobel Laureate are in the end, only human, and even they could not undo the events in their lives and their relationship.
Of how the world is patently unfair and never treats people equally.

It’s a lovely read.


  1. Taleb was the one, who introduced me to Kahneman’s work, in the first place 

  2. A Lindy book, if there ever was one 

Change is the Only Constant

If Taleb convinced me that Mathematics was beautiful philosophy, Ben Orlin is the one made me fall in love with it.
Change is the Only Constant is beautiful and funny at the same time.

It’s the story of Calculus over the ages and through domains.
It weaves through life and time, through people, interesting and otherwise.
And the way Ben tells it, it bears no resemblance to the dry crap that is taught in schools and colleges.
It’s beautiful and wonderful, but not paramount and still subject to the vagaries and complexities of life and nature.

In their more insufferable moods, the “hard” sciences like to boast and crow, as if “hard” means complicated and “soft” means simple. This is, of course, exactly backward. The softer the science, the more complex its phenomena.
Physicists can predict what atoms will do. But gather enought atoms, and the calculations grow unwieldy. We need new, emergent laws—chemical laws. Then, gather enought chemicals, and complexity overwhelms us again. We need biology to step in with new theories and rules. And so on down the line. At each tipping point, the role of math evolves: from certain to tentative, from deterministic to statistical, from consensus to controversy. Simple phenomena (like quarks) follow mathematical rules with slavish fidelity. Complex phenomena (like toddlers) less so.

Loved it!