EppsNet Archive: Daniel Kahneman

2014: The Year in Books

31 Dec 2014 /

These are the books I read in 2014, roughly in the order listed. The ratings are mine. They don’t represent a consensus of opinion.

Books of the Year: My Antonia by Willa Cather (fiction) and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (non-fiction).

Honorable Mention: Flaubert’s Parrot, The Fountain Overflows, Nausea, Pastoralia, Revolutionary Road.


Teaching Computer Science: Those Who Don’t Like to Read

16 Dec 2014 /

Students with books

I recommended a couple of books that I’ve read recently and liked — Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman — to the class in case anyone was looking for a book to read over winter break or maybe as a holiday gift.

“What if you don’t like to read?” someone asked.

“Well, in that case you can spend your entire life inside your own head and never know or care what life looks like to other people.”

In hindsight, it occurred to me that I could have suggested audio books for people who don’t like to read, but . . . woulda coulda shoulda, you know what I’m saying?


The Hedgehog and the Fox

6 Dec 2014 /

Stuffed hedgehogs outside a store in Athens

Hedgehogs “know one big thing” and have a theory about the world: they account for particular events within a coherent framework, bristle with impatience toward those who don’t see things their way, and are confident in their forecasts. They are also especially reluctant to admit error. For hedgehogs, a failed prediction is almost always “off only on timing” or “very nearly right.” They are opinionated and clear, which is exactly what television producers love to see on programs. Two hedgehogs on different sides of an issue, each attacking the idiotic ideas of the adversary, make for a good show.

Foxes, by contrast, are complex thinkers. They don’t believe that one big thing drives the march of history . . . Instead the foxes recognize that reality emerges from the interactions of many different agents and forces, including blind luck, often producing large and unpredictable outcomes. . . . They are less likely than hedgehogs to be invited to participate in television debates.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

You Can Make It If You Try

14 Jan 2012 /

“It’s becoming conventional wisdom that the U.S. does not have as much [economic] mobility as most other advanced countries,” said Isabel V. Sawhill, an economist at the Brookings Institution. “I don’t think you’ll find too many people who will argue with that.”

English: Jerry Buss (LA Lakers owner) playing ...

Jerry Buss

I’ll argue with it . . . the fact that people are not doing something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a hard thing to do. Maybe people aren’t trying to do it. Maybe people don’t want to do it.

From Daniel Kahneman‘s Thinking, Fast and Slow:

A large-scale study of the impact of higher education . . . revealed striking evidence of the lifelong effects of the goals that young people set for themselves. The relevant data were drawn from questionnaires collected in 1995-1997 from approximately 12,000 people who had started their higher education in elite schools in 1976. When they were 17 or 18, the participants had filled out a questionnaire in which they rated the goal of “being very well-off financially” on a 4-point scale ranging from “not important” to “essential.” . . .

Goals make a large difference. Nineteen years after they stated their financial aspirations, many of the people who wanted a high income had achieved it. Among the 597 physicians and other medical professionals in the sample, for example, each additional point on the money-importance scale was associated with an increment of over $14,000 of job income in 1995 dollars!

In other words, one reason that people differ in their incomes is that some people care more about having a high income than others. People have different ambitions. Some people will gladly sacrifice things like family and leisure time for money and some people won’t.

Here’s an example of what it takes to be rich in America: Laker owner Jerry Buss spent so little time with his family when his kids were growing up that when he and his wife separated, they didn’t tell the kids, and it was five years before any of them noticed the difference.

True story.

Not everyone is willing to show a Jerry Buss level of ruthless disregard for their family in their pursuit of financial success.

I’ve spent a lot of time with my family. Jerry Buss owns a basketball team and I don’t. Good for him! I’ve lived my life a certain way and I could have lived it a different way if I’d wanted to.

A lot of Americans are self-absorbed morons whose principal activities are eating and watching television. The fact that these people are not shooting up the economic ladder doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a hard thing to do if you really want to do it.


Moving Away from Joy

16 Feb 2010 /
Friendship

Behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman suggests that we have two selves: an experiencing self and a remembering self. . . . Your experiencing self lives in the present and is happiest spending time around people you like. . . .

The remembering self cares about story, and about appearances. . . .

Your remembering self cares about money and mobility deeply. Why? No one wants to be remembered as the person who “didn’t do anything with their life.” Getting rich and moving around a lot adds dramatic, tangible plot-points to your story, which comforts your remembering self greatly. But your experiencing self can easily be less happy. What if you are unable to turn your money into people you enjoy spending time with? What if you move away from the people and places that bring you joy?

Dave Troy