The Undoing Project

Posted: December 14, 2016
The Undoing Project
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The Undoing Project isn't so much a story of psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky's Prospect theory as it is of the uncanny, almost twin-like kinship and professional symbiosis the men developed during their years of research together. Many consider it one of the greatest partnerships in science. And if that sounds like a booorrrrringggg read to you, let me give the book a little more context: Michael Lewis wrote it. He also wrote Liar's Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, and Flash Boys. A compelling author, regardless of the topic.

But if you're into the human mind, how it works, how it decides, and how it makes predictably illogical and poor decisions All. The. Time. you'd probably dig The Undoing Project regardless of who put it into words.

For background, my (very rudimentary) breakdown of Prospect theory: Are you a risk-seeker or do you have an aversion to even the word itself? Maybe it depends on the situation. Your rational assessment of it, and your mind's logical conclusions about the best decision to make. According to Kahneman and Tversky, you--all of us--regularly make completely irrational risk-related decisions that seem completely rational in your mind, because your mind likes shortcuts. It convinces itself that by making a "good" decision about just one aspect of a complex problem (while ignoring all the others) it is making a good decision overall. Prospect theory has an entire model on how people systematically F-up when making real-life choices.

The Undoing Project traces the 40-year history of Prospect theory through the men that created it, and the bond they formed in the process. Kahneman and Tversky's work is the foundation for the field of behavioral economics, and has changed the face of Big Data studies and advanced evidence-based medicine.

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