Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis's latest book is The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds. From the transcript of his Fresh Air interview with Dave Davies:

DAVIES: You know, [Amos Tversky and Danny Kahneman's] approach to decision-making I gather has affected, you know, things that leaders do in government and medicine and finance and probably military strategy. You know, I'm wondering if - how it affects we ordinary people who make routine decisions like voting, for example. And I wondered what you think they might observe of the election of Donald Trump.

LEWIS: Well, let's - I'll give you a grab bag of things I think they would have said about the election. But I'm putting words in their mouth because of course they didn't speak to the election. The first thing they would say is they would notice how after the election, all sorts of people had explanations for why it was basically inevitable that Trump was going to win who never predicted it, that the world instantly set about trying to make itself seem more certain than it actually was and denying that - kind of a large random component in any election - that a lot of things could have happened where Trump wasn't president.

But people started to kind of explain the world as if that was what was meant to happen. So they would have been very interested in that, just for starters. And they would have said, you know, it's basically a phony exercise pretending to be able to explain what you never could have predicted. And reality is much more complicated than that. So, they would have said that.

Then they would have said I think that Trump's appeal is in part the way he eliminates the uncertainty of the world, that Obama - as successful as he was as president, Obama himself acknowledged that it was always problematic for him having to seem sure of things that were clearly inherently probabilistic, that people do not want to be led by someone who's saying, well, there's a 68 percent chance we won't be in a nuclear war (laughter). They want to be led by people who say, I'm going to - not going to let that happen. And that aspect of Trump's character they would have seen as appealing to basically human nature.

They would then have said about Trump that he is a case study of all of the problems with intuitive judgment because he gives into his own so totally, that he's so totally devoted to his own gut instincts. And they had identified all kinds of problems with gut instinct. The gut instinct led you to naturally think in stereotypes, for example, to naturally overweight whatever you've just heard or just seen, to naturally think that things that are vivid or memorable are much more likely to happen than things that aren't.

So they would have been - they would have fought - I think they would have been alarmed - very alarmed by Trump's - the lack of a sense he had that he needs to check his own gut against anything. I don't think they would have felt that their research basically explained the election. I don't - I think they would have said it was deeply...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue