economics

Thinking, Fast and Slow (book 25 of 26)

Thinking, Fast and Slow (book 25 of 26)

December 16, 2018
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Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is not an easy read. It’s not an impossibly hard read either. But sure, it’s not a book one breezes through in a day or two, at least not me. And yet, that’s almost what I made myself do, as I had my Sunday deadline, and had only gotten about 20% of the book read earlier in the week.

“You think with your body, not only with your brain.”

Kahneman won the Nobel prize of Economics in 2002 for the discovery he writes about in Thinking, Fast and Slow, describing the two different sets of “systems” in our brains, causing us to think fast (most of the time) and slow (as little as possible, from what I gather) when (fairly) appropriate.

“‘Risk’ does not exist ‘out there’, independent of our minds and culture, waiting to be measured. Human beings have invented the concept of ‘risk’ to help them understand and cope with the dangers and uncertainties of life. Although these dangers are real, there is no such thing as ‘real risk’ or ‘objective risk’.” – Paul Slovic

When I posted a blurb on Facebook about having 40% of reading left in this book, I got a comment from a friend stating “Haha. The book that most people never finish. Me included.” and I completely understand. I admit, that this is one of those books that I would have stopped reading was it not for my reading challenge. The first part is super-interesting, but parts of part two, three and four are a bit heavy, I have to say.

“To think clearly about the future, we need to clean up the language that we use in labeling the beliefs we had in the past.”

I had no problem finding lots of passages from the book to share, and there are plenty more where these came from. But still, unless you are really nerdy about the brain and behavior, I bet you can find a great video on You Tube explaining the concepts of Kahneman in 10-15 minutes or so. (Just did a quick search on YT. Yes. You can. Better bet than picking up a copy of the actual book.)

“Optimism is normal, but some fortunate people are more optimistic than the rest of us. If you are genetically endowed with an optimistic bias, you hardly need to be told that you are a lucky person – you already feel fortunate. An optimistic attitude is largely inherited, and it is part of a general disposition for well-being, which may also include a preference for seeing the bright side of everything. If you were allowed one wish for your child, seriously consider wishing him or her optimism. Optimists are normally cheerful and happy, and therefore popular; they are resilient in adapting to failures and hardships, their chances of clinical depression are reduced, their immune system is stronger, they take better care of their health, they feel healthier than others and are in fact likely to live longer.”

The part about optimism I find really interesting because based on the experience I have of living life as Helena, I’ve changed from being a pessimist to becoming an optimist. I even have a hard time spending time with die-hard pessimists nowadays… So I don’t know about the genetic disposition? Or perhaps, that’s just one way of being a fortunate optimist, the other is by intentionally deciding to become one?

“Some experimenters have reported that an angry face ‘pops out’ of a crowd of happy faces, but a single happy face does not stand out in an angry crowd. The brains of humans and other animals contain a mechanism that is designed to give priority to bad news.”

Given the way we (modern human beings) live our life, I dare say being aware of this negativity bias is a really good idea, also because of the focusing illusion: “Any aspect of life to which attention is directed will loom large in a global evaluation. This is the essence of the focusing illusion, which can be described in a single sentence: Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.”

Or the way I usually express it: we get more of that which we focus on. So be mindful of what you think about!


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

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Freakonomics (book 10 of 26)

May 20, 2018
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FreakonomicsFreakonomics – A rogue economist explains the hidden side of everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. I like this book. It’s fun, provocative, asks some super-odd questions that I’d never have come up with myself, and generally makes my mind bend in new and intriguing ways. Levitt (the economist in the pair, Dubner is the writer) certainly has made some significant inroads to what he himself sees as a shortage in the field of economics: As Levitt sees it, economics is a science with excellent tools for gaining answers but a serious shortage of interesting questions. 

While crunching data to get at the answer to the query of what schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common, data from Chicago was used, resulting in this mind boggling statement: An analysis of the entire Chicago data reveals evidence of teacher cheating in more than two hundred classrooms per year, roughly 5 percent of the total. This is followed up with an in-depth account of ways teachers cheat (in standardized testing), and how the data set available can show this. Quite amazing, I must say. Fortunately, the algorithms used to crunch the data also revealed the best teachers in Chicago. The analysis was used, the worst of the cheating teachers were sacked, and the best teachers were rewarded.

Another thing Steven and Stephen make very clear, is the difference between correlation and causality, the former being a statistical term that indicate whether two variables move together or not, whereas causality proves cause (x can cause y; y can cause x; or some other factor is causing both x and y). The chapter on What makes a perfect parent give ample evidence to how conventional wisdom is not necessarily true. For instance, everyone knows that parents should read to their kids, right? The more, the better. Well. No. It actually doesn’t matter that much, as there is no direct causality between reading to one’s kid every day and his/her school grades and success further on in adulthood.

Huh! Who would have known? Not me, that’s fore sure. I have most definitely bought into the conventional wisdom (is the modern name for it alternative fact?!) that parents must read aloud to kids, and since I’ve always been really bad at that, there’s been this little nagging thought, that I should have read more, I must be such a bad mother, have I condemned my kids to eternal failure…

An enjoyable read, humorous, odd-ball, giving me insights into things I’ve simply never ever considered before, I mean, these are the questions (and hence, chapters) of the book:
What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?
How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of real-estate agents?
Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?
Where have all the criminals gone?
What makes a perfect parent?
Perfect parenting, part II; or:Would a Roshanda by any other name smell as sweet?

So yes, quite possibly the result of me reading this book will be just what Steven and Stephen hope for: The most likely result of having read this book is a simple one: you may find yourself asking a lot of questions. Many of them will lead to nothing. But some will produce answers that are interesting, even surprising. 


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

 

 

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