Monday, January 09, 2012

Just people

Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow (naturally) gets his readers to think.  There are many reviews and comments.  I enjoyed the ones I read in the NY Times Book Review by Jim Holt as well as the one in the NY Review of Books by Freeman Dyson.

There are two important themes in the book.  One involves a discussion of  the two systems we use in our thinking, the intuitive System 1 and the analytical System 2.  Both are, of course, useful.  But System 2 requires energy and effort.  We can get in trouble when we are too lazy to turn it on and just stick with System 1 conclusions.  

The other theme is an attack on the "rational man" assumption of much of economic modeling.  I have always thought of "rational" as deep and complicated.  I am happy to just assume that people respond to incentives.  Nevertheless, Kahneman is superb at documenting behaviors which challenge the "rational man" hypothesis.

Al of us contextualize just about everything that our senses preceive in unique and personal ways.  I take that as a given.  But our amazing material well being comes about as a result of successful cooperation/coordination.  There are an uncountable number of complex supply chains that routinely emerge to serve us.

We somehow manage all that in spite of the fact that we are just people.