Author Topic: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis  (Read 881 times)

erp

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The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« on: November 22, 2023, 02:24:51 PM »
This was an excellent recommendation by MetalCat, and I'm only posting it here because I don't want to derail their journal where the recommendation showed up at first.

This has been a surreal book to absorb to right now, because so much of the early portion of the book focuses on WWII, the holocaust, and early Israel history. While I had some vague understanding of this time period, my understanding is certainly not nuanced, and to hear about the Israeli perspective of the 1967 war against a real-world backdrop of Hamas’ recent terrorist attacks and the Israeli reprisal/attack on Gaza is very enlightening. It anchors the experience of reading the news to history in a way that is really inconsistent with the 24-hour news cycle.

In any event, the book focuses on Amos Tversky and Danny Kahneman, examining both their relationship and their (profound, highly impactful) academic work. In the end the book is about a pair of incredible minds playing with hard problems. The minds are attached to people, and the people are pretty fallible. Indeed, the minds themselves are pretty fallible as their collected works demonstrated again and again. Even so, it’s a platonic love story. I was in tears several times.

My key take aways:
  • Both Amos and Kahneman were crazy smart, and wildly interesting people.
  • Working together can be a huge force multiplier, and you can do it for decade + periods if it’s fun (over and over again you get this comment from both Danny and Amos that it was a joy to work together, more even than the work being fun it was fun for them to do it together).
  • Brains have all sorts of ways that they fundamentally mis-represent the world, you need to watch for that. It’s even better if you can design your life to not allow yourself to make trivial mistakes.
  • Take care of your friends. Love them. They matter.
  • Make time for the people who matter to you. Give them what they need (Kahneman needed, from Amos, “a willingness to see the best of [his] ideas”).
  • It is possible to thrive even coming from horrible beginnings, but that trauma is likely to follow someone through their whole life.
  • Amos was the life of a party, and a fighter. Danny was always asking “in what way might this falsehood seem true” and “in what way might I be incorrect”. They supported each other’s weaknesses and multiplied each other’s strengths.

All in all, a profoundly moving and thought provoking story. It charted the unusual and borderline implausible direction of entire fields of work based almost entirely on a weird friendship between a pair of smart professors. I loved it.


Metalcat

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Re: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2023, 02:41:45 PM »
This is a re-read book for sure.

If you want another good highly educational book about the brain that will move you to tears, try When Breath Becomes Air.

reeshau

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Re: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2023, 09:25:01 AM »
  • Both Amos and Kahneman were are crazy smart, and wildly interesting people.

FIFY.  Both are alive and well.  And hopefully continue to share more with the world.

Metalcat

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Re: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2023, 09:35:30 AM »
  • Both Amos and Kahneman were are crazy smart, and wildly interesting people.

FIFY.  Both are alive and well.  And hopefully continue to share more with the world.

Amos died quite young a few decades ago. It's one of the most heartbreaking parts of the book. That's where the tears come in.

halfling

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Re: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2023, 10:31:15 PM »
  • Both Amos and Kahneman were are crazy smart, and wildly interesting people.

FIFY.  Both are alive and well.  And hopefully continue to share more with the world.

Got all hopeful thinking I was misremembering Tversky's passing. I have a feeling you're thinking of Dan Ariely, who works in adjacent fields and is indeed still kicking.

Freedomin5

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Re: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2023, 11:43:13 PM »
This is a re-read book for sure.

If you want another good highly educational book about the brain that will move you to tears, try When Breath Becomes Air.

+1 for When Breath Becomes Air. Such a good book!

JJ-

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Re: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2023, 11:08:23 AM »
This is a re-read book for sure.

If you want another good highly educational book about the brain that will move you to tears, try When Breath Becomes Air.

+1 for When Breath Becomes Air. Such a good book!

This book is intense. I have to regularly put the book down to let the emotional impact of his writing subside. To rush through it takes away from the experience.

Dicey

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Re: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2023, 11:22:10 AM »
This is a re-read book for sure.

If you want another good highly educational book about the brain that will move you to tears, try When Breath Becomes Air.

+1 for When Breath Becomes Air. Such a good book!
+ 2 to that and adding "Being Mortal" by Atul Gwande. Veering slightly off-topic, but worth the detour. I read each of them twice and would happily do so again.

JJ-

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Re: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2023, 12:22:29 PM »
This is a re-read book for sure.

If you want another good highly educational book about the brain that will move you to tears, try When Breath Becomes Air.

+1 for When Breath Becomes Air. Such a good book!
+ 2 to that and adding "Being Mortal" by Atul Gwande. Veering slightly off-topic, but worth the detour. I read each of them twice and would happily do so again.

I have not read this one in a few years. Time to re read. Thanks!

erp

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Re: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2023, 07:47:16 AM »
Being Mortal was indeed an exceptional read! I think I read it very early in Covid, I picked it up Christmas of 2019 but didn't get to it right away. The backdrop of reading about death, living across from an elderly care home while isolating indoors, watching ambulances pull in every day or two was very strange.

What really stuck with me from that book (and linking it back to the Undoing Project) is how easy it is to get stuck into traps of measuring the wrong thing - 'years alive' with no metric from quality of life leads to worse care, at least for a lot of people. Thanks for the recommendations!

reeshau

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Re: The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2023, 06:22:18 AM »
  • Both Amos and Kahneman were are crazy smart, and wildly interesting people.

FIFY.  Both are alive and well.  And hopefully continue to share more with the world.

Got all hopeful thinking I was misremembering Tversky's passing. I have a feeling you're thinking of Dan Ariely, who works in adjacent fields and is indeed still kicking.

Ah, yes.  My bad.