Thinking, Fast and Slow
Not a new book, and a fairly well known one. I’ve been meaning to read this for ages. Daniel Kahneman has become so influential if you’ve read anything much on economics and risk or psychology and rationality over the past few years you’ll have encountered his ideas if not his name. This book is a tour of his life’s work on how people make and rationalise choices.
The book is well-written and accessible, the short chapters and sections making it easy to pick up and put down yet still retain the thread of ideas. I found myself taking notes, something I normally don’t feel the need to do, but the book is so full of insights I wanted to try and make sure they stayed with me.
Understanding how we process information and why we make decisions is crucial, both to individual people living their lives and to anyone interested in policy and society. It’s a shame our education system doesn’t include more than a smattering of this kind of thing and I fear that those who pay the most careful attention simply wish to use the knowledge to further their own objectives, rather than to help people act more rationally.
Perhaps this may be exacerbated somewhat by how difficult it is to truly internalise much of this - the author himself notes that it may often prove easier to apply them to others rather than oneself. Although it’s still likely to make you think a bit more about your immediate reactions and examine your thinking and assumptions, it will always be easier to apply to others.
Despite the challenges of seeing these behaviours in oneself, there’s nothing in the book that requires an academic background - any reasonably intelligent and open minded general reader will find it easy to manage. One for every bookshelf.