michael lewis,

Review of the Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis?

Maybe it was on an episode of the Lewis Hoews or Jordan Harbinger or Tim Ferriss podcast. You know, they’re pretty similar. I heard one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, state that Michael Lewis is one of the best storytellers. I figured I would check out my favorite storyteller’s favorite storyteller.

I didn’t quite know what I was getting into when I started reading The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis, but an endorsement from Gladwell was enough for me to seek his works out. I do recall Gladwell saying that Lewis tells long-form stories while Gladwell, at least at the time (ca 2019), would tell comparatively shorter stories. That was about as far as I knew.

The Undoing Project

Maybe you’ve heard of Daniel Khaneman and Amos Tversky, maybe not. Either way, you’ve definitely been influenced by their works. Daniel Khaneman would go on to win a Nobel Prize in 2002 for his work with Amos Tversky. Unfortunately, Tversky had passed by this time and the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.

Their work in the field of economics was highly influential even though the two weren’t economists by training. The Undoing Project is a look at how two Israeli psychologists and unlikely collaborators would go on to unintentionally start the field of behavioral economics and revolutionize our understanding of human behavior.

Tversky, a native-born Israeli, was known to be the life of the party while Khaneman, born in Palestine and a survivor Nazi occupation in Paris, was more likely to keep to himself. Lewis tells the story of how the two would become close friends and collaborators and how the two would eventually breakup.

Behavioral Economics

Already into their careers, Khaneman and Tversky would begin collaborating in the 1960s. Tversky was pragmatic relying on mathematics and challenging accepted thoughts while Kahneman churned out ideas. Tversky was also known for having a messy office while Kahneman’s was as well organized as any.

Before the two published their works, many experts believed that the human mind was rather rational. Afterwards, we came to understand how illogical we could be. One such example being that people would rather avoid regret than attain happiness.

Their findings would on go to be felt in sports, the medical field, transportation, and finance.

Conclusion

Lewis excels at both telling a human story while also illuminating the research that made Tversky and Kahneman worth studying in the first place.

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