Book Review: Thinking Fast and Slow

ThinkingHow do the implications of how quickly you can add 3+3 and how much time you will take calculate 11*27 have on your daily life? Well – quite a lot says Daniel Kahneman, the writer of Thinking Fast and Slow and the winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics. The fundamental occurrence between the “think fast brain” (which he calls Version 1) and the “thinking slow brain” (called Version 2) dictate how well we are able to make decisions at large. This book helps lay down a more clear understand of how we are able to, or unable to, make decision as they relate to specific topics such as finance, bias, regret, politics, happiness and more.

In it Daniel describes how the Version 1 brain allows us to make quick decisions using heuristics so that we don’t freeze up (like our Version 2 Brain would do) when we are asked a complex questions. Unfortunately although effective often times those heuristics are very wrong and we rarely are able to notice when they are. How can you slow your brain down when it is thinking fast and speed it up when thinking slow? It starts first with an understanding of how they fit together. It helped me understand why I have always created “rules of thumbs” and “red flags” in my life while having a desire and fascination for also creating “repeatable processes” and my love for making “extreme theories” that guide me through my decision making process. Based on the book it is a fairly optimal way of allow yourself to think fast as often as possible with an backup system to slow down and challenge what sounds good with what has been predetermined to be an irrational thought pattern.

This is a great foundational book for understanding how the mind interact with the world around it through a mix of psychology, statistics and probability. It is Freakonomics meets Tipping Point meets Stumbling on Happiness (all of which I greatly enjoyed reading). Where as each of those books are more focused on answering questions for a specific subject matter, Thinking Fast and Slow is a far more robust book that jumps into all the inputs and outputs surrounding life. Think of it as A History or Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson for the human condition.

 

I’ll leave you with another example of the fast thinking heuristics and the slow deliberate one battling it out:

A man drives a gas guzzler that gets 10 miles per gallon and his more environmentally friendly friend has an economic car that drives at 30 miles per gallon. In an effort to improve their carbon footprint they both upgrade from 10 mpg to 12 mpg and from 30 mpg to 40 mpg. Which upgrade has a greater net effect to the gallons used if they both drive an equal number of miles?

Let your quick mind answer, then grab a calculator and check your hunch. In the example the 10 mpg person improved by 10% where the 30 mpg increased by 33%. The difficulty is in the use of miles per gallon as the metric which does not work well for this comparison.

Now calculate them both before and after the upgrade traveling 3,000 miles.

3000/10=300
3000/12=250
50 less gallons used

3000/30=75
3000/40=50
25 less gallons used

The gas guzzling friend made a greater improvement to the world twice as much than the Eco friendly one.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Thinking Fast and Slow

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