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Lewis is an entertaining writer on difficult topics, and this was fascinating.

undoing-projectLewis is best known for Moneyball, his non-fiction book that looked at a new economics of building a successful baseball team, which become a hit movie starring Brad Pitt.

It’s also the starting point for this book. Lewis explains that in his examination of the choices made by the Oakland Athletics baseball team in 2002, he missed something more important.

This work on how to judge the value of the players emerged directly out of the world-changing work done by a pair of Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, two men he’d barely heard of.

They took what was the standard view of a person who made “rational” economic choices – and proved it wasn’t true.

People make mistakes, consistently and predictably, when it comes to risk and making judgments. We make decisions based on how well a given person/thing matches the representative model we have in our heads, even when that is wrong or inappropriate. For example, we will employ people who match an image we hold in our heads over and above their actual ability to do a specific job.

The field Kahneman and Tversky developed, behavioural economics, changed the way economists thought.

The obsessive and fascinating friendship that developed between these two men as they developed their revolutionary ideas – and the way the relationship ultimately imploded – makes for a fascinating story.

Lewis is a vivid and engaging writer, and brings the importance of what they were doing to life. Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2002, and wrote the widely praised best-seller Thinking, Fast and Slow. Tversky died young, aged 59, of cancer.

This book was published in December 2016. My review appeared in the Herald Sun’s Weekend magazine. 

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