Michael Lewis’s new book about the friendship of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds, provides an insightful look at how productive two academics could be and how their ideas have changed so many different disciplines. I greatly enjoyed reading Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow a few years ago. It made me more appreciative for how many different ways my supposedly rational mind can fail me.
This new book traces Tversky and Kahneman’s personal histories and how they came to work together. For the most productive years of their lives, they were remarkably dependent upon each other and they produced numerous papers that changed how economists, psychologists, and other social scientists think. Lewis catalogues a few examples from other parts of life to show how others have made use of Tversky and Kahneman’s discoveries and thought experiments. I particularly liked the chapter on how Daryl Morey, the general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, used some of the duo’s decision-making lessons to improve his team’s strategy in drafts and on the court.
For people who have read a lot about decision theory or behavioral economics, there might not be that many new insights about those fields in this book. If you are new to these fields, the book is a nice introduction. Beyond these topics, the book describes how these two brilliant people decided what to work on, what to say ‘no’ to, and how to work. It’s a lovely profile of a friendship that has affected many lives.