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Recommendation: “Cloud of Possibilities” by Michael Lewis

Author: Alex Shillman
Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman The Friendship That Changed the Way We Think, Babylon Press

A book by Michael Lewis is always an event, especially when the subject of the book are two of the most brilliant minds that the State of Israel has exported to the world, the late Amos Tversky, and his Nobel Prize-winning partner Daniel Kahneman.

Michael Lewis has been time and time again the right person in the right place over the past few decades. He was there in 1989, just before classic Wall Street collapsed and the legendary chaos and bluntness of its people were replaced overnight by embarrassment and mass rage. He was there again, in 1999, to document the entrepreneurial intoxication that struck the United States just before the dot-com craze shattered, leaving behind a battered and regulated industry. Then he abandoned the economic market for a few years in which he documented through the prism of American elite sports the rise of big data, especially a new kind of decision-making that the ocean of information and its computerized processing capabilities encouraged – data-driven decision-making. But the mega-crisis of 2008 in the U.S., and the European debt problem that began to gain momentum immediately after it, brought him back to his home turf, b.The Money Machine” He described the insane leverage mechanisms that allowed “an entire nation to go crazy” over and over again. And on the other hand the handful of brave people who dared to gamble against the system.

In a recent mutual interview conducted by Prof. Dan Ariely and journalist Malcolm Gladwill, it turned out that Dan tries to write like Gladwill and both would like to write like Lewis… Lewis’s books not only fascinated millions of readers, but also succeeded in capturing enormous economic and cultural processes in the act or almost immediately afterward. In some cases, it served not only as a bystander but as one of the causes of tectonic shifts in the market. Thus, in the early 1990s, his accessible and popular writing helped expose Wall Street to the masses in its nakedness and consolidate a critical core of public opinion that made it possible to initiate change.

This time, in marked contrast to most previous times, Lewis writes about the revolution he rarely missed. A revolution in economic thought that was born in the minds of two psychologists in the modest seminar rooms of the Hebrew University and the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem in the late 1960s. Amos Tversky is considered by many to be the wisest man they have ever known. The renowned psychologist Richard Nisbett even formulated the Tversky Intelligence Test. The time it takes a person to realize that Tversky is smarter than him is inversely proportional to his level of intelligence, in other words, the faster you reach this conclusion, the higher your IQ probably is… It was hard to find anyone more different from Amos than Daniel Kahneman, Amos was a Sabra, the embodiment of self-confidence and the center of every party, Danny was a chronically insecure Holocaust survivor and a hater of parties. Amos preferred attack to defensive and fought two wars in the paratroopers, Danny always sought to avoid confrontation and spent his years of military service first sorting candidates as the only psychologist in the IDF and later in the psychology unit he helped establish. Both were undoubtedly brilliant, Amos often said not to Danny that Kahneman is the greatest psychologist of our time, but brilliant in a way that is hard to imagine different from him. And yet somehow in a connection that remains a mystery to this day, once they met, it was impossible to separate them.

Judgment and decision making, the field that Amos and Danny developed together, and behavioral economics, the economic sister of the psychological field, do not suffer from a lack of documentation. In the 40 years since they began their work together, these ideas have spilled over into almost every existing field of knowledge and have taken the center of scientific consensus by storm. Kahneman received a Nobel in 2002 (Tversky died in 1996) and the first economist to listen to the Israeli duo, Richard Thaler, got his in 2018. In the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, government units have been established to implement behavioral insights in the field of public policy. And in the shelf of non-fiction books, the subject is second only to literature on relationships and relationships. But Lewis, as usual, tells the story in a way that a writer contributed. The task, new to him, of looking at the beginning of a revolution from the perspective of years makes him a “fly on the wall” in Tversky and Kahneman’s personal room, he sketches wonderful psychological portraits of both, and follows the wonderful friendship from the beginning in Jerusalem through the glorious continuation in the United States and the cracks that were hoped when the academic world preferred to see Tversky as the father of the discipline, to Tversky’s untimely death and the poetic justice of Danny’s Nobel win.

In order to shed light on the story of the complex friendship of these two geniuses, Lewis recruits their wives, their research partners over the years, archival materials with interviews and personal conversations with Danny himself, about the way the reader becomes acquainted with the complicated and ancient way of academia to promote people, ideas, the character of young Israel and its battles for survival, and the heavy price of undivided fame. This is not a book about decision making or behavioral economics, more than anything else it is a journey of discovery, the discovery of old new science, hand in hand with the two pioneers who created it, and enjoyed every moment.

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