Dual People

I need to finish off my notes on Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow” since I posted some criticisms before I’d read the concluding chapters.

Strange to read the explicit dualisms:

Two systems – Fast intuitive thinking and Slow considered thinking.
Two species – Humans (reasonable) and Econs  (entirely rational).
Two selves – Experiencing self and Remembering self.

As I commented before it’s almost trivial to conclude this is how humans do actually work, what was slightly scary was the implicit suggestion that human deviation from pure rationality was a problem to be corrected. Cognitive biases (vs rationality) are real, but they value more than rationality. In admitting a complex picture of values without prescriptive conclusions Kahneman uses masterful understatement to admit economic decision-making is more than maths:

“Philosophers could struggle with these questions for a long time.”

He makes a number of plain wrong statements along the lines that – the integral of pain experienced over time is somehow obviously more significant than remembered pain – doh ! But also a number of key positive conclusions:

“I have …. devoted many pages to errors of intuitive judgement and choice … However, the relative number of pages is a poor indicator of the balance between the marvels and the flaws of intuitive thinking. System 1 is indeed the origin of much of what we do wrong, but it is also the origin of most of what we do right – which is most of what we do. Our thoughts and actions are routinely guided by system 1 and are generally on the mark.”

“One of the marvels is the rich and detailed model of our world that is maintained in associative memory: it distinguishes surprises from normal events in a fraction of a second, immediately generates an idea of what had been expected instead of a surprise, and automatically searches for some causal interpretation of events as they take place.”

ie we’d do well not to assume system 1 is somehow inferior to pure rationality, to be corrected and brought under control of system 2 – which would be autistic.  [see McGilchrist – let’s not forget who is master and who is emissary.]

Also, often talks of “laziness” in under-use of system 2, as If more use would lead to more (rationally) optimal decisions – but this is basic economy of effort – consideration costs are part of the optimisation. [Brunsson / Argyris  decision rationality is action irrationality, etc.]

Libertarian Paternalism – after Richard Thaler’s “Nudge” – we humans do actually need “help” with free choices, beyond free access to “information”. We need meta-information about different ways information should be considered and valued, and how presenting the same information different ways, might lead us to different considerations. Those entrusted with governance do (need to) know better than free popular choice would suggest. Their power to “nudge” us to given conclusions must be trusted, even if we baulk at their power to physically restrict our choice. And:

“Decision-makers are sometimes better able to imagine the voices of present gossipers and future critics, than to hear the hesitant voice of their own doubts. They will make better choices when they trust their critics to be sophisticated and fair, and when they can expect their decision to be judged by how it was made, not only by how it turned out.”

Governance, sophistication, values, fairness and trust – all in there.

Better able to imagine than to hear

Another case of less communication is more.
A little ignorance goes a long way.

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