This Much I Know

Thanks to Sam for the link to this Grauniad piece. A series I didn’t know, featuring in this edition Niall Ferguson, a historian I’ve barely heard of.

We historians are increasingly using experimental psychology to understand the way we act. It is becoming very clear that our ability to evaluate risk is hedged by all sorts of cognitive biases. It’s a miracle that we get anything right.

I’ve become a transatlantic human being – six months here with my family and six months in Harvard. I abuse caffeine on the way out and alcohol on the way in.

Cognitive biases and habits, and …

I don’t envy the historians of the current period. You have a disappearing decision trail in politics. It’s likely that databases of emails won’t be preserved, and if they are there will be so many that it will be extremely hard to use them. Plus, in investment banks they downgraded the use of email and switched to voicemail for key decisions, because of legal issues.

Oral history is a recipe for complete misrepresentation because almost no one tells the truth, even when they intend to.

Truth eluded in the information age.

[Post Note : For heaven’s sake; Join up the dots between points one and four. It’s not the Oral aspect of history that’s at issue, but the elapsed time between the experience and the expression of it, written or oral. What is expressed is always related to what is experienced, via psychology … all of it ! ]

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