“The confusing, whipsaw dichotomy of thinking systems is well documented in mythology, children’s literature and television shows, yet Daniel Kahneman force feeds his audience this as an exciting new paradigm seasoned with Nobel Laureate salts.” – Blanche Beecham
Scientific parody and satire are becoming all the rage amongst the liberal educated elite. Perhaps as homage to Darwin’s parody of creation, a new fiction category of scientific satire has been steadily gaining popularity. Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for economic science, published his contribution to this new fiction genre in late October 2011. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” is currently #12 on Amazon’s best sellers list.
According to Kahneman, two distinct systems are at work in the brain. System one represents the intuitive or the ‘gut feeling’ method of quick decision making. System two is the more reasoned cousin of system one whereby the logical path to a final action is plotted and evaluated along the way. In “Thinking, Fast and Slow” Kahneman braids these two concepts into a beaded macramé hanger for the shrunken skull. He compares and contrasts each with lively parables and insights seasoned with some questionable experiments on the favored rats of psychology labs, graduate students. The result is a tome that is both didactic and at times a paradoxical portent of the mischief human beings can create.
Kahneman has attracted quite the intellectual audience with his work. The literati, or intelligentsia, are scholar-bureaucrats that determine the intellectual value of work. They have rapidly consumed Kahneman’s words and left their erudite scat upon the pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books and Vanity Fair. These book reviews have all the wisdom of owl pellets – dry, formless and filled with pitted bones from long dead concepts of scientific method. The reviewers plod about prostituting their media status to the newest thinking trend without considering that it may be a satirical wile that mocks the their endeavors. In true system one approach, these word smiths for the intellectual community follow gut reactions. They are oblivious to the irony and thusly are transformed into unaware participants in the ruse.
Perhaps due to the operant conditioning chamber of the scientific peer review process and social media, many so called intelligentsia simply fall prostrate when seeing ‘Nobel Prize’ next to an author’s name. In social media terms it’s an automatic ‘Like’ button. These ink coated whores of the printed word are charmed and beguiled by the notion of intelligence, but have no skill to identify it independently. They are not alone.
The average person seems to have lost the ability to identify scientific satire, preferring instead to outsource their thinking to others. This may explain Kahneman’s wide appeal with the financial jet set that tends to gravitate towards ‘gut check’ righteousness of estimations and herd mentality. Kahneman’s satirical scalpel slices into the meat of this hypothesis with a series of questions that parody scientific research with hilarious result.
In one example, students are given a short description and then asked a single question to illustrate the power of system one and two thinking.
Linda is thirty-one years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in antinuclear demonstrations.
Which alternative is more probable?
1. Linda is a bank teller.
2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.
According to Kahneman, a strong majority of Stanford business graduate students (85%) and an estimated 90% of undergraduates from other universities erroneously chose number two as an answer. This was declared incorrect because it “violates the laws of logic and probability.”
Kahneman boldly places a perception paradox before his lab rats where ‘Linda’ is solely defined by her employment and social concerns. In terms of probability, when given multiple choices for highest accuracy and each includes the same quality, one should intuitively go for the answer that repeats the quality found in each answer as a simple rule of thumb. In his field work, Kahneman extols the virtues of system two logics and simultaneously derides the subjects of thinking too much. The description never said she was active in the feminist movement, only deeply concerned. While it is probable she would be active in feminist aggression, it is 100% probable that she is a bank teller because that is what the description says.
It becomes very clear to those engaged in financial and banking culture that this is satire since a majority of philosophy majors are bereft of money counting skills required for the position of bank teller. Counting money is a system one skill whereby the intuitive reaction to seeing Washington’s face is to count to next consecutive number; Thomas Jefferson would mean adding twenty and so on.
The fact she is described as female is a false flag. Women are particularly good at counting due to the gathering and mothering instincts given to them by a loving Creator. Women have to be able to count children in motion, sometimes a near impossible task, to avoid Amber alerts and losing her husband’s heirs. While many bank tellers are women, the statement she is a philosophy major seems to negate any natural inclinations.
The paradox of a Philosophy major as bank teller is not addressed because the description clearly states she is a bank teller, as improbable as that may be. Supporters of Kahneman will no doubt point to those feminine outliers that dabble in philosophy and also count money to shore up the Nobel Prize winner, but they fall flat since there is no empirical evidence to support all female philosophy majors are able to count money or have worked as bank tellers. The description as a whole seems improbable, but worthy of a chuckle.
The circumlocution undertaken by Kahneman is dizzying yet charming. He welds both a whip and feather to shame and tickle his audience and thusly distract them from his blatant plagiarism of past works. Much of the revelatory modeling presented in the book is based on cultural plagiarism. The confusing, whipsaw dichotomy of thinking systems is well documented in mythology, children’s literature and television shows, yet Kahneman force feeds his audience this as an exciting new paradigm seasoned with Nobel Laureate salts. It becomes, in layman’s terms, recycled nourishment also known as fecal waste.
“Lord save us!” cried the duck. “How does it make up its mind?”
Regarding the Pushmi-pullu from The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
The mythical pushmi-pullu from the Hugh Lofting children’s classic, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, is easily identifiable as the primary hypothesis for Kehnerman’s satirical work.
Reflection on the Pushmi-pullu and Kehneman’s thinking systems reveals comparisons and contrasts worthy of note. With two brains, the creature is described as skittish and difficult to capture since one side is always alert and ready to react to any situation. Of course the animal is elusive since with two heads and no discernable procreative reproductive system, it is highly probable the pushmi-pullu indigenous population is limited.
And so it is with the two system model. Both elusive and without the ability to evolve it clearly begs for answers beyond the “Fast and Slow” model. Where do new ideas, faith and creativity come from in Kahneman paradigm? What of humor, music and beauty in this fast slow model? The work tends to have extreme bias with regards to these questions. Encouraging the reader to frazzle their thought process to a level of high alert for thinking bias, the reader’s creativity is rendered barren, sterile and perfect for actuarial mathematics.
The fact Kahneman gives Lofting no credit should be indicative that this is not work to be taken seriously. This is where the Nobel Laureate fails to communicate the joke. Several commentators on the psychology forums and in the twitterverse have noted the great affect to their own thinking after reading the work. Unable to determine fact from fiction, they become bogged down examining situations rather than enjoying the moment. The investment circles are abuzz with ‘fast and slow’ thinking revelations and incorporating the lexicon into the business gibberish of quarterly reports and market analyses.
Science, even behavioral or ‘meat’ science, should bring positive change, not reduce people to lumbering shells of cognitive reactions, unable to discern fiction. Unfortunately, far too many will take “Thinking, Fast and Slow” to a level it cannot sustain. The intelligentsia should know better. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laurette, should admit the satirical ruse he has so expertly played over 499 pages of text.
People are going to lose a lot of money at online poker.