If you are looking for Michael Lewis’ new book THE UNDOING PROJECT to be another MONEYBALL, THE BIG SHORT or THE BLIND SIDE, you won’t find it.
THE UNDOING PROJECT, published this year, is a cerebral look that undoes common wisdom about how we form opinions and make up our minds. The subtitle of the book, A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, uncovers the relationship between two Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who together broke the mold into investigating the human decision-making process.
Most appropriately, Lewis sets the scene for this work of non-fiction by explaining how the non conventional statistical analysis of the potential of baseball players as detailed in his book MONEYBALL was later used by the Houston Rockets basketball team. The narrative quickly transforms into an examination of exactly how psychologists Tversky and Kahneman through extensive scientific research in academia both in Israel and the United States discovered exactly how the mind works when forming judgements about people and their performance potential in specific situations. The book advances its own unique theory of a person’s ability to think objectively.
Interspersed with the science is the personal story of two unlikely collaborators who formed an extraordinary friendship and dramatically advanced a greater understanding of how initial perceptions can overwhelm reality. The ” Halo effect.” How do we examine specific individual qualities separately from the whole? Deep but fascinating.
I have not read a more thorough analysis of the American economy and its resulting social implications. THE RISE AND FALL OF AMERICAN GROWTH takes a microscopic look at the U.S. standard of living since the Civil War. From beginning to end, this 666 page work of extraordinary research sets forth a clear understanding of expectations for the economic future of American capitalism.
Robert J. Gordon has the unique ability to treat a complicated subject in a manner that is readable, compelling and enjoyable. Time and again in reading THE RISE AND FALL OF AMERICAN GROWTH I said, ” I get that.” Not a common response when reading about GDP, and TFP and the exponential impact of forever life changing one time inventions. Gordon takes complicated subject matter and brings it home to the reader in a straightforward fashion. Even the layout of many dozens of trend graphs are easy to read and understandable.
So much for form. The importance of the subject matter relates to anyone trying to figure out exactly where the U.S. economy is headed. What is the prognosis for the dwindling middle class, income inequality, immigration, wages innovation and most important the human condition? THE RISE AND FALL OF AMERICAN GROWTH places the period of 1870 to 1970 under a microscope dramatically raising one’s understanding of the impact of the first and second industrial revolutions on the economic well-being of America and in particular the evolution of the middle class following World War II. Gordon calls 1870-1940 ,” The period of the great inventions, that will likely never be duplicated.” Gordon’s research carries through to today with a stark comparison of exactly why economic growth has stalled even with the rapid expansion of technology since 1970.
The headwinds against replicating the growth of the American economy that were experienced in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century are formidable. Gordon sites income in-equality, a broken educational system, stagnant wages and a misplaced understanding of the importance of immigration to bolster the productivity of an aging labor force as key elements that will create further stagnation.
This is an important book for our time and place in America.
Other interesting books on this subject include Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century and Tom Friedman’s most recent book Thank You For Being Late.