Every now and then some more or less famous investor is quoted with some common wisdom that rarely gets challenged but which in my opinion is total nonsense if used in the wrong context.
Example: “Picking up Nickels in front of a steam roller” should be generally avoided
This is a comment I often here when I discuss certain special situations like for instance the Stada case.
Michael Lewis is clearly “THE” author for financial books at the moment. His books are usually great to read, very well researched and a few of them have already turned into movies like “The Big Short”.
“The Undoing Project” is the story of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, two Israeli professors who developed the so-called “Prospect Theory” which deals with the behavioural “biases” that the human mind shows when deciding under uncertainty. And for which Kahneman got the Nobel Prize in 2002 (Tversky unfortunately died some years before that).
Up until Prospect Theory, the human mind was assumed to be perfectly rational for most theories dealing with human behaviour and decision-making. As stock investors we all know that human behaviour in the stock market is anything but rational, however only following the groundbreaking work of those two guys, we now have a more structured way to understand how the mind really works.
The book covers the story of this “unlikely” pair of academics who started this revolution plus some side stories about people who were greatly influenced by them, for instance in Basketball and Medicine.
The book describes in very great detail how the relationship between Tversky and Kahneman developed, how it was interrupted by the different Israeli wars, how they moved from Israel to the US and how it ended. To be honest, I found this a little too much detail. It is an interesting story , no doubt, but I guess a few pages less would have made the book better.
Towards the end I really had to force myself to finish the book when Lewis describes in great detail how they tried more or less successfully to counter their critics. I think this was my first Michael Lewis book where I seriously thought about not finishing it.
All in all I would say it is an OK book for people who like those kind of biographic books, however for people interested in the theory and topic itself, Kahneman’s book “Thinking Fast and Slow” in my opinion is the much better choice.