tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg December 8, 2016 6:00pm-7:01pm EST
♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." charlie: michael lewis is here. than 9ks have sold more million copies. three have been adapted into successful feature films. his new book is called "the undoing project: a friendship that changed our minds". it tells the story of two israeli psychologists, daniel kahneman and amos tversky. new york times says the book combines intellectual rigor with complex --. he has written one hell of a love story and a tragic one at
that. i am pleased to have michael lewis back at this table. it is worth noting how you came to know these two guys. i had written "moneyball." which was about the way in my might that markets miss value people including baseball players. there were cheap ones and expensive ones. my interest was on account of that. why is baseball players can be misjudged, who cannot be. i never asked a question of why it happened. in a review after the book came in the new republic, they said basically -- michael lewis has written a good story but he does not seem to understand there is a good source for all of this stuff. there are two israeli psychologists that did work on the biases, the cognitive biases of the mind. including when clinical
candidates are being misjudged. charlie: and most important how the mind works. michael: these two guys are named daniel kahneman and amos tversky. i read some of that stuff. i was embarrassed i did not know them. won theahneman had just nobel prize for economics. i was having drinks with a psychology professor friend of mine. i dedicated the book to him. i said this has been working -- irking me. kahnemanid that daniel has a house up the hill from you and i will hook you up. amos tversky had died in 1996 the daniel kahneman was still alive. six years before his nobel prize. i went up and saw danny. we still have a relationship with him.
i would listen to him talk about the relationship he had with amos tversky. irealized that the one term had taught at the university of california berkeley, one of my favorite students was amos tversky' oldest childs. and we had a friendship. family wasy -- their very generous and they opened his life to me. also was generous. that is how the book started. it was organic. it took me quite a bit of time to see just what the story was. and how to tell it. it took me quite a bit of time to decide it was a book. charlie: in fact, you are not sure you were up to it. michael: true. it is not the first time i have felt that way but i felt more that way than i have ever felt before. the superficial reasons were that at the heart of the book,
you have an intellectual discipline, psychology, that i had to teach myself about. and you had a backdrop of israel in the early days which is a really peculiar and interesting place. and war. i know a bit about it but not enough about the field to create the setting. ,ut the biggest thing i think the source of hesitancy was, i normally feel intellectually equal to my subjects. i can get my mind are around my subjects and what they are talking about. in this case, the fertility and the power of these guys' minds was daunting. i knew i was going to be in the position of the b students trying to write about the letter a students. -- i felt like a gnat trying to get my arms around to elephants.
daniel condiment is the sharpest critic and the greatest doubter of things. i knew whatever i did he would find wanting. i knew i had a living subject with whom i had failed before i started. charlie: but go back to how howel had shaped him and their experience in the military had shaved who they were. they were different characters. thatew york times quoted it was a love story. and a tragic one. they felt how -- sexual. it was not they were occasionally mistaken for a gay couple. they were clearly in love with one another but they were having sex -- heterosexual men. go throughaid -- you life and you are in love with women and so on that with amos,
i was rapt. amosw he felt that understood his mind better than anyone else even better than himself. it was like a jerry maguire thing. -- you complete me. they were so different. even to their friends in israel, they were the least likely people to even be friends. and no one could imagine what was going on behind closed doors when they were working. a love of people who were very different from each other. that, they do not have they do not bother doing the work. at one point, it was pretty clear that the work was an excuse to being together. i am serious. they were discussing human nature but the joy was the together. charlie: did they work from one typewriter?
michael: in the beginning, they did not even have a typewriter. they were writing it together, side by side. watched them said it was like watching two people brushed each other's teeth. a sentence today, that was fast. --amosracter as you say tversky, is a literary character. they are both literary characters. amos tversky -- to anyone that encountered him, they came away with a sense that they had met someone unlike anyone else they had ever met. someone once designed an intelligence test. the longer after you make amos you to figurees out that he is smarter than you, the more stupid you are. everyone said he was the
smartest man in the world. he was not pretentious about it. he was a normal guy that was endowed with an incredible brain and a warrior. he had been trained by his society to be a spartan warrior and a killer. and without a shred of doubt, so -- totally sell certain. and any was a holocaust survivor. a small child and was hiding in southern france watching his father died he could they could not seek medical care. he escaped france after the war. life, there of his is a kind of evasiveness about him as if he is still in hiding. people always felt a kind of removal from him. a formal distance from him and from his own mind. werever became wedded committed to anything. he had all of these ideas. what he is is an incredible
fertile poet mind. he has startling insight after startling insight with some analytical ability. .ot that of amos tversky he was the idea generating the sheen. you are not saying one is smarter than the other, he had a different kind of intelligence. idea thatt gives the science and art of two different things. ,omeone has the classic stereotypical kind of mind. a very artistic mind. science is a product of a lot of creative artistic ability. charlie: were they united by the same curiosity? michael: they were jews living where it at a time looked like it could be extinguished at any moment. they were interested in how the mind dealt with uncertainty and how that mind made judgments.
life depended on it. they thought they were getting at something because everything in human life goes through the mind. if you can describe the tricks the mind plays on you in different situations, you are describing something fundamentally human nature. they were getting at the spirit that informs them which is their sense that humanity, human beings are inherently fallible. they are wired for certain kinds of mistakes. it is not shameful. we should not be ashamed of our fallibility. we should seek to understand it and add depth to it rather than pretend to be infallible. at the center of the work, that was one of the ideas. demonstrating the inherent fallibility of man to deal with it. charlie: is that one of the things that happened in the u.s. election? the fallibility?
michael: you can watch what is going on through the lens that they built. they would say if you things about it. one of thes frightening things about donald trump is his insistence on his own in fallibility. we know now that the mind is capable of doing strange things. if you are not suspicious of your own mind, you are likely to be way too confident about your judgments. his inability to modulate his wrong --, and if he is they call it hindsight bias. i knew it was coming even though i did not know it was coming. that is one of their phrases. that is their insight actually, the phrase came from the student. people try to make the world seem more certain than it really is.
ways, it is inexplicable. they would have things to say about donald trump and about his voters. the way people are attracted to overconfidence. obama has this problem. he has had this problem from the beginning. he is intellectually honest and he is aware that his judgments might be wrong that as president, you cannot come up to the podium and say -- i may be wrong. you have to project total certainty as a president and that is false. charlie: what has obama said he was on about? -- he was wrong about? michael: he has done it often. it has enabled him to change his mind about gay marriage. pretended to have problems with it and then he allowed the country that he had changed his mind. charlie: it may be the recognition that it was now politically viable to do it.
michael: he was able to do it politically because he is a person that is capable of changing his mind. charlie: and the opinion on the ground changed also. michael: and so he could do that. they would also say whether knowingly or not, donald trump successfully exploited the weaknesses of the human mind. theability to prey upon kinks in the mind. for example, if you want -- if you give people a vivid story about a mexican immigrant who happened to murder someone, you can whip up a general idea that this is what mexican immigrants do. thate do not stop and say
you can determine that statistically. people do not think that way. they think in terms of vivid examples. amos tversky it gives cap -- aarlie: it gives power to powerful narrative. inhael: the mind thinks stereotypes. and stereotypes are a tool for a minute. a classification for the mind. a crude stereotype. and you can get people to make a mistake of thinking that they are a great baseball player because they look like one. a greatthey cannot be basketball player because they are a 6'2" asian player. like jeremy lin. preys on that tendency. charlie: the essential idea was that the mind was fallible. michael: that is a good start. charlie: that said the core. michael: systematically
fallible. that we all make a certain kind of mistake. if our own reason is not just random firings of emotion, then hold markets can make a mistake. markets can make a mistake. and then they explore in some detail what those mistakes are. charlie: if you look at all of the discoveries that they made about the human mind and how it works, can you attribute that to one or the other do you have to say in every case, it is something they came to together? michael: that is the question. that is the question that unraveled the relationship. everyone asked that question. who did it? people would say -- that sounds more like amos because he was so breathtakingly intelligent on the surface. people would say -- we could see how amos could do this as
opposed to amy -- to danny. while they were in israel, people did not pay attention to who did what. the answer is -- you cannot say. but itd work separately was unlike what they did together which had its own voice. neither one of them would have been able to do that alone and they both acknowledged that to themselves, each other, and the world but the world did not want to hear it. amos got the mccarthy genius award without any. he was admitted to the national academy of sciences without danny. , i wasgiven the fastest told by the stanford administration, the fastest tenured appointment in the history of stanford university. they found out he was available in the morning and in the afternoon, they gave him a job offer and they do not think to offer danny a job. -- as danny said,
the world is hostile to collaboration. people need to assign individual credit. but the couple was under constant assault from the outside, especially the academic world, to say who did what. and that was a horrible mistake. -- andey were together, he actually said in an interview that was never published in the early 1980's, and he said -- separately we are ok, but together we are genius. the idea that you have to pick it apart is such a shame. let them stay together. the magic is there. charlie: why did they break up? michael: when you read the story, then he pushed him away. -- danny pushed him away. voicehought that amos' was so strong.
were consumed by him. if you spent a lot of time with amos, you could not get him out of your head. danny could deal with that. this is what i think happened. on the surface, amos got all of the credit. thestatus when through roof. he was a global, academic rock star. and danny was maybe a little envious that i don't think that was what actually drove them apart. what drove them apart was danny's perception that as their situations and status became an equal, that the feelings from amos changed and he began to believe the press clippings. charlie: that was the -- that was what danny thought. i do not know if that is true. i think danny felt that way. he was -- it was incredibly
wounding because they were in love. fled. charlie: amos must have seen that coming. he had extraordinary intelligence. michael: the stereotype is like the powerful man and the woman who is important to him but he does not acknowledge her. the dynamic is kind of that. writess a line that amos to danny -- he says i do not get your sensitivity metric. to the there were limits emotional intelligence of amos. i think he thought, judging by the correspondence, that danny should not need the booking -- he needed.that that in fact it would be
condescending. charlie: how long did you work on this? michael: eight years. i met him in 2008. or in 2007. in 1996.amos died michael: i saw the book in my head by 2010. danny.d it took me another couple appears to make him feel ok about it. and then another year until i had the nerve myself to write it. i really worked on it exclusively for only a couple of years. ♪
♪ did he say that he thought a book about the two of them would over exaggerate the difference in their characters? michael: he said that i was going to have to over exaggerate their differences. i did not. no one would say that i did that if they knew them. .he differences were cartoonish they were already so striking. danny, i think is a little more invested than people would imagine that he was more similar to amos. they were similar in some ways -- and i point that out. but not in the ways that people around them really noticed. concerns that had i would have to write them as
caricatures. and he was concerned that i up trying to explain it to people. and i think he also, in retrospect, had concerns that i would force him to relive the most painful that wonderful relationship in his life. two incredibly -- i mean world historic intellects meet and fall in love, the intensity of the thing is almost like a physical pain. painie: there is intense because it is no longer there. and intense sense of loss. michael: and regret. a huge sense of regret. charlie: that he walked away. michael: of what they may have been able to do. they were working on the "the undoing project." when they broke up.
idea,was -- had a great to explore the difference between the happiness people anticipate from some good or experience compared to the happiness that they actually experience in the moment compared to the happiness that they remember from the experience. different forms of utility. there is experience, expected, and remembered. this work did not get done. charlie: the love that they felt -- simply love of one mind for another -- i have met something really special. or did it have to do with a broader sense. i like everything about danny. it is not just a giant intellectual connection. michael: it was more than intellectual. there was a very emotional connection. charlie: what was that?
michael: for these kind of people, the intellectual connection is emotional. the discovery of things in their sex ands is as good as maybe better. feelings it generates when they realize the value of their own thoughts is intense. but i think they made each other laugh constantly. they made sense of the world around them together that they could not do individually. did thingsey together that they could not do separately. in terms of the way they looked at the world? everything? michael: and keep in mind they are in israel. they are fighting in a war for six years and advising the israeli air force about how to train the pilots and the israeli government about what to do
regarding the arabs on the border. they are putting into practice things they are thinking so it is real and relevant at the same time. if this is not too much of a stretch -- the thought they have may help serve their society and their culture. charlie: without the other, they felt incomplete? michael: i think that is true. i think that they discovered something of themselves in the other that they could not defined anywhere else. seekingthem you see partnerships after they split and none of them were even close. charlie: this is what you quoted -- this is what they were engaged in -- on doing a false view and had in himself. the false view man has is that man is always right? michael: it is more that people are always rational and the mind exquisitelyn
evolved twill that solves problems. charlie: but what is it they found about the irrationality? if it is not rational, it is irrational. michael: they were careful not to use the word rational. they did not want to debate what rationality is. sub optimal. maybe people would say that they b --rred letter a versus they did not choose between the things but rather they chose between descriptions of things. they did a study is a terrifying example where amos did a study if a patient, you charlie -- doctor.ou as the we get news that you have
terminal cancer. in six orl kill you seven years. but, guess what, there is an operation we can do right now but we have to do it right now and it is risky. and the way it is presented to and doctor is that there is a 10% chance you will die during the operation, we are half as likely to have the operation then if it is presented as there is a 90% chance that you're going to survive the operation. one is presented as a loss and one is presented as a game. thing,cribe the same exactly the same thing. 90% chance of survival and 10% chance of death. could change their mind about doing the operation. i think it is fair to say that is irrational. charlie: the frame of the can determine the
answer. michael: the choices people make are heavily influenced by the architecture around them and they are making it. charlie: when you go on holiday, and the first two days are rainy and awful, and the last two days are sunny and wonderful, you will remember the sunny and wonderful. michael: this is related. -- danny did a study -- who does this? people's studies of colonoscopies. he was studying -- he had an idea which turned out to be true. soonu and i go through the -- the same colonoscopy. and it takes two hours. and we endorse the same amount of pain. hours,the end of the two they say -- charlie, you are
done. you can go. but they keep me on the table. i will have endured more pain but because it ends on a less miserable note, i will remember it more fondly than you and are more likely to come back for another colonoscopy. roll.led it the pecan moviemakers know this. the ending is so much more important than the rest of the movie. how people feel when they walk out of the theaters is more important. that is why they test different endings and not different metals. middles.ent if i am trying to get you to come back for another colonoscopy in five years is to make it worse than it has to be so you can and on a less painful
no. and you can manipulate people's choices and experiences in that way. charlie: what was startling that you discovered about what they knew? i assume it is some variation of this but go ahead. michael: there are so many different insights they had -- there are different nuggets they find along the trail. hammeredhing that is home into my brain from spending all of this time with him is how hard it is to preserve a proper sense of uncertainty about the world around you. how hard it is to not leap to conclusions, leap to overconfident guesses, predictions about what is going to happen and realize that there are so many different pads that reality can take. reality is nots,
a point, it is a cloud of possibilities. at any given time, the world can go in a lot of different directions in small and big ways but we do not want to see it that way. charlie: one might listen to their own personal characteristics and their natures, danny being more doubtful and say that this shows is thenny's personality prevailing question about the mind. it is more doubting. less certain. where as amos had gone through life totally certain. being viewed as the most brilliant, the most right. michael: and he was sometimes insufferable in that way. and therefore danny is more reflective of the result they determined is the most accurate picture of the mind. michael: danny is more true to the work. they was the embodiment, human embodiment of the work and amos was not. it took danny's incredible
capacity and talent for doubt and questioning to jolt the certainty of amos. sense that whatever his instincts were, were right. people thing that most thought was in his case, amos is right. he was right about so much. but when he was wrong, he did not handle it well. he was not the embodiment of the work that danny was. charlie: we live in a digital world today in which there is so much data out there. a huge, giant industry growing up in terms of individual companies and institutions which is the capacity to analyze data gives you decision-making ability that you have never had before. that is data. the power of data. michael: the power of technology. charlie: and what would they say
about that? michael: it is all good. it is partly a response -- if human gut instinct was really great, you would not need "moneyball." you would not need statistical analysis of baseball players. charlie: "moneyball" was based on statistics. as much as you could know. michael: knowledge of the player in terms of performance statistics. the idea is only valuable if you can find things in those statistics that the human eye was missing. and the human eye was missing quite a bit. their relationship to the big data movement is that they kind of explained partly the power of big data. it is partly a response to the poverty of human intuition. just partly. but partly it is actually being able to create new information.
partly it is a response to human limitations. charlie: take the people you wrote about in moneyball." did they know who these characters were? and the link between what they were doing and what danny and amos had done? michael: this is funny. it turns out, yes. paul who was the jonah hill character in the movie, he was the statistic geek that brad pitt brought in. in behavioral economics, self-taught which was spawned by danny and amos' work. advantage ofng these mistakes in the marketplace. and he realized there were categories of mistakes, kinds of mistakes, particular biases that
the scouts were exploiting. he needed to know what they were. he was very aware of the work. via behavioral economics. the other channel of influence for "moneyball" was till james. he was the original questioner of conventional baseball wisdom published and is now world famous. he was looking at baseball players in new ways and was leaning heavily on statistics. when i went through the file cabinets of amos, i found letters from bill james. charlie: asking what? was interacting in a three-way conversation with a step -- statistician at yell -- at yale. amos'ere referring to
work. and i did notent realize it. i think it was a very small world when james starts writing in the early 1980's. a lot of conventional wisdom is wrong and now we have tools with the computing power and tools showing how it is wrong. -- is heand the scene a disciple of this? this.l: key as a child of he would distance himself a little bit because politically you cannot weld the old baseball world and the new baseball world together without deference to the old baseball world. he had a tight rope to walk. theo epstein -- virtually
everyone was successful this year in the playoffs. the indians and the general managers also were heavily reliant on sophisticated statistical analysis. not to say that there is not a role for human beings. but the role is different from what it has historically been. charlie: what is the role? michael: gathering information not in the algorithm. you arece to know when looking at the performance statistics of a college player and he looks great -- it would be nice to know that he had a cocaine addiction or he got into a car accident the day before the draft. charlie: does this have anything to do with artificial intelligence? michael: amos as the same question in 1981. and he said my work has less to do with artificial intelligence than it does with natural stupidity. [laughter] thatan make an argument
the reason artificial intelligence is supplanting human intelligence is the weakness of human intelligence which is the same argument for big data but they did not see their work that way. charlie: it is called the new field of haverhill economics. michael: a drive -- behavioral economics. michael: it drives psychologists crazy. it is not new. economists are really good at branding. richard failer is the bridge in economics. he had a lot of ideas of his own. he gave it the name -- behavioral economics. on whatre discussions to call it. it is a fine name but it is not fair to psychology. charlie: do they teach this at stanford? michael: it is catnip for them. [laughter]
i have interviewed professors at harvard, not in -- not included in the book, what these teachers do at the beginning is they want to show the incoming class that their minds are not as great as they think. and so what they do, this is a typical thing they do at the harvard business school, the beginning class -- they have everyone write down the last two numbers of their cell phone on a piece of paper. you to estimate the percentage of countries in the united nation's that are from africa. peopleen show that the who have high digits on their cell phones, estimate higher numbers for the african countries. 28% of theay that countries are from africa in the -- in the u.n.
charlie: tricks that your mind plays on you. michael: danny and amos call it anchoring. charlie: what is scary about this -- michael: there is a lot that is scary about this. it is -- the mind can do crazy things. charlie: we are talking about all kinds of decisions made every day that may be life and death, that may have to do with the future of nations, that may have to do with -- michael: sentencing criminals. they have touched so many spheres of human activity. this is why i fell in love with this story. this relationship, and it all starts with the fire of the relationship, and it leads to all of that. charlie: two things i want to
ask you. you quote full tear. doubt is not a pleasant condition. doubt is not a pleasant condition but certainty is an absurd one. a loud condemnation of certainty. this is right at the center of what these guys are introducing into existence. --what, people ask advice can i get from your book? my advice is that if you are looking for people to give you advice whether it is political leaders, your doctor, your financial advisor -- if they are really confident and totally sure of what they are telling you in the direction of the stock market or the diagnosis of your disease or how they will fix the economy, do not hire them. you want someone that has the capacity to doubt his own predictions because they are inherently fallible.
we do not live in a deterministic world. somethingn always -- can always come along and surprised them. it is a sign of intelligence and honesty. you makedoes this help wiser decisions? michael: there are two answers. one is no and the other is yes. the no answer is they would say, that these cognitive illusions, the tricks of the mind are a lot like optical illusions. and the way that the mind is full -- full, like the eye is fooled with an optical illusion, even when someone shows you that the water on the desert highway is not water. and it is a mirage. you still see the mirage. they say cognitive illusions are like that. even whenpeople --
they are pointed out, it does not change. however, i tell you what i think. i think that they introduced pads -- paths to dealing with weaknesses and one of them is that other people are good at seeing your mistakes. you may be tricked by the optical illusion that they can see you being tricked. creating a decision-making environment when you have checks on you is good. tactical ways they introduce that as well. they proposeways that as well. ♪
♪ malcolm gladwell said awet you -- that he is in of you. watchingys it is like tiger woods. are other people better at understanding your magic then you are? and is it more simply industry for you rather than poetry? do you know what i mean? michael: it is not work for me so it is not industry because that implies work. i get a enormous pleasure from what i do. charlie: but you understand that what you have -- michael: i am not an idiot savant. malcolm likes--
my books more than i do. and malcolm might have done a better job with this i think. i have my limitations as a writer and i bump up against them. i can see what i have going for me also and i try to play to my strings. charlie: describe what you are good at? at seducingm good people into learning things. went -- once you get them, you can take them anywhere. and creating trust. you can take a reader anywhere. a weird algebra note but i will trust the writer. take a look at this list. poker, moneyball, the , the bige, boomerang short. and now this.
"undoing project." where do you put this? michael: i have never said this about a book that i have written, but this is the best book i have written. charlie: because it is done better? michael: the level of difficulty it is also the quality of the material and the importance of the material is off the charts. charlie: when amos died, what did he know? did he feel -- we are just getting going and i am going away? michael: the last thing he wanted to know -- and there is some evidence that he kept himself alive to find out if netanyahu was going to win the first election. charlie: he was on the labor side. michael: he and danny -- they
wrote about this -- regarding the bias for hawkish behavior. mistakes -- the mechanisms generated. you could know the mechanism by the bias generated. naminge responsible for regency bias meaning you are overweighting the likelihood of what ever just happened, happening again. a hurricane hits new orleans and floods it, everyone thinks that another one will happen in the next few years. a terrorist attack, you are waiting for another one. charlie: did danny give you access to his letters in the same way that amos did? he lost everything in the open fire of 1989. to what heaccess
acknowledged. amos -- his papers were the only ones i had access to. charlie: what did you get from those? michael: they were wonderful. charlie: because? michael: they were such a clear personality. every note he made on the page. him.expressed he kept letters between him and danny, both sides of the correspondence which was really helpful. charlie: did they ever use the expression -- i love you? michael: no, there was a manly reticence as danny put it. but it is between every line. amos had a thing with his papers. someone described the way he handled his mail.
he did not do anything he did not want to do including opening a letter. he would have stacks of mail for a week on the page -- on the table. when the new mail came, anything he had not opened the week before he threw away including dinner invitations and bills. week,id not open it in a it must not be important. he did not keep stuff but what he kept in his file cabinets -- it had meaning to it, there was a reason he kept it. it was letters. and notes to himself. about work he was doing. when they were breaking up, there were notes. i had notes that he made in preparation with his call with danny. he was a list maker. you can see he was making lists of the charges danny was going to level at him during the phone
call and his responses. shorthand to know his charlie:. -- i even got to know his shorthand. charlie: why did they say military service with the it -- with israel was fundamental? michael: in danny's -- the vulnerability of the state. amos found himself having to be very brave, very young. he had shrapnel in his body when he died. he said two people that it was i was 19things when and were random ax of bravery to find me. i had to be brave about everything. -- had it notture been for world war ii, he would a french intellectual and he would have been happy in
the academy and never out of it. the army forced him into the world. and the first thing he does of real substance in the army in his early 20's is he does "moneyball" for the israeli army. he redesigned the officer selection system. and they are still using that our them. he got a sense of himself at a young age. as someone who's thoughts had big applications. the annie had noticed after -- danny had noticed after his beloved nephew, two days old -- before his release had flown his fighter jet into the ground by mistake. -- that everyone was grief stricken, danny being danny, he did not experience grief, he watched the grief.
everyone was saying -- if only. twonly he had been released days earlier. if only the flare had not gone off and blinded him. there were rules to help people death of hisid the nephew. amos began to study the way people undid tragedy as a way to get at how the human imagination worked. they established rules. if you want to undo something and create an alternative reality, you pick the thing that happened at the end. you work from the end and work back. first, it you change the outcome. the director of fbi's statements. there were a million things that