Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is Self-Knowledge Overrated?

Jonah Lehrer reviews the new book by Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow.

"One of the most refreshing things about “Thinking, Fast and Slow” is his deep sense of modesty: he is that rare guru who doesn’t promise to change your life. In fact, Kahneman admits that his decades of groundbreaking research have failed to significantly improve his own mental performance. “My intuitive thinking is just as prone to overconfidence, extreme predictions, and the planning fallacy”—a tendency to underestimate how long it will take to complete a task—“as it was before I made a study of these issues,” he writes. As a result, his goals for his work are charmingly narrow: he merely hopes to “enrich the vocabulary that people use” when they talk about the mind.

"This new book will certainly accomplish that—Kahneman has given us a new set of labels for our shortcomings. But his greatest legacy, perhaps, is also his bleakest: By categorizing our cognitive flaws, documenting not just our errors but also their embarrassing predictability, he has revealed the hollowness of a very ancient aspiration. Knowing thyself is not enough. Not even close."

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