I heard about this on the KQED Forum podcast. I'm curious whether he tapped into the research of Dan Kahan, but the book sounds interesting regardlessI heard about this on the KQED Forum podcast. I'm curious whether he tapped into the research of Dan Kahan, but the book sounds interesting regardless....more
I’ve got a book recommendation: Misbehaving, the making of behavioral economics by Richard H. Thaler. The standard economics (that you may have learned in college) is based on the notion that markets are made up of rational actors who use all the publicly available information to make the best possible individual decisions. Everybody knows that’s not strictly true, but since the 1950s economists have held that it’s a good-enough assumption for making economic predictions.
Since the 1970s, Thaler’s career has revolved around poking holes in that worldview. In other words, he’s been looking for and documenting situations where the quirky decision-making of real human beings leads to results very different than the rational-actor models constructed by economists.
Not only is that an interesting topic that has all sorts of fascinating real-world applications (including the over-valuing of high draft picks in the NFL), but Thaler is a marvelous story-teller. His stories — of experiments in human decision-making, and of his attempts to introduce more realistic thinking into the stuffy and self-important world of academic economists — are consistently amusing. The book’s ongoing theme is that whether you are talking about contestants on Dutch game shows or University of Chicago business school professors choosing offices in a new building, people are funny — and you can’t really understand the world until you account for the predicable ways that people are funny.
The title has a wonderful double meaning: Economic models can fail when humans “misbehave” by not making the supposedly rational choices the model calls for. But by pointing out such embarrassing glitches, Thaler was also “misbehaving” according to the community standards of economists. So his career is a story of successful rebellion.
Finally, there’s political significance to the revolution Thaler has been leading: Idealizing markets, and exaggerating the powers of the people who participate in them, tempts a person to turn all of society’s decision-making over to “the Market”. For decades, economists’ false assumptions have biased their analysis in favor of market-based solutions. But people who are still making those simplistic Econ-101 arguments in favor of free markets are behind the times. They are, as Keynes observed, “slaves of some defunct economist”.
I really don't know what to make of this. Enjoyable overall, but there was so much that was bewildering.
I'm reminded of something I heard about humor.I really don't know what to make of this. Enjoyable overall, but there was so much that was bewildering.
I'm reminded of something I heard about humor. A psychologist who'd made a rather superficial study of responses to some form of humor remarked that subjects tended to fall into two categories: one group laughed uproariously, and the other group stroked their chins (or something similar) and quietly said, "Hmm, that's funny. Interesting." The point was that most comedians fell into the second group.
I think this book is analogous — most people scratch their heads and think "I know I'm missing something, probably a lot, and I have no idea how much it matters", while a smaller group of readers (including a lot of authors) stare off into the middle distance and think, "Deeply provocative confusion. Hmm, fascinating."
If I could, though, I'd be diving straight into the next in the series, because there are mysteries here. To quote Churchill, "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key", and I'm willing to keep looking for that key. Unfortunately, real life responsibilities mean I can't read the next in the series for a while......more
I thought that was a very good audiobook, although I'm not too experienced with listening to books. Gould's voice definitely had the correct gritty depth, and once you get used to his fairly limited range and repertoire of vocal characterizations, it work really well. Chandler uses first person, limited point of view narration in the book, so a single narrator really fits the book. It is also unabridged, which appeals me as a reader.
This version is from a BBC radio dramatization by the BBC (no, none of the characters mysteriously acquired British accents). That means there are limited sound effects, and different actors voice the lines of the different characters. I only listened to twenty minutes or so, but I liked it.
Some specifics: one mild negative is that the actor playing Marlowe doesn't really have the right voice. There's no gravel in his throat from endless glasses (not merely shots) of whiskey and countless cigarettes.
Since there's a lot of interior monologue from Marlowe's perspective, the lead actor is switching from speaking lines that others characters are hearing, to voiceover lines that they aren't. Using other voices actually makes that a little trickier, but it worked fairly seamlessly for me; no trouble at all.
But that was the only poor casting choice. The voice of Moose Malloy was a delight; it perfectly matched the physicality of that character. The others I heard in that limited sample were fine, too. The sound effects made the action more accessible, helping to frame the change of scenes in the listener's imagination.
Which of the audiobooks should you listen to (assuming you don't want both, perhaps at different times)?
This version works a bit better at being engaging. Those sound effects and voice changes really help signal a change in scene and keeping characters separated. If you're on a commute or a roadtrip, for example, or in some other distracting environment, it'd probably work better. For the same reasons, it'll work well for those who aren't used to audiobooks, or specifically enjoy the theatrical aspect—there are a lot of good radio plays that have been made that don't get enough attention.
Gould's version, on the other hand, is unabridged and uses precisely one voice, as does the book. So it probably would appeal to someone that really wants the "book" experience. I listened to Gould read the first Marlowe book, The Big Sleep, while on a very long walk around San Francisco on a November evening and it was perfect (well, yeah, a Dashiell Hammett novel might have been better. I'll get to those). The second one I listened too on the couch while suffering from a cold a few weeks later. It worked well as a substitute for a book—when I listened to this radio play, I immediately detected the edits, so I'm confident I got about as much out of Gould's audiobook as I would have from the text.