ON KAHNEMAN

Daniel Kahneman [3.27.14]
Topic:
Introduction By: John Brockman

 

HOW HAS KAHNEMAN'S WORK INFLUENCED YOUR OWN?
WHAT STEP DID IT MAKE POSSIBLE?

THE REALITY CLUB: Michael McCullough, June Gruber & Amy Cuddy, Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, Gary Marcus, Christopher Chabris, Nicholas Epley, Jennifer Jacquet, Laurie Santos & Tamar Gendler, Jason Zweig, Mahzarin Banaji, Fiery Cushman, William Poundstone, Andrew Rosenfield, Cass Sunstein, Phil Rosenzweig, Richard Nisbett, Richard Thaler & Sendhil Mullainathan, Eric Kandel, Michael Norton, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Joshua Greene, Walter Mischel, Steven Pinker, Nicholas Christakis, Rory Sutherland 

Introduction

Daniel Kahneman turned 80 on March 5th and Edge noted the occasion with a reprise of a number of his contributions to our pages. (See "Kahneman Turns 80")

At that time, Kahneman's longtime colleague, behavioural economist Richard Thaler, suggested that Edge follow up the birthday announcement by doing what it does best, asking Edgies who work in fields including, but not limited to, psychology, cognitive science, behavioral economics, law, medicine, a question.

For their responses  to Thaler's question—"How has Kahneman's work influenced your own? What step did it make possible?"—we asked a selected group of Edgeis to include inspired leaps off of Kahneman's shoulders, not just applications of his ideas. We used a comment made by research psychologist Steven Pinker in the Q&A following Kahneman's talk at the 2011 Edge Master Class, as an example. Pinker said:

"If somebody were to ask me what are the most important contributions to human life from psychology, I would identify this work [by Kahneman & Tversky] as maybe number one, and certainly in the top two or three. In fact, I would identify the work on reasoning as one of the most important things that we've learned about anywhere. When we were trying to identify what any educated person should know in the entire expanse of knowledge, I argued unsuccessfully that the work on human cognition and probabilistic reason should be up there as one of the first things any educated person should know."

One way to consider the long and illustrious career of a great thinker such as Kahneman is not as a summation, but as a commission, one that gives us permission to move forward in certain ways.  (Think Newton's "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.") As social psychologist Richard Nisbett noted, "It's not just a celebration of Danny. It's a celebration of behavioral science.".

John Brockman

DANIEL KAHNEMAN is the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 2002 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2013. He is Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus, Princeton, and author of Thinking Fast and Slow.