Thursday, December 29, 2011

Daniel Kahneman comment on "The Big Short"

"Look, every success story after the fact makes sense, that's the problem. There's something I'd like to add about hindsight, just to strengthen the point. It's something that many of us are thinking about. You hear some people say that so-and-so knew that the crisis was going to happen. Some people have read Michael Lewis' The Big Short, and they say there were those people, and they knew the crisis was going to happen. I think that's a scandal.

The scandal is the use of the word "know." They didn't know the crisis was going to happen, they thought the crisis would happen. Very different. When we use the word "know," we use the word "know" on something that is true. It wasn't true before it happened, it was just a thought that they had with a certain amount of confidence.

What makes it a scandal? When we use the word "know," we create the illusion that it was knowable. See, they knew, so it was knowable. No, it was not knowable. Equally intelligent people didn't know that.

And Michael Lewis, I don't think, makes that mistake. "The Big Short" is about a few people who got rich, because they thought that and, indeed, it happened. It doesn't make them smarter than the rest of the world that didn't know it. It makes them, in my opinion, luckier. They happened to be right in a way that paid off in a big way."