Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Power of Optimism

Here's a snippet from a Bloggingheads diavlog between Robert Wright an Matt Hudson, who wrote The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking:


This is why Danny Kahneman wrote in his latest book Thinking Fast and Slow, that optimism would be the one bias he would most want his children to have.

1 comment:

Mercury said...

No doubt magical thinking is one of human beings’ default settings but we’ve advanced to a ~78 yr. lifespan free from most material wants mostly by overriding that hard-wiring. Can’t tell from this if Hutson is asserting that optimism is mostly synonymous with magical thinking but I don’t see why this has to be so. Surely we are all in debt to those who were optimistic about science over magic.

Perhaps we have in fact evolved ourselves to a post-everything world, forever free from the most dire concerns of our ancestors - a world in which most reasonable human wants are at our fingertips. If you also believe that “happiness” as currently defined is the be-all-and-end-all of human existence then it probably is best to foster as much optimism in your kids as possible - no good to have them moping around because there are fewer mountains to climb. But if history hasn’t “ended” so to speak and there is a chance that swans of various shades of darkness could manifest themselves in the near future (these days, where does one start!), a healthy dose of pessimism and non-magical thinking will probably yield better outcomes.

The Kahnman book looks more gee-whiz interesting but I can’t help but think that both of these guys are searching for a way to avoid the conclusion/reality that there is no substitute for intelligence.