In the best seller, “Thinking fast and Slow,” Daniel Kahneman expounds how the two systems of the human mind works. System one (which is fast) is instinctual, intuitive and emotional. System two (which is slow) is more logical, deliberate, and analytical. The book is sweeping in its ambitions and it succeeds on all its promises. It shares a similarity to other books that come from an academic and specialized background but achieves popular acclaim because it explains for the laymen so articulately and convincingly. Other books that achieve this type of impact include Stephen Hawking’s, “A Brief History of Time” and Jared Diamond’s, “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” When an important book crosses over to a wider audience, you know it has made a significant contribution to our collective consciousness. The book achieves its stated goal: to give ordinary people an increased vocabulary for talking about our thinking and decision-making process, both as individuals and collectively as a society.
The book is presented in five parts. The most interesting finding in part one is the explanation that our memory is continually growing and building new connections—and this is the basis that fast thinking draws from. Our daily lives, full of routine and predictability for the most part, are reinforcing our world view and biases. This means each day is critically important to our opinions and attitudes, including our closely held convictions of faith. It brings added significance to our daily habits in the cause of furthering our sanctification.
Part two pushes the accepted beliefs of judgment heuristics (“rules of thumb”) and how these impulses become our intuition. Kahneman also explores why the human mind has an easier job of thinking metaphorically and associatively, but struggles statistically. This was interesting to me because the Bible uses metaphors from cover to cover. We see the power and the clarity that follows from one well-told parable in scripture time and again: “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed….”
Part three explores our over-confidence in what we think we know and why we find it so difficult to acknowledge the limits of our knowing. Our own overconfidence is a failing that nobody can fully escape while we live in our mortal bodies with finite minds. It’s oddly reassuring to know that everyone struggles with this, no matter of one’s education, natural brilliance, or worldly success. 2 Corinthians 4:10 reminds me: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed.”
Part four applies Kahneman’s insights to the field of economics and how our decision-making processes can be so irrational at times. This discussion is why I find the study of economics so interesting: it is a combination of science but with the unpredictability of human behavior thrown in. That makes for a fascinating combination to study, if for no other reason than for its erratic and uncertain nature. Part five combines these two ways of thinking and draws preliminary conclusions on how we assimilate these different ways of being into our single personality. The reader catches a glimpse of how expansive this field has become because of this book, and what questions future scholarship will attempt to answer. Future books in this field will no doubt reference this work for decades to come.
The conclusion of the book suggests practical applications for businesses and organizations. It turns out that water-cooler gossip provides a great education for people to make wiser decisions and even the company’s policy creation. Kahneman’s ending brings all his research and years of thinking to a satisfying conclusion that has practical applications for me and my current work in the church.