Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize winning psychologist and author of the fascinating book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ is back with a new book, ‘Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement’. Given what we learnt about the biases which affect human judgement from the first book, a book from the scholarly Kahneman about Noise, a factor we all encounter in our everyday decision making, should surely be worth the wait. In this interview in The Guardian, Kahneman shares his thoughts about the book and other things concerning judgement and decision making.
“Exponential phenomena are almost impossible for us to grasp. We are very experienced in a more or less linear world. And if things are accelerating, they’re usually accelerating within reason. Exponential change [as with the spread of the virus] is really something else. We’re not equipped for it. It takes a long time to educate intuition.
….Our main subject is really system noise. System noise is not a phenomenon within the individual, it’s a phenomenon within an organisation or within a system that is supposed to come to decisions that are uniform. It’s really a very different thing from subjectivity or bias. You have to look statistically at a great number of cases. And then you see noise.
…You know, we didn’t have any particular expectations of changing the world when we did our research. And my own experience of how little this knowledge has changed the quality of my own judgment can be sobering. Avoiding noise in judgment is not really something individuals are going to be very good at. I really put my faith, if there is any faith to be placed, in organisations.
…There are many domains where you really want diversity and creativity. But there is also a need for uniformity in well-defined tasks. If the effort to achieve uniformity gets people unmotivated, or if it becomes excessively bureaucratic, that in itself can be a problem. That is something that organisations are going to have to negotiate.
…There are going to be massive consequences of that change that are already beginning to happen. Some medical specialties are clearly in danger of being replaced, certainly in terms of diagnosis. And there are rather frightening scenarios when you’re talking about leadership. Once it’s demonstrably true that you can have an AI that has far better business judgment, say, what will that do to human leadership?
…I have learned never to make forecasts. Not only can I certainly not do it – I’m not sure it can be done. But one thing that looks very likely is that these huge changes are not going to happen quietly. There is going to be massive disruption. The technology is developing very rapidly, possibly exponentially. But people are linear. When linear people are faced with exponential change, they’re not going to be able to adapt to that very easily. So clearly, something is coming… And clearly AI is going to win [against human intelligence]. It’s not even close. How people are going to adjust to this is a fascinating problem – but one for my children and grandchildren, not me.”
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