The Undoing Project, By Michael Lewis, started off with a baseball team’s challenges in picking the next star. I might’ve appreciated this chapter more had I known baseball ⚾️ I suppose. As things rest, I know it is a lot of activity, running, a bat with a ball and two teams. However, I appreciated the gist of it i.e the ability to spot human potential. Now, that, I can identify with.
As the book moves on to introduce us to Danny Kahneman and how as a single psychologist in the Israeli Army, he was tasked with the humongous task of trying to identify army recruits and figure out which positions they would be best suited for. Which ones would make good tank operators, which ones are better suited to quick guerilla warfare, which ones will fare better as aerial surveyors etc.
The fact that this was not only attempted and done, but still stands in its rudimentary form is amazing.
Unlocking and identifying human potential is one of the toughest problems in the world. There are indicators, yes, but no sure way of knowing who has the ability to self-motivate and stay in the game. As a technology leader, it is often a baffling experience for me. People who fared exceedingly well in well-thought out structured interviews come onboard and don’t sparkle in their roles at all. Some others who were doubtful in the screening process, come through as diligent, hard workers, willing to put in their all to learn and be happy about it.
Recruiting sites, AI/ML models all have only limited success in the true test of human capabilities. The fact that there is a lot happening that just cannot be captured is a well-known fact. The field of psychology and mathematical models using statistics to better understand human mystique is fascinating.
I am only halfway through the book, but the collaboration of the great minds of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky is already a pleasure to read.
Psychology – as is termed by Academia as a bin for all things unsorted is a great place to be. The combination of mathematical intuition with the brains functions, and how to design experiments for these are fascinating by themselves.
I rarely save the works of art that my children produce. For one, there are so many, and for another, while some of them are hilarious, they are no masterpieces (yet! – I read somewhere that good parents don’t say things like this and always leave the doors open for whatever the future might bring. If the future springs the brilliant artist, I don’t want to be the lousy mother thwarting the Sotheby’s auction, do I?) So, I have no way of comparing the drawings of the six year old daughter to see what hidden psychological messages were in there. According to this news article, deciphering a six year old’s drawings can give us remarkable insight into their minds.
I tried analyzing the work of the 3 year old son, and I could make out nothing. He asked me to guess what the picture he was holding up was, and I told him it looked like a very shiny pig or a jellyfish. He cackled loudly and said that he tried to make a pink christmas tree. I don’t mind tapping Freud from his grave and asking him to interpret that, but I am pretty sure, he’d choose to remain dead.
Anyway, this brought an interesting question to mind. What if I interpreted my own drawings? I had in a recent drawing placed a house on a dog’s tail (which was kindly brought to my attention by a reader later on)
What would that mean in the light of the latest letter to Santa? The daughter had asked for a dog. She very well knows there is no Santa for the past few years at least, but just plays along to see what she can get.
Regular readers of the blog know that the request for a dog in the household rears its head every now and then. It is usually silenced by me (a trifle vehemently at times) or in a more wishy-washy sort of manner by the husband, who then looks sorry when confronted by me on what he meant by saying, “Maybe we will think about one in a few month’s time.”
“How many months?” asks the daughter expectantly
“What do you mean by months?” I say pushing a couple of daggers out of my eye sockets, and the husband scurries for safety.
Hitherto while asking for a dog, she had relied on techniques such as “You don’t have to do anything. We will look after the dog.”(By saying ‘we’, she includes the toddler brother who stands around nodding enthusiastically without having the least idea as to what it takes to have a dog in the household. The few occasions he has been in the presence of one has been spent like a monkey on a tree with a lion prowling down below) The matter gained traction again a few months ago and I wondered where the renewed vigor was coming from. Now, I was getting the old oil, “Oh! Don’t you miss not having someone to cuddle up with, now that we are all grown-up? Hey! You know what might help? A dog!”
It was only when I went to talk to her teacher a few weeks ago that the mystery was unraveled. Her teacher had told them how to form a convincing case, say, on how to get a dog, and she assures us that she had never held a class in such rapturous attention. Apparently, she had told them to come up with points that will help their cause, for example: come up with what the other party will gain out of the proposition. The daughter, having racked her brains, could easily see how I would poke holes in the We-will-look-after-dog theory, and went in for the psychological wringing.
Well, I was not buying it (yet). Let me explain why. There are some images that cannot be easily wiped from one’s brain. Two vicious specimens come to mind. Both of them were not more than 5 inches in height, long and had tempers like vipers about to be curdled in whatever-vipers-are-curdled-in and bites like adders. To their considerable repertoire of talents was the fact that they could smell like hounds ( which they were), and ornamental nose though I had, it was completely useless in detecting dogs hidden behind bushes. The results had been extremely disturbing. A physical education teacher of mine, once saw me leg it up 67 stairs at one go in the pouring rain and opined that the best way to train me for the forthcoming Athletics Championships was to set a couple of dogs after me. Not pleasant I tell you. Not pleasant.
Now, I know that dogs in the United States are extremely docile beings and rarely bite. But I am not sure I can move past the canine horrors of my past and embrace a dog in the household.
More than any of that,I am not sure I need another living being to look after, I have 4 large fir trees, 3 fishes, 2 children, 1 husband, 1 apricot tree , 1 cherry tree, many plants to nurture and often have visiting parents. Maybe the Myth of Santa has to be officially busted this year, I thought to myself and peered at the letter below the tree and saw amendments.
There, in brackets it said: (I know my mom will not like a dog, so can I have some king doh if not a dog?)
I like this pragmatism even though she is lost in the clouds of her imagination, an imagination liberally spotted with unicorns and dogs sometimes. (I found an interesting word that means just that by the way – Nefelibata)