Per-Hour Learning Potential / Utility: ★★★★★★★ (7/7)
Readability: ★★★★★★★ (7/7)
Challenge Level: 2/5 (Easy) | ~300 pages ex-notes (328 official)
Blurb/Description: In a broad and thoughtful yet concise and engaging book, Peter Bevelin – learning heavily on Charlie Munger – provides a compelling overview and launching point for the mental modelsapproach.
Summary: This book covers a lot of mental models in rapid-fire format; it doesn’t go that deep into many of them, but it’s possibly the most learning-dense 300 pages you’ll encounter anywhere.
Lowlights: The book repeats itself in some places; it also doesn’t really do a good job of tying together interactions between models in the latticework.
Mental Model / ART Thinking Points: culture / status quo bias, trait adaptivity, cognition / intuition /habit / stress, multicausality, probabilistic thinking, mindfulness, agency, incentives, loss aversion,memory, local vs. global optimization, contrast bias, hyperbolic discounting, social connection, n-order impacts, luck vs. skill, marginal utility, structural problem solving, product vs. packaging,overconfidence, rationality, sunk costs, bayesian reasoning, salience, inversion, margin of safety,nonlinearity, bottlenecks, feedback
Reading Tips: See the notes below, which index concepts to mental models in the PAA latticework, as well as other books that go deeper on concepts.
Reread Value: 4/5 (High)
First Read: 2014?
Last Read: 2017
Number of Times Read: 3
Planning to Read Again?: probably
Review Date: 2018
Notes Date: late 2015 or early 2016
NOTE: these notes are formatted differently from all other notes on the site. Treat these as an “index” – if you want to dive deeper into interesting topics covered in Seeking Wisdom, this will direct you to the best resource for further understanding any covered topic.
Page i: I would push back here on Twain’s quote about the character of the human race being permanent. See The Landscape of History by John Lewis Gaddis – LandH review + notes – as well as the culture / status quo bias and trait adaptivity mental models.
Pages 3 – 5: On dopamine and the amygdala, see the cognition / intuition / habit / stress model. Also Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales – DpSv review + notes – and also The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor – THA review + notes.
Pages 7 – 8: On the multicausality as well as adaptive nature of genes and the human body. See The Violinist’s Thumb by Sam Kean – TVT review + notes – and Polio: An American Story by Oshinsky – PaaS review + notes – on the latter point.
Pages 16 – 17: Incentives and loss aversion. See Richard Thaler’s Misbehaving – M review + notes. On habit, see the aforementioned Deep Survival – DpSv review + notes – by Gonzales, or see The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – PoH review + notes.
Pages 28 – 29: I don’t have a review on Fisher, but see Helen Fisher’s Anatomy of Love. Also see the marriage section in the hyperbolic discounting model.
Page 33: On culture. See Jennifer Ackerman’s The Genius of Birds – Bird review + notes – or Sunstein/Thaler’s Nudge – Ndge review + notes – or Gaddis’s The Landscape of History – LandH review + notes.
A little pushback here – Bevelin briefly says to reward performance and not effort – I would caveat with the aforementioned discussion of luck vs skill, also invoking hindsight bias as Thaler does in Misbehaving – M review + notes.
And on the psychologists wanting you to come back over and over again – see either Achor’s The Happiness Advantage – THA review + notes – or Dr. Judith Beck’s Cognitive Behavior Therapy – CBT review + notes. Cognitive behavioral therapy is intended to not make you come back over and over and over again.
Pages 61 – 63: See sunk costs and commitment bias – parts (not all) of The Making of the Atomic Bomb – TMAB review + notes – and The Pleasure of Finding Things Out – PFTO review + notes – drive this home.
Pages 67 – 69: In addition to the above, salience and scarcity bias.
Page 72: Hyperbolic discounting.
And of course Thaler again, about identified lives.
Pages 78 – 79: Survivorship bias. See How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg – HNW review + notes – or The Halo Effect by Rosenzweig – Halo review + notes – or the story of poor Sanford Dvorin in The Frackers – Frk review + notes.
Page 80: Reciprocity bias.
Pages 94 – 95: Reason-respecting tendency and the associative nature of memory. See The Seven Sins of Memory by Schacter – 7SOM review + notes – or The Design of Everyday Things by Norman – DOET review + notes.
Page 97: More on memory.
Page 99: Novelty-seeking and action bias. And ego.
Pages 103 – 104: See stress and agency. This shows up everywhere. Deep Survival by Gonzales –DpSv review + notes – and The Happiness Advantage by Achor – THA review + notes – probably the two best reads on stress. As far as agency, throw in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – 7H review + notes.
Page 105: obligatory addition here: being sleep deprived is the same as being legally drunk. Please see Why We Sleep by Dr. Matthew Walker – Sleep review + notes – and Internal Time by Till Roenneberg – IntTm review + notes.
Pages 112 – 113: Cognition vs. intuition and structural problem solving. Be careful with checklists. See The Checklist Manifesto by Gawande – TCM review + notes – and read carefully. Supplement with How Doctors Think by Groopman – HDT review + notes.
Pages 120 – 123: See n-order impacts.
Pages 131 – 132: See critical thresholds.
Page 141: contextualization. Ioannidis study cited here; see notes to HNW above for discussion.
Page 147: “Someone who’s gotten away with doing the wrong thing longer than you have.” See process vs. outcome, probabilistic thinking, and Deep Survival by Gonzales – DpSv review + notes. Also see schema bottlenecks and feedback; think about McArdle’s earlier-referenced commentary – doctors don’t see the patients they kill by not washing their hands (or sleeping). They never even notice.
Page 157: Marginal utility.
Page 158: Planning fallacy.
Pages 163 – 164: On errors. And margin of safety – see above. See also of course structural problem solving; The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman – DOET review + notes – is the best read here. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande – TCM review + notes – is also good
Pages 169 – 172: Priors and Bayesian reasoning. See Nate Silver on wayward panties in The Signal and the Noise – SigN review + notes – or Ellenberg on Stonehenge in How Not To Be Wrong –HNW review + notes. For a critique of Bayesian reasoning, see How Doctors Think by Dr. Jerome Groopman – it’s good, but displays dose-dependency.
Page 174: See above.
Pages 178 – 179: Survivorship bias. See Ellenberg, Rosenzweig.
Page 182: On averages. See Ellenberg as well here.
Pages 190 – 191: All models are wrong; some models are useful. See above. See also The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – 7H review + notes – and The Landscape of History by John Lewis Gaddis – LandH review + notes.
Page 199: On utility.
Pages 203 – 206: On precision vs. accuracy.
Page 208: Nice example of inversion, among other things.
Page 209: Integrity matters.
Pages 212 – 213: Simplification and goal orientation.
Pages 214 – 215: On inversion. All I want to know is where I’m gonna die…
Page 217: On nonlinearity, among other things.
Page 223: On the specificity of goals.
Page 225: Opportunity costs. See… guess who? Thaler!
Page 228: Back to n-order impacts.
Pages 238 – 239: scientific thinking
Page 241: inversion
Pages 244 – 245: more inversion
Pages 256 – 257: on defensive pessimism (see margin of safety)