Why choose pessimism?

A couple of weeks before Christmas I became aware of two books via articles on the front page of the New York Times Book Review. One was “Thank You for Being Late” by Thomas L. Friedman. The other, “The Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis.
After reading the reviews I ran right out and bought two copies of each. The former as a gift for my dear friend John Markarian, who will turn 100 on June 7. The latter as a gift for my son Michael, who turned 30 on Sept. 27. The second copies were for me.
Before wrapping Michael’s I opened it. Thirty pages later I figured I’d better wrap it and get it in the mail or he wouldn’t have it for Christmas. The holidays intervened and I did not get back to it until this week. I am now half way through.
The books are sure to turn into a column one of these weeks, but I had to stop right now and share one item in a blog. “The Undoing Project” is about two Israeli psychologists whose work, according to the jacket, “altered our perception of reality.” You can see why I had to read it.
It is not until the midway point in the book that Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky meet and begin to work together and when they do, author Michael Lewis points out what an unlikely pair they were. Complete opposites it would seem. For starters, Daniel was an absolute pessimist, Amos a total optimist. In fact, Lewis tells us, Amos willed himself to be an optimist. Pessimism, he maintained, was stupid. When you are a pessimist and a bad thing happens, you live it twice, Amos was fond of saying. First when you worry about it and second when it happens.
That the book is meticulously researched, beautifully written and an easy read comes as no surprise. Michael Lewis is the author of, among other books, “The Big Short,” “Moneyball,” and “The Blind Side.”
I have yet to begin Friedman’s book but can hardly wait to get into it. The subtitle of “Thank You for Being Late” is “An optimist’s guide to thriving in the age of accelerations.”
I feel he wrote it just for me.

Ed Ackerman