Underemployed and Research

From Weekly I/O#36

"The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours." - Amos Tversky


Amos Tversky was a cognitive and mathematical psychologist famous for his collaborated work with Daniel Kahneman on developing prospect theory and other research on human cognitive bias. Their work won Daniel a Nobel prize after Tversky's death (since the Nobel prize is not awarded posthumously) and later be summarized in the book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Knowledge work oftentimes requires some unstructured time to think. As Warren Buffer (seems to) said, "Busy is the new stupid", we should try to do less, create space, and pause more often. Taking time in the middle of our day to do stuff that doesn't look like work, like buying coffee alone or going for a walk, can be helpful for the knowledge work.

I like Amos's and Daniel's work and the story behind them as I always recommended my friends the book The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, which talked in detail about their work and friendship. I also find prospect theory such an elegant compression of human decision-making process. I have an article draft introducing the theory, and I should publish it soon. Let's hold me accountable.

Also, in Malcolm Gladwell's Writing MasterClass, and I remembered also in his book David and Goliath, he talked about how Tversky's psychologist peers invented a "simplest" way to measure someone's intelligence. "When you talked to Amos, the longer it took for you to realize Amos was smarter than you, the dumber you are."

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