I’m the kind of person who likes to feel they’re in charge of their faculties, which is why Daniel Kahneman blows my mind – and also makes me uneasy. I’ll explain. Kahneman, a Nobel laureate in economics, is way, way up there in understanding the human decision-making process. His work deals heavily in cognitive biases, heuristics, and all the other mental clutter that goes into what the brain ultimately spits out as a ‘decision’. It sounds messy, and it is.
Everything we do is a decision. In a sense, you could say that our waking hours are nothing more than a continuous parade of decisions big and small. From ‘Am I going to say this right now in front of all these people?’ to ‘Do I give the air force the go-ahead to bomb?’, it all goes on, all the time, somewhere in us. Viewed Kahnemanically, we’re decision machines.
But we’re not very good decision machines; or at least not the machines we think we are. In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman picks apart economic theory’s idea of human rationality, leaving it in tatters, and me a bit jittery. Think you have free will? Well, that depends. If by ‘free will’ you mean a series of biases and past results masquerading as logic, and deciding what you’ll do before you’ve even realized it, then yes, you’ve got lots of free will. Have fun. It’s frustrating, and not a bit scary, to know that we don’t see much of our decision-making process, that we’re blind to basic building blocks of our very existence. If only there were some clear data visualization that we could access; some—you see where I’m going with this.
Data visualization lets you drill down into the very depths, the furthest molecules, of any decision or data point. Unlike our brains, suggestive BI is an actual decision-making machine. Once it lays it all out for you, that mental jumble which Kahneman describes straightens out pretty quickly. (‘Jumble’ is my term; he uses something polysyllabic and more impressive. It’s why they love him in Stockholm.) Instead of trying, and inevitably failing, to visualize all the informational layers, relationships, and previous results on your own, you get them ready-made, which lets you proceed directly to decision-making based on real experience and empirical data. No longer do you consume all your energy on trying to collate raw data; nor on drawing insights like water from some deep, dark well. It’s all at your fingertips, all yours. The keys to the kingdom; access to the executive washroom. Take that, Kahneman!