Watch ‘The Big Short’, then read ‘Being Wrong’

Last week we went to see The Big Short (Adam McKay), about a group of outsiders who find a way to profit off what they accurately predict to be the housing bubble of 2007.

For a Hollywood production, ‘The Big Short’ tells its story in a strange way. Big names like Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell routinely break the fourth wall, ham it up only to tell you “it all actually happened exactly like this”, and wear silly wigs. Presumably, ‘The Big Short”s unconventionality is another way to explore its Cassandra theme of outsiders and underdogs speaking an untimely and unpalatable truth. – Well, whatever the reason, I thought it made for a funny movie.

On ‘Being Wrong’

As a portrait of that Big Wrong of our time, ‘The Big Short’ makes a great side dish to Being Wrong, by Kathryn Schulz. Which is the book the Amsterdam Nonfictionados are currently reading for their 3rd meetup. (Naturally, Schulz references the financial crisis a number of times, seeing how many people were wrong back then.)

Schulz has a TED Talk about her book (see below). But you’d be wrong to conclude from there being a TED Talk that ‘Being Wrong’ is some upbeat plea tailored to startup CEOs about the life-altering lessons you can only learn through failing. It’s actually a very philosophical book, quoting the likes of Plato, William James, and modern age neurologists, and carefully navigating the sandbanks surrounding concepts like ‘belief’ and ‘fact’. 

Why are we wrong so often? Why does being right feel so good? Why are we willing to bankrupt entire nations, instead of practicing some humility? What does our endless capacity for error tell us about the world out there? And why do our errors make for such funny stories and movies?

Schulz goes into all that, and more. So go read it, and then join us!