Emanuel Derman

The Powerful League of Missing Persons

Emanuel Derman
Jul 3, 2012 02:28 UTC

Sometimes, quite often, Absence is so powerful that it’s a Presence of its own.

I wrote a little about this in Models.Behaving.Badly. The positron was regarded as the absence of an electron in early quantum field theory, but turned out to be as real as anything. Pain, an apparently negative thing, is also real, perhaps more so than Joy, as described in Yehuda Amichai’s poem on The Precision of Pain. I once read a sequel to Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which he claimed that, even after someone dear to him died, he was persuaded that they were still there by their presence in his thoughts and life.

I think of this again because there are some people I see very little, some even not at all, and yet … they are almost constantly with me, in my thoughts and affecting my actions. I don’t even mean “with me” in a subconscious way, but as a real force and presence, despite being almost out of contact.

It’s strange, and makes you realize the power of mind, spirit, thought, whatever you want to call it.



Intuition, initial and final

Emanuel Derman
Oct 28, 2011 13:28 UTC

I had dinner with Kahneman once a few months ago, and have now been dipping into his deep and thoughtful book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Though I haven’t read all of it, I begin to realize that though he and I both sometimes use the word intuition, we are talking about different qualities.

For Kahneman, I think, intuition is fast thinking, snap judgements,  attractive because they avoid hard rational thinking of the second kind. As a result, it’s riddled with biases and mistakes which are interesting to psychologists.