Collection: Charlie Munger - #16 'Inversion Thinking Process'



My question is you talked frequently about having the moral imperative to be rational and yet as humans we’re constantly hearing this evolutional baggage which just get in the way of us thinking rationally. Are there any tools or behaviors you embrace to facilitate your rational thinking?


The answer is: Of course. I hardly do anything else.

One of my favorite tricks is the inversion process. Let me give an example.

When I was a meteorologist in World War II, they told me how draw weather maps and predict the weather. What I was actually doing was clearing pilots to take flights. And just reverse the problem.

I inverted I said: “Suppose I want to kill a lot of pilots. What would be the easy way to do it?” And I concluded that the only way to do it was to get the planes into icing the planes couldn’t handle or to get the pilot into a place where he’d run off fuel before he could safely land.

So I made up my mind, I was going to stay miles away from killing pilots by either icing or getting them sucked into conditions where they couldn’t land.

I think that helped me be a better meteorologist in World War II. I just reversed the problem.

If somebody hired me to fix India, I would immediately say: “What could I do if I really wanted to hurt India?” I would figure out all the things that would most easily hurt India and then I’d figure out how to avoid them. You can said it's the same thing It just in reversed. It works better to frequently do it for the problem.

If you’re a meteorologist, it really helps if you really know how to avoid something which is the only think that’s going to kill your pilots.

You can help India the best if you really know what will hurt India the easiest and worst.

Algebra works the same way. Every great algebraist inverts all the time because the problems are solved easier. Human beings should do the same thing in the ordinary walks of life. Just constantly invert. You don’t think about what you want. You think about what you want to avoid. When you think about what you want to avoid, you also think about what you want. And you just go back and forth all the time.

Peter Kaufman, who’s here today, he likes the idea that you want to know how the world looks from the top looking down and you want to know what it looks like from the bottom looking up.

If you don’t have both points, your reality recognition is lousy. Peter is right and inversion is the same thing.

It’s just a simple trick to think about how it looks from the people above me and how it looks from the people beneath me. How can I hurt these people I’m trying to help? All these things help you think it through. And it’s just such simple tricks.

Like the lever, they really help. And yet, our educational system giving advanced degrees don’t give these simple tricks. They’re wrong. They’re just plain wrong.



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