Tuesday, November 26, 2013

David Friedman on Richard Epstein

David D. Friedman (Milton's son) talks about the difference between his brain and Richard Epstein's brain:
Thinking about it, it occurred to me that I had observed the same pattern in an entirely different context, the difference between how I think and how Richard Epstein, a friend and past colleague, thinks. I usually describe the difference as my thinking in series, Richard in parallel. It shows up when he is sketching the argument for some conclusion.
A implies B. B implies C. C ...
At which point I demonstrate that B doesn't really imply C, that there is a hole in the argument. That is no problem for Richard, who promptly points out that A also implies B', a somewhat different proposition than B, which implies C', from which he can eventually work his way back to D, or perhaps E or F, and so to the conclusion that the original line of argument was intended to establish. Pretty clearly, he is running a network of multiple lines of argument in his head and only has to find some set of links in the network that gets him where he is going. I am focusing on running a single line of argument. Hence parallel vs series.
It reminded me of a scene from Malcolm in the Middle in which the genius Malcolm describes the way his mind works as a nuclear chain reaction of thought, and another (even smarter) kid says his mind is like a bee hive in which all of the bees have brains like Malcolm's. It's hard to think of anyone as smart as David D. Friedman. Richard Epstein is truly a freak of nature.