“I wonder who it was defined man as a rational animal. It was the most premature definition ever given. Man is many things, but he is not rational.”
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Other Writings

It is well documented, and supported by sound evidence, that people behave irrationally. Although the evidence show that we are ‘predictably irrational‘, borrowing from the words of Dan Ariely, the range of outcomes within these experiments themselves suggest that we are all irrational in varying degrees. Therefore, in the context of all animals being equal, it’s clear that some are more irrational than others. I’ve recently been asked if that also holds true for professions, and specifically whether actuaries, who by intuition should be less present time biased, would in fact be less irrational. Simple testing points to both: actuaries are also irrational, but probably to a lesser degree than the population as a whole.

Certainly worth exploring further, but irrespective of the outcome and how many degrees of grey there might be, I can still confidently call myself irrational. Then why (ir)rational? Using Kahneman’s brilliant insights, I’m probably on the slower side of thinking fast – often times to the frustration of many … but I can’t take credit for being a slow thinker!

What then is a bactuary? In my irrational world it’s simply a behavioral actuary – one really interested in human behavior, with a specific focus on behavioral economics and actionable insights to help people live longer, healthier lives. Soon the term ‘behavioral economics’ should start fading as it’s core principles are adopted in what we know as traditional, or classic economics. Oh, wondering what an actuary does – the easiest way to describe that is that actuaries evaluate the financial consequence of risk, create products and solutions to mitigate & manage the risk, and governance to ensure the solutions applied remain financially sound. In my case I mostly focus on the health and life consequences of human decision-making and behaviors, but more importantly how we can use financial structures to facilitate better decision making.

This is simply my convenient library of references, which I should have established years ago … darn procrastination! Understanding the principles helps me narrow my own gap between intention and action – as I value the years in my life, but also the life in my years. It also has powerful application in traditional organizational structures.

Hope this will also serve as a useful reference to you and let’s work together to make the world a better place.