WHY DO SOME SOCIETIES MAKE DISASTROUS DECISIONS?: JARED DIAMOND
What I'm going to suggest is a road map of factors in failures of group decision making. I'll divide the answers into a sequence of four somewhat fuzzily delineated categories. First of all, a group may fail to anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives. Secondly, when the problem arrives, the group may fail to perceive the problem. Then, after they perceive the problem, they may fail even to try to solve the problem. Finally, they may try to solve it but may fail in their attempts to do so. While all this talking about reasons for failure and collapses of society may seem pessimistic, the flip side is optimistic: namely, successful decision-making. Perhaps if we understand the reasons why groups make bad decisions, we can use that knowledge as a check list to help groups make good decisions.
The Scientist As Poet
history," states the LEWIS THOMAS PRIZE literature,
"scientists and poets have sought to unveil
the secrets of the natural world. Their methods
vary: scientists use tools of rational analysis
to slake their compelling thirst for knowledge;
poets delve below the surface of language, and
deliver urgent communiqués from its depths.
The Lewis Thomas Prize honors the rare individual
who is fluent in the dialects of both realms —
and who succeeds in spinning lush literary and
philosophical tapestries from the silken threads
of scientific and natural phenomena — providing
not merely new information but cause for reflection,
Jared is an early and frequent contributor to Edge. In his first feature in 1997 ("Why Did Human History Unfold Differently On Different Continents For The Last 13,000 Years?") he stated:
Underlying his task is the question of how to turn the study of history into a science. He notes the distinction between the "hard sciences" such as physics, biology, and astronomy — and what we sometimes call the "social sciences," which includes history, economics, government. The social sciences are often thought of as a pejorative. In particular many of the so-called hard scientists such as physicists or biologists, don't consider history to be a science. The situation is even more extreme because, he points out, even historians themselves don't consider history to be a science. Historians don't get training in the scientific methods; they don't get training in statistics; they don't get training in the experimental method or problems of doing experiments on historical subjects; and they'll often say that history is not a science, history is closer to an art.
He comes to this question as one who is accomplished in two scientific areas: physiology and evolutionary biology. The first is a laboratory science; the second, is never far from history. "Biology is the science," he says. "Evolution is the concept that makes biology unique." He continues to bring together history and biology in new and interesting ways to present global accounts of the rise and fall of civilizations.
than one million copies of the U.S. edition of
Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize winning Guns,
Germs, and Steel:The Fates of Human Societies
have now been sold. Jared hopes to deliver his
much-anticipated new book, Ecocide, at
the end of this year for publication in 2004.
Dr. Diamond is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship ("Genius Award"); research prizes of the American Physiological Society, National Geographic Society, and Zoological Society of San Diego; and many teaching awards and endowed public lectureships. In addition, he has been elected a member of all three of the leading national scientific/academic honorary societies (National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Philosophical Society).
His field experience includes 17 expeditions to
New Guinea and neighboring islands, to study ecology
and evolution of birds; rediscovery of New Guinea's
long-lost goldenfronted bowerbird; other field
projects in North America, South America, Africa,
Asia, and Australia. As a conservationist he devised
a comprehensive plan, almost all of which was
subsequently implemented, for Indonesian New Guinea's
national park system; numerous field projects
for the Indonesian government and World Wildlife
Fund; founding member of the board of the Society
of Conservation Biology; member of the Board of
Directors of World Wildlife Fund/USA.
reading on Edge:
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