CULTURE

This Thing For Which We Have No Name

[5.12.14]

"No one ever got fired for buying IBM" is a wonderful example of understanding loss aversion or "defensive decision making". The advertising and marketing industry kind of acted as if it knew this stuff—but where we were disgracefully bad is that no one really attempted to sit down and codify it. When I discovered Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, and the whole other corpus on Behavioral Economics…. when I started discovering there was a whole field of literature about "this thing for which we have no name" …. these powerful forces which no one properly understood—that was incredibly exciting. And the effect of these changes can be an order of magnitude. This is the important thing. Really small interventions can have huge effects. ...

...Markets actually work because they're adaptive. Bad things get killed, good new things sometimes get promoted. But most of the time what you'll find in business is no one has the faintest idea of why the things that work actually work. What's very useful here is that finally a group of academics with money, time, and immensely high intelligence were finally sitting down to codify and make sense of things, which we'd been aware of for years but which, to our shame, we'd never attempted to actually try and systematize.

RORY SUTHERLAND is Executive Creative Director and Vice-Chairman, OgilvyOne London; Vice-Chairman, Ogilvy & Mather UK; Columnist, The Spectator. Rory Sutherland's Edge Bio page


THIS THING FOR WHICH WE HAVE NO NAME

The strange thing about academics, which always fascinates me, is that they believe they're completely immune to status considerations and consider themselves to be more or less monks. In reality, of course, academics are the most status-conscious people in the world. Take away a parking space from an academic and see how long he stays. I always find this very strange when you occasionally get in the realm of happiness research, you get fairly considerable assaults on consumerism as if it's just mindless status seeking. Now, the point of the matter is, is that academics are just as guilty of the original crime, they just pursue status in a different way. ...

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I have probably stolen, without realizing it, your own job title of "impresario" rather unfairly. The reason I did this was that occasionally people started writing about me online as a "behavioral economist" and I realized that, among academic behavioral economists, this would drive them practically apoplectic to have someone with no qualifications in the field so described. (I'm a classicist by background in any case). So my being described as a behavioral economist would make them practically deranged.

The Paradox of Wu-Wei

Topic: 

  • CULTURE
http://vimeo.com/87993592

One way to look at the trajectory of Chinese thought is that it's driven by this tension I call "the paradox of wu-wei." Wu-wei is effortless action or spontaneity. They all want you to be wu-wei, but none of them think you are right now. You've got to try to be wu-wei, but how do you try not to try? How do you try to be spontaneous? I call it the paradox of wu-wei, and I argue it's at the center of all their theorizing about other things. There are theories about human nature, there are theories about self-cultivation, there are theories about government.

Daniel C. Dennett: The De-Darwinizing of Cultural Change (HeadCon '13 Part X)

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[3.4.14]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

Think for a moment about a termite colony or an ant colony—amazingly competent in many ways, we can do all sorts of things, treat the whole entity as a sort of cognitive agent and it accomplishes all sorts of quite impressive behavior. But if I ask you, "What is it like to be a termite colony?" most people would say, "It's not like anything." Well, now let's look at a brain, let's look at a human brain—100 billion neurons, roughly speaking, and each one of them is dumber than a termite and they're all sort of semi-independent.

David Pizarro: The Failure of Social and Moral Intuitions (HeadCon '13 Part IX)

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[2.25.14]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

Today I want to talk a little about our social and moral intuitions and I want to present a case that they're rapidly failing, more so than ever. Let me start with an example. Recently, I collaborated with economist Rob Frank, roboticist Cynthia Breazeal, and social psychologist David DeSteno. The experiment that we did was interested in looking at how we detect trustworthiness in others.

Laurie Santos: What Makes Humans Unique (HeadCon '13 Part VII)

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[1.23.14]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

I'm going to talk about some new findings in my field, comparative cognition. I'm interested in what makes humans unique. There are findings that I think are fantastically cool, in that they might be redefining how we think about human nature, but first they're going to pose for us some really interesting new problems.

Joshua Greene: The Role of Brain Imaging in Social Science (HeadCon '13 Part VI)

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[12.16.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

We're here in early September 2013 and the topic that's on everybody's minds, (not just here but everywhere) is Syria. Will the U.S. bomb Syria? Should the U.S. bomb Syria? Why do some people think that the U.S. should? Why do other people think that the U.S. shouldn't? These are the kinds of questions that occupy us every day. This is a big national and global issue, sometimes it's personal issues, and these are the kinds of questions that social science tries to answer.

Nicholas Christakis: The Science of Social Connections (HeadCon '13 Part V)

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[12.9.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

The part of human nature that I'd like to talk about today is that part of our human nature that is relevant to our interactions with others. There's been a phenomenal amount of work taking place in the last ten years, certainly, and even in the last year or two that seeks to understand how we interact with each other and how we assemble ourselves into social networks.

Robert Kurzban: P-Hacking and the Replication Crisis (HeadCon '13 Part IV)

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[12.2.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

P Hacking and the Replication Crisis

The first three talks this morning have been optimistic. We've heard about the promise of big data, we've heard about advances in emotions, and we've just heard from Fiery, who very cleverly managed to find a way to leave before I gave my remarks about how we're understanding something deep about human nature. There's a risk that my remarks are going to be understood as pessimistic but they're really not. My optimism is embodied in the notion that what we're doing here is important and we can do it better.

I really wanted to take this opportunity to have a chance to speak to the people here about what's been going on in some corners of psychology, mostly in areas like social psychology and decision-making. In fact, Danny Kahneman has chimed in on this discussion, which is really what some people thought about as a crisis in certain parts of psychology, which is that insofar as replication is a hallmark of what science is about, there's not a lot of it and what there is shows that things we thought were true maybe aren't; that's really bad. This is a great setting in which to talk about these things, and I want to talk about it in part from my experience in this because I started to come into contact with this in a way that I'll describe right now. 

Robert Kurzban is an Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania specializing in evolutionary psychology: Author, Why Everyone (Else) Is A Hypocrite.

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