MIND

Master Class 2008: Improving Choices with Machine Readable Disclosure (Class 2)

[10.8.08]

INTRODUCTION
CLASS ONE • CLASS TWO • CLASS THREE • CLASS FOUR • CLASS FIVE•  CLASS SIX
PHOTO GALLERY 


At a minimum, what we're saying is that in every market where there is now required written disclosure, you have to give the same information electronically and we think intelligently how best to do that. In a sentence that's the nature of the proposal.—Richard Thaler

IMPROVING CHOICES WITH MACHINE READABLE DISCLOSURE (Class 2)
A Talk By Richard Thaler & Sendhil Mullainathan

Jeff Bezos, Nathan Myhrvold, Salar Kamangar, Daniel Kahneman, Danny Hillis, Paul Romer, Elon Musk, Sean Parker 

RICHARD H. THALER is the father of behavioral economics—the study of how thinking and emotions affect individual economic decisions and the behavior of markets. Thaler is Director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. He is coauthor (with Cass Sunstein) of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Richard Thaler's Edge Bio Page

SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN, a Professor of Economics at Harvard, a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant", conducts research on development economics, behavioral economics, and corporate finance. His work concerns creating a psychology of people to improve poverty alleviation programs in developing countries. He is Executive Director of Ideas 42, Institute of Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University. Sendhil Mullainathan's Edge Bio Page

A SHORT COURSE IN BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS
Edge Master Class 2008
Richard Thaler, Sendhil Mullainathan, Daniel Kahneman
Sonoma, CA, July 25-27, 2008

AN EDGE SPECIAL PROJECT 


Master Class 2008: Liberatarian Paternalism: Why it is Impossible Not to Nudge (Class 1)

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/82230639

If you remember one thing from this session, let it be this one: There is no way of avoiding meddling. People sometimes have the confused idea that we are pro meddling. That is a ridiculous notion. It's impossible not to meddle. Given that we can't avoid meddling, let's meddle in a good way. —Richard Thaler

Master Class 2008: Liberatarian Paternalism: Why it is Impossible Not to Nudge (Class 1)

[9.30.08]

INTRODUCTION
CLASS ONE • CLASS TWOCLASS THREECLASS FOURCLASS FIVE•  CLASS SIX
PHOTO GALLERY 


If you remember one thing from this session, let it be this one: There is no way of avoiding meddling. People sometimes have the confused idea that we are pro meddling. That is a ridiculous notion. It's impossible not to meddle. Given that we can't avoid meddling, let's meddle in a good way. —Richard Thaler

LIBERTARIAN PATERNALISM:  WHY IT IS IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO NUDGE
(Class 1) 
A Talk By Richard Thaler

Danny Hillis, Nathan Myhrvold, Daniel Kahneman, Jeff Bezos, Sendhil Mullainathan

RICHARD H. THALER is the father of behavioral economics—the study of how thinking and emotions affect individual economic decisions and the behavior of markets. He investigates the implications of relaxing the standard economic assumption that everyone in the economy is rational and selfish, instead entertaining the possibility that some of the agents in the economy are sometimes human. Thaler is Director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. He is coauthor (with Cass Sunstein) of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Richard Thaler's Edge Bio Page

A SHORT COURSE IN BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS
Edge Master Class 2008
Richard Thaler, Sendhil Mullainathan, Daniel Kahneman
Sonoma, CA, July 25-27, 2008

AN EDGE SPECIAL PROJECT 


What Makes People Vote Republican?

[9.8.08]

...the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats "just don't get it," this is the "it" to which they refer.

JONATHAN HAIDT is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he does research on morality and emotion and how they vary across cultures. He is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.

Jonathan Haidt's Edge Bio Page

Further reading on Edge: Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion By Jonathan Haidt [9.22.07]

THE REALITY CLUB: Daniel Everett, Howard Gardner, Michael Shermer, Scott Atran, James Fowler, Alison Gopnik, Sam Harris, James O'Donnell
 


ENCAPSULATED UNIVERSES

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/81869749

Think about it this way. We have 7,000 languages. Each of these languages encompasses a world-view, encompasses the ideas and predispositions and cognitive tools developed by thousands of years of people in that culture. Each one of those languages offers a whole encapsulated universe. So we have 7,000 parallel universes, some of them are quite similar to one another, and others are a lot more different. The fact that there's this great diversity is a real testament to the flexibility and the ingenuity of the human mind. 

ENCAPSULATED UNIVERSES

[2.19.13]

Think about it this way. We have 7,000 languages. Each of these languages encompasses a world-view, encompasses the ideas and predispositions and cognitive tools developed by thousands of years of people in that culture. Each one of those languages offers a whole encapsulated universe. So we have 7,000 parallel universes, some of them are quite similar to one another, and others are a lot more different. The fact that there's this great diversity is a real testament to the flexibility and the ingenuity of the human mind. 

LERA BORODITSKY is an assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience, and symbolic systems at Stanford University. Lera Boroditsky's Edge Bio Page


[49 minutes]


ENCAPSULATED UNIVERSES

I'm interested in how the languages we speak shape the way we think. The reason I got interested in this question is that languages differ from one another so much. There are about 7,000 languages around the world, and each one differs from the next in innumerable ways. Obviously, languages have different words, but they also require very different things from their speakers grammatically.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you want to say even the simplest thing, like "Humpty Dumpty sat on a …" Well, even with a snippet of a nursery rhyme, if you try to translate it to other languages, you'd immediately run into trouble. Let's focus on the verb for a moment. Sat. To say this in English, if this was something that happened in the past, then you'd have to say "sat." You wouldn’t say, "will sit" or "sitting." You have to mark tense. In some languages like in Indonesian you couldn't change the verb. The verb would always stay the same regardless of whether this is a past or future event. In some languages, like in Russian, my native language, you would have to change the verb for tense, but you would also have to include gender. So if this was Mrs. Dumpty that sat on the wall, you'd use a different form of the verb than if it was Mr. Dumpty. 

In Russian, quite inconveniently, you have to mark the verb for whether the event was completed or not. So if Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall for the entire amount of time that he was meant to sit on it, that would be one form of the verb. But if he were to say "have a great fall" that would be a different form of the verb.

In Turkish, and this is one of my favorite examples, you have to change the verb depending on how you came to know this information. If you actually witnessed this event with your own eyes, you were walking along and you saw this chubby, ovoid character sitting on a wall, that would be one form of the verb. But if this was something you just heard about, or you inferred, from say broken Humpty Dumpty pieces, then you would have to use a different form of the verb.


ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE?

[4.9.08]

Scientists compared the genetic sequences of ethnically and geographically diverse people from around the world and found that the genes which code for the nervous systems, had some sequence differences (known as polymorphisms) among individuals. By analyzing human and chimpanzee polymorphism patterns, genetic probabilities and various other genetic tools, and geographical distributions, they found evidence that some of these genes are experiencing ongoing positive selection in humans. They calculated that one genetic variant of microcephalin arose approximately 37,000 years ago, which coincides with the emergence of culturally modern humans, and it increased in frequency too rapidly to be compatible with random genetic drift or population migration. This suggests that it underwent positive selection.[xxi] An ASPM variant arose about 5800 years ago, coincident with the spread of agriculture, cities and the first record of written language. It too is found in such high frequencies in the population, that it indicates strong positive selection.[xxii]

MICHAEL GAZZANIGA, one of the world's leading neuroscientists, is a Professor of Psychology and the Director for the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California Santa Barbara, and is a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

He is the author of several books including Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique (Ecco; June 24, 2008).

 

Michael Gazzaniga's Edge Bio Page

SOCIAL NETWORKS ARE LIKE THE EYE

[2.25.08]

It is customary to think about fashions in things like clothes or music as spreading in a social network. But it turns out that all kinds of things, many of them quite unexpected, can flow through social networks, and this process obeys certain rules we are seeking to discover.  We've been investigating the spread of obesity through a network, the spread of smoking cessation through a network, the spread of happiness through a network, the spread of loneliness through a network, the spread of altruism through a network.  And we have been thinking about these kinds of things while also keeping an eye on the fact that networks do not just arise from nothing or for nothing.  Very interesting rules determine their structure.  

Introduction

On of the oft-repeated phrases on Edge is "New Technologies=New Perceptions". As we create tools we recreate ourselves. In the digital information age, we have moved from thinking about silicon, transistors, and microprocessors, to redefining, to the edge of creating life itself. As we have seen in recent editions of Edge — "Life: What A Concept!" (Freeman Dyson, Craig Venter, George Church, Robert Shapiro, Dimitar Sasselov, Seth Lloyd) at Eastover Farm in August, "Life: A Gene-Centric View" (Richard Dawkins and Craig Venter) in Munich in January; "Engineering Biology" (Drew Endy) in our most recent edition — we are redefining who and what we are.

Such scientific explorations are not limited to biology. Recently, Harvard professor and sociologist Nicholas Christakis has shown that there's more to think about regarding social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and Twitter than considerations of advertising and revenue models. According to The New York Times , ("On Facebook, Scholars Link Up With Data", by Stephanie Rosenbloom 12.17.07):

Each day about 1,700 juniors at an East Coast college log on to Facebook.com to accumulate "friends," compare movie preferences, share videos and exchange cybercocktails and kisses. Unwittingly, these students have become the subjects of academic research. To study how personal tastes, habits and values affect the formation of social relationships (and how social relationships affect tastes, habits and values), a team of researchers from Harvard and the University of California, Los Angeles, are monitoring the Facebook profiles of an entire class of students at one college, which they declined to name because it could compromise the integrity of their research.

Christakis notes that he is "interested not in biological contagion, but in social contagion. One possible mechanism is that I observe you and you begin to display certain behaviors that I then copy. For example, you might start running and then I might start running. Or you might invite me to go running with you. Or you might start eating certain fatty foods and I might start copying that behavior and eat fatty foods. Or you might take me with you to restaurants where I might eat fatty foods. What spreads from person to person is a behavior, and it is the behavior that we both might exhibit that then contributes to our changes in body size. So, the spread of behaviors from person to person might cause or underlie the spread of obesity."

In a page one story in The New York Times last summer ("Find Yourself Packing It On? Blame Friends" 7.26.07), Gina Kolata noted:

Obesity can spread from person to person, much like a virus, researchers are reporting today. When one person gains weight, close friends tend to gain weight, too.

Their study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, involved a detailed analysis of a large social network of 12,067 people who had been closely followed for 32 years, from 1971 to 2003.

The investigators knew who was friends with whom as well as who was a spouse or sibling or neighbor, and they knew how much each person weighed at various times over three decades. That let them reconstruct what happened over the years as individuals became obese. Did their friends also become obese? Did family members? Or neighbors?

The answer, the researchers report, was that people were most likely to become obese when a friend became obese. That increased a person's chances of becoming obese by 57 percent. There was no effect when a neighbor gained or lost weight, however, and family members had less influence than friends.

It did not even matter if the friend was hundreds of miles away, the influence remained. And the greatest influence of all was between close mutual friends. There, if one became obese, the other had a 171 percent increased chance of becoming obese, too. ...

Christakis, along with his colleague James Fowler, "have started with several projects that seek to understand the processes of contagion, and we have also begun a body of work looking at the processes of network formation — how structure starts and why it changes. We have made some empirical discoveries about the nature of contagion within networks. And also, in the latter case, with respect to how networks arise, we imagine that the formation of networks obeys certain fundamental biological, genetic, physiological, sociological, and technological rules. "

"So we have been investigating both what causes networks to form and how networks operate."

— JB

NICHOLAS A. CHRISTAKIS, a physician and sociologist, is a Professor at Harvard University with joint appointments in the Departments of Health Care Policy, Sociology, and Medicine. For the last ten years, he has been studying social networks.

Nicholas Christakis's Edge Bio Page

THE REALITY CLUB: Douglas Rushkoff, Alan Alda Nicholas Christakis

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