Tag Archives: TEDTalk

Markets and Morality: Why We Shouldn’t Trust Markets with Our Civic Life

About a month ago, I finished up a series about Michael Sandel’s book, What Money Can’t Buy. I really enjoyed reading through the chapters and chewing on the material. As you may recall, I also highly recommended watching Prof. Sandel’s course: Justice. A few day ago, I noticed that one of Sandel’s more recent TEDTalks was published online. After watching it, I thought I’d pass it along to you as a great way to get a quick understanding of some of the things that Sandel talks about in his book. The talk was filmed this past summer.

As I think about markets and morals, I can’t help but seem to agree with much of what Sandel is saying. I’m also aware that not everyone shares his opinion about markets and morality. Do you agree? Do you think that allowing markets to decide everything is crowding out morals? I’d be really interested to hear your opinions.

I do as best I can to take in opinions and information that is contrary to my opinions, but it can be difficult. Especially in the internet environment, it’s quite easy to get caught up in the echo chamber of your own thoughts and beliefs. That’s part of the reason that I try to write posts that provide a new perspective on issues.

On this matter in particular, I’d like to your opinions on Prof. Sandel’s idea of markets and morality. In fact, I’m hoping that some of you disagree with Prof. Sandel and you think that markets are truly the answer to everything. I’m hoping that you think that markets should operate in every part of our lives. I’m hoping that you think what Prof. Sandel is saying is wrong. Most of all, I’m hoping that you can offer a cogent response that’s at least half as well-sourced as Prof. Sandel’s book.

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Twenty Online Talks That Will Change Your Life, Part 2

Yesterday, I began going through one of The Guardian’s articles about 20 online talks that could change your life. We got through the first 10 talks yesterday. In this post, we’ll look at the last 10 talks.

11. Shaking Hands With Death – Terry Pratchett

12. The Voices in My Head – Eleanor Longden

If you have no experience with schizophrenia, Longden’s talk will certainly change that. It’s important to note, not everyone comes as ‘far’ as she did. Nonetheless, I hope her story fosters empathy within you.

13. Arithmetic, Population and Energy: Sustainability 101 – Albert Bartlett

I don’t remember when I first saw this lecture from Bartlett, but I know that it was probably one of the first lectures I watched on the internet (maybe 15 years ago?). If you’re captivated by headlines like “Crime Doubles in a Decade,” or you’re confused about inflation then you’ll learn a lot in the first half of the video. As someone who majored (second major) in sociology, I can certainly empathize with the idea of a Malthusian catastrophe. I suppose I’m putting stock in the fact that something will change before it gets to that. You may be tired of hearing that people of time X couldn’t have predicted what life would be like in time Y, but I’d say that this is a big factor in why I think we’re not hurtling toward the future that Bartlett explains. Of course, I could be wrong, but I really think that something will change before it comes to this.

14. The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class – Elizabeth Warren

15. The Secret Powers of Time – Philip Zimbardo

If you’ve ever taken PSYC 100, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Zimbardo. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, his famous experiment will: the Stanford Prison Experiment. I remember watching the RSA Animate version of this talk a couple of years ago. Zimbardo shines a light where you might not have been looking: your relationship to time.

16. The secret to desire in a long-term relationship – Esther Perel

17. Printing a human kidney – Anthony Atala

In 2011 when this talk was given, the idea of 3D printing was brand new. To some, it may still be. I remember talking about it last year in the context of rapid technological change. If you’re still fuzzy on 3D printing, this is an enlightening place to start.

18. Do schools kill creativity? – Ken Robinson

If you’ve ever watched a TEDTalk, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of this one from Ken Robinson. As of this time last year, it was the most watched TEDTalk – ever – with almost 15,000,000 views. If you haven’t seen this one, spend the next 20 minutes doing just that.

19. Sugar: The Bitter Truth – Robert Lustig

20. Moral behavior in animals – Frans de Waal

~

If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.

Twenty Online Talks That Will Change Your Life, Part 1

A little over a week ago, I wrote a post about the 20 biggest questions in science. It turns out, The Guardian must have been on a listicle-kick because they also recently published a list of the 20 online talks that could change your life. Some of these I’ve seen, so I thought I’d go through them in the same way I did for the science questions from last week.

1. How Economic Inequality Harms Societies – Richard Wilkinson

I was so glad to see that they started with this talk. This talk is by a British researcher who has dedicated his life’s work to social inequalities. Along with Kate Pickett, he published a book called The Spirit Level. I remember reading it a few years back. It’s chock-full of resources and citations that formed the basis for the beginning of the recent discussion on inequality. Of course, there are folks who don’t see eye-to-eye with Wilkinson and Pickett.

2. Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are – Amy Cuddy

3. Violence Against Women – it’s a Men’s Issue – Jackson Katz

I haven’t seen Cuddy’s talk, but I’ve read a number of her journal article. She certainly knows what she’s talking about and is worth your time. I haven’t seen Katz’s talk either, but it really reminds me of the work of Miss Representation and The Mask You Live In.

4. Depression in the US – Robert Sapolsky

5. Listening to Shame – Brené Brown

6. Why I Am Not a Christian – Bertrand Russell

7. We Need to Talk About an Injustice – Bryan Stevenson

If you haven’t seen Stevenson’s talk, now’s a good time to do it.

8. The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer

Not many TEDTalks have caused such a ruckus so quickly. I remember when this talk first happened earlier this year and was put online. Here were my “quick thoughts” after first watching it:

Amanda Palmer: A big congratulations! This TEDTalk certainly created news yesterday. For some, it’s because she didn’t answer questions that some had asked regarding the Kickstarter funds, for others, because she raised some important ideas about the music business. It’s certainly not easy to challenge mainstream ideas and even harder to do so with so many people who think you’re wrong (and are shouting that at you).

The Art of Asking: For some, there is nothing harder than asking for help. Asking for what you’re worth. People who are just starting their own business often have lots of problems trying to figure out just how much they should charge. Much of this has to do with psychology and our ideas of self-worth, but there’s also the cultural stereotype that it’s not okay to ask. It’s so great that Amanda could demonstrate how asking is not something to be afraid of.

Vulnerability: On the topic of asking… I remember reading about people who pose as beggars — not for the money, but to gain the experience of what it’s like to beg or ask for money. It’s not something that I’ve done, but after watching this TEDTalk, it’s an experience that I think is certainly worth considering. It might shatter stereotypes of what it’s like to ask for help and would certainly foster a greater sense of empathy.

Trust: Without getting too much into a philosophical discussion, it’s great to see a tangible example of someone who “trusts the flow of life,” and is rewarded for it.

As with Stevenson’s, if you have the time, Palmer’s is certainly a talk worth watching.

9. The Myth of the Gay Agenda – LZ Granderson

10. Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city – Kent Larson

After reading the description for Larson’s talk, I couldn’t help but think that the work of Richard Florida, noted urban theorist, is probably mentioned in the talk.

We’ve covered the first ten talks. This seems like a good place to pause and take a break. Check back tomorrow for the rest of the talks.

If All You Have is a Hammer…: List of Biases in Judgment and Decision-Making, Part 13

The popular ending to the title of this post is, “… everything looks like a nail.” I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase (or some variant thereof) before, right? I bet you didn’t know that this represents an important cognitive bias, though. In fact, didn’t know that this phrase was popularized by one of the giants of psychology — Abraham Maslow. It comes from a book that he published in 1966 — The Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance. This sentiment behind this phrase is a concept that’s known as functional fixedness.

One of the easiest ways to explain this concept is with a different example — the candle problem. Dan Pink does an excellent job of explaining this in the opening of a TEDTalk he gave a few years ago. I’ve set the video to start just before he begins talking about the candle problem. At about the 3-minute mark, the explanation of functional fixedness ends, but he goes on to talk about an experiment with functional fixedness. Meaning, he couches the importance of functional fixedness in management theory. I’d urge you to come back and watch the remaining 15+ minutes after you’ve finished reading this post:

So, as we can see from the video, it’s hard for people to imagine the box as something other than a receptacle for the tacks. Similarly, when we’re holding the “proverbial hammer,” everything appears as if it’s a nail. One of the most important consequences of functional fixedness is how it contributes to a dearth of creativity. If you’re a manager in a company, maybe you’re not thinking about how you can position your employees to maximize their impact on realizing profits. It’s also possible that you’re not seeing a creative way to reassemble your raw materials (or resources) to design a product that will create a new market!

Ways for Avoiding Functional Fixedness

1) Practice, practice, practice

Probably the easiest and most effective way of overcoming functional fixedness is to practice. What does that mean? Well, take a box of miscellaneous things and see if you can design something fun/creative. The emphasis should be on using those things in a way that they weren’t designed. For instance, if you’re using a toolbox, you might think about how you can use something like wrenches to act as “legs” of a table or as a conductive agent for an electrical circuit.

2) Observant learning — Find examples

Another good way of overcoming functional fixedness is to look at other examples of people who have overcome functional fixedness. When I was giving a presentation on functional fixedness to a group (of college students) about a year ago, I showed the video below. About halfway through the video, one of them remarked: “So, basically, it’s how to be a college student 101.”

If you liked this post, you might like one of the other posts in this series:

Quick Thoughts on Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking, Vulnerability, and Trust

Yesterday, TED posted the TEDTalk of Amanda Palmer. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but because I kept seeing tweets saying that “Palmer Wins TED,” I thought, I’ve gotta watch this talk. So, before I get into some of my thoughts it, I’ll let you watch it.

Apparently, there’s been a big hullabaloo over Palmer accepting $1,000,000 through Kickstarter, but continuing to ask musicians to work for “free.” I’d rather not get into that discussion, but I think it’s important to mention before moving on.

Amanda Palmer: A big congratulations! This TEDTalk certainly created news yesterday. For some, it’s because she didn’t answer questions that some had asked regarding the Kickstarter funds, for others, because she raised some important ideas about the music business. It’s certainly not easy to challenge mainstream ideas and even harder to do so with so many people who think you’re wrong (and are shouting that at you).

The Art of Asking: For some, there is nothing harder than asking for help. Asking for what you’re worth. People who are just starting their own business often have lots of problems trying to figure out just how much they should charge. Much of this has to do with psychology and our ideas of self-worth, but there’s also the cultural stereotype that it’s not okay to ask. It’s so great that Amanda could demonstrate how asking is not something to be afraid of.

Vulnerability: On the topic of asking… I remember reading about people who pose as beggars — not for the money, but to gain the experience of what it’s like to beg or ask for money. It’s not something that I’ve done, but after watching this TEDTalk, it’s an experience that I think is certainly worth considering. It might shatter stereotypes of what it’s like to ask for help and would certainly foster a greater sense of empathy.

Trust: Without getting too much into a philosophical discussion, it’s great to see a tangible example of someone who “trusts the flow of life,” and is rewarded for it.

Stop Consuming — Get Busy Creating

In one of those ubiquitous end of the year posts, Joshua Brown (financial advisor) and all-around fun guy (at least from what I can gather by following him on Twitterwrote:

The news is mostly not news. Believe me, I traffic in this stuff online and on-air every day.

But let’s say it was all “real news”…then what? It isn’t as though you’re able to react to it, at least not all of it. In fact, the less of it you react to, the better off you probably are. My friend David Merkel talks about making as few decisions as possible, thus limiting the amount of bad or forced ones. This is the kind of advice that sounds so simple and obvious that it can’t possibly be true – but it actually is true.

Brown is writing this inside of a larger point — stay away from the news. His audience in this paragraph is specifically those who are stock traders, but I think, with some minor tweaks, we can expand the audience to everyone (or at least a lot of people). It’s pretty hard to create things, if you’re always consuming. If you’re endlessly following the news on Twitter or reading what’s going on in the world around you, it makes it quite a bit harder to make something yourself.

In an interview with Esquire magazine last year, Ricky Gervais (!) made a plea for people to be creators*:

You should bring something into the world that wasn’t in the world before. It doesn’t matter what that is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a table or a film or gardening — everyone should create. You should do something, then sit back and say, ‘I did that.’

I certainly think Gervais is right — we’ve each got something unique and creative to contribute to the world. Let’s tie this back into Brown’s point about staying away from the news. In fact, Brown includes a tweet that supports his point and I think exemplifies mine:

Another place where this point is made, albeit in a longer way, is in a TEDTalk that Susan Cain gave last year. The subject was on introversion and it was very powerful. If you need more support for the point about “spending time away” from things, then I’d definitely watch her talk.

*Note: I realize that I’ve not linked to the Esquire Magazine article. Since I first came across this quote from Maria Popova, I wanted to link back to it on her site. She tirelessly works to curate an enormous amount of content. In this case, it felt right to link back to her site — especially because she includes a link to the Esquire interview.

Can the Discourse in American Politics Be Saved: The Lost Art of Democratic Debate

I came across a tweet earlier this morning that linked to a TEDTalk given by Michael Sandel in 2010. I’ve written about Prof. Sandel’s course “Justice,” so naturally, I was interested to see his TEDTalk. The title: “The lost art of democratic debate.”

Of course, given the election tomorrow and the absurd hyper-partisanship in the US right now, I thought it would be interesting to hear what Prof. Sandel had to say, even though it was something he said 2 years ago. Ironically, 2 years ago, Congress was still at odds with each other (over healthcare). There’s still discussion about healthcare in the US.

As a quick primer to the video, you may want to check out what I wrote on golf being a sport last summer.

After watching the video, I’d love to hear what you think of what Prof. Sandel has proposed. Do you think discussing the morality of ideas will make Congress less partisan and more productive?