« Freakonomics Radio

199. This Idea Must Die

2015-03-05 | 🔗
Every year, Edge.org asks its salon of big thinkers to answer one big question. This year's question borders on heresy: what scientific idea is ready for retirement?
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Ryan. Dumplings. Now, in the freezer I'll Are you an idea junkie? I am, and since you must know shit like this, you probably are too exciting to hear about ideas, especially new ones, there's a progression that happens when you hear, like when you run it through your brain, try to envision where it might lead benefit from whom it hurt? Will it be worth the cost legal is morally defensive? Is it in fact a good idea. Today's episode is about ideas, but we run that progression in reverse, rather than asking. If a new idea is a good one, we ass here, you can tell me get the idea that I believe is ready to retire? I think I do
That is really bad. It's detrimental to sign these The scientific idea, I believe, is ready for retirement is the better. We are asking a bunch of people to name an idea that should be killed. My dear it's commonly accepted, but which, in fact is impeding progress, would you like a for instance, my labs research focuses on the development of the adolescent brain but surging bleak, more she's, a professor of cognitive science at University College, London, the idea that she'd like to kill off the idea that people are either rate, brained or left, when people say left grained, apparently they tend to mean is a mode of thinking which is more kind of logic. Coal and analytical and accurate, whereas right brain people tend to be more crime,
ensure active, emotional and subjective. Mostly ideas will be discussing today. This one is exceedingly popular itself. A lot of sense. help books. Businesses use it even scientific studies sometimes employ this? dear left, brain right, brain, for example, with regard to gender differences or creativity in the brain? To this idea, some sense. This is I did. That makes no physiological sense. The brain, bleak more tells us is plainly divided into two fears with each one doing more heavy lifting for certain functions, but those hemispheres do not operate in isolation. Gazette fibres track in the middle of your brain that connects the two hemispheres and that tracked called the cops close and enables the two hemispheres to talk to each other within a few milliseconds. So simple
not possible for one hemisphere to function without the other hemisphere kind of joining in so where did the leopard? Brain idea come from bleak, more says it most likely began as a misreading of earlier research on a small number of patients whose to brain hemispheres couldn't come back in the sixties, seventeen, eighty seven It's not a very high impact, extremely interesting research on split brain patients who have their corpus close and remove surgical removed, mostly for Tractable epilepsy is not done any more, but back then it was done a few times. These rare patients were studied by professor psychology now at the University of California, Santa Barbara think make Gazeta, and what he found was that each hemisphere played a role in different tasks, indifferent cognitive functions and lit normally one hemisphere dominated over the other. So what the patients
Aware of was what's going on in their left hemisphere, and they didn't have much conscious access to what was going on in their right hemisphere, this really interesting and important scientific work. But what I think happened was it was kind of slightly misinterpreted, general public to suggest that all of us are either left. Brained, alright reigned, but actually most of us have a functioning corpse, close them, and so we use both our hemisphere all the time and yet make more sense. The common perception today is still, but most of us are either left wing or right wing and that she says he's getting seriously in the way of progress. really worries me is that it is having a large impact in education. My research involves teenagers and we go in schools. A lot on what we see is often children being classified as either left brindle right, brained and actually it might be an
element to learning, mostly because that kind of implies that fixed or in late and unchangeable, to a large degree, I mean there are huge individual differences in commerce strength. Some people are more creative and others. Other people are more analytical than others, but the idea that this is something to do with being left wrangle, right, Brandon completely untrue and needs to be retired. I'm happy. From w, and my seeing this is free economics, radio, the package that explores the hidden side of everything, here's your host, Stephen Abner
I'd like to say that today's episode with our idea, we thought up this notion of drawing up a hit list without delay the US, but we are not that clever here is one. The clever people for want of a better description I come saw the cultural impresario. That's John Brockman. He makes his living as a literary agent, but for decades has also been a curator of great minds and big ideas two years ago you organize something called the reality. The idea was that we would seek out the most interesting brilliant mines. Have them get up, in front of the group, which was the way they could get in the group and asked? the questions are asking themselves. The group changed over time
and in the ninety nine these migrated online. Now it's noticed edged dot, org it sort of a salon. populated, mostly by scientists, from the hard scientists and social Sciences. Also writers and others swell a tradition, arose within the salon every year, one question would be put to the entire community. Can everyone would an essay in response, something like what should we be worried about, or what do you leave is true, even though you cannot prove it. That is the best question ever draw people mad. Every year these essays are collected in a book. The latest book is called. This idea must die scientific theories that are blocking progress. Here's a question: everyone was asked to answer. What scientific idea is ready for retirement? The question came from an edge dot org. Tributor glory Santos, I'm a professor of psychology at Yale University, and I am also the director of the Comparative Cognition laboratory request.
arose from Santos. His own academic work, sometimes ones then gets in printer gets in a textbook or gets on people's public greater it just six around. Even if there is reason to suspect that the ideas just wrong and it seems like there's no good procedure- tat kind of retire bad ideas in science. So you I must psychologists and I sometimes dabble in the work of economic, x and if I'm not really in the trenches, I might not know the kinds of ideas that economists are like guys. We we stop paying attention. in ten years ago. It just be nice to kind of get all ideas crew Spencer get the ones that are not doing a service out of there. So we can focus on the stuff tat we do think is true. Each dot org received a hundred seventy five contributions for ideas that must die with, because they're simply outdated or been superseded, have no basis, in fact, or maybe just don't sit right with the world anymore. This episode presents a handful of these ideas and we in the spirit of overturning our habits.
Also try something, rather than hearing me interviewing our guests, badgering them with questions. You will hear what is essentially a series of soliloquy from scientists, I'm SAM servicemen Amy complexity, scientists and writer. My name is Paul bloom. I must. ecology, professor at Yale University to doctors. My name is as Rosa M and oncologists professor of medicine and director of the empty, a centre at Columbia, University in New York to an actor and writer who used to play a doctor on tv. My name is Alan, older abstaining, I love to read about science and we even here from an economist trend of errors when I think about ideas that getting in the way of progress, I have a strange one probably one of the most important ideas with you- and I have ever talk about. Let's begin here
my name is set Lloyd AM professor of quantum mechanical engineering at MIT one quick warning. We are not going for trivial ideas here, we're going big, very big. The idea that I believe is ready to retire is the universe over the last twenty years, or so it's become increasingly clear that the idea of the universe, as just the things that we can see through our telescopes, even though we can see billion light years away. Is an outmoded idea: now the conventional picture How the universe came about is that it started thirteen point eight billion years ago in a gigantic explosion, just called the big bang. It was tremendously hot. It was of all kinds of particles zipping around here and there and then gradually as universe, expanded cooled down galaxies started.
Form stars started to shine and then were left with the universe we see around us and that's true so far as it goes. But if we look around us and see these galaxies flying through the key most their existence. Their composition of their form can be very well explained by this theory of the big bang, but the universe it We see around us is just one part of a much larger, multi, faceted, multi verse in which there are many possible universes contained, so the current theories suggest there this universe we see with electrons and photons and galaxies and stars and planets
than human beings. This is just one possible way for things to be and if you were to go far enough out their you'd find pieces of the universe where things are entirely different, where there are no electrons, no stars, no planets. If you go far enough out, though, you basically find all possible combinations of what's allowed by the laws of physics playing themselves out, because our universe is effectively a giant computer. and everything that can possibly be computed is being computing, and this notion is a rather new notion that hasn't really percolated into human consciousness. But once once given up this piece of useless baggage, that there is only one universe. We really are forced to contemplate the actual physical existence of things beyond what we can just have experimental observational access to, and it gets
so nice explanation for why the universe is so darn intricate and complicated. My name's Emmanuel, German, I'm a professor at Columbia, University and I worked on Wall Street for about twenty years as a quantitative, analyse and the site think I did that I believe is ready for a time and is one that's very fashionable. Now. That's the use and the power of statistics. It's a subject that become increasingly popular with increasing power of computers, computer science, information technology, and everybody's interests in economics and big data which have all come together, in some sort of nexus to make people think that just looking at data is going to be enough to tell you truths about the world, and I don't really believe that
they're, always to understand the world and those ways involved. Understanding the deep structure of the world and the way the world behaves, and I can give examples from physics now worked as a particle theoretical physicists for a long time. And all the really great discoveries in physics have come from a burst of intuition, which people tend to look down on these days. But if you look at Kepler, your Highness Kepler was an astronomer about fifty years or so before, Newton and the actual a lot of time studying to go abroad. He, who was a danish observational astronomer, who collected tons of very detailed data, the position of the planets and Kepler got access There are over thirty or forty years, analyzed she was an astonishing feet. What he did was, if you think about what you see when you see the trajectory of lights in the sky,
sure planets you see the emotion relative to the earth, but what Kepler was interested in the emotion relative to the sea and the earth is moving around the sun, so God knows how he did it, but he had to extract out the motion of the earth from the whole picture and strive how the plan moves relative to the sun. How he did this about computers is quite beyond me, but in the end, these second law says that the line between the planet and the sun. So sod equal areas in equal times and it's kind of innocent same thing to say, because he's a striving, an invisible line between the sun on the planet. There is no link between the Son of the planet and it has come up with this bursts of intuition which lets him talk about something you can see and it isn't in the data- and I think that's a good instance of this sort of bursts of insight that people have when they use your intuition to my group, discoveries is no understanding how he came to look at things in that way. But what's rational these days is simply doing just Dixon correlations, and I don't believe you can.
Did he find deep truth like Kepler laws that are trying to stride something below the surface? Some people looking at data and it sort of what's wrong with a lot of financial. linked to reach the idea that someone is a formula that will, Tell you how to manage risks. Tell you how to price things and absorb you have the responsibility of the struggle to actually understand the world in a deep away and in the financial crisis too much learn. Statistics is one got people into trouble. Thinking that bad things could never happened before They didn't happen before my name is as Rosa. I and on colleges, professor of medicine and director of the Mdgs Centre at Columbia, University in New York. The scientific idea
believe, is ready for a time and is mouse. Models must be retired, from use in drug development for camps updated, because What you see in a mouse is not necessarily what you're going to see in humans, for example, one very simple mouse model would be we take a mouse and give it a drug and see what happens to it Another which is much more commonly used is gone Xenon Graft mouse model in which what we do is that we will take a mouse and we will use radiation therapy etc to destroy its immune system completely and now are we will transplant Duma taken from a human into this mouse model, so its own immune system is gone
we want reject the tumor and weaken then desk the efficacy of drug to kill these human cells. In the Zenith grafted Mouse Morgan, now currently, cancer affects one in two men and one in three women? It's obvious that, despite concerted efforts of thousands of investigators, cancer therapy is today like beating a dog with a stick to get rid of please. It's really engendering quite primitive, in fact, the acute my Lloyd leukemia disease, I mean
studying. We are giving the same drugs to day for the majority of patients lead. We were giving in nineteen seventy seven when I started my research in this area when compared to let's say things like infectious diseases, all cardiac drugs cancer drugs feel more off. Recently things happen, from the mid nineties to now about twenty percent of drugs are actually entering clinical trials of de approve, but ninety percent of the drug still feel because if I, the unacceptable toxicity for once. We give them to humans. We find that they are not working the way they were supposed to the wire these facts so grim because we have used a mouse model that is misleading. They do not me
Human disease well and then essentially, worthless were drug debate. It's very clear that if we are to improve cancer therapy, we have to study humankind sense, but in my opinion too many, eminent laboratories and illustrious researchers have devoted and die lives to studying malignant diseases and mouse models. And the other ones reviewing each other's grants and deciding with money gets spent. So they are not prepared to accept that mouse models are basically valueless were most of council therapeutics, but persisting with mouse models and trying to treat All cancers in this exceedingly artificial system? Will be a real drawback
proceeding with personalized care based on a patient's own, specific tumor, its genetic characteristics, its expression profile, it matter below, makes all those things are so individually determined in cancer and for a lot of patience that drugs are already there. We just have to know how to match the right drug to rewrite patient at the right time, and in order to do that, the answer is not going to come from. Most models which is going to come from studying human Ganz is directly mice, just not men. The scientific idea, I believe, is ready for a tyrant. Is the aid
He is a prerequisite for the idea that the only way science can work is if we assume we live in, godless, meaning this universe my name's Douglas Rush cough professor of He has studies, Queens College puny, motion that we live in a godless, meaningless universe makes people I assume that reality. kind of emerged from this big bang and then time begins as if everything that we know, everything that we think everything from civilization to come business to meaning are all emergent phenomena that there are a result of matter, doing various materialist,
things, and when I started to realize that much of sciences, insistence on atheist, some suspect was, when I start hearing, These folks talk about the singularity, vague have a narrative for how consciousness develops that information itself was striving for higher dates of complexity. So information made little Adam. then molecules molecules are more complex, and then, cells and little organisms and finally, human beings and civilization, all more and more complex homes for information and now computer, you're coming, which will be even more complex than people. So information I'm just migrate from human kind. Justness into artificially elegance at which point the humans She's. Can just kind of fade away
So when I realized they ve created their equally mythological story for what's happened. With a beginning, a middle and an end which is just as our care just as arbitrary, any of the religious narratives out there and the iron for me, is that it's the most out brokenly godless of the scientists who almost tragically in the spell of this story structure the people, I'm asking to retire. This idea are scientists, evolutionary biologists that scene you need to start the universe. from zero in order for there are models to make sense. What if we don't have to make some
Hence, and our view of reality conform to the basic story, structure of beginning middle and and if there was they here before the big bang than the story. That science is trying to tell doesnt really work. I'm not saying that people can't be PS honestly, I have no idea what's going on here. I dont know if there's a guy or not. I dont know if meaning or not. But what I am saying is that eighty ism can't be a prerequisite for the scientific model, because, if You are forcing yourself to strip meaning reality in order to cope with it in order to explore it and observe it. then your time, your hands behind your back in your missing a huge potential portion of the picture,
Are we ve already heard five ideas that should maybe be sent to the trash been to the Ethiopian Pre requisite for scientists the value of mouse models for human medicine, which I admit stunned me, the idea that statistics are as powerful useful as we think the idea of the universe and the left brain rate, green construct coming up on economics, radio, some other ideas we might want to get rid of, including the idea that things neither true or false and died yeah that science can tell us everything. We need to know about how to be happy and the idea that markets are good, really
about, and the second idea that I think is ready for retirement is the idea that markets are bad. Thanks to Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch, ass, pennsylvanians or scratching their way to fund- and we new games every month, big top rises and said, enchants drawings excitements, always in order so Try, Pennsylvania, lottery, scratch offer your ticket to fund and get yours today, keep on scratching must be eighteen or older. Please play responsibly benefits older pennsylvanians every day, economics radios brought to you by square? If you run a business, you know how important it is to have a healthy cashflow. That's why Will you take payments with square either in person or online? You get your money fast Does it instantly vs, where card a free business, debit card or a transfer? It
to your bank account on. You reschedule see all the ways square. Can health at square dot com slash go slash freak though nonsense disappeared. I am guilty and Jacobs and I'm beyond reasonable. We ve got a new path cast called. If then, worry politically talk to scientists, engineers NASA folks, just and punch of really smart curious people about pool stuff Gillian. I think most people know you from your work on love and community and must be No you as forensic scientists, Casey Heinz on Anti. I ass though he were both actors for what most well don't know is that we're both really curious, in passionate about stem. If we have a more, diverse outlook in how we look at science and engineering and technology and map, then what This is possible, I get. giddy, when I get to speak to these people, get a chance tat back into my curiosity excitement. You know that I have
about all these topics so come on this journey with as we learn from some of the poorest smartest people in their fields. If, then, is out now just search, if slash than to find the show that, if slash then knows exit, listen in stature, apple, the serious ex em up or wherever you get your PA casts from W and Y see. This is for economics, radio. Here's your host Stephen Governor, they are out there bad ideas or, if not bad ideas, ideas that have at least outlived their usefulness and are now standing in the way. The clogging up our brains, academic departments are research, labs or popular culture, which is why edged dot org is published.
Called this idea must die. Then I'm not sure any ideas have to die. That's Ellen older women actor in a writer. You probably know alder from the EP tv series MASH or more recently from the West Wing or thirty rock. What you may not know is that all the also has a long held passion for sites like most kids. I was very interested in sight When I was six year old boy, I used to do what I thought were experiments trying to mix toothpaste and my mother space powder to see what would blow up so that that seems to be the basis of a lot of science actually starting with Alfred Nobel but Just never lost their curiosity in when I wrote for manage road of I don't know, I guess about twenty or twenty five episodes. Whenever there was a medical procedure
research is carefully as I could go to a medical librarian, get out the books and find out exactly how the operation was done. This particular mobile Army hospital were not concerned with the aldermen reconstruction of the patient. only care about getting a kick out of here alive and for someone else to put on the fine touches we work fast and when a dainty, because a lot of these kids stand two hours on the table. Just can't stand one second more Walter do Shell was medical adviser and he had the wonderful ability to not only to you what disease or operation might apply to the story, but he could help you figure out how the story would be if it by the various stages of that disease or the techniques in the operation. These days, Alan older is a visiting professor at the Alan all the centre for communicating science.
only Brook University on Long Island, I loved shyness. I love to read about science, and so I am very concerned about how sciences communicate hidden for the last twenty five years. I've. and a lot of my time trying to help scientists communicate about their work so that ordinary people like me, can understand it, and now, at the center for communicating science, Estonia Brook University, which scientists in kind of unusual ways, we train them to relate to their audience first of all by introducing them to improvisation exercises, and that is not to make them performers or make them comics or get them to invent things on their feet, which is what we usually think of the terms of improvising. It's to get them to relate which the improvising exercises all do they make you. They put you in a position where you
have to observe the other player. You have to read the other players face and tone of voice in a way you have to read the other person's mind and that I think the basis of good community. can you got to know what's going on in the mind of the person listening to you to know, if you're getting through to them or not all the wrote, an essay for this idea must die, but these little bit squeamish about the premise it's eye catching to say. This idea must die and I'm not sure that most of the particles in the edge catalog of things that need to be retired actually need to be retired or just a thought shall. Therefore I would say that asking for these ideas to be retired is really a way of saying, she's the received wisdom, do we need to re, examine it and I think that's a good approach to take.
The idea that I think maybe is due for rest, you notice, I said it needs to take residents hit needed to die- is the idea that things are either truer. Falls- and I know that's kind- of an impertinent thing to saying that sounds stupid. but what I mean by this is the: idea that something is it true or false for all time in all respects. I think about this, because when I was being taught to think in school I was told that the first rule of logic is that a thing cannot vote be I'll, be at the same time and in the same respect and at least part in the same region it really has a lot to do with it, because something is determined to be true through research, and then further research finds out that its only true unjust certain conditions or that there are other factors that are involved and is a very interesting example alike,
the people were interested. I know I was interested when I read that red wine was good for you and it's very Sweden might have even thought the more red wine, the better look at all that antioxidants, stuff going into it but it was terrible disappointment. Some time later, when some other scientists said you know the certain conditions, red wine could be not so good for you. again, there is anything that might be really great for mice and less good price, but what, elite disturbs me, used when the public decides that that means that science can't make up its mind where that scientists surges making things up. Some people actually do think that some people think the findings in science are hogwash, because if, one day they say one thing the next day they say another thing than it sounds like they just they're taking wild gases, it things when, in fact the progress of science is just that you go deeper and deeper,
open up one door and you find another hundred doors that have locks on them. You have to figure out combination Ford, and I personally find it exciting to see what we thought we understood to be contradicted, but I dont think the public has enough of a grasp of how science done how which, based on evidence when you say this is true in the mind of the person receiving that information they're going to accept it s true for all time, the role circumstances, unless you warned them that things? My change in the future Learn more about this. That shift in the frame of reference is something that ought to be allowed for it, I want to see science prosper and when the sea evidential thinking be the norm for the public as it is for scientists
my suggestion that we alter the way we talk about things being true or false. is really to help in the communication of science so that people dont get confused. My name is Alan Anderson. I must journalists and writer and the idea that I say- should be retired, is unknown we are all still stone age, thinkers that long period, we spend his hands together as perhaps two hundred thousand years before the appearance of agriculture that we're stuck still All those reflexes motivations, but so well a long time ago. The living in this modern world. You still well. You know what a push people ever had with Iraq or your told by an expert that the best way to look.
Your baby, is the same way that would have appealed to someone living in a cave gets that notion that a lot of the street strains of modern life have been caused by disconnect between biologically, and what culture has great forest and this doesn't really gel with what we know about just how flexible, The ball the human brain is and how it can be required to do quite wonderful things that didn't happen during the stone age and may have lost. Really good scientific evidence of how the brain. can be changed by culture and how that choice in the brain can then be passed on to later generations. So take reading as an example. Reading and writing emerged only five thousand years ago no doubt reading with its access to more information, the ability to share your thoughts with others with me save change and how the world works. If you
inside the brain of a person who can read and scandal. and so you see which, with light up when their reading, and when the talking you see The brain is being massively remodelled all kinds of new pathways of formed which link areas to do with visual perception. Do hearing you see it's profoundly different from the person you can't read. So a person who can read has got a kind of a new brain, but it's not in any way inherited. What is In its in each generation we ve got really good teaching children. To make this change for themselves that they become a different kind of person. So a change in the brain changes, the person changes, the cultural process, changes more people and that's how culture shapes brain
cultural evolution in the force of cultural change is greatly underestimated. When people talk about the stone age, mentality and just go through life king that we're trapped by what we already holds us back from embracing what we might become in the future. daddy, I believe, is ready for retirement science can tell us everything. We need to know what had to be happy, my name is Paul bloom. I must psychology. Professor, at Yale University I wouldn't deny for a second assize- could tell us a lot about happiness, could tell us how to cure depression, some surprising things about what aspects our everyday life, makes us happy and what don't? But I think that
David science can give us complete theory have had a live, a happy life is mistake. mistaken an important ways so there two main limitations of science in the domain of happiness- one is, notion of what it is to be heavy, which of all things that go on in the brain should count is happiness. Nobody knows and it's not the sort of answer that you're gonna find out by studying in the lab if you tell me happiness, is a lot of pleasure. You know it's bullshit. terrific meal and then some wonderful sex, and then you read it while the eldest terrific time compare that to a really difficult Will you help a lot of people and you feel a satisfaction both of these events correspond to activity in the brain, which one is happiness, which once you re trying to maximize but us,
I can independent problem suppose we decide what it is a happy day We agree on it. There's no argument. We ve settle that still. How do you decide how to sum up days to make a happy life. Is it better to live now? so so years or thirty, really happy years. Even though some of them other days, maybe miserable. You can know everything in the world about the brain and Won't tell you the answer and in fact was interesting as these problem are very similar to problems like how do you maximize happiness and society is the best society, one that a lotta happy people in total of happiness is very high, even though some people might be measurable, living horrible lives, there's a better society, one where the average happiness is
very high, even though it may be not as much of a total happiness is the first to say those are hard questions and they aren't scientific once, but I think some scholars tend to be over enthusiastic as what science could tell. You and there's a huge literature of people who will directly argue that the key to figure out how to the good life and with a happy life is revealed laboratory studies and science say he's a who cares? Who cares if many scientists and many psychologist believe that their research hotels, everything we need to know about having us, why does it matter? Why does it cause any problems? One s when, when scientist overreach and people see them over reaching. It causes lack of trust in science, the second pillar, This is a missed opportunity. I think that the study of how to live a good life is wanted. Questions and is the sort of thing that would benefit from crime.
Disciplinary work, including fullest, first and theologians and artists and arrange You have scholars, but not just scientists. I'm sorry, this man, I am a complexity just and writer, and the scientific idea that I think is ready for retirement. Is the aid here that all of science needs to be big science by big science. I mean the money and the effort that we pour into it as well as the scale of the technology we use as well, the scale of the organisations in the teams, so we ve gone from this age when you could be a hobby. there used to be of the gentlemen scientist, I was very common several hundred years ago, individuals who, independently wealthy tinkering in their country estate, wherever
and they were able to make a lot of discoveries, as science has changed over time. Gone from this age, when you could be just an individual making discoveries to this here that you now need lots of money, lots of effort, lots of people in order to make discoveries and a lot of people now feel that that's all there is that science has gotten bigger and we have to constantly move this way towards big signs. I think, even though there are many big and major discoveries that are done through big science. There still is a place for little science so because scientists now choose to publish the research in the raw data for the research online. We now have huge amounts. The data available in a way that was not available before there now available to everyone, and that coupled This massive availability of tools to help analyze these things
makes it no longer the province of the specialist with a vast amount of money. You can now go on Ebay and by lab apparatus. And set up your own biotech allowed in your basement. You can buy these things on the cheap and do research to yourself and you want to make cutting edge results. time, but you can still do things and see how it works So there is this, democratization of the means are actually making discoveries, and I think one of the great things about that is it no one? make science seem so abstract or different from whatever he's doing simply just a rigorous way of asking questions inquiring world, and so, even though we think that things that can be- for us that might be hundreds of years, old or even older have been clearly picture we're in there's no new areas. to work on or no new potential for discovery
There is still a lot of available and I think if we recognise that anyone can play with these things and they would still might fail, but still, the potential for doing this kind of little science will help filling a lot of these holes, but the frontier has passed by, which is really really exciting. The idea that I think is ready for retirement is the idea that markets are good and the idea that more It's our bad, Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard Business and I think different people have different views of how markets work some people think Mark. You're amazing and they solve all our problems. Other people think markets are terrible. are a source of misery for humans. So the idea that it's our good. Is this sense that in the aggregate and across all individuals and across all decisions that things are optimal and assent,
when everyone is trying to buy the things they want and everyone's making things for people to buy that those markets become efficient. For example, the stock markets can become efficient because people eventually evaluate things correctly in everything works, Billy smoothly the other view of markets that their terrible is that It doesn't make any sense that markets would be good, because markets are made up of individuals, and we know that individuals are extremely biased, including me, where we make all sorts of mistakes, so the aid that aggregating up mistakes would somehow solve the mistakes too. Many people rings as completely wrong I think people looking at mark this black and white way means that there is very little dialogue between people who hold these different views, because it's almost The other side is just so blind to understanding how markets really work. If you will even market efficiency when anyone
the other side says I dont believe markets are efficient. Maybe we need to do some tweaks to make the market efficient. You think they early really don't understand how markets work Hence this underlies nearly every political and public, see decision where our about and making today, if you think about health care in the housing market and income inequality. All of these current debates, basically have at least part of their core. This idea that markets work just fine, don't need government, verses markets, dont work, just fine and really need government. So this lack of conversation across these two diametrically opposed views partly drives misunderstanding around these public policy debates, and so the idea is to think about how markets work, what they are as an aggregation of individuals or zone, as we call them groups, groups of people
together to cure diseases to save the world, amazing things, groups of people come together and cause religious conflict and cause horrible things too. So we don't necessarily think that groups are either good or groups are bad. We think, in fact, that they can be good and they can be that the market, in a sense, is just the biggest group and it seems likely that, if groups that we know that our little that smaller than the market can be good or bad, probably the market itself be good or bad as well, and that view markets might help us understand again, not that there are good or bad, but really deeply under and when they do well and when they do poorly?
So how do you feel generally that people especially kind of academic elite people put too much emphasis on looking for new ideas, rather than perhaps he now killing off old ones, rhetoric. I never thought of that. My entire life will have other people do too much of that at Steve Levitt, my for economics friend and co author. He is an economist at the universe in Chicago I love the idea of killing off bad ideas, because if there's one thing that I know in my own life. It's that idea that I've been. A long time ago, stick with me- and you often for whether they have good sources, whether real or you just these live by them. They just they make sense, especially the worst kind of old ideas are the ones that are intuitive the once it fit
if your worldview, and so, unless you have something really strong to challenge them, you hang onto them forever. Secondly, for instance, when I think about ideas that are good in the way of progress. I have a strange one: its people one of the most important ideas, but you and I have ever talked about. I good idea. That is really bad. That's detrimental society is the idea that life is sacred. I cannot tell you a few in ratifying a lot wrong in this guy. Given hear me out for one thing- Lee. My own life to me is, has almost infinite value. We know people fight, like. Crazy and do anything to to stay alive, but the problem is that as a society, we really have
taking that to heart, and so anything we do like trying to limit health care or access at the end of life to various kinds of medical staff feels awful to us. Ok and even other things that maybe we will do voluntarily like selling them organs which might induce some greater likelihood of death at some point, but in return for financial gain, Conway people hate ideas like that and its true in the? U S in Europe without a doubt that there's his view that life is an entitlement and the protection of life is an intelligent and here's. Why? I think that such a bad idea when you look at the progress that we ve made into daddy. So much of the progress of the last hundred years has been in keeping people alive. M is an incredible. What well, through medicine,
antibiotics and other think we ve managed to increase life expectancy. So it's an area, its dimension, in which we have a lot of power. We were good at it, but the problem with this, idea that every life is valuable and every life should be saved essential at any cost. Is that the kind of issue nations that we end up, making an expense, which is the exact in terms of GDP and of being here to the problem is that right now and healthcare costs are spiralling out of control to almost twenty percent of GDP. Is its ban on healthcare, but much of it is not effective. Gain is not effective because we hold dear, that everyone needs to be kept alive, Qana, no matter what, and so we do incredibly expensive things and we encourage innovation by pharmaceutical companies and by medical device makers which fine solutions at any cost, even though, in the end, if you think about health justice being like,
the other good or living there being any other good. The kind of violence but it has a price in and if you don't have any money, you just can't stay alive forever. You the organised the market in a very different way, and people make different choices and the kind of innovation that we do would be presumably much more effective and efficient innovation, because people would have to develop the kind of solutions that you and I would pay for our own pocket. Posted solutions. Where would you say well the government's gonna pay for it anyway, so it doesn't matter if a chemotherapy, only extends life by three weeks and it cost four hundred thousand dollars. Look we're gonna give to people anyway that encourages all the wrong kind of invasion, Look, I love my own life, a lot more, anything and as many resources as I have. If I'm facing death, I'm probably willing to spend that money to try to keep. But, but I was
W w. I don't like your life infinitely right. I wouldn't probably drain every penny of my savings, to prolong your life by six month. For six months, a year. Let's say I'm dying, today. I know that I'm gonna die one year from now, but I can get two years with the right interventions that will be very costly. How much of your network would you spend are you going to spend a year? Writing a great book when me or what you gonna do just in your life. Click on settings himself interests to get a grip aside for self interest. Purely out of my deep love for you I might spend, I might spend Five or ten percent of my well? That's not very much very much at all, but a lottery Oh, my god, that's like no less than a sales tax for how about a pure state your what would share of your wealth if some
said you're, the only person you can save is this other person. What share of your work? Would you give to give a total complain? Total stranger, an extra year life like next to nothing rain? I'd have to say next nothing you yeah Khazars too many other total stranger than and the problem is that the way we organise societies that none of us Really care very much about anyone else, but against the idea that of if we don't anyone else than we know. No one cares about us either, so we have to pass laws it, tasted the government, society, healthcare. We have to be taken here. We have to be six, but I think it's actually the wrong way to think about the problem from an economic perspective Look, I'm not saying the markets, the only thing that works for the greatest thing it, but it is, we ve accepted the way that we live our lives, and I believe that market should also probably- or Well, maybe should is wrong. Word will eventually have to function more, as healthcare gets to be increasingly expensive and end. The approach we ve taken now becomes less and less feasible and
for an organization of of healthcare delivery and of of decision making about life. To me, he's he's really central to making progress. I hear you I'm still a little hung up on the fact that you're only gonna spend five percent your net worth on six hundred and ten, if, on the other hand, it's only a year, where will you go do for me if I'm going well what? what's same same question one year and when I saw her year. Look it's free for me to say so I'll say. Ninety percent would actually do their job. But here is a thing about your years ago about your five percent offers. If you lost five percent a year network overnight, which is possible, you could they could be a bed in the stock market and in the horse track includes five singing network. You had barely notice, it would not affect your daily life at all. I would argue: If you ask me overnight, at least you would I like to think
You would at least know that something happened. So antibiotic everytime. I would have it out constantly realize your guy, I thought so. Maybe action Maybe we have the arrow going in the wrong direction. Maybe maybe you're willing to pay for me to get off thanks to John Brockman, edged outward and all our guest. Today, Steve Levitt, Michael Norton, SAM Servicemen, Paul Bloom, Alan Listen, I'm an older Douglas rushed Cough Azra Raza, an annual german Seth, Lloyd, lorry Santos and surging Blake, more thanks to Christopher Worth for his excellent protection work on this episode. Most of all, thanks to you for listening, I'm guessing
you may have something to say about all the ideas sentenced to death here today. So tell us what you think you can find this on Twitter, Facebook and Economics outcome and here's an idea that isn't worth killing off subscribe to forget I'm ready to good itunes? Wherever else you get your podcast find that subscribed button, and we will sneak into your pockets listening device every Wednesday at midnight eastern time and deliver fresh episode for free, look, If I guess listeners on the next for economics, radio, you will hear from Katy Milkman a man. A system professor at the Wharton School, where I study behavioral economics and how people make choices, and we talk about something she calls temptation, bundling When I talk about temptation, bundling I mean combining a temptation. Something like a tv show a guilty pleasure, something that will
oh you into engaging in a behavior, was something you know you should do, but might struggle to do Ye D, for instance, my temptation All is to listen to for economics podcast, while running doing right. Now, when I like to do is keep an afternoon of work and go to the movies. After my annual path smear I really wish, temptation bundle was acceptable. But it would be drinking at work self help with a cognitive clock twist, that's next time on for economic reasons, Reaganomics radio was produced by W and Y see and debonair productions. Our staff includes Gregg Results, be Caroline Angle, Susie Lichtenberg increased banning withheld from Christopher Worth Anna higher risk, Kwan David Herman and Merit Jacob. If you want more frequent comics radio, you can subscribe to our podcast on Itunes,
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-11.