« Freakonomics Radio

329. The Invisible Paw (Rebroadcast)

2019-04-25 | 🔗

Humans, it has long been thought, are the only animal to engage in economic activity. But what if we've had it exactly backward?

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Here's a question. What is the one thing that sets humans apart from all other animals? I believe it is our curiosity and specifically the curious, the of the? Why and how that is the essence of our humanity. Separates us from all other species on this planet. Its build diamond he's, president of the steady institute that stands for search for extra terrestrial intel. other animal species may exhibit the curiosity of the. What, as in what was that noise What do I see or smell? Is it a threat or is it a meal? We all know that curiosity may kill the cat, but our curiosity, to understand the how and why drives whence to learn to explore to discover and invent all of which can could be to our success as a species, perhaps sometimes You were fought well, I think
That distinguishes he was my animals. Most obviously is language, and that is Anthony APP Yahoo teaches philosophy at and why you languages, makes possible the accumulation of cut sure it makes possible the very complex forms of social collaboration that human beings do which no other organism does with such flexing Letty and it's why we're just now, like any other animal on the planet. What does Appian think that other animals dogs, maybe would say if they could there's, a famous remark, evidenced eyes the effective. If lands speak. We wouldn't understand them and I am not entirely sure what he said he I mean, I think the main difference. A dog speech would make two dogs are, they could talk to each other and then they could collaborate in ways that they count now they could save I'll meet you in five minutes at the sheep pen and stuff like that,
and then they could accumulate knowledge and share it through the generations and acquire more complicated doggie packages of ideas. So make a huge difference and we'd have to be met, more careful in our relations with hugs leanings, kitchen and then the behavioral economist and professor at the business school it usually so Keith. If I were to ask you as an economist, what's the one thing that makes humans human, what would you say. Oh, my gosh, I mean, as an economist I would say you know: cooperative trade like the ability to form complex social structures that allow the emergence of things like in cooperation and effective aid economies. That Strikes me, as is by far one of our most interesting kind of differences from animals, so I
can see why you'd say that I mean I think of one of the most famous quotes in economic history. Adam Smith, who once wrote, nobody ever saw a dog make affair and deliberate exchange of one behind with another dog. Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another. This is mine that yours, I am willing to give this for that, but you you alpha mean you're, the economist that I know of at least whose actually done experiments with animals caput monkeys, particularly in Cameroon, monkeys. That seems to show that Smith was to a large degree. I'm enough. I should call him wrong, but Doesn't it seem like it was kind of wrong here I mean so Smith was definitely wrong. Look it made me. Maybe we could defend Psmith and say He really meant just dogs, specifically,
he's chins answer about what makes us human isn't all that surprising. Indeed, we sometimes call ourselves homo economic us because of our ability. To trade, to create markets, to respond rationally to supply and demand. But what, if we have that whole idea kind of backward, You are you shouldn't, leave out the homo part and going ok today. Economics, radio monkey business fish tales and, if homo is not the only economic is what does make Us us there's really change in question and a little I liked and to give an answer, I'm afraid it's took seem that requires such requires. A lot of thought. We always thought. This answers to thought for questions on the show that that's terrific, I'm happy
from stature and done their productions. This is Greek anomalous, radio, the path cast it explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your home Stephen Governor. though, you see allay economist Keith Chen did his monkey research back when he was a graduate school Harvard and then, while teaching at Yale yeah. That's absolutely right. We should say the monkeys. It you ve done work with computer an tamarind their way down the the tree from us in terms of intelligence. Yes, well you so so I should be little careful rates, observe parameter. Colleges will tell you that what we know about monkey intelligences very multifaceted, but the monkeys. I work their so called new world monkeys, meaning there found in kind of north and South America there are more distantly related from us, then the whole group of of what we call old.
monkeys, monkeys that are found in Africa and Asia and in general there less intelligent than old world monkeys. I love that you I love that you don't want to insult their intelligence at summits. Uk Agnes settled it might take it personally. Radio and the court of auditors smart enough to take it personally, if you call them damn here exactly exactly the first monkey experiments, Chen work done with the primary goal. Just Mark Hauser explored the ideas of reciprocity, and altruism. The researchers would put to tamarinds in separate cages where they could see each other. We said Situations where you know one tamarind could pull a lever and it would drop like a marshmallow into your world like monkey aid, pulls the lever in a drops just emotional under your world, and then the quest his later hour, you nice to this monkey niceness was measured by weather.
Who can be would reciprocate by pulling its lever to give monkey a marshmallow? Often they did about forty percent of the time this compared to just seven percent of the time for a monkey who hadn't given his partner a marshmallow, take away for tamarinds was this. You do something nice for me I'll do something nice for you. You do nothing for me. I'll pass situation to his monkey, pulls the lover it drops of marshmallow into your world and a marshmallow into his world. So it like he's being nice to you, but only as a kind of a by product of doing himself, this kind of favor and what happens when Monkey be seizes marshmallow as a mere byproduct of monkey. A self interest in this case monkey be reciprocates only three percent of the time, even less then, if Monkey A hadn't given him a marshmallow at all like a true
the surest verses than accidental authorised monkeys. If Martin, I too could- and did that surprise you that distinction. Oh my gosh yeah, absolutely this distinction was surprising because it looks an awful lot like what humans do, while making economic decisions. So I do, Experiments on politicians on sea owes on car salesman and he'll school teacher. In school, kids, that's John list from the University of Chicago he's, one of the foremost practitioners of economic experiments on men's, and where I start is. I say what are the fundamental building blocks from economics that we can test to see if these people conform to economic theories and the thing that you'd point to is the law of demand. It says
I'll buy less. If I face higher prices, it almost seems absurdly obvious. So when I do experiments that, in a widow increase price. What happens in the markets nearly every time politicians c o schoolteacher? They will always, conform to that particular law, three four five year olds conform to that law, and would you say. This may be the one law in economics. It is actually a law. I guess what I really want to know is: is it the truest law of economics laws? Exactly, I thought, said, the truest law of economics laws would be the love demand now. Would it surprise you if animals, if not human animals responded to that law. Less consistently then when animals? I guess that would surprise you re cause they're not is as brilliant as us here. I think that if you
talk about rationality in reasoning being important in satisfying this particular law. Then would say in so much as those are important? We should find more violations of that law. Then what we find amongst human such correct, in other words, those not very million new world monkeys that Keith Chin was working with you to assume they would not respond to the law of demand like we do, between one to find out for sure. First, he would have to teach a bunch of compulsion monkeys to use money. you know that took a long time as money he used metal washers the kind you get at a hardware store so some monkeys never get it. Some monkeys, I mean gave up after about half a year of trying to teach them to a kind of Patiently pick up a wash her, and then you know handed to an experimenter who would then traded for food.
Standard to be younger monkeys? That would what would kind of like never get the task, but no monkey, sit up immediately was it was very kind of artificial to them. This physical trade, but once someone he's did learn how to use money and bide different food and make choices. Basically, you are able to produce what we would recognise as economic research. Yes, absolutely so once they understood the concept of money once they started to use it kind of fluently. Oliver. it felt like a lot of other components of echo. make activity suddenly became unlocks, like they suddenly you seem very natural at responding to price changes ride so yesterday, apple slices only cost a coin today there on sale in one claim will buy me to apple slices. They immediately got that and respond in ways that you know that look incredibly export economically rational. Yes, so what you just described, Besides, I guess you'd call it a price shock rate. Would you say that the cap
monkeys responded,
Transcript generated on 2021-01-19.