« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#119 — Hidden Motives

2018-03-12 | 🔗

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Robin Hanson about our hidden motives in everyday life. They discuss selfishness, hypocrisy, norms and meta-norms, cheating, deception, self-deception, education, the evolutionary logic of conversation, social status, signaling and counter-signaling, common knowledge, AI, and many other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Three eighteen eighteen today I am presenting the audio from the event I did in Denver with Robin Hanson Robin Professor of Economics at George Mason University and has the author with Kevin Simler of a very interesting book, the elephant in the brain, hidden motives in everyday life, I get more of his bile from the stage but I really enjoyed this conversation with Robin we spoke about, All the related issues here of selfishness and hypocrisy and norms and norm violations, cheating, Section self deception: the evolutionary logic of conversation, social state, signalling encounter signalling common knowledge of many interesting topics. Here
I enjoyed the event. Unfortunately, audio is a little wonky. We are completely at the most of whatever recording we get from these values and There are few moments. Were things cut out? It's a little. Echo. We suffer bad ones, listen annual acclimate to it, but it was conversation. And so now I bring you Robin Hansen, ladies and gentlemen, please Welcome SAM Harris. Well, thank you all for coming out, and really it's amazing to see you all or see
I'm gonna jump right into this. We have a very interesting conversation ahead of us because I have I guess He is a professor of Economics and George Mason University, he's also research associate with the future of Humanity Institute which you might know, focuses on existential risk and other big topics of ethical importance. Here's a page in social science from Caltech a masters in physics and the philosophy of science, nine years of research with Lockheed and NASA studying the artificial intelligence and also Bazin statistics. and he's recognised for his contributions in economics and especially in prediction markets, but he is he's, made contributions and many other fields, and he has fascinating book which unfortunately, is not for sale here today, but you should all by this book because it was really
amazingly accessible, and he just touches so many interesting topics because the elephant in the brain hidden motives in everyday life. Please welcome. Robin Hansen, so, you're here reputation for being interest. I procedure. So I want to do this. There are many things we can talk about, and, as you know, by one want to focus Your book and I want to move in a kind of a linear ways, yearbook, because your book is just so rich I don't think we will do the book justice, but we will try the book. is really a kind of a sustained and meditation on selfishness and hypocrisy. We have these. ideas about why we do things
and then we have all the evidence accruing for the real reasons why we do these things and the mismatch theirs is rather heroin to consider in your book- is just an unvarnished look at that to where I don't want to tour through this, but perhaps before we get to some of these specific topics. How do you view the project of your boy? What what we up to and writer. I should say to you: you have a co author on the book. Kevin Similar was not here tonight, but were you doing right in this work? This is What I wish I would have known when I started my social science career many years ago. I started out in physics and then, when it If you do science and those areas, I noticed the people will be easier for innovation, and then I see you fires. Are there were even bigger owners as possible I move there and then I was puzzled to find that people were not very interested in innovations, prepared, worries and
I also finding other puzzles social science ways in which our usual theories don't make sense of what's going on and my book our book is, Attempts to explain a lot of the major puzzles in social science. the lack of interest in innovation and one of the conclusions, is that were just doing policy wrong policy? Now but first you have to get. The message was I entered, two levels of others how you, as a person, might think about these things, but is the level personal hypocrisy and then the mismatch between what your motive actually are and what you may think they are and then there's this the fact that institutions have this kind of structure or this. This blindness, where the institutions think they're about then, and there they seem not to be upon analysis, institutional, medicine or or unit a city or or so what's that basic problem, why is there this does mismatch between what we think? doing and what we are actually doing.
Have you read psychology books familiar with the idea that people are not always honest about what they're doing why and my friend that phrase kind of boarding by now? Of course, we all know that, but it so far people haven't taken that incite our major social institutions and that's what we think new and original about our. But we say that not only are not always honest about whether you like to totally offer with your spouse or whether you enjoy play cleaning up after your kids You are also not honest yourself about why school. Why do you go to the doktor lighting vote and why you do art, These are deviation between what we think we're doing. Others, in fact, Many eighty or social institutions- and they therefore knows
make us reconsider the basics of what these institutions and therefore, why we support them when we subsidize them how structures of everything right, so. Unlike many conversations I have. Here I have a look nouns that I just that are a kind of a low ladder through which we can. We can walk. Let's start with norms and You commented norms over what is a norm and why, Why do we have them and what? What does it mean to to protect them or were to fail to protect them? So animals like chimpanzees and most other social animals, they have a complicated social world and they pay attention to each other and their reward. Others for helping them and punish others, so they have many more behaviors by humans. We have the sense that we have a war when you're supposed to do we're not supposed to do, and if somebody I'll see ready norm its rules there's just to do something about it, there's posts.
Tell the people programme in order to try to find a way to make you stop ready norms, and so here, Puppies norm about what we're supposed to do, we're not supposed to do any many of these norms are quite common around the world supposed to help each other we're supposed to not brag, not violence, which, by each other decisions together expenses and we're not even have a sovereign coalition that people were alike as the other. These interests, common human norms and many of these norms were expressed in terms, Jonas Salk rolling, we're not supposed to Haiti on purpose, It's ok to accidentally purpose, and so are. We are because our ancestors have these- they were so important. Social one was their. Meanwhile, we develop these big brain. We have mainly for social reasons, developments, big brains to deal with our social world and we have the biggest brains, also our social or less than the most complex,
our norms rubbing artemus world, and so we have part of our brain. That's all the time. Thinking about what we're doing fine! You explain why were following months, we're That's gonna sends the conscious part of your mind, you are the conscious started. You might want necessarily the one in charge of the society Instead of being president key you're, the prosecutor. You don't know what you're supposed to make up a good excuse constantly looking eagerly and ask yourself what would be a good explanation for this thing, I'm doing good. So much doing, but you don't know what you're doing you don't realize that you know enough this is a very robust but not really celebrated neurological finding and this becomes
Horribly elaborated people have was called split, brain procedure where, as I as a rest, for grandma, seizures you you can cut the corpus colossal much connects them the two hemispheres, the brain and that prevents the seizure activity from. moving from one have asserted the other and what people I have found going back now. Many decades is that the left most people, the left, linguistically agile hemisphere, confabulate reasons. Or doing things when those reasons are brought out in an experimental paradigm. Those reasons just manifestly, not so you can present, they write him are the brain with demand like you, get up and and walked toward the door and then you can ask the linguistically competent, left hemisphere why're you walking toward the door and it worked. fabulous a reason, I want to get a coke was as a result from a classic experiment. I think he's out your book, these expiring
we're done by by Roger Sparrin and Michael Design again neurons ideal and the left hemisphere just continually completes the picture. Linguists quickly without any apparent awareness that those clay, are out of register that based on nothing. You just tell me that this is what the word confabulate means adjusted to just make up. This is reason out of whole cloth, and it seems that though most of us have not had our brain split. We have an ability to give a post talk rationalization for why we did things, which is certainly an experimental paradigm, can shown to really have no relationship to the proximate cause of our actions and, embarrassing caught on video. So we're living with this fact. That we are our own press secretary, giving the Minimum the most benign by often them, just as the most grandiose
apparently noble rationale for what we're doing what we're doing and yet evolution and other modes of logic suggested. That isn't the reason for why we do much about well, since you are in the habit of just making excuses. That means you could be wrong a lot but doesn't mean you are wrong. The lot, maybe you are mostly right, even though it would be wrong if you did not so we I have to go further than just a possibility to decide. You're wrong So we have to wonder well how shocking be about most of your activity, whether it see real reason. You have One thing is clear: about is on any way of life like going to school avoided, the doktor is sticking to complicated the world's complicated, so great many motives relevant. and if the average over people's really thousands of different motives irrelevant for almost everything went away, and What we have to be asked in here is what is the main? What's the most dominant motive? Not what's the only model, so let me just to be
as an example. If you say the dogging my homework as an excuse, not only works because sometimes thought he'd homework, if didn't exist. It would make more sense dragon My homework doesn't work so these things that we come up with as it uses for behaviour. They only works excuses because sometimes their true, they have an element. we're not going to say that your usual modem isn't that all applicable, the claim is just it's, not as tourism, and you're not saying that no one has noble motive exactly so that there are other. There is real, altruism this real nobility. All of these things is something People get up to get a cook? Yes, but in addition, There are evolutionary reasons why we would be self deceived about it we are actually in space, often on the work of Robert Travers, who has done a lot of work on self and the evolutionary logic there. We want are better at deceiving. Others were better.
getting away with norm violations. If we in fact are not aware that our press secretaries not telling the truth, which is that, if we in fact self to see, we are better. deceivers. So if we want to lie it's better, not to know we're like because that seem sincere right what we can be centre right, the easy way to six years to be sincere, even if you're wrong. famous Seinfeld episode. I believe you're not lying if you believe it, I should say that basically, this is something should I talk about, but. juries out as to whether not knowing any of what we're about to talk about is good for you. So this is the psychological experiment being performed on you and you have not consented. memory white tells will be available after the says so
how do you think about, cheating Adam cheating, is a classic norm violation. There is reason to think that are- rains have evolved in large measure to both to cheat and to detect cheating and others. How do you think about cheating in your line of work? Well, I cheating is again violating arms, and so we want Live in a community with an arms are in force, and we also want ourselves to be exceptions. The rules sought, for example, most criminals. Actually, crime is a bad thing They just think that their particular acts, don't quite counters price, South what we are basically with light to make exceptions for ourselves. So the question is how one of the ways we can do is to not be very honest about what we're doing our son. This may not be relevant, but I just put me in the mind of a never. Stood. Why no one marks on the fact that when we think of it like just reducing tariffs,
limit laws what that would do in terms of saving lives, and we could. We could save tens of thousands of lives a year, but if we, if we made cars that could not exceed the speed limit That would guarantee that no one would exceed the speed limit will have, but no one would want that. No, no one, no one who thinks that we should have speed limits, wouldn't want to car that would slavishly follow the speed limit. How? What had he made that we all want. Is that just synonymous with wanting the right to cheat on the speed limit I know we all imagining some emergency where you have to be best speed, so whole being here is that in your head, you think you one things so in your You think you want to enforce speed limits. where's your actual actions, you don't you want to see, there is a contradiction and you dont want to listen that contradiction. So you look away and that's the you're right, as you know, the
entered the room was the thing we all know. Is there that you don't want to look at the elephant in your brain? Is this contradiction between what you say you want and what you actually do this at all, Was actually this issue now, whether this is this line of thinking, this analysis has a downside to if, in fact is true that we are better fit to our social environment, with a certain amount of ignorance with respect our own motives that we, that is optimal. Does it s about there's like a tractor of optimal fitness which which entails some measure of self deception and we are in As the EU in the process of writing this book, all of us in the process of talking about it, to some degree undeceive in ourselves about these things. Why isn't that bad for us, and this is that, is it worth worrying, whether it's it's bad for us. So
apparently evolution constructed you to be ignorant about. Why you do things it thought. Yes, it might be useful to know why you do things, but that's to be traded off against. All these other benefits is not knowing why you do think so. You are concerned. it is not enough. If we situation here in the modern world is much like a situation, evolution anticipated for you, that's probably better in your personal interests, not knowing. You'Re- probably better off going on with the usual sort of ignorance- that the rest of us have an active why, because you'll get along that way and that's what evolution been for now abolishes but think of everything so you could be in an environment today, which is not something I wish I'd have participated. You might be. An unusual situation for example, you might be as they all person Romana. Jordan asked the sort of person for whom it is very important to understand people's modems than to be able to read them understand. What's going on, you also might be a nerd,
like myself, that is, most people, can just intuitively Ripley Social all around them and do the right thing. Some of US can- and some of us need more conscious analysis in the world. We figure out. What's going on inside me appreciate this more cynical, conscious analysis, even if it has a disadvantage. But, most importantly, as a self help seminar, I think, there's another fellow ticket, not that you'd be heard anything that some of us are, but I also just think if you're going to be a specialist in policy analysis, if you're going to stand up and say I have studied education or medicine, and I have thought about what changes would be It's for your own responsibility that no it's actually going on. In those words, even if it costs you some degree of social awkwardness to know that I think at least social analyse and policy analysed, should understand these things. So let's take me in institutional ones, boy take education. What is it that were deceived about with respect education? Again,
to be clear? Just because you might be deceived about many things doesn't mean you are slightly walking through arguments to convince you that, in fact, Bulgaria. Your modem is. Why do you think it is now my colleague lava colleague right up when I spoke to stamp out the case against education, and he goes wrong like treatment of this. Our chapters. Just summary But a summary summary is, when you ask people. Why do you go to school if they are answering in front of a public speech or in a letter of applications they they will tell the usual stories toward the material so that you could become a more useful person later. That's our standard story about school. As a number of puzzles and education, but just don't make sense of that fury and offer another theory that makes more sense, some of these problems are You, don't actually learn very much at all. Also the stuff we learn, isn't very useful. Yes, people who.
Don't worry, useful things. A morsel our tenders go to college, make more than bartenders go to high school. You do make more for more useful in terms of your wages. but the last year by storm lasted. Your college is worth as much as the other three years bite but you don't learn more in the last year of high school mythology. Sandford for awhile for free without registering Alpine simply by walking in insisting on classes One of the professors gave me a lot of recommendation based on my performance. Nobody tries doing that. Why you yet the very best education for free. If you dont want to prudential that call, and the question of the idea that you therefore the learning as opposed to something else, so? The alternative theory is that were there to show off again all this shows that you are worthy of showing off at issue. Are smart, conscientious, foremast you're willing to do the sorts of things that you they asked? Do you take ambiguous?
with long deadlines and consistently over several decades over several years, mildly, boring assignments, great preparation for future workplace. By the time you have shown that about something employers values the standard plausible explanation for education. you will find that a plausible unless you are an education policy experts which she'll, be offended. Search for another explanation in most of these areas, most of you will not have any other accents unless this is your precious area for all. well, there's something precious than our something sacred and for that will be more reluctant to accept one of these more cynical explanations and what's going on there But as long as education is a sacred for you, you'll probably not say yeah, you dont want much. so now what is signal in what is noise, thereby, where are the employers wrong devalue? Those things should visual? Should people won't work? people do differently as result of understanding this about
you shouldn't do different if individual, if you wanna, come in as an employer and our world that you have put it takes, you do need to go to school jump through the hoofs and perform well and in fact might do that better. If you aren't where there are just two and arbitrary things to software employer that maybe demotivating for you, You might be better off pretending yourself and believing that learning useful but the point is you are showing that you have a characteristic not creating characteristic. The school is changing you, it's distinguishing you it's like certified as different What's the role of common knowledge in some of these situations should be defined. What common knowledge is right? It's not knowledge what commonality so think about you. He asked touchy and think of the rule that you're not supposed to drink alcohol public. This is a rule and other people exposed to enforce this rule the police- and you might think this of course, is relatively easy to enforce.
but think of the example of people putting an alcoholic beverage inside a paper bag and drinking it outside this happens now ask yourself how hard it could it be for the police to know that you're drinking alcohol, if you drinking and some bottle of a paper bag outsource of course say no but you're giving them an extra to look the other way, that is its not common knowledge. You. We don't know that. We all know that we all know that its alcohol, Somebody could be fooled. That's enough to pretend that you don't know this is why a actually much easier to in many ways than you might have thought. We have all these rules and we're supposed to enforce the, but we're not very easy to enforce them we'd rather go about their business and ignore the languages and self rule violation needs to be kind of blatant. other people need to see us either brutal violations of every kind of feel forced to do something about it. But if lot blatant. That's not!
I think we all can see. You know that we now, then you might prefer to pretend you didn't see. And many of you probably have seen things that are not supposed to happen as you walked by the street and you just keep walking hoping that nobody saw you sod, because, then you can pretend you didn't go about your business, because it would be a pain and probably to stop and try to enforce the rule near all sellers. So much about our social lives where. we know, there's a sub text to what's going on, but if that subtext ever became explicit, it would destroy the basis of trust or good feeling or like it. If you said to someone I'm only inviting you over to dinner tonight because you invited me last time and I needed to reciprocate, second, that that's. Why we're having this dinner? that. At some level that we all know that's going on, but to make it explicit is sort of that the too to be friends with people.
there? There is often many levels of what's going on and in fact we expect to see that in movies and stories. So if some as an actor was given a threat and the Serbs you ready romantic dinner with somebody else, and the two of you are there talking to each other What you're saying you each other's! I love you. I love you too. We have with the spread of AIDS, we having one of relationships. Wonderful, restaurant! Isn't this a great night? The actual tell you I can't access Because there's just one level there and that doesn't seem, possible while we accept and they seem like that to be multiple levels. That is there the surface level. I love you, isn't this great and something else months be going on. The actual, actually look, for another level, so they can act to see regional leaving me. So I try to make sure you got right thinking of leaving you it's. Why try to let you off nice, something to me maybe two levels of motives, because that's what we expect to see out of actors, and so we are really
some level we kind of low the people and quite often pretending one motive and really active another. There's one thing happening: erbakan conversation which I found fascinating because Innovation is fairly mysterious in terms of the mismanagement. What we think what was going on, what is actually going on and why he would be valid you'd and, in evolutionary says a lot of talk about what what what most we'll think is going under a conversation. What right aims to actually be going so we're going, but because of course, this conversation and we will try to pretend that this is about our conversation, piece of the jigsaw so. The usual story to grasp. Why are you talking to your friend? Why did you spent an hour talking? Why didn't you do the dishes to something useful? you might say well were exchanging information. We Each have information, the other person's doesn't and by talking in exchanging information, we can all the more and this
The sailor rushed out for most of our conversations this. What I'm about to tell you applies not just a personal conversation but also applies. what news media conversations, academic come conversations and draws in all. Of the standard, rationales information. That's why you really do, of course, right to get more information. There are many features of our conversations that don't fit very well with this explanation. That's again, my main argument here is to show you the detailed puzzles, but don't fit with the explanation that offer you another explanation of this so some of the puzzles here are. If it was, exchanging information. He would keep track of debts I might say: well, I've told you three useful things so far. You haven't told me Eddie you something in return we will be more eager to listen and to top it would be our turn to talk about sigh, ok, I'll, find I'll. Tell you something. We would be searched for the most valuable things to tell each other things that matter close to each other. We will talk about important things inside the trivialities that we usually show a conversation
And it will be fine job from topic, the topic as long as you're saying something valuable and important, because the point is to correct communicate information, but I you know the usual normal conversations to slowing rift topic topic not on which need to be very important, but each time we should say something relevant that topic, an alternative explanation is sharing information, but this theory is that we are showing off our backpack of tools and resources. that we can show we can bring to bear to any topic. You dare to offer So it's important that conversation meandered away. No one of us can control so that we are challenged come up with something relevant whatever that is and by. I saw you with knowing something having Friend or a resource having, instead of having some experienced its relevant. Whatever you bring up, I show you that if you and I say, allies and associated whatever problems you out I'll have something relevant, I'm ready!
Are you with resources that would be useful to you, because, but what I can do about it? What conversation topic comes up yet the the mismatch between desire to listen and desire to talk pretty good. I think that's the one people find very soon, If it was really about just getting information, we would be massively biased towards listening. We would be stingy, with my, we would be pricing out all of disclosures we'd have much bigger ears, smaller mouth, Switzerland, Do you think about gossip and reputation management and what what's happening ass, we we do in fact exchange information. So again it works. Use because its partly true, we do to exchange information and it is valuable to stop the main thing we're doing, but often all the information for exchanging it's better to the act. apparent topic, as you may know,
indirectly to what people say? They tell you other things like the dragon about the self indirectly by telling you about their ratification in some extensive prepare place, and they talk about each other. Often in the guise of saying once been happening, but we are very interested in knowing about each other and evaluate each other and so part of what's going on when we're impressing peoples, not only impressive that people will be really CS, repressing the other people who, We hear about it indirectly, and so it's important that we impress other people in ways that can transfer through those through that gossip to the other people hear about it and we are proud to have one negative, philosopher negative reputation of things, that would look, make us look back, and this is, a basic explanation for why a lot of the cities in the world are really quite shall so so, for example,
lawyer, you might look at an employee and say others. This potential toy is looks really good. Yes, they don't have a college degree, but they don't need a college degree for this. I can tell they could do the job, then you yourself say yes, but other people here that I heard this person. and they will notice that this first it doesn't have a common cause. We enable gossip about it and then I might look bad for having hired someone called three- and maybe I just wanna take that chance. So even if I know that this person we could do the job still because I'm trying to impress this wider audience will gossip about it, I pushed it makes we're choices based on less than I know, Is there anything that you do differently in this area based on having thought about this? It limited view do view gossip as a negative character trade that should be discussed. In your cell, forty already just theatres, inevitable or or socially useful, as a wave of correcting.
The line reputation, I understand and appreciate gas has an important human role, as natural nerd. Incline or interested in a personal, that's my failing. Afterwards, so is is social status and the main metric than that which are all this is is pegged. Is that what we were concerned about as as subtext, virtually That is one of the things, but it's actually less than people might think so, many of us. If, were forced to admit you're showing off often the thing you want to administer showing off is how operating. That is how smarter conscientious work are careful, how knowledgeable, but plausibly at least half of what you're doing and showing office showing off loyalty, not stability,
And so perhaps father we pushed medicine on show that we care about people. We people we politics to show that politics loyal to our side. We do a lot of things to show loyalty, and that is not something were eager to admit because of course trying be while we are showing some degree of submission to those who are trying, So that is a sum craven motive tubes to sign onto I'm being loyal, Remy UK but why is that? In fact, loyalty is a virtue that well we, These are all humans actually have different kinds of status and suspicious noticeable that we don't make the distinction very often we merge them together, there's dominance and prestige. Dom more having powers and procedures earning respect, and the difference of these actually show up in where your eyes go and have you you're not felt when somebody its dominance over those you're not supposed to look them in the eye. Looking him in the eye, shuns defiance, which somebody
proceeds, you ask us to look at them. They are like presumably up here, you are looking at us. We are planning, we have prestige and you're not supposed to look away I wish you wouldn't put it that way well how embarrassing people want to get procedure, they don't want admitted admit to accepting dominance or at work submitting its dominance. for the EU and South Africa Debate- admit to wanting prestige more so They might be permitted to accepting procedure, although not to seeking had, of course, now in Asia, history most societies have kings and their neighbours have tyrants. Tyrants dominated because they bad guys over there had dominance of those people were submitted, dominance and what a terrible thing to have the supper. But we have, king was prestige, and it's ok for us to look up to an old. They are king because he's worthy of the status and some others is often how people come to terms with, thereby
So from a distance peoples how terrible it is that we all their bosses at work, each of us at work often make peace with that, I think, will my boss is: ok. He's our man right funeral and I'm ok with doing many says to now. I want to spend a lot of time on politics, but obviously everything you you ve written that is relevant to politics and as I was the book? It seems somewhat mysterious to me that in the current moment, someone like Trump, seems to violate more or less every rule. You mention in your book and the things we ve evolved not to do. Brazenly like Brad or a lie without any hope of being believed. or or advertise are most crass motives in Place of more noble ones that could have been plausible right,
he seems to get away with all of this. So how do you explain the success of us. It was essentially the anti evolutionary, so, let's start with something called culture signalling. So, ordinarily, if you have an acquaintance and you are trying to show that you like an acquaintance, you will do things like your smiling level. being polite, flattering them opening the door for them, offering them some food, those are ways. We ordinarily show someone that we are trying to be funny. When you have really close friends, however often you Out of your way to do the opposite, you insult the trip you dont shop, for somebody Why do you do the opposite for a close friend, for that's in part, to show you are more than an acquaintance with
It is clear that you are at least an acquaintance. People might wonder how close are we doing? The opposite can show that you are more than an acquaintance. You are the bits of paper that discussed. This was called to cool for school as you, many students try to show how studious how good they aren't school by studying, hearted doing well. and then some students try to show, Is everything without try? again counter signalling south. So he's to convince half the country that he's their best friend by by royal analyze. But remember politics is about loyalty, signalling and at one level we might all what polity twice as high status. We might all what politicians were Attila them tall and went to a good school smart to say all the right playthings salmon. Set her up, and so in general we would all want the same thing there. But if want to show that your site is different. You are being especially to your side. You may have.
to go against the non song, as you may know when the election of from there was a subset of our society who felt neglected, who felt there Waste does not being heard in the politician staff establishment was not catering, tobacco and self tromp stood up and said. I will cater to you. and he went out of his way to show loyalty to that group. By to counter signalling in many ways are doing the opposite of what an ordinary politicians like to appeal to everyone to shelve. I really am appealing to you and unity, and I'm going out of my way to raise the cost of appeal and other people to appeal to you to show that I really am loyal to you right did convince that group he wasn't usually loyal to them and they voted for him on that basis, successfully counter signalled his way,
The presidency, the rest of the world than other people saying that this is not the usual leader and, of course, the people who voted for himself. Yes, that's exactly how I knew he was trustworthy on my side is that he counter signalled the usual signals of all political competence but we often do that. The signal, while to the often go out of their way to pay, cost us a good working. So one of our tapirs is on religion, a topic that I don't. I guess here has written a lot about one of the standard stories about religion, is you made up greek one usual rituals at least raise things in. or to convince people that the people you those rituals and Spain's beliefs with that. You are tied with them and that it will be expensive. You believed them and that they think there are four rely, largely viewing backing parameters for a second view. Viewing a lot of this through the lens of loyalty explains a few other things, because
when you, when you look at how people in inner circle area, people who have to function, like is press secretary, try to make do with as brave face as possible. Try to put some positive concern on his line nor his mistakes or amazement, representations of fact that does function as a kind of loyalty as my wit, whenever you urges that when people with real reputations having it out there and put feed in their mouths so as to pretend that the president didn't do likewise. The kind of, if it is a kind of, looks like a buzz are hazing ritual from here, but it does signal loyalty, but again those people across the border. They have tyrants and we have keys It's easy to criticise the other side for being excessively loyal and submissive, but this happens all across the political spectrum. It's not just on top sites.
I don't know what I am an I was. That confabulation, so. I know you're an economist by day was spent of humanism incentives because it seems to me that many of the problems in our lives are the results Not of bad people. We bad things because their bad, but all of us, good people or more more or less good people struggling to fund in systems where are they? Santos are not aligned so as to to get us to do the right thing most of the time or make it easy enough to do that. thing and they give a line in your book, about incentives? Being like the wind, meaning, You can decide to row into it or you can tack against it. But it's better to the wind at your back and if so, how do you think about incentives and was
low hanging fruit here. But what? What is it that we could be doing. Differently in any area of consequences. So our book is about olives and money, and Power and respect are things we have its motives and incentives rules often aligned with those things. So are we often do the things that give us more of these things we want, But we'd rather not admit that those our highest priorities and so are usually reluctant to overtly just do what it takes to get. The money are respected in most areas of life, we have to put some sort of loss of somehow our motive that we have to protect our time to do, and that means often very direct, simple incentive schemes. Dont work there, too obvious you're, just like Your incentive to reciprocate dinner
that's an incentive you have, but you haven't also an incentive to not admit that to directly work, because otherwise you would force them to admit that they may be one of the russification, this is an issue with incentives that many of the problem, We have in the world, have happened because we have insufficient incentives to do the right thing, but often that's because we don't want to admit how important such as our. So we don't want to admit that we needed such as that we don't restructure things to produce the incentives and because we want to pretend maybe incentives and also, for example, your doctors incentive to give you the best treatment can often be compromised by the fact that might under one incentive system just want to treat you more just because they get paid every time they treat you or another incentive system by the need to treat you less because they have to pay. A pocket every time they treat you under either case other incentives,
be well aligned with you, but you could have set up some sort of more direct incentive system where they had a stake in your health, but you might not be comfortable with asking for that because that might You didn't trust. Your doctor, you weren't rather on the surface, pretend, like you, trust your doctor and they trust you and you have a nice comfortable relationship. This is also a problem in financial investment, actually an awful lot of people and thus an awful lot in intervening. Those who take a lot of money but don't offer that much in return. People often just like the relationship they have. with the intermediaries they dont want take, distrusting relationship that would have some explicit, stronger financial incentives. Obey except week. Relations people, often one I'd like feel like you, had a relationship and that relationship is degraded by the idea that you might have not have trusted them up
I'm a researcher and academia and most money comes in the form of grants where they say apply for the granting them. They might give you that We ve long on the prizes are often more effective uprising. where they say, if you do the following things, then what you need as much money and upright give stronger incentives for people to do things by the prizes, less trusting he was. The granting agency often want to just former relationship with someone who can take credit for them as if we were buddies. and the prize sort of makes an arms like distance. Where, clearly I don't trust you if I'm gonna only pay you. If you do this measurable thing, well, we'd rather have this closer relationship than to have a stronger and said.
Is there a metal levels to too many these considerations where it can be reasonable to not follow the purely rational line through all of these problems? It sounds like what would happen if we took all of this to heart, we would try to boot, strap ourselves to some new norms. They paid better dividends by your seem more rational, economically or otherwise. The origins of like health outcomes and yet given human nature. We might find the price of anchoring, self, so those new norms to be unacceptable for one reason or another, so The way I would summarize, this is to say, are used institutions. Let us pretend to be trying to get the thing we pretend to want. While actually under the surface, giving us the things we actually want
policy analyse typically try to analyze how to give policy reforms that would give us war of the things we pretend to one. And we're usually uninterested that, because we know we don't actually more of the things we pretend we want, if you could design a policy of reform that, let us continue to pretend They get the things we pretend, while actually getting more, what we actually want we'd like that, but we better If we stop do, it will stay there. But if The policy has we're just out loud say: this is a system that would give you more of this thing is what you actually want, but admit it. Don't you we don't A minute, and then we won't want to embrace that yes, what we want to do is pay for the appearance of the thing, we're pretending one and we're often paying a lot for that appearance. I would lives here, ask what you just said there. So
I want to ask you some rapid fire bonus questions here. when we have a lot of time for cuban aid, because though, conversation isn't about just exchanging from. and you have a lot of information to exchange- and I want to get the audience involved but. If you had one piece of advice for a person who wanted to succeed in your area of work, what would I be? I'm an intellectual and my measure success would be inside. There are other measures exacerbate big, have a prestigious position. You can make a lot of money,
you get a lot of friends, but if the measure of successes insight than a number of strategies, one of which is just to look for neglected areas so ass, we talked about in conversation, there's a strong Norman ordinary conversation to follow the conversation to talk about what everybody else is talking about, and academics do that news media. Does that and we do that in ordinary conversations people, but for intellectual contribution, if you jump right and one on what everybody else is talking about your chance of making a larger pact a pretty small, your adding a small about, but everybody else is talking about. If you go talk about, somebody else isn't talking about, find something important but neglected. Your contribution can be quite large, even if you're, not especially brilliant or well told and so wonder a simple heuristic. If you want to produce a notch, one side has to look at what other people are looking at the seams, important and hope that later on, they'll come around to your topic and realize that you did make it but it. How long would you in that important area
waiting for people to come around how to say you have to stay long enough to make a contribution, and then you can go off looking for another area to make a contribution to, what, if anything, do you wish you had done differently in your twenties? Thirty or forty is you? Can you can take the relevant decade. Well I wandered around a bit much like SAM, in that I started my Phd programme at the age of thirty four, with two kids eight zero into relative. late start. That was in some sense the price for continuing to switch, because other area simply actually be more objective. Important and have my promise, but, as I said before, this book that Out with here is summarizing the thing I wish I would have known at the beginning about social science career, which is that we are just offer not honest with ourselves about our motives, so
the thing I most known for actually something I'll prediction: markets are betting markets on important topics and they do work well and they give people something they say they want, which is more accurate estimates and information on important topics, and it turns out people are usually not very interested, in them, Even though you could show over and over again in many ways that they work and their cheap etc part of why I didn't realize that that would happen as I took. People have the word for what they want. So the answer you wish you hadn't spent so much time on predict lavish. I would have understood the constraints that people are not honest about what they want and thought about that constraint. When I was initially trying to design institutions, ought I read many other ideas and worked out ideas for reforming politics, medical purchasing and information, aggregation, etc, and in each case I assumed the usual story about what we're trying to do and worked out.
a better answer, and we actually can not only work out better answers. We can show them, and not only in bath, lab experiments field which garments we do actually know many ways to make the world better substantially and the world's not interested, also them, because we know how to make the world better. According to that these people say they want to learn more at school to get help here at the hospital to get more policy of politics, but in fact, emotionally up people's heart. That kind of no that's not what they want. And southern not interesting? So I wish I would have known that twenty years ago in this book is hopefully to somebody get a younger career. Somebody could pick us up you you might, a twenty year old who has been saying for awhile everybody's bullshitting. This nobody's telling the truth. Where can I find I was really going on, I'm hoping our, but can be that. So ten years from now. What do you think you'll regret doing too much over too little of at this point in your life.
I mean, if I knew that would presumably be doing something different did you actually think as true is not just one of the problems that you were you weren't? You know you want to lose weight. You know how to lose weight, but you still can't get the things be fined neglecting the long run for the short run. I dont know if I am, but yes, if I am neglecting the long run, that I would regret not investing, but I M from our primarily investing in this long run, effort to produce an actual inside, we think there are scale economies and that's all Warfield. You learn the more mental models, and tools you have is to learn new fields, so you can actually learn new field faster, more fields you have solved if you're intellectual project has to learn many fields and then find ways combined insights from them together. That's something you continued you more. and you get older and are enjoying that wave and up thinking, I'm over at all
negative experience, one that you would not wish to repeat, has been most viable to most valuable to be negative, ignored or changed you for the better. But it's gotta be negative. You wouldn't want to repeat it. Well, so early in my academic career, I sort it really just failed to do the simple standard thing of applying for the best Jesus, I'm not sure what went wrong, but somehow my family or me, someone just did not go through the process of applying to good colleges. Far away. We just sent me to the local college, which was easy for me. Ok Two easy compared to my colleagues. I have lots of free time, so perhaps I might have thought I should have gone to a more challenging colleges and people would have challenged me, but made me who I am in the sense that, with all their free time I just started studying stuff on my own. I sort of Meda
on topics and made up my own questions and started going in working on things, and so actually I wasn't physics undergraduate major and the first two years of physics, classes are going over all the major topics and then the second, the last two years of going off over all the major topic is again with we're math and I had all these questions, but the it was not answering, and so what I did last who used college was just played. The equations just rearrange them try a different ways and by spending this, MR rearranging the equations, I could easily exams but I didn't waiting the homeward. Professor Solana Formula, like so much percentage homework so much presented exams. They did not want to do with me exactly so. I got low rates, some classes, otherwise people willing to give me letters they should, but basically that for Be that, as I became the person who didn't like do what I was told. I wasn't following a path
what led for me, and I wasn't right going down learning things I was supposed to learn. I was just making up my own problems of man, questions and working them out for myself and in the other, has some advantages, but I'm not sure that was wrong. but then the bragging category. What worries me most about our collective future, we, are collectively ignorant compared to what we could be.
We are a vast population of vast world lot of smart people very capable people. We have many great tools and we just don't pull back together into a consensus that we can use very well. We fail to do something we could do quite easily. My work on prediction markets was one attempt to try to create an institution which would allow us to collect what we know together effectively and efficiently, and it would work if anybody was interested, but we're not very interested, and so part of my actual work has just try to diagnose wiretapping interested as part of the everyday. How could we do better- and I think this fact and World Bank to show off to each other's part of it and the last one what's going wrong with our showing off
I would say the problem is we are showing off to audiences that are too ignorant. That is if, if we focused on a really smart audience, where we knowledgeable audience who try to show off to them that it would be, we would be forced to show off and better ways. So, for example, we haven't talked much about it, but basically I accept medicine is mostly about showing that we care, rather than helping people to get healthy. So when grandma sick, you make sure she gets expensive medical treatment, the sort that everybody would says, The resources to do even if it's not actually very effective, but as long as your audience doesn't know, history offer effective. They will still give you credit for being carried about Remo if you're on as I do that the medicine you're pushing hard her instead of helping or they would consider you as such a caring purse So the more than our audience knows about what actually works and has what effects the war we would all be pushed to do things that actually had a good effects as as part of the process of trying to shop. So that we can, as somebody in politics actually before me, one at that
same more about a mismatch in medicine. But how is it that we know or how's that Thank you know that it's more about carrying, then about results As structure is instead of puzzles and don't make sense from the usual point of you, so it turns out, we have data on variations in health and variations in medicine and there's almost no relationship. that is geographic areas, to spend more on medicine or have people do more doktor visits those there is are not healthier. We also even have randomized experiments. Were some people have been given randomly a low priced out of and they can do more. People have a high price to make a mess and then there's no difference in health between these groups. So at a very basic level, there is very little, if not any correlation between health, and let us not only that there are other things: the quarterly strongly with health that you people show very little. When I bought for there must be a lower bound to that, because that some medicine is lifesaving, clear,
right where, where you are putting up the line between what's not aligned, that is as a whole mix of medicine and some other stuff helps and that these other stuff hurts. So If you can just get the stuff that helps and avoid stuff the hurts. Why, then you could do better, but people show relatively interest in doing that. And so some medicine hurts. Not only does it do zeroed on average for clear we are not interested in exercise avoids the measure of people not being interested in the information that would allow them to to get better medicine we experiments in studies where people have been given access to information and asked if they would be willing to pay much for it, and even just given at the scene of the effects of behaviour and consistently, if you give people privately information about the quality of medicine, Just aren't interested and don't act on it. What anyone they will pay for it rightly certainly won't pay for its outcome,
There was a study of people about undergo heart surgery, where a few percent of people undergoing hearts surgery die So that means you face a few percent risk of death, for that should be a serious situation. They said we statistics on the local surgeons, with a local hospitals in terms of what the percentages of those patients dying there- and it varies by quite a bit twice as much in some places than other place. Would you like this information? Only eight percent were willing to pay fifty bucks and those we're just given. The information did not by what is it that I think that everyone I know is in the eight percent, Well? That's what pretending awaited Firstly- and this is to think about valentines, which happened recently on Valentine's institutional to try to show that we care about someone by say buying a box of chocolates. Now, when you do
do, you ask how hungry they are. When you think about how large box no plausible, you devise much chocolate as it takes to show you care more than somebody else regardless really are which is like medicine. We just give people a lot of medicine, even though the extra medicine is very useful and if you ask or how do I know which quality of chocolate to get? You know that you need to give up the quality of chocolate, a signal that common signal quality. If you happen to privately. No, this is a great kind of chocolate or they happened. The privately. No, a certain kind of thing is to break and of chocolate that will actually affect whether you interpret this as a generous act. The interpretation of generosity is based on a car. And signal a following. So it medicine is a way to show that we care that severely. What we want is common signals of quality. We are actually very interested in private signals of quality medicines, which is what we actually see hurried back to rapid fire questioned taking note. I been asking follow ups. If you could solve
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Transcript generated on 2020-10-08.