Using Practical Wisdom

I chose to watch psychologist Barry Schwartz’s TED talk entitled Using our practical wisdom.  The talk stressed that to solve the majority of problems in our society, excessive rules and laws are not the answer, nor are incentives to perform a particular action.  Schwartz talks about how practical wisdom, having the will to do the right thing and the skill to determine what is the right thing.  He mentions that rules, no matter how detailed, can be dodged and he gives the comparison of bankers to water in finding the cracks in rules (4:43).  In the case of incentives, Schwartz argues that if an incentive is given, people will only care about the incentive and not the underlying action.  Thus, people are more inclined to cut corners to achieve the maximum reward for their behavior.  Schwartz uses the example of incentivizing doctors to have more or less patients, which incentivizes doctors to increase or decrease their number of patients without addressing the quality of care.

Practical wisdom, Schwartz argues, is necessary to solve the problems of how our institutions are run.  He says that wise people know when to bend the rules in order to do the right thing and that people with practical wisdom have both the will and skill to do the right thing (8:11).

While I agree that people with practical wisdom would be the best way to create a more functional society, Schwartz does not offer any practical solution as to how this ideology would be implemented.  He mentions the notion of canny outlaws, who go around the rules to do the right thing, and system changers, who attempt to change the way society is run (15:16).  While these people are noble, there are others who, without rules or incentives, will promote only their own agendas despite allowance to do the right thing.  Schwartz does not address a way to help these people find practical wisdom and virtue, but rather says that legislators should listen more to psychologists than economists.  While I believe that practical wisdom is a good way for people to focus on the morality of their practices, there is no way to implement such an idea without rules or incentives to motivate those who are merely concerned with furthering their own self-interests.

Light Bursting Through Darkness

My TED talk was given by Mohamed Ali and it involved the link between unemployment and terrorism. It really just stuck out to me while I was scrolling through videos as a very interesting assertion so I watched it to hear what he had to say. The original story he gave of the poor young man who became a car bomber was really quite shocking. With the lack of jobs or promises in communities ravaged by war and poverty, people turn towards groups that will accept them and give their lives meaning. The answer to this problem that he laid out is what really moved me.

The pushing of young people towards entrepreneurship is an interesting proposition in areas where so many business opportunities have yet to be tapped. The story of the boy from Mogadishu and his floral business really puts into perspective the lives that some of the people in these war torn countries live. Having never seen fresh flowers before is really crazy to think about since most of us can see them as soon as we walk outside on a nice spring or summer day. Starting that business not only puts him a great path moving forward, but it brings light to the people who have only seen darkness for so long. More business ventures like this one by young people in these countries can greatly speed up their social and economic movements.

Public Sector Influence in the Private Sector – A Catalytic Relationship

I found a compelling TED talk by Mariana Mazzucato called “Government: Investor, Risk-taker, Innovator” which describes her argument regarding government’s investment and support in private sector research and innovation.  She details the misconceptions about ‘revolutionary’ firms who innovate and the persistent idea that government should simply support basic institutional structures to maintain stability and promote growth and innovation in the private sector.

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Fair Phones

For my TED talk, i decided to look for videos with relevance to my paper topic of fair trade. What I pulled up was a video called Demand a fair trade cell phone and as I am always on my phone, it figured it would be a good video to watch. I didn’t expect my views to be changed so much or for me to take a different look at the technology industry.

I decided to research the speaker , Bandi Mbubi a little and find out more information about him. If its anything Mike Daisey thought us its a little research never hurts. Mbubi moved to the UK at 21 under political asylum from his home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo.He was a student activist who fled the country after his safety was threatened.

One of the things the struck me the most during the video was Bandi’s comment, “strange paradox that the phones in our pockets are instruments of both freedom and oppression.” This country that has been so war torn because of the used of titanium to fund the actions of illegal arms group was also important for a country striving to grow. This is not the first time we have seen something like this however. For decades conflict diamonds were used to fund militias and armed rebels in countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Much like the push for conflict free diamonds, electronic manufacturers  have the opportunity to change and that is the purpose behind Bandi’s Congo Calling. it works to bring awareness of the injustice in the nation as well as seeking to share the benefits from these resources with the Congolese people.

Is China The New Idol For Emerging Economies?

I watched Dambisa Moyo’s Ted talk: “Is China the new idol for emerging economies?” I decided to watch this talk because I am taking an African Economic Development course this semester and my professor mentioned Dambisa Moyo’s point of view on developing countries. This talk raised many interesting questions about economics and political systems.images

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Cyclical, Renewable, Waste-Free.

I found a Ted talk that relates  closely to my paper 2 topic, Tesla and business sustainability and social consciousness. Ray Anderson starts his talk by talking about how during the first industrial revolution it was all about extraction, using raw materials from the earth. It was Linear:Take, Make, Waste. This is at 5:45 in the video. He then goes on to say how the new industrial revolution should be. “In the new industrial revolution extractive must be replaced by renewable; linear by cyclical; fossil fuel energy by renewable energy, sunlight; wasteful by waste-free and abusive by benign; and labor productivity by resource productivity.” Continue reading

Bitcoins and the Future of Currencies

I tried to find a TED talk that related to Paper 2 topic, but I was not able to find anything. In my search though I found a headline that caught my attention. It was a talk by Paul Kemp-Robertson titled “Bitcoin. Sweat. Tide. Meet the Future of Branded Currency.” Bitcoins have been in the a lot recently and have continued to grow in popularity as well as in creditability. To me, Bitcoins are fascinating and the concept of them is pretty unbelievable.

Kemp-Robertson’s talk was actually less about Bitcoins themselves, but rather about alternate forms of currencies. He believes that the rise of Bitcoins is caused by a general lack of trust in governments. He mentions statistics that show people nowadays trust business executives more than their own government and that 45% of people between the ages of 25 and 35 trust independently issued currencies. With this amount of young people trusting currencies like this and with everything moving digitally nowadays, it hard not to imagine that the future of currencies will move from physical objects to everything being digital. He also goes to talk about the impact of other types of independently issued including Starbucks points and Nike’s sweat points. He even talks about how drug dealers are accepting the detergent Tide as a form of currency. They have been calling it “liquid gold.” It is just interesting to see how as long as people have a perceived value of something it can be used as currency and with the move to the digital age I believe all currency will move into it as well.

Redefining Acceptable Business Practices for Non-Profits

Do we need the non-profit sector?

My focus for Paper 2 is Susan G. Komen for the Cure, so I searched for a Ted Talk on the business strategy of charities. Dan Pallotta created the Avon 3 day walk for the cure (that supports Komen), so I was pleased to find his talk on “The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong.” His premise is that charities are necessary to create a world in which everyone benefits because the for profit sector will only aid those with at least some form of spending power. Social problems of the world are massive, and the organizations that combat them are tiny in comparison. Pallotta argues that the capacity of charities to enact change is limited by the different sets of rules that govern the for profit sector and the philanthropic sector.

5 Rules of For Profit vs. Charities

1. Compensation: People are uncomfortable when charity executives are compensated well. Pallotta is baffled by the basic concept that “we have a problem with people who make money off of helping other people but no problem with people who make money off of NOT helping other people” (3:37). In this case our system of “ethics” deters the brightest business minds from entering the philanthropy sector, and for good reason. On average, MBA’s ten years out of Stanford are making $400,000 (with bonus), while the CEOs of Medical Charities make an average of $232,568, and the CEOs of hunger charities make an average of $84,028. Continue reading

Making Global Labor Fair

Recently I have been finding an overlap between my human resource management class discussions and business, government and society.  That being said, HRM was a key factor in my decision in writing about Wal-Mart for my paper 2.  My HRM professor has expressed multiple times her pure hatred towards Wal-Mart due to their work ethics and morals (or shall I say, lack there of).  As I just recently read Raising the Global Floor for my HRM class which discusses labor laws across countries, and reading books on Wal-Marts culture behind closed doors, I typed in labor ethics into the search tab on

The first result that appeared was “Auret van Heerdan: Making Global Labor Fair”.  Auret van Heerdan is the President and CEO of Fair Labor Association, with an extensive background in international labor rights. Continue reading

Data, Drugs, and Duping Sick Patients

Evidence based meds Goldacre quoteIn my white paper, I am to explore the ethical considerations of pharmaceutical colonialism. As described in my last post HERE, this term is when medicines that have no real medical backing are tested in sickly and underdeveloped nations (usually Africa) for profit.  Specifically, I dissected the case of the Matthias Rath Foundation, and their implementation of their multivitamin AIDS medicine in South Africa. Rath’s multivitamin was less effective than the previous anti-retrovirals, but the data was messed with to support his drug. Rath also had a supreme marketing strategy, which clung onto the South African gov’t, the “anti white man” African culture, and through extreme advertising to bash the “Western” anti-retrovirals, and promote his medicine for profit.

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Obesity: Are We Fighting the Wrong War?

Given that I will be writing my paper on Whole Foods and the food industry, I thought it would be interesting to listen to a talk about obesity. The TED talk that I found, which aired in April of 2013, was given by Peter Attia, entitled “Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem?

Attia, a fit surgeon and self-experimenter who worked out 3-4 hours a day and “followed the food pyramid to the letter” gained 40 pounds, became insulin resistant and was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome a couple years ago (3:00). This occurred after he blamed a type 2 diabetic patient, who had to get her foot removed, for having no reason to be overweight and not exercising/eating healthy (0:23). When he found out that he gained 40 pounds because he was insulin resistant, he changed his diet and worked out less. He ultimately lost the 40 pounds he had Continue reading

Making our world a Better Place?

In choosing a video to watch, I thought that it would be wise to pick one that related to my Paper 2 topic on US Oil/Energy policy. To do so I searched for a video on Oil and came across a series entitled ‘The End of Oil?’ where I chose to watch a video about electric cars. The talk was led by a very interesting man Shai Agassi who is an Israeli entrepreneur who founded the company Better Place which provides battery-charging and switching devices for electric cars. Agassi’s story is quite cool as he was originally in line to become CEO of the highly regarded software company SAP. However, at the urging of the Israeli prime minister, Agassi turned his focus to fighting to curb carbon emissions. Continue reading

TED week, Blog 10

This week is about using media, finding interesting topics, and exploring horizons.

The Technology Education and Design [TED] conference started some 30 years ago as a way for Silicon Valley, academia, and public intellectuals to share ideas and help set the stage for “the next big thing.”  Partly as a response to criticisms of the cost of attending, partly as celebrating information transparency, the talks, more than 1,000 now, are free to view online.

Your goal: watch a TED talk and talk about why it moved you or made you think.  We cannot all watch 18 talks, so be sure to reference a particular place in the talk that is key or memorable.  You can do so by indicating the time.

TED talks are EASY to embed in your post.  There is a special embed code for a ted talk you just cut and paste into  See here for instructions.

TRY NOT TO REPEAT someone else’s talk.

Optional: you _might_ find a talk related to your paper 2 OR white paper. For example, thinking of Dan, i put in “patriot act.”  The search result had this hit about ways to address violence.  Or, Jenna is doing hers on the Khan academy.  Well, Salman Khan has a talk there!

TED has many ways to search its archive.  You can use playlists.  There is a catalog of speakers. You can also search by topic.  For the super-interested, you can sign up and it will recommend content.