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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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

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.