A book all about the benefits to solving problems by getting diverse, yet independent input from as large of gro**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
A book all about the benefits to solving problems by getting diverse, yet independent input from as large of group as possible.
*** He divides the book based on the types of problems groups solve: 1. cognition - problems that have definitive solutions, ie probability; 2. coordination - how to coordinate behavior, etc. most efficiently e.g., traffic, trading, etc.; 3. cooperation - getting self-interested, distrustful people to work together (e.g., taxes, environment, etc.).
*** His first example to show the benefits of a crowd was the sinking of the U.S. Scorpion sub in 1968. There was no way to tell where it ended up on the ocean floor, so the navy assembled all kinds of experts in a wide range of fields to all make estimations of where it would be. It then took their average estimate (i.e., used Bayes theorem) and the ship was 220 yards from the point they picked. *** Another example of collective wisdom figuring out things before a small group of experts is the Challenger explosion. Although it took several months for the experts to figure out that the company that made the O-rings was responsible for the explosion, if you looked at the market the same day as the explosion, shares of the company that made the O-rings went down tremendously. Even though there was no evidence of inside trading, enough people were trying to figure out who was responsible for the crash (and consequently whose stock would go down) that they arrived at the correct company.
*** "Worldly wisdom teachers that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally." - John Maynard Keynes; explains why things like mutual funds don't consistently do that well over time because all the managers follow the herd so they pay attention to what others are doing rather than capitalizing on the unique information only they have access to.
*** Cool exercise in how similar people across a given culture think; imagine you have to meet a complete stranger in NYC, where would you meet if you were unable to communicate beforehand? also add in at what time would you meet?
*** Mentions Milgram and his study on social norms or societal rules we all agree upon: what happens when you ask someone for their seat on the subway? Also went to lines at ticket counters and cut in front of people - 50% of the time people let them, 10% physically removed them from line, 25% verbal protests, 15% hostile looks, etc., but only from people behind the point in line, people in front of the linebreaker didn't care.
*** "Ideas are meant to triumph not because of who is (or who is not) advocating them but because of their inherent value, because they seem to explain the data better than any of the others. This is perhaps just an illusion. But it's a valuable one." p. 172.
*** He explains some of the problems within corporations and lack of productivity because of the motivational structure that is established (which requires you to set low expectations so you'll be sure to meet them). He compares that with the way the market works where you are rewarded for what you do, not what you are expected to do. So that means in the market people want to uncover whatever unique and valuable information they can do get ahead, whereas in a company it is not always to your advantage to do so. Stock options are an example of corporations finally trying to align the individual's interests with the company. An even better route would be to give much wider decision making power to individuals instead of having it all go through a rigid hierarchy of people who knew less than the overall group below them (i.e., give workers more control/ choice over their environment).
*** Baiting crowds example of how individuals take cues from crowds; specific example of Seattle woman baited into jumping off a Seattle Memorial Bridge in August of 2001.
*** Overall a great book that examines a number of societal problems from the perspective of how to best use the power of the wisdom of the crowd to solve them. The key is that individuals have to be free to contribute their independent knowledge and when systems have two directions (e.g., the market) it is best when equal number of people are trying to profit from both directions (some people are predicting it will do worse, some think it will do better). ...more
The problem of evil has bedeviled many religions since their birth. If God is all good and all powerful, either**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
The problem of evil has bedeviled many religions since their birth. If God is all good and all powerful, either he allows evil to flourish (which means he is not all good), or else he struggles against evil (which means he is not all powerful). Religions have generally chosen one of three resolutions of this paradox. One solution is straight dualism: There exists a good force and an evil force, they are equal and opposite, and they fight eternally. Human beings are part of the battleground. We were created part good, part evil, and we must choose which side we will be on. This view is clearest in religions emanating from Persia and Babylonia, such as Zoroastrianism, and the view influenced Christianity as a long-lived doctrine called Manichaeism. A second resolution is straight monism: There is one God; he created the world as it needs to be, and evil is an illusion, a view that dominated religions that developed in India. These religions hold that the entire world – or, at least, its emotional grip upon us – is an illusion, and that enlightenment consists of breaking out of the illusion. The third approach, taken by Christianity, blends monism and dualism in a way that ultimately reconciles the goodness and power of God with the existence of Satan. This argument is so complicated that I cannot understand it. (p. 72-73).
“When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his sinews and bones to hard work, expose his body to hunger, put him to poverty, place obstacles in the paths of his deeds, so as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature, and improve wherever he is incompetent.” – Meng Tzu, China, 3rd century BC (p. 135)....more
This is a great book on the application of social psychology for influencing people on every level. It's peppered with examples of individuals, companThis is a great book on the application of social psychology for influencing people on every level. It's peppered with examples of individuals, companies, and even countries using various methods of social influence to change "vital behaviors" (behaviors that determine the majority of behavior)in order to solve organizational and behavioral problems. The cool thing is that most of the examples are for positive behavior change (eradicating the Guinea worm from Africa) rather than increasing consumer behavior. It's a great read for social psychologists because it reminds us that what we study really can change things if it's put to good use. ...more
Book about designating one's frame of reference when thinking in order to achieve specific goals. Especially rec**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
Book about designating one's frame of reference when thinking in order to achieve specific goals. Especially recommended for meetings where solutions/ideas are needed.
The six frames of reference, or "hats" are: white = just the facts of the situation; red = emotion or intuition concerning the situation; black = critical thinking; yellow = positive thinking and constructive methods of achieving goal; green = creativity and idea generation; blue = master hat for directing overarching goals/purpose of meeting.
Further summaries of hats: White hat - neutral and objective facts without interpretation. Red hat - Feelings about the matter. Can ask a person to switch in or out of red hat thinking so they only give their emotional or intuition concerning the issue. Should never attempt to justify or logically explain feeling, just report it. Black hat - Concerned with caution. Used to consider risks, dangers, and potential problems with solution. Should be used when assessing suggestions, but should not be used to fuel arguments or overused. Yellow hat - Positive and constructive thinking. Covers all positive thoughts and suggestions from logical and practical advantages to hipes and visions. Concrete proposals and suggestions that seek to take advantage of opportunities. Green hat - Creative thinking that generates new ideas. Both thinker and listener need to wear green hat. Used to search for all available alternatives to a problem. Provocation is how to think of green, try to provoke new domains/thoughts to escape typical patterns of thinking. Blue hat - control hat. Organizes the thinking that goes into an issue. Outlines goals and purpose of all discussion. Think of a conductor in an orchestra. Responsible for summaries, conclusions, and overviews. Also responsible for stopping arguments and keeping everyone on track concerning overall goals. Shouldn't assign each person a particular hat, but rather should get everyone to take turns thinking with the mindset of each hat during that portion of the meeting....more
But Democrats couldn’t make too much of that fact, especially in 1948, because their own candidate, Harry Truman**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
But Democrats couldn’t make too much of that fact, especially in 1948, because their own candidate, Harry Truman, also grew up in a sundown town, Lamar, Missouri. Report Morris Milgram pointed out that Lamar “was a Jim Crow town of 3,000, without a single Negro family. When I had spoken about this with leading citizens of Lamar . . . they told me, all using the word ‘n----r,’ that colored people weren’t wanted in Lamar.” (p. 13).
A fine history by Jean Swaim of Cedar County, Missouri, provides a detailed example of the process that took place in many of the counties summarized in Table 1 of the previous chapter. Cedar County is located between Kansas City and Springfield, Missouri. African Americans had lived in the county since before the Civil War, originally as slaves. In the 1870s, a black community grew up within Stockton, the county seat, including a school, candy store, and “a park with a popular croquet court, where white Stockton men often spent their Sunday afternoons competing in tournaments.” Some African Americans worked as domestic help, others at a local brickyard. By 1875, whites and blacks had organized the Stockton Colored School, which eventually had as many as 43 students. A newspaper account from August 1899 shows interracial cooperation: “About 1,500 attended colored people’s picnic here. Order was good except for a few drunken whites. Stockton won the ball game from Greenfield, 20-1. Greenfield’s colored band was a big attraction.” African Americans also lived elsewhere in the county, including “Little Africa” near Humansville in the northeastern corner. Forty families lived there, with a church, school, and store. They held an annual picnic on the Fourth of July to which whites were invited and had a baseball team with a white coach. Then something bad happened, something that the local histories don’t identify and that has been lost even to oral history. As another local historian born in the county in the 1920s, put it, “It’s just a dark history that nobody talks about,” speaking of the event or chain of events that ended Cedar County’s racial harmony. Around 1900, the county’s black population declined precipitously, from 127 (in 1890) to 45. Whatever prompted the initial decline, we do know why it continued: Cedar County was becoming a sundown county. By 1910, only thirteen African Americans lived in the county, and by 1930, just one. Swaim refers to “many shameful incidents” in which “visiting ball teams, travelers, and even laborers were . . . told to be out of town by night. Blacks could find haven in Greenfield,” the seat of the next county to the south. She tells of a black bricklayer whose work attracted admiring crowds: “Not only was he paving El Dorado Springs’s Main Street in perfect herringbone pattern as fast as an assistant could toss him bricks, but he sang as he worked and moved in rhythm to his song.” Nevertheless, he “had to find a place out of town at night.” “In Stockton, prejudice was still rampant in the late 1960s,” Swaim continues, “as black workmen constructing the Stockton Dam were provided segregated and inferior housing west of town. Their visiting wives cooked for them.” Is Cedar County still sundown today? Swaim writes, “In the 1990s few blacks are seen in Cedar County.” But the 2000 census counted 44 African Americans. One black couple lives in El Dorado Springs and seems to get along all right. Nevertheless, Cedar County in 2005 has yet to reach the level of black population and interracial cooperation that it showed in the 1890s. (p. 91).
A series of at least six race riots in the Ozarks, along with smaller undocumented expulsions, led to the almost total whiteness of most Ozark counties, which continues to this day. In 1894, Monett, Missouri, started the chain of racial violence. As happened so often, it began with a lynching. Ulysses Hayden, an African American, was taken from police custody and hanged from a telephone pole, although Murray Bishoff, an authority on Monett, believes him innocent of the murder of the young white man for which he was hanged. After the lynching, whites forced all African Americans to leave Monett. Pierce City, just six miles west, followed suit in 1901. Again, a crime of violence had been perpetrated upon a white person, and again, after lynching the alleged perpetrator, the mob then turned on the black community, about 10% of the town’s population, and drove them out. In the process, members of the mob set fire to several homes, incinerating at least two African Americans inside. Portfolio 3 shows one of the destroyed residences. Some African Americans fled to Joplin, the nearest city, but in 1903 whites rioted there. Three years later, whites in Harrison, Arkansas, expelled most of their African Americans, and in 1909, they finished the job. In 1906, whites in Springfield, Missouri, staged a triple lynching they called an “Easter Offering.” No one was ever convicted in any of these riots, which sent a message that violence against African Americans would not be punished in the Ozarks. On the contrary, it was celebrated. In Springfield, for example, souvenir hunters sifted through the smoldering ashes looking for bits of bone, charred flesh, and buttons to carry away with them in order to commemorate the event. Local drugstores and soda parlors sold postcards containing photographs of the lynching, and one enterprising businessman . . . [had] medals struck commemorating the lynching. One side of the medal read “Easter Offering,” and the other side, “Souvenir of the hanging of 3 niggers, Springfield, Missouri, April 15, 1906.” (p. 95-96).
Besides Pana and Virden, many other communities trace their origins as sundown towns to a successful strike. Something darker may have happened in Mindenmines, Missouri, where mine operators brought African American strikebreakers to their coal mine in about 1900. Marvin Van Gilder, author of a 1972 history of Barton County, recounts blandly, “Many of them died during their relatively brief residence at the mining camps . . . and a cemetery for the Negro community was established northwest of Mindenmines near the state line.” Van gilder does not explain why or how “many of them died,” but Mindenmines became a sundown town upon their demise and probably remains so to this day. According to a staff member at Missouri Southern State College who grew up in the town, a black family moved in for a week in about 1987 and left under pressure; another lived there for about six weeks in about 1990 and left after someone fired a gun at their home. In 2000, Mindenmines was still all-white. (p. 161).
Some towns went sundown simply because a neighboring town did so. The neighboring event served as a catalyst of sorts, but actually it shows the absence of a catalyst. The only cause required to set off an expulsion seemed to be envy of a neighboring town that had already driven out its African Americans. In southwestern Missouri, for instance, newspaper editor Murray Bishoff believes that Monett’s prosperity after it threw out all its African Americans in 1894 likely contributed to Pierce City’s copycat riot seven years later. Bishoff thinks Pierce City in turn became a model for other nearby towns in Missouri and Arkansas. (p. 181).
The same thing happened in Tulsa. During that city’s now-notorious 1921 race riot, whites attacked Tulsa’s African American community on the ground and from the air: six airplanes dropped dynamite bombs to flatten homes and businesses. As Portfolio 10 shows, rioters made a concerted attempt to drive all African Americans out of Tulsa. Although they failed, they did pull off the largest race riot in American history. Later, the newspapers for the period mysteriously (and now famously) disappeared. The riot became, said one resident, “something everybody knew about but nobody wanted to discuss.” (p. 203).
“Keep moving” was the refrain, no matter why African Americans stopped. Local historian Jean Swaim tells of a shameful incident in Cedar County, Missouri: “Even a busload of black choir members who saved the lives of four El Dorado Springs teenagers by pulling them from a burning car were then turned away.” (p. 233).
Even when audiences loved their performances, musicians and athletes faced the problem of where to spend the night. This difficulty repeatedly beset barnstorming black baseball teams and the two famous black basketball teams, the Harlem Globetrotters and the Harlem Magicians, whenever they played in sundown towns. The town baseball team of El Dorado Springs, a sundown town in western Missouri, invited a black Kansas City team to play them, but the guests were then denied food and lodging. One man made an accommodation: Dr. L.T. Dunaway locked the team in his second-floor office “and some citizens took food to them,” according to local historian Jean Swaim. African American workers paving the U.S. 54 through El Dorado Springs in the 1940s “also had to spend their nights locked in that office.” Swaim does not say whether they were locked in to prevent them from being at large in the town after sundown or to preclude violence against them by local white residents for that offense. (p. 246-247).
In an all-night riot in August, 1901, white residents of Pierce City, Missouri, hanged a young black man alleged to have murdered a white woman, killed his grandfather, looted the armory, and used its Springfield rifles to attack the black community. African Americans fired back but were outgunned. The mob then burned several homes including this one (pictured above), Emma Carter’s, incinerating at least two African Americans inside. At 2 A.M., Pierce City’s 200 black residents ran for their lives. They found no refuge in the nearest town, Monett, because in 1894 it had expelled its blacks in a similar frenzy and hung a sign, “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down.” (p. 276).
Abraham Lincoln understood the threat to our democracy posed by anti-black prejudice and likelihood that this sentiment would metastasize to attack other groups. In 1855 he wrote a letter to his lifelong friend Josh Speed, a clause of which has become famous: As a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except Negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except Negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty – to Russian, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy. (p. 332).
An elderly African American woman living in central Missouri avoids the entire southwestern corner of the state. She is very aware that after whites in Springfield, the prime city of the Ozark Mountains, lynched three African Americans on Easter Sunday, 1906, “all the blacks left out of that area,” as she put it. Neosho, Stockton, Warsaw, Bolivar, and other Ozark towns are almost devoid of African Americans, who fled the entire region, she said; even today, those are “not places where I would feel comfortable going.” (p. 344).
Independent sundown towns also hurt their own futures by being closed to new ideas. . . . There are exceptions, some sundown towns do better than others. Murray Bishoff, who lives in Pierce City, Missouri, and works in nearby Monett, thinks Pierce City, which drove out its African Americans in 1901 and has been sundown ever since, has been hurt by its sundown policy. Meanwhile, Monett, which drove out its blacks in 1894 and has been equally white since, is doing better. In 1999, Monett’s per capita income was nearly 40% higher than Pierce City’s, although still below average for the state. (p. 361).
Surely the white-flight prize goes to those who flee Joplin, Missouri. A librarian in the Joplin Public Library told of her neighbor who moved from Joplin to Webb City around 1985, because “his daughter was about to enter the seventh grade and he didn’t want her to go to school with blacks at that age.” The librarian stayed in touch during the relocation process and reported: “At one point [the mother] told me she had found the perfect house for their family, only it was on the wrong side of the street. The line between Joplin and Webb City was that street, and the house she liked was on the Joplin side, so she couldn’t consider it. Eventually they found a house in Webb City.” Webb City adjoins Joplin, as the story implies, but the move amazes because Joplin itself was just 2% black. Webb City, on the other hand, has just 1 African American among its 7,500 residents, and that person was not of school age. (p. 389)....more
**spoiler alert** MY SUMMARY AND NOTES: What You Can Do To Keep From Being Influenced by Propaganda
· Know the ways of persuasion and realize that you**spoiler alert** MY SUMMARY AND NOTES: What You Can Do To Keep From Being Influenced by Propaganda
· Know the ways of persuasion and realize that you personally may be the victim of propaganda. Most people believe that only other people are susceptible to being persuaded and that is when propaganda is best able to get past our defenses.
· Monitor your emotions. If you notice you are having an emotional response to a communication, ask “Why?” Look for things that might induce emotions, such as a false commitment, a “free” gift that makes you feel obligated, a scarce item that induces feelings of inferiority, a we-they distinction that elicits the granfalloon (arbitrary group), or speeches that make you feel fearful or guilty. If you feel that your emotions are being played on, get out of the situation and then analyze what is going on.
· Explore the motivation and credibility of the source of the communication. Ask such things as: “Why is this person telling me this information?” “What does the source have to gain?”
· Think rationally about any proposal or issue. Ask such things as: “What is the issue?” “What labels and terms are used to describe it?” “Are these labels used fairly?”
· Attempt to understand the full range of options before making a decision. Ask such questions as: “why are these choices being presented to me in this manner?”
· Base your evaluation of a leader not on what they say, but on what their actions in the past have shown.
· Stop to consider the possibility that any information you receive may be a factoid. Always ask: “What is the evidence for this?” “Where did you hear it?”
· If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Before making a purchase, look for these common warning signs of a bad deal: 1) the deal is only good for “today”; 2) the seller offers “free gifts” in return for “minimum” effort; 3) a sale item is suddenly unavailable but a “much better” item happens to be available for “slightly more money” (throwing a lowball); 4) the seller emphasizes the amount of each payment rather than the total amount of the sale; 5) a “repair person” discovers a “dangerous” defect in something you own that must be repaired immediately; 6) you are given little or not time to read a contract; 7) the seller makes you feel guilty for asking questions or asks, “Don’t you trust me?”
· Teach your children about propaganda. What TV with your children and help them develop counterarguments against propaganda.
· Support efforts to protect vulnerable groups such as children from exploitative persuasion.
· Avoid being dependent on a single source of information. One of the hallmarks of intense propaganda is centralized communications from a single perspective.
· Think of the news as the news and try to separate it in your own mind from entertainment. · Support campaign spending reform. Instead of letting candidates spend taxpayer allotted dollars on 30-second ads, why not require recipients of federal matching funds to use the money to pay for debates, open forums with the public, press conferences, and infomercials that give the viewer a chance to hear the candidate’s position in detail.
· Demand consumer affairs shows, or talk shows that bring together advertisers, media critics, and consumers to discuss advertising.
· Write companies asking for proof of advertised claims.
· Support and extend efforts to squelch deceptive advertisements. Also support efforts to eliminate misleading labels and other deceptive practices.
· Promote the institutions of democracy. We often take for granted the nature of democracy, thinking that is it just “majority rule” or “the freedom to do our own thing.” A democracy is a pattern of social relations that encourages deliberative persuasion (not propaganda) and respects the rights and responsibilities of all citizens. The hallmarks of a democracy (as opposed to an autocracy) include the following: 1) Communication is decentralized, with multiple sources of information; 2) authority and power are constrained by a system of checks and balances; 3) agendas and goals are established through discussion, not be leader fiat; 4) there is a reciprocity of influence between leaders and citizens, as opposed to unidirectional influence from elites; 5) group boundaries and roles are flexible, as opposed to there being a rigid social structure; and 6) minority opinion is encouraged as a means of obtaining a better decision, and the rights of those in the minority are protected.
Pratkanis, A.R., & Aronson, E. (2001). Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion, 2nd ed....more
Origin myths among indigenous peoples, of course, neatly fit this description. Landau, however, goes on to show**spoiler alert** My notes and quotes:
Origin myths among indigenous peoples, of course, neatly fit this description. Landau, however, goes on to show how scientific theories of human origins are no less susceptible to narrative bias. Was it bipedalism that gave rise to tool use, which generated big brains? Or was it tool use that led to bipedalism and then big brains? Were early hominids primarily hunters – man the killer ape, warlike in nature? Or were they primarily gatherers – man the vegetarian, pacifist in nature? More importantly, does the narrative change in response to empirical evidence, or does the interpretation of the evidence change as a result of the currently popular narrative? This is a serious problem in the philosophy of science: To what extent are observations in science driven by theory? Quite a bit, as it turns out, especially in history and social sciences. And this fact supports the thesis that humans are primarily storytelling animals. The scientific method of purposefully searching for evidence to falsify our most deeply held beliefs does not come naturally. Telling stories in the service of a scientific theory does. (p. 149-150).
Jesus himself made it clear that ultimate redemption would come within the lifetime of his contemporaries: “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). Two thousand years later over one billion people profess Jesus to be the Messiah who not only redeemed Jews from their Roman oppressors, but who will deliver us from ours. (Such is the power of belief systems to rationalize all discrepancies – one being that this is the Kingdom of God on Earth.) (p. 188).
The Jehovah’s Witnesses must hold the record for the most failed dates of doom, including 1874, 1878, 1881, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, and others all the way up to 1975. One of the more novel and audacious rationalizations for failed prophecy came after Armageddon’s nonarrival in 1975. In a 1966 book published by the Watchtower Society, Life Everlasting in Freedom of the Sons of God, the Witnesses established the date of creation at 4026 B.C., declaring that “six thousand years of human history will begin in the fall of 1975.” The Watchtower Society’s president, Frederick Franz, at a Toronto, Ontario, rally, blamed the members themselves. Because Jesus had stated that no man will the “day or the hour” of his coming, the Witnesses jinxed the Second Coming: “Do you know why nothing happened in 1975? It was because you expected something to happen.” Undaunted, they recalibrated again, citing October 2, 1984, as doomsday. Finally, in 1996, the leaders of the church learned the Millerite lesson. In the November 1996 issue of Awake!, members discovered that “the generation that saw the events of 1914” would not, after all, be seeing the end of the world. Instead, this oft-quoted line was replaced by a much vaguer “is about to” clause, reducing dissonance indefinitely. (p. 203-204).
Isaiah 65:20-23, 25 – According to The Interpreter’s Bible, in these Isaiah passages “the meaning is not that the present world will be completely destroyed and a new world created, but rather that the present world will be completely transformed … there is no cosmological speculation here.” Indeed, in the Hebrew Bible it is not until the book of Daniel – the latest addition to the canon – that one can find reference to humans ascending to heaven. For mortals, heaven generally meant a new Kingdom on Earth, not a place to go where God resides. The shift from earthly paradise to cosmological firmament began in Daniel and was reinforced especially by Jesus who portrayed to his oppressed peoples that redemption was just around the chronological corner. Yet even Jesus made intriguing references to the Kingdom that “has come upon you” (Luke 11:20), that has suffered violence since the time of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:12), and especially in Luke 17:20-21, where he seems to infer that heaven is a state of mind: “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (p.209)....more