Thursday, September 07, 2006

T-Shirt #19

HC in Sioux Falls -

I’ve always been amazed at how little what we know affects what we do. We know certain things are bad for us and for our relationships, but we continue down the wide path toward destruction anyway. My example is (sorry, it’s borrowed): “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

David Laibson, behavioral economist at Harvard describes this human behavior in economic terms.

“There’s a fundamental tension, in humans and other animals, between seizing available rewards in the present, and being patient for rewards in the future. It’s radically important.”

Consider a project like starting an exercise program, which entails, say, an immediate cost of six units of value, but will produce a delayed benefit of eight units. That’s a net gain of two units, “but it ignores the human tendency to devalue the future,” Laibson says. If future events have perhaps half the value of present ones, then the eight units become only four, and starting an exercise program today means a net loss of two units (six minus four). So we don’t want to start exercising today. On the other hand, starting tomorrow devalues both the cost and the benefit by half (to three and four units, respectively), resulting in a net gain of one unit from exercising. Hence, everyone is enthusiastic about going to the gym tomorrow. ( (March 6, 2006))

It’s a paradigm shift, and paradigm shifts are hard; fundamental human behavior makes it that way. Someone said paradigm shifts take a generation, but that’s too simple of a theory. There was a time when we knew earth was the center of our solar system. Another time we said we could never get rid of slavery; after that, we still said women should not vote.

Minus is the New Plus describes a paradigm shift that society has not made, yet. Until we make the shift, each generation must relearn what its previous generation failed to embrace.

PS: Someone should write another essay on “the chasm.” That’s the marketing term for the time-space between a product’s initial sales and mass sales. Change the words to “early adopters” and “mass acceptance”.


Jeff said...

I'm currently reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell called "The Tipping Point". The book explores how things become an epidemic, whether it's disease, fashion trends, or social change. It's very interesting to see how ideas's much more complicated than simple word of mouth. It takes a few certain types of people to get involved before ideas will spread like wildfire. The psychology behind influencing people is fascinating too. Check it out!

SueJ said...

Sounds interesting!

I got my Tshirt today... my fellow worker in the college learning lab where I work mused drily that "minus is the new plus" might *not* be the right thing to wear, where so many of our students are in the midst of struggling with doing math with positive and negative numbers... I'd never thought of it that way...