2/10 課堂筆記 The Monkey Economy

Here are the notes to our discussion of the TED Talk Laurie Santos gave on the monkey economy she created to study human economic behaviors.

What are some ways we try to deal with the problem of the temptation to steal(in our real world)?
Teachers and parents tell children that stealing is the worst thing. And if you steal things from others your hand could get cut off.

So, teaching of morals.

Keys! Locking things up.

We don't even think about this, but if nobody stole anything, we wouldn't need to carry keys.

Cameras all over the city. Monitors.

Alarm systems.

Building guard guys. They take packages, sure, but their job is deterrence.

Iron cages over windows and doors, in Taiwan.

Not just Taiwan, bad neighborhoods everywhere.


How do we currently design our human environment to deal with this problem?
Punishment.

The jail system.

Media reports. Even if a child steals something, the media will report it.

Anti-corruption stuff.


A friend once said that he thinks stealing is the worst crime ever, because it causes so much inconvenience in the world, on so many levels. How bad is stealing things on your own moral compass?
It causes so much distrust.

I think murder is more serious than stealing.

Me too.

It's about a life and about scary things.

I think my life is more important than money.

But sometimes stealing is involved in murder. Several years ago my parents' house was
broken into by a theif.

And they found him..

No, They didn't find him, but he came in the middle of the night, while they were all there, all asleep, and he went to even the farthest room in the house, and stole my uncle's pants. He had left 20,000 dollars in his pants. It was just that once, normally he didn't carry this money. The next morning my mom woke up, and though it was strange, because my uncle's pants were in the living room, so they realized a theif came in the middle of the night. But if you think it through, it's quite scary, because he came in the middle of the night, and if you woke up, what would you do? And also the same thing happened, when I was there. The screen in my room was open.

And you were in the room?

Yeah, I was there, sleeping, and I though, that's weird, why was the screen open, and I told my mom, and my mom, because of her sixth sense, she went out on the balcony, and found that my little wallet was on the ground.

You didn't have iron cages on your windows?

No, not then, but then we put them in.

You know, though, I still agree with my friend, because look at how our whole world is set up to prvent people taking things.

And also about individual private information, and business information.

Our entire world is set up to prevent people taking things from us.

So, why? Why do people steal things?

Well, so I want to ask you if you've ever stolen anything in your whole life?

Yes, I stole money from my parents, when I was a first grader.

Did they find out?

Yes, they found out. I was so scared.

What did you want it for?

To buy candy.

You know, there's a high to stealing things. I read an account a guy wrote of his burglary days, and he said that it was a real rush. It was such a rush that sometimes he would have to poo, and he would poo right in their living room or somthing, and that was a rush too.

You know, one time, I found 100NT stuck somewhere in a pile of magazines in my house, and instead of telling anyone, I just took it. At that time, my mother just got back from work, and wondered why I was buying stationery. She got angry with me, and after that time, if I found something, I would tell my mom about it first.


Back to the video, she then asked us two thought experiment questions.
Thought experiment one:
So imagine that right now I handed each and every one of you a thousand U.S. dollars -- so 10 crisp hundred dollar bills.
And then you get a choice: you can either be risky, in which case I'm going to flip a coin. If it comes up heads, you're going to get a thousand dollars more. If it comes up tails, you get nothing. So it's a chance to get more, but it's pretty risky. Your other option is a bit safe. Your just going to get some money for sure. I'm just going to give you 500 bucks.

What would you choose?

500 more.
Me too.
And me.


Laurie Santos says most people think in relative terms: will I get more or less?
She says it's easier than to think in absolute terms: how much is this ultimately going to be?
Do you think this is true for you? Is this true for most people you know?


I thought totally 1500. x2
I thought, 500 more. x2

Most of the people I've asked so far have said, oh, I'll get 1500 in total. But as I work as a voice artist, which is a freelance industry, most freelancers and studios have to negotiate money all the time, so they maybe are more practiced at finding overall value in a negotiation.

1500 = absolute terms
500 more= relative terms



Now, here's another thought experiment. Imagine that I give each and every one of you 2,000 dollars -- 20 crisp hundred dollar bills. Now you can buy double to stuff you were going to get before. And now imagine that I have you make another choice But this time, it's a little bit worse. Now, you're going to be deciding how you're going to lose money, but you're going to get the same choice. You can either take a risky loss -- so I'll flip a coin. If it comes up heads, you're going to actually lose a lot. If it comes up tails, you lose nothing, you're fine, get to keep the whole thing -- or you could play it safe, which means you have to reach back into your wallet and give me five of those $100 bills, for certain.

What would you choose?

taking the risk x3
playing it safe x1

Actually the first and second scenario are completely the same in absolute terms.

You said, in both cases most people you talked to chose the second choice.

Yes, they chose not to be risky in both scenarios, and they were like, it's just the same. But I picked the first choice and then the second choice, so I guess I think in relative terms.



Laurie Santos says, when humans are in a 'loss' mindset, we actually become more risky. We're more likely to gamble when we think we're losing money.
Is this true for you? Is this true for most people you know?

It's not true for me.
It's true for me, actually.
But if you want to take more than 2000, I would choose risky.
Oh, if you were losing your own money.
Yes.
Just a different grade of risky.

If it was my own money, I would have been less risky. Because I originally thought, who cares, I'm getting it free anyways.

If it's from my pocket, I will take a conservative strategy.


Laurie Santos then says, that these behaviors have been around for 35 million years. Now, she doesn't get into this at all, but evolutionarily, when behaviors persist, it's because there's benefit in these behaviors.
What benefit might be in these behaviours?


I think, survival.

How, what do you mean by that?

You need to take advantage of having something, controlling the material.

I think that's because they lose nothing when they steal something from others.

You lose trust, and working together as a group, which is also needed for survival.

In the case where you don't steal, you cannot survive, then you will choose stealing.

But we were talking about gambling.

But it's all risky behaviour, in which you stand to gain.

But nothing here convinces me. The benefit is controlling things? really?

No, I don't mean controlling things. I'm saying, if you can control material like food, you can survive in the wild, it is very important, because the food and resources are limited, so you must.


Do you think that human behaviour is unchangable, that we're forever monkeys? Meaning, do you think that we can never actually behave according to our moral systems?
You know, think about it, we have these moral systems, but our own physical world proves that we don't believe our own codes.

In my own case, I say that if you take more than 2000 dollars from me, I will take risk. If I'm a person, no money no food no house no clothes, why wouldn't I steal something from somebody else. The chance that I will be put in jail is so small.

You have nothing to lose, so you just gamble.

You know, if you're put in jail, you have shelter and food, life is better.

That's one homeless person strategy for survival.

So, this just proves that the social safety net is so important. if you give the poorest people what they need, the rest of the people are safer. You cut out the 'have nothing to lose' problem.

But you still have white collar crime, people stealing form corpporations, stealing form the gvt, that's still there.

And then there's also scams. I have a story. I want all my friends to know not to be fooled like this. I wasn't fooled, but it's annoying. Because the scammers called my father, and told him that I'm caught by them, because I owe them money, but at that time, the other guys call me, and if I answer, they will hang up, and hang up 15 times, because they want to make sure your father can't call you. But my father ignored them, and finally got in touch with me, and he said the scammer etc, and got really angry.

Well, they were playing with his emotions.

Do you know why scams are so popular?

Why?

They can earn a lot of money this way.


Say, "The poor thing!" not "How poor she is!"
She's such a fool! What a fool!



Do you agree with Laurie Santos, that perhaps the problem is not that we do these things that we agree are bad, but that our environment is designed wrong?
Well, you talked about how you get high from getting away with something, so no matter how good the envirnoment is, people are people.

Well, what is the right environment?



If it's just the environment that has to be changed, let's go back to the stealing question:
What kind of environments make it easy to steal?

If everyone is rich?

I have a storry, when I was in college, one of the teachers told me that a theif came to her house and stole everything, and now her house is empty. so she decided to tell the thief not to come again.

Well, he's not going to, he already took everything!

Well, another thief. So she put 1000 in an enveloope, on the wall, and told the thief, this is the only thing i have left, so it's worthless to break into the house, so if they wanted to take it, just take it.
But would they beleive her though?

It's easy to steal right now!

What do you mean?

Oh, I know, if the rich people have a lot more than the others.

I would say it's easy to steal if people trusted each other, and left everything unlocked.

But then everyone wouldn't trust each other any more.

So? We're talking about not everyone stealing, but how easy it is to steal.


What kind of environments make it hard to steal?
Super-security measures.

Distrustful people.


What kind of environments make you feel bad to steal?
If it's too hard?

People think it's strange?

What if no-one else stole things?

Well, but if no one knows I stole it, then it's ok.

But you'll feel guilty.

But I think humans always find excuse for themselves to do bad things.

What kind of environments make it seem like it's no big deal or even okay to steal?
If everyone is all doing it.

I have a question. Are people born with moral sense?

I have that question too!

In ancient china, a philosopher thought that everyone was born evil.

Well the christians think that too.

So Mengzi was a christian?

Everyone is born clean or pure or whatever.

I think there's a difference between stealing once and systematically stealing, or between when you know it will hurt people, or you know it won't really matter.

I think that stealing from a charity, or taking 500,000 salary from a charity organization is much worse than stealing trouser socks, for instance.

So, is stealing money FOR a charity organization okay?

I don't know, is it?

Yeah, it's still a crime.

You know, poeple talk about victimless crimes, but I don't know. everytime anyone steals something, everyone feels less safe.

How do we redsign our environment so that people will not steal?

Well, if everyone was equal?

Ohh, I think so.

Yeah, you have 5 apples, you have 5 apples, but I could still steal one from you, then I have more than you, I can be king!

So it's training them? we train people differently?

But some people just want to win!

You say, people want to be superior? But maybe some people just want to survive, they are not to be superior, they just want to have their piece.

But we were saying, that if everyone had the same, she would stils want more.

But maybe we're just trained to want more. If you already have enough stuff to live…

I just want enough to live, and pay for what I want, but lots of poeple would laugh at that, that I'm satisfied with too little?

If you're satisfied with something, then you will want more and more.

A friend would laugh at me, 'you're so easily satisfied'. But I never understood why that is a bad thing.

But, why would you want more and more if you were satisfied?

Because, just having one apple is boring.

Okay, let's talk about it in terms of iPhone. Say you have an iPhone, but wouldn't you want an iPad, then?

But then you're not really satisfied then.

So now we're like aristotle and plato then.

I would change satisfied to , "bought something". Because when you buy it, you're satisfied, so that moment you're satisfied, but then later….

But but but, don't you think, that it's like ads that make us want thing even when we weren't thinking about it. Like the other day, I was walking down the street, and then suddenly I saw a chocolate ad and then I wanted a piece of chocolate so bad!

Our city envirnment is designed to make us want things.

If you don't know about ipad, you don't want an ipad!

So our desire is created by…

I think our society designs desire.

I heard someone say that desire is the road to success.

Yeah, I think so. but why is success so important? It's also designed by our society.

Yeah, you have to be successful, so that you have money, so that you can buy things, so that our economy grows, so it can catch up with the virtual economy, and, and…..

So everything is linked to each other.

So, we need to redefine success.

Well, then we need to redefine our environment!

Like my sister, she just came back from Japan and her Japanese language class. My mother told her she had better find a job ith more salary…

Because she put so much money and work in?

…yeah!

My mother regards earning more money as successful.

I guess you mom pissed your sister off when she said that.

Why?

Nothing is guaranteed, in this world now.

I would have said, didn't she have a good time learning japanese, and isnt' that what was imporatant here?

Yes, and she'll have a broader view toward the world, and this is more important than earning money.

And the parents don't see that, well they're the ones that pay for it.

But you're the ones that are supoporsed to support me.

Yeah, that's the mammalian contract. The parents have the repsonsibiltiy, if they create a life, to make that life successful. But the child owes nothing to the parents for this. If you create a life, you incur this debt. You owe the person for creating them.
if you make this life, you have to work to the best of your ability to make them successful.

If everyone thought like this, there would be fewer people.

Yes, and it would be much better for the planet!


Do you think that just manipulating the environment will change people's behaviours?
I think so.

I do.

But it might need to take some time.

You know, I was thinking about this, and I realized the whole reason I run these classes is because I believe this is true.

Thinking about the choice experiments that Sheena Iyengar talked about in the video last time, what were some of the choice experiments she did?

Oh, yeah the drinks, tea coffee juice soda.

The other one was the three groups of children, the teacher or the mom or they chose for themselves, and how they peformed, oh, and two kinds of nail polish, 'ballet shoes' and 'adorable'

What environmental factors affected how people chose in those experiment?
They felt differently based on who chose.

And the drinks one, it was about the advertisement. People that often see advertisements, they will see diferent soda drinks as different choices, and people less exposed to ads thought of all soda drinks as one choice.

Did environment affect people on the choice of nail polish?
Yes, the name is the environment in this case.

Holy cow, name = environment. I never thought about that before.

So, if it's about environment, where might our environment be designed wrong, where we're getting bad results from these behaviors instead of good results?
This is hard, because we're already in this environment.

If everyone does bad things, how can you do the right thing?

I think the original concept is wrong. If it's wrong in the beginning, it's not possible to be right in the end.

The original concept is about success, it's not quite good. Because everyone pursuing success, it's about growth, more, etc. How can we possibly change it?

So how can we change the wrong concept of success?

For my humble 2 cents, I want to say, starting from a smaller circle, you know, and change bit by bit, and without too high an expectation. You know, because, I think it's very likely for people to quit in the middle of the change process.

Especially when you already see some success, so people stop, because they're already good.

Yeah, I don't know how long it takes people.

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