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Do we need to change how economics is taught?
Dan Ariely is the James B Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. He is the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight and co-founder of BEworks, which helps business leaders apply scientific thinking to their marketing and operational challenges. His books include Predictably Irrational and The Upside of Irrationality, both of which became New York Times best-sellers. as well as The Honest Truth about Dishonesty and his latest, Irrationally Yours.
Ariely publishes widely in the leading scholarly journals in economics, psychology, and business. His work has been featured in a variety of media including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Business 2.0, Scientific American, Science and CNN.
Question: Do we need to change how economics is taught?\r\n
Dan Ariely: So this goes back to the question of, “What’s the role of economics?” And economics has two roles. One role, it’s a field of study. It’s a fantastic, wonderful field of study. It shouldn’t be changed, right? It’s just lovely. The same way that philosophy is lovely, and sociology and so on. And the field should keep . . . keep on going. The second part where economics is different from all social sciences is that it has prescriptions for social policies. It tells us how to behave. It tells policies what to do. It tells business people what to do. And this is the place that worries me. This is the place that I think we should include more in the discussion than just standard economics. So for example my idea would be to create a new field that would be called “policy research”. So imagine that we do a tax cut for $800 billion just for example. What is the right way to do it? Is it just the right way to take economic principles, and based on that decide how much to give and who to give to and so on? Or is it better to take Iowa and give some people in Iowa some discounts, and other people other rebates and so on, and check which one works better? You see as a scientist I have ideas about what will work better or not. But I don’t have the confidence or the audacity to suggest that I know everything and I can predict the real right approach. I can suggest experiments, and the result of the experiments could tell us what to do. And that’s actually my hope. My hope is that economics will join psychology, and sociology, and behavioral economics to create a field where everybody proposed experiments. We test them out and we learn the most about what we should be really doing. Now I’ll give you one example for (46:04) this on some committee that is looking at the No Child Left Behind Policy . . . That’s a policy that gives schools money . . . to schools, and principals, and teachers based on performance of kids. We all have ideas about it. Is this right? Is this wrong? I personally think there’s a lot of things wrong with it. Most of teachers also think it’s very wrong. But with the billions of dollars that go into it – and I’m not sure what percent of GDP education; let’s say it’s about 15 . . . With the billions of dollars that go into it, nobody is creating good studies that are testing the efficacy of this. For me this is just unbelievable. And here is just a list of questions that we have no ideas about. What’s the right age to start studying? We don’t know. I mean for each topic we don’t know. How many minutes should a class session last? We have no idea. What is the ratio between teachers and kids that are ideal? No idea. I sat next to the head of UNESCO a few weeks ago and had lunch with him. And he said there’s one thing we know about education, and that’s the quality of the teachers really matters. I said fine. What does it mean – “quality of the teachers?” “I don’t know." I mean it’s unbelievable that we spend so much money based on our conceived notion about what’s right and what’s wrong. As a scientist I say we know some things, but we don’t know so much. Let’s just create a system where we do more experiments and test more things out. I think businesses should do it more, and I think the government should do it more. And one good case is medicine. You know medicine before the FDA was just placebos. We would put leeches, and bleach people, and all kinds of ointments. It was useless. And as a burn patient, you know I suffered through some treatments that were just placebos. What the FDA is doing is forcing people to work against their natural tendency, and forces people to do experiments. If you’re a physician and you think Ointment A is good, you’re not going to deprive half of your patients from it just to test if it’s working. You would give everybody this. If you’re a businessman and you think this is good for your clients or for your stockholders, you’re not going to deprive half of the population of it. You’re going to give it to everybody. The FDA is forcing people to do something that’s not natural – experiments. And by doing that we’ve advanced medicine in a fantastic way. But I think the same discipline is important for other things – for policies and for business.\r\n
Recorded on: Feb 19 2008\r\n
Economics is a field study that delivers policy prescriptions, Ariely says.
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Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
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- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.