I had this piece drafted before the murder of Jo Cox last week. But I don’t think it changes anything I was going to say. It simply makes it more urgent to say it. May I introduce you to my two lovely young nieces? Natasha is four months old and Rosalind four years. They live in rural Devon, and they’re just starting to discover the world and decide how to feel about it. I want to think a little about what it might feel like to be in their world. The campaign for Britain to remain in the EU has been full of facts and utilitarian arguments. Economic projections, dispelling of myths about regulations, estimates of the economic and tax contributions made by European workers in Britain. All the kinds of things that may convince you if your inclination is to weigh up the numbers and evaluate the facts. But there are plenty of people who don’t want to make a decision based on numbers, and I understand that. Numbers can be manipulated. We don’t all have the time or desire to r
[ An essay written for the Internet Review , a one-off maybe-to-become-annual publication documenting (and celebrating?) Internet trends ] Every human has two minds: one like an amoeba and one like a squirrel. The amoeba mind is reactive, emotional, intuitive. It decides immediately, without planning or consideration. It is Freud’s “id”, or the System One of behavioral economics: the amoeba is your unconscious. Your squirrel mind plans, trades off immediate pleasures for future gain, is capable of abstract reasoning and cooperation – the superego. Being an amoeba is often more fun – maybe even more authentic – but the squirrel makes things happen in the long run. Society also has amoeba and squirrel modes. The amoeba is the local interaction: follow your senses and do what’s in your direct interest, consequences be damned. Squirrel mode requires bigger institutions, and trust: in other people’s knowledge, a shared logical picture of the world, forgoing today’s profit for society
I recently gave a talk at TEDxCoventGardenWomen about an economic agent-based modelling system I have built (readers of Thomas Schelling may see some influence). In the talk I use this system to analyse ideas around privilege, prejudice and systemic inequality - and to test some policies that might help to solve the persistent gender and racial pay gaps that we still see in most societies. The video is below - your thoughts would be very welcome.