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Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference by David Halpern
Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, availability heuristic, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, centre right, choice architecture, cognitive dissonance, collaborative consumption, correlation does not imply causation, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, endowment effect, happiness index / gross national happiness, hindsight bias, illegal immigration, job satisfaction, Kickstarter, libertarian paternalism, market design, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Milgram experiment, nudge unit, peer-to-peer lending, pension reform, presumed consent, quantitative easing, randomized controlled trial, Richard Feynman, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, Simon Kuznets, skunkworks, the built environment, theory of mind, traffic fines, World Values Survey
Rather, it was about bringing a more sophisticated and realistic account of how real people live, behave and make decisions, and the implications of this for policy. If the Nudge Unit was to survive in the vortex of No. 10, it had to offer advice and solutions to the PM and other Ministers that was distinctive, and value adding, from all the other advice that poured in through the myriad meetings and river of paper that flows across Whitehall and into the PM’s red box. The curious case of electronic cigarettes Rory Sutherland is a larger than life character. He’s one of those people who positively embraces eccentricity and, with a twinkle in his eye, seeks to push a story or an idea to the point where you’re not really sure if he’s serious. In organisational psychology, he’s what is sometimes called a ‘plant’ – a person you deliberately keep around to produce crazy ideas. Many of these ideas might be completely unworkable, but occasionally one of them will turn out to be brilliant, or at least the spark of something that could be made brilliant.
NOTES Preface 1 The use of images for speeding offences was based on an account from a French official. I do not know if they ran it as a systematic trial. The last bit, about ‘threatening’ to send it, was shameless embellishment. Chapter 1: Early Steps 1 One of the most basic psychological effects is how familiarity breeds liking, from random sequences of notes to how much we like and trust institutions. 2 I’m grateful to Rory Sutherland for first drawing my attention to the fascinating example of how Frederick the Great encouraged Prussians to adopt the potato. 3 Quoted in Quarterly Journal of Military History, August 2009. 4 UCLA Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health; http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/snow/victoria.html. 5 The Rotherhithe Tunnel was opened around 1908, and today carries the A101 road from Limehouse to Rotherhithe.
The team and I are also indebted to the work and counsel of many others, especially to Daniel Kahneman and Cass Sunstein; and also David Albury, Dan Ariely, Jon Baron, Christian Bason, Maurice Biriotti, John Britton, Iris Bohnet, Max Bazerman, Bob Cialdini, Cary Cooper, Angus Deaton, Paul Dolan, Angela Duckworth, Bobby Duffy, Carol Dweck, Gerd Gigerenzer, Ben Goldacre, Pelle Hanson, Tim Hartford, John Helliwell, Felicia Huppert, Paul Johnson, Mike Kelly, Beau Kilmer, Dom King, Christian Kroll, David Laibson, Richard Layard, Steve Levitt, John List, Donald Low, Mike Luca, Robert McCorquodale, Mike Norton, Beth Novack, Philip Oreopoulos, Ben Page, Bob Putnam, Matt Rabin, Todd Rogers, Marty Seligman, Nigel Shadbolt, Eldar Shafir, Jonathan Shepherd, Dilip Soman, Rory Sutherland, Richard Suzman, Larry Sherman, Andrew Skates and Kevin Volpe. Most of all, I would like to thank the wonderful and talented people who make up and support the Behavioural Insights Team itself. A particular thanks is due to Owain Service, who has been central to building a cohesive team and navigating the complexities of moving from inside government to the current form, and to Andy Jackson and Olly Nguyen to delivering a functioning organisation.
Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Air France Flight 447, Andrei Shleifer, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Black Swan, credit crunch, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, discrete time, double entry bookkeeping, Emanuel Derman, epigenetics, financial independence, Flash crash, Gary Taubes, Gini coefficient, Henri Poincaré, high net worth, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, informal economy, invention of the wheel, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Hargreaves, Jane Jacobs, joint-stock company, joint-stock limited liability company, Joseph Schumpeter, knowledge economy, Lao Tzu, Long Term Capital Management, loss aversion, Louis Pasteur, mandelbrot fractal, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, moral hazard, mouse model, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, placebo effect, Ponzi scheme, principal–agent problem, purchasing power parity, quantitative trading / quantitative ﬁnance, Ralph Nader, random walk, Ray Kurzweil, rent control, Republic of Letters, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, Silicon Valley, six sigma, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, stochastic process, stochastic volatility, The Great Moderation, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, too big to fail, transaction costs, urban planning, Yogi Berra, Zipf's Law
A Legal Way to Kill People If you want to accelerate someone’s death, give him a personal doctor. I don’t mean provide him with a bad doctor: just pay for him to choose his own. Any doctor will do. This may be the only possible way to murder someone while staying squarely within the law. We can see from the tonsillectomy story that access to data increases intervention, causing us to behave like the neurotic fellow. Rory Sutherland signaled to me that someone with a personal doctor on staff should be particularly vulnerable to naive interventionism, hence iatrogenics; doctors need to justify their salaries and prove to themselves that they have a modicum of work ethic, something that “doing nothing” doesn’t satisfy. Indeed, Michael Jackson’s personal doctor has been sued for something equivalent to overintervention-to-stifle-antifragility (but it will take the law courts a while to become directly familiar with the concept).
To return to finance, the barbell does not need to be in the form of investment in inflation-protected cash and the rest in speculative securities. Anything that removes the risk of ruin will get us to such a barbell. The legendary investor Ray Dalio has a rule for someone making speculative bets: “Make sure that the probability of the unacceptable (i.e., the risk of ruin) is nil.” Such a rule gets one straight to the barbell.3 Another idea from Rory Sutherland: the U.K. guidelines for patients with mild problems coming from alcohol are to reduce the daily consumption to under a certain number of grams of alcohol per day. But the optimal policy is to avoid alcohol three times a week (hence give the liver a lengthy vacation) then drink liberally the remaining four. The mathematics behind this and other barbell ideas are outlined with the later discussion of Jensen’s inequality.
Acknowledgments Peter Bevelin, Jazi Zilber, Peter Tanous, and Rolf Dobelli read the entire manuscript several times in several different versions in great detail and provided generous comments or hints on relevant research. I had exceptional and enthusiastic contributions from Will Murphy, Evan Camfield, Alexis Kirshbaum, Cynthia Taleb, Will Goodlad, Stefan McGrath, and Asim Samiuddin, who witnessed the progress of the book and contributed to its development. Generous comments and help: Peter Nielsen, Rory Sutherland, Saifedean Ammous, Max Brockman, John Brockman, Marcos Carreira, Nathan Myhrvold, Aaron Brown, Terry Burnham, Peter Boettke, Russ Roberts, Kevin Horgan, Farid Karkaby, Michael Schrague, Dan Goldstein, Marie-Christine Riachi, Ed Frankel, Mika Kasuga, Eric Weinstein, Emanuel Derman, Alberto Mingardi, Constantine Sandis, Guy Deutscher, Bruno Dupire, George Martin, Joelle Weiss, Rohan Silva, Janan Ganesh, Dan Ariely, Gur Huberman, Cameron Williams, Jacques Merab, Lorenzo Savorelli, Andres Velasco, Eleni Panagiotarakou, Conrad Young, Melik Keylan, Seth Roberts, John McDonald, Yaneer Bar-Yam, David Shaywitz, Nouriel Roubini, Philippe Asseily, Ghassan Bejjani, Alexis Grégoire Saint-Marie, Charles Tapiero, Barry Blecherman, Art De Vany, Guy Riviere, Bernard Oppetit, Brendon Yarkin, and Mark Spitznagel; and my online helpers Jean-Louis Reault, Ben Lambert, Marko Costa, Satiyaki Den, Kenneth Lamont, Vergil Den, Karen Brennan, Ban Kanj, Lea McKay, Ricardo Medina, Marco Alves, Pierre Madani, Greg Linster, Oliver Mayor, Satyaki Roy, Daniel Hogendoorn, Phillip Crenshaw, Walter Marsh, John Aziz, Graeme Blake, Greg Linster, Sujit Kapadia, Alvaro De La Paz, Apoorv Bajpai, Louis Shickle, Ben Brady, Alfonso Payno de las Cuevas, “Guru Anaerobic,” Alexander Boland, David Boxenhorn, Dru Stevenson, and Michal Kolano.
3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, algorithmic trading, artificial general intelligence, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, bitcoin, blockchain, clean water, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, computer age, computer vision, constrained optimization, corporate personhood, cosmological principle, cryptocurrency, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, dark matter, discrete time, Elon Musk, Emanuel Derman, endowment effect, epigenetics, Ernest Rutherford, experimental economics, Flash crash, friendly AI, Google Glasses, hive mind, income inequality, information trail, Internet of things, invention of writing, iterative process, Jaron Lanier, job automation, John von Neumann, Kevin Kelly, knowledge worker, loose coupling, microbiome, Moneyball by Michael Lewis explains big data, natural language processing, Network effects, Norbert Wiener, pattern recognition, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, planetary scale, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, Republic of Letters, RFID, Richard Thaler, Rory Sutherland, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart contracts, speech recognition, statistical model, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, strong AI, Stuxnet, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, too big to fail, Turing machine, Turing test, Von Neumann architecture, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Y2K
TOPOL A New Wisdom of the Body ROGER HIGHFIELD From Regular-I to AI GORDON KANE We Need More Than Thought SCOTT ATRAN Are We Going in the Wrong Direction? STANISLAS DEHAENE Two Cognitive Functions Machines Still Lack MATT RIDLEY Among the Machines, Not Within the Machines STEPHEN M. KOSSLYN Another Kind of Diversity LUCA DE BIASE Narratives and Our Civilization MARGARET LEVI Human Responsibility D. A. WALLACH Amplifiers/Implementers of Human Choices RORY SUTHERLAND Make the Thing Impossible to Hate BRUCE STERLING Actress Machines KEVIN KELLY Call Them Artificial Aliens MARTIN SELIGMAN Do Machines Do? TIMOTHY TAYLOR Denkraumverlust GEORGE DYSON Analog, the Revolution That Dares Not Speak Its Name S. ABBAS RAZA The Values of Artificial Intelligence BRUCE PARKER Artificial Selection and Our Grandchildren NEIL GERSHENFELD Really Good Hacks DANIEL L.
On the other hand, these technologies may undermine fairness by augmenting the seemingly inevitable monopolistic goals of corporations that are leading us into the Information Age. The path we take depends more on us than on the machines and is ultimately a choice about how human the intelligence that will guide our dominion ought to be. More precisely, the question to ask is which aspects of human intelligence are worth preserving in the face of superhuman processing. MAKE THE THING IMPOSSIBLE TO HATE RORY SUTHERLAND Creative director and vice-chair, Ogilvy Group, U.K.; columnist, The Spectator (London) One possibility, of course, is that some malign superintelligence already exists on Earth but is shrewd enough to disguise its existence, its intentions, or its intelligence. I don’t think this act of deception would be particularly difficult; we aren’t very good at spotting what to fear. For most of evolutionary time, the most salient avoidable threats to our survival came from things that were roughly the same size as we were and actively wanted to hurt us—ferocious animals, for instance, or other people.
Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy by Robert H. Frank
2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, Amazon Mechanical Turk, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, attribution theory, availability heuristic, Branko Milanovic, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carried interest, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, David Brooks, deliberate practice, en.wikipedia.org, endowment effect, experimental subject, framing effect, full employment, hindsight bias, If something cannot go on forever, it will stop, income inequality, invisible hand, labor-force participation, labour mobility, lake wobegon effect, loss aversion, minimum wage unemployment, Network effects, Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, Richard Thaler, Rod Stewart played at Stephen Schwarzman birthday party, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, side project, sovereign wealth fund, Steve Jobs, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Tim Cook: Apple, ultimatum game, Vincenzo Peruggia: Mona Lisa, winner-take-all economy
With apologies to those I neglect to mention explicitly, I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Peter Bloom, Summer Brown, Bruce Buchanan, CAU seminar participants, Philip Cook, Richard Dawkins, David DeSteno, Nick Epley, Alissa Fishbane, Chris Frank, David Frank, Hayden Frank, Jason Frank, Srinagesh Gavernini, Tom Gilovich, Piper Goodeve, Janet Greenfield, Jon Haidt, Ori Heffetz, Yuezhou Hou, Graham Kerslick, Kathi Mestayer, Dave Nussbaum, NYU Paduano Seminar participants, Sam Pizzigati, Dennis Regan, Russell Sage Foundation seminar participants, Kirsten Saracini, Eric Schoenberg, Barry Schwartz, Larry Seidman, Amit Singh, Rory Sutherland, David Sloan Wilson, Andrew Wylie, and Caitlin Zaloom for their advice and encouragement. They of course bear no responsibility for any remaining errors. I’m also grateful to Honor Jones and Kathleen Kageff for their skillful editorial assistance. And finally, I thank Peter Dougherty and Seth Ditchik at Princeton University Press for their enthusiastic support and, above all, for their enduring faith that books still matter. 1 WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW Writers are told to “write what you know,” and that’s one reason I began writing about luck several years ago.
Andrei Shleifer, asset-backed security, bank run, banking crisis, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, Bernie Madoff, Big bang: deregulation of the City of London, Bretton Woods, capital controls, carbon footprint, Carmen Reinhart, Cass Sunstein, centre right, choice architecture, cloud computing, collective bargaining, conceptual framework, Corn Laws, corporate governance, credit crunch, Credit Default Swap, debt deflation, decarbonisation, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of DNA, discovery of the americas, discrete time, diversification, double helix, Edward Glaeser, financial deregulation, financial innovation, financial intermediation, first-past-the-post, floating exchange rates, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, George Akerlof, Gini coefficient, global supply chain, Growth in a Time of Debt, Hyman Minsky, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, income inequality, inflation targeting, interest rate swap, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Joseph Schumpeter, Kenneth Rogoff, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, labour market flexibility, Long Term Capital Management, Louis Pasteur, low-wage service sector, mandelbrot fractal, margin call, market fundamentalism, Martin Wolf, means of production, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, moral hazard, mortgage debt, new economy, Northern Rock, offshore financial centre, open economy, Plutocrats, plutocrats, price discrimination, private sector deleveraging, purchasing power parity, quantitative easing, race to the bottom, railway mania, random walk, rent-seeking, reserve currency, Richard Thaler, rising living standards, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, shareholder value, short selling, Silicon Valley, Skype, South Sea Bubble, Steve Jobs, The Market for Lemons, the market place, The Myth of the Rational Market, the payments system, the scientific method, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, too big to fail, unpaid internship, value at risk, Washington Consensus, working poor, éminence grise
It was my agent Ed Victor who once again persuaded me to embark on the madcap enterprise of writing a book – and who helped shape the first doodles into the proposal that became Them and Us. Thank you, Ed. I have shown a number of people chapters in draft, and their feedback has been fantastically helpful and supportive. In particular I would like to thank Richard Layard, David Held, David Miliband, Alan Rusbridger, Paul Webster, Ruaridh Nicoll, Andrew Haldane, Helena Kennedy, Lindsay Mckie and Tim Horton for their comments and criticisms. Steve Gaskell, Ed Sweeney and Rory Sutherland also offered interesting and illuminating comments, as did Zamila Bunglawala, John Denham, Josie Cluer, Andy Westwood and Stuart White. David Held organised a seminar at the LSE with, Eva-Maria Nag, Paul Kelly, Hakan Seckinelgin and Tim Horton to discuss Chapters 2 and 3, which led to important redrafting. The comments on the first draft of the book from my editor at Little, Brown, Richard Beswick, were subtle and illuminating; and thanks to Tim Whiting, who weighed in at the end.