Welcome to the Learning Center

Resources for Culture Designers Seeking to Change the World

Reflections on the Great Transition of Humanity

We are living through unprecedented global change. Nothing like this has ever happened before. How do we as human beings manage, even thrive within, the changes that are happening in the world today?

In this video, I offer reflections about what I think we need to make the transition. And I share why I am hopeful about the future while remaining sober about the severity of our present situation.
Onward, fellow humans.

 

Butterfly Economics — A New Way to Think About Economic Policy

One of the great mistakes of Neoclassical economics is that it treats the economy as a single, monolithic thing (assumed to be in equilibrium and having a “macro” behavior).  In other words, the economy is the primary object of analysis. What if I were to tell you that this traditional approach has it backwards?  That economic behavior is not a macro thing at all, rather it is the small interacting “agents” of an economic system whose actions give rise to the emergent patterns we observe in the economy as a whole?

Well that is what Paul Ormerod powerfully argues in his book Butterfly Economics: A New General Theory of Social and Economic Behavior. He starts out with the surprisingly simple example of what you might observe if you watched a colony of ants send out foragers to two piles of sugar, both the same distance from the nest.  The breath-taking intricacies of turbulence, phase transitions, and a general unpredictability arise without effort.  The same is true for human social systems.  We can learn a lot from ants! Continue reading “Butterfly Economics — A New Way to Think About Economic Policy” »

Economics Becoming A REAL Science?

Have you noticed how the field of economics is splintered and divided into factions? How it can’t seem to get its act together?  That mainstream economists can’t agree whether we should use austerity measures or financial stimulus?  Ask three economists what the best policy is for a given circumstance and you’ll get four opinions — or so the story goes.

There is a reason why economics is so messed up.  It is going through what philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn calls a scientific revolution, a paradigm shift where the splintered factions are so broken that only a new way of conceptualizing the whole edifice will bring it back into a newly formed (and different) whole.  This is what financial analyst George Cooper describes in his excellent book Money, Blood and Revolution: How Darwin and the Doctor of King Charles I Could Turn Economics into a Science.

I really can’t recommend this book highly enough.  Cooper (who happens to be a friend since joining our Evonomics Project as an expert advisor) walks us through a highly accessible history of scientific revolutions — the birth of astronomy, founding of modern medicine, discovery of natural selection, and confirmation of plate tectonics — to show us how they work.  He then applies this conceptual scalpel to the field of economics.  His diagnoses is simple.  It is a field in the turmoil of birthing, not yet a science but almost there.

The book culminates with a powerful articulation of what the new paradigm might be, inspired by key metaphors of circulation (in the theory of blood flow from medical science) and natural selection (from evolutionary studies).

Get your copy today and help accelerate the creation of a true economic science.  The world desperately needs one, that’s for sure!

Making Sense of Political Worldviews

Have you struggled to make sense of political behavior?  Wondered why people seemingly vote against their self-interest?  Been confused about how the words we use can have different meanings that lead to conflict and arguments?  A systematic approach to moral worldviews in politics has been undertaken by researchers in linguistics, anthropology, sociology, and other related fields.

Continue reading “Making Sense of Political Worldviews” »

Exploring the Neuroscience of Consciousness

It has become popular in recent years to suggest that brain researchers actively avoid the study of consciousness. This is simply not true.
In this video, I review the work of Antonio Damasio as an entry point into the rich history of neuroscience and consciousness studies.  His book, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, was published in 1999 and offers a wonderful theory for how the brain contributes to the emergence of many levels for consciousness.

Continue reading “Exploring the Neuroscience of Consciousness” »

The Best Technique for Managing Complex Decisions

We live in a very complex world.  Small changes in one place can have cascading effects across entire systems of society.  And, as we know so well, when confronted with difficult situations, people often make mistakes because they are not able to see these indirect consequences of their actions.  This begs the question How does human decision-making work in complex environments?

Continue reading “The Best Technique for Managing Complex Decisions” »

Will Capitalism Destroy Itself? — A Revolution in Economics

The global economy is going through profound changes that may well bring the Era of Capitalism to an end — through a convergence of revolutions in communication technologies, logistics, and manufacturing.  Author and trend analyst, Jeremy Rifkin, explores this transition in depth in his book The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism.

Continue reading “Will Capitalism Destroy Itself? — A Revolution in Economics” »

How Globalization Creates Systemic Risk

Our world has become profoundly interconnected, creating new categories of risk that must be managed at the global level. These risks are systemic — meaning they arise through the interactions among different moving parts of society as a whole.
Financial crises, ecological decline, loss of trust in governance, and the spread of disease are all systemic risks that require new management tools and insights from complexity science as we transition to a more sustainable, thriving world.

Continue reading “How Globalization Creates Systemic Risk” »

How Pandemics Have Shaped the Course of History

Did you know that pandemics have shaped the course of history?  When two armies battle, the one whose members have survived past disease have a distinct advantage over those who are more susceptible.
It is becoming more common to talk about the interplay of biological and cultural evolution — how our brains, bodies, and minds are shaped by evolutionary processes.  What we don’t talk about as much is the way that biological processes have shaped the broad patterns of history.

Continue reading “How Pandemics Have Shaped the Course of History” »

How An Evolutionary Approach Leads to Better Economics

Among the many mistakes in traditional economics is the notion that self-interest always leads to better outcomes at the societal level.  This assumption — usually attributed to Adam Smith — isn’t how economies actually work.  Adam Smith himself knew this.  He made the more nuanced observation that, much to his surprise, selfish motives sometimes lead to beneficial group outcomes by the “invisible hand” of the market.

Continue reading “How An Evolutionary Approach Leads to Better Economics” »