Ep 6. Wendy Carlin

By Ariel Airey-Lee

Wendy is Professor of Economics at University College London and Research Fellow of the Centre for Economic Policy Research. Her research focuses on macroeconomics, institutions and economic performance, the economics of transition, and economic knowledge and education -as such Wendy is leading an international project - the CORE project - which has the exceptionally ambitious aim to reform the entire undergraduate economics curriculum. She is a member of the Expert Advisory Panel of the UK's Office for Budget Responsibility. She has co-authored three macroeconomics books: and In 2015, she was awarded a CBE for services to economics and public finance. 

You should know Wendy is very interested in how we think about the economy and public policy, not only in an academic environment, but also in the everyday vernacular by which people talk about their livelihoods and futures. 

I suspect after Covid-19 there will be a great sorting, a sort of dividing line - BC and AD if you will - and there are some ideas and thus some organizations will wither and others will prosper. There are questions we need to ask ourselves - among them -  Are there ideas that can make sense of what seems to be an emerging economic paradigm - one post covid that is less individualistic, less based on the conception of humans as perfect rational actors, one that sees more opportunities for collaboration between entities such as governments, private enterprise and communities, entities that previously were deemed antagonistic or irrelevant to one another.  As organizational people - we need to ask ourselves what is this new paradigm, what are its properties, its narrative, its function, and how does it allow us to build better organizations, including companies, countries, communities and a better more flourishing civil society. 

We have no better guide than Wendy Carlin

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Ep 5. David Krakauer

By Toby Shannan

David's research is concerned with the evolutionary history of information processing mechanisms in biology and culture, with an emphasis on robust information transmission, signalling dynamics and their role in constructing novel, higher level features. The research spans several levels of organization finding analogous processes in genetics, cell biology, microbiology and in organismal behavior and society. At the cellular level he has been interested in molecular processes, which rely on volatile, error-prone, asynchronous, mechanisms, which can be used as a basis for decision making and patterning.

He also investigates how signalling interactions at higher levels, including microbial and organismal, are used to coordinate complex life cycles and social systems, and under what conditions we observe the emergence of proto-grammars. Much of this work is motivated by the search for 'noisy-design' principles in biology and culture emerging through evolutionary dynamics that span hierarchical structures. In addition to general principles there is a need to provide an explicit theory of evolutionary history, a theory of memory accounting for those incompressible regularities revealed once the regular components have been subtracted.

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Ep 4. Andrew McAfee

By Ariel Airey-Lee

Our Guest 

Andrew McAfee Ideas at Work Podcast

Andrew is a principal research scientist at MIT, he is a cofounder and codirector of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy at the Sloan School of Management. He studies how digital technologies are changing the world.

And he is known for his work in describing the impact of technology on businesses, work and the broader culture. 

He is the author of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, co-authored with Erik Brynjolfsson. 

Also co authored with Brynjolfsson are The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies and Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future. 

And last but certainly not least Andrew published More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources — and What Happens Next

You should know Andrew’s ideas are often counter intuitive  - we should embrace technology even as we admit that it might make many jobs - including ours - redundant - and maybe the most controversial - we should embrace capitalism in order to make the environment better!

Despite this hyperbolic introduction - These arguments made by MacaFee are always ground in data and presented not as a potential Davos tech utopia - but as a potential path, a path that could (with the right balance of wisdom and humility) point us to a progressive future where we could build a better tomorrow for the earth and everything on it. 

I suspect after Covid-19 there will be a great sorting, a dividing line - a BC and AD if you will - and some ideas and thus some organizations will wither and others will prosper. As organizational people - we need to ask ourselves why? Are there ideas that can make sense of machines, work and the engine of our economic growth, organizations, societies, the environment and all of humanity

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Ep 3. Geoffrey West

By Jack Shannan

Our Guest

Geoffrey is a theoretical physicist whose primary interests have been in fundamental questions in physics, especially those concerning the elementary particles, their interactions and cosmological implications. West served as President for the Santa Fe Institute from 2005 through to 2009. Prior to joining the Santa Fe Institute he was the leader, and founder, of the high energy physics group at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

He is known for his work in describing the universal scaling laws that pervade biology from the molecular genomic scale up through mitochondria and cells to whole organisms and ecosystems.

This work outlined in his book 2017 ‘Scale’ provides a framework for quantitative understanding of problems ranging from fundamental issues in biology (such as cell size, growth, metabolic rate, DNA nucleotide substitution rates, and the structure and dynamics of ecosystems) to questions at the forefront of medical research (such as aging, sleep, and cancer).

I plan to discuss Geoffrey’s ideas in the light of an attempt understand the relationship of these scaling laws to the structure and dynamics of social organizations, such as cities and corporations, including the relationships between economies of scale, growth, innovation and wealth creation and their implications for long-term survivability and sustainability of companies and their surrounding societies.

You should know Geoffrey’s ideas are in the realm of the biggest of the big picture stuff - why do we shuffle off this mortal coil, how long will we live, and why do we die, why does everything die - or does it? Why do cities seem not to die even though their constituents mostly certainly do and what about organizations - are they like cities or biological creatures - if we know the cause of these calamities could we stop them, remedy them? These are the questions that we will be investigating.

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Ep 2. David Sloan Wilson

By Toby Shannan

Our Guest

David Sloan Wilson is an American evolutionary biologist and a Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences and Anthropology at Binghamton University.

He is known for his many books describing the broad applicability of evolutionary theory to more than just biology - Darwin's Cathedral, Evolution for Everyone, Prosocial, This View of Life - all treat evolution as the meta tool in understanding human behaviour, culture and society.

I plan to discuss David Sloan Wilson’s understanding of evolution, specifically the theory he has championed: multilevel selection and its importance in understanding how humans have evolved to become social creatures.

Multilevel Selection, is one of the most long standing controversies in evolutionary thought. For some it is an extension of Darwin's theory, required to explain how adaptations can evolve at any level of a multi-tier hierarchy of units, such as:

  • from genes to ecosystems in biological systems

  • or small groups to global governance in human social systems.

For others, it is a theory that was rejected over half a century ago and needs to be thrown on the scrap pile of history.

If however multilevel selection were to be proven true - it demands a complete reevaluation of our moral philosophy. The typical paradox of human behaviour - how can we be so kind, benevolent and altruistic on one hand - and so avaricious, self-interested and violent on the other hand - now can be explained through a simple axiom --

“Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. ..everything else is commentary”

The importance of Wilson’s thinking in times of crisis cannot be overstated. As our normal perceptions of who we are - begin to fray in the light of a complete economic collapse and global pandemic

  • Who and what are we as human beings?

  • Are we competitors or cooperators?

  • Are we selfish atoms or universal altruists?

I suspect there will be a great sorting now, as some ideas and some organizations will wither and others will flourish. As organizational people - we need to ask ourselves why? Are there ideas that can make organizations, societies and all of humanity better?

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Ep 1. Jonathan Haidt

By Toby Shannan

Our Guest

Jonathan Haidt is an American social psychologist, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. Haidt's main scientific contributions come from the psychological field of moral foundations theory. The theory attempts to explain the evolutionary origins of human moral reasoning on the basis of innate, gut feelings rather than logical reason. Haidt’s work in moral psychology speaks to how we make and rationalize our decisions - and even more interestingly in these times - Haidt’s work is full of virology. A way of paraphrasing his work is -

‘we are tribal people and we are often but not always afraid of one another - but - we are more often but not always afraid of the unseen pathogens that pass between us - in fact our gut reactions that get gussied up as morality are Haidt argues ‘evolved responses to viruses and disease’

There is no better time for us to acquaint ourselves with these important ideas.

Haidt frequently tops lists that include "top global thinkers". He is among the most cited researchers in political and moral psychology, and is considered among the top most influential living psychologists. His influence stems in part from two books. The first: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012) examines how morality is shaped by emotion and intuition more than by reasoning, and why differing political groups have different notions of right and wrong. And the second: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018), co-written with Greg Lukianoff, explores the rising political polarization and changing culture on college campuses, and its effects on mental health.

In addition Haidt has founded a number of organizations Heterodox Academy work’s to increase intellectual diversity at universities, OpenMind is a psychology-based platform designed to foster intellectual humility and empathy, by equipping people with the essential cognitive skills and shared language to overcome their differences and work together to solve problems, and Ethical Systems, which utilizes the best research on systems thinking, psychology, and behavioral economics to improve the culture of organizations.

This last org - Ethical Systems is in deep collaboration with Shopify. Support is using Ethical Systems to score, monitor and improve its culture through understanding and rolling out scientifically based best practices as well as engaging in social science research on what makes great teams.

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