Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Adam Galinsky

Speak up for yourself. Do you need mentoring?

Speaking up is hard to do, even when you know you should.

Learn how to assert yourself, navigate tricky social situations and expand your personal power with sage guidance.

Adam Galinsky. Social psychologist. Full bio
Filmed Sept. 2016
I understood the true meaning of this phrase exactly one month ago, when my wife and I became new parents. It was an amazing moment. It was exhilarating and elating, but it was also scary and terrifying.
And it got particularly terrifying when we got home from the hospital, and we were unsure whether our little baby boy was getting enough nutrients from breastfeeding. And we wanted to call our pediatrician, but we also didn’t want to make a bad first impression or come across as a crazy, neurotic parent.

So we worried. And we waited. When we got to the doctor’s office the next day, she immediately gave him formula because he was pretty dehydrated. Our son is fine now, and our doctor has reassured us we can always contact her. But in that moment, I should’ve spoken up, but I didn’t.

1:09 But sometimes we speak up when we shouldn’t, and I learned that over 10 years ago when I let my twin brother down. My twin brother is a documentary filmmaker, and for one of his first films, he got an offer from a distribution company. He was excited, and he was inclined to accept the offer.

But as a negotiations researcher, I insisted he make a counteroffer, and I helped him craft the perfect one. And it was perfect — it was perfectly insulting. The company was so offended, they literally withdrew the offer and my brother was left with nothing.

I’ve asked people all over the world about this dilemma of speaking up: when they can assert themselves, when they can push their interests, when they can express an opinion, when they can make an ambitious ask.

And the range of stories are varied and diverse, but they also make up a universal tapestry. Can I correct my boss when they make a mistake?

Can I confront my coworker who keeps stepping on my toes?

Can I challenge my friend’s insensitive joke?

Can I tell the person I love the most my deepest insecurities?

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.
ted.com|By Adam Galinsky
And through these experiences, I’ve come to recognize that each of us have something called a range of acceptable behavior

sometimes we’re too strong; we push ourselves too much. That’s what happened with my brother. Even making an offer was outside his range of acceptable behavior. But sometimes we’re too weak. That’s what happened with my wife and I. And this range of acceptable behaviors — when we stay within our range, we’re rewarded. When we step outside that range, we get punished in a variety of ways. We get dismissed or demeaned or even ostracized. Or we lose that raise or that promotion or that deal.

3:00 Now, the first thing we need to know is: What is my range? But the key thing is, our range isn’t fixed; it’s actually pretty dynamic. It expands and it narrows based on the context. And there’s one thing that determines that range more than anything else, and that’s your power. Your power determines your range. What is power? Power comes in lots of forms. In negotiations, it comes in the form of alternatives. So my brother had no alternatives; he lacked power. The company had lots of alternatives; they had power. Sometimes it’s being new to a country, like an immigrant, or new to an organization or new to an experience, like my wife and I as new parents. Sometimes it’s at work, where someone’s the boss and someone’s the subordinate. Sometimes it’s in relationships, where one person’s more invested than the other person.

3:54 And the key thing is that when we have lots of power, our range is very wide. We have a lot of leeway in how to behave. But when we lack power, our range narrows. We have very little leeway. The problem is that when our range narrows, that produces something called the low-power double bind. The low-power double bind happens when, if we don’t speak up, we go unnoticed, but if we do speak up, we get punished.

4:24 Now, many of you have heard the phrase the “double bind” and connected it with one thing, and that’s gender. The gender double bind is women who don’t speak up go unnoticed, and women who do speak up get punished. And the key thing is that women have the same need as men to speak up, but they have barriers to doing so. But what my research has shown over the last two decades is that what looks like a gender difference is not really a gender double bind, it’s a really a low-power double bind. And what looks like a gender difference are really often just power differences in disguise.

Oftentimes we see a difference between a man and a woman or men and women, and think, “Biological cause. There’s something fundamentally different about the sexes.” But in study after study, I’ve found that a better explanation for many sex differences is really power. And so it’s the low-power double bind. And the low-power double bind means that we have a narrow range, and we lack power. We have a narrow range, and our double bind is very large.

5:33 So we need to find ways to expand our range. And over the last couple decades, my colleagues and I have found two things really matter. The first: you seem powerful in your own eyes. The second: you seem powerful in the eyes of others. When I feel powerful, I feel confident, not fearful; I expand my own range. When other people see me as powerful, they grant me a wider range. So we need tools to expand our range of acceptable behavior. And I’m going to give you a set of tools today. Speaking up is risky, but these tools will lower your risk of speaking up.

6:14 The first tool I’m going to give you got discovered in negotiations in an important finding. On average, women make less ambitions offers and get worse outcomes than men at the bargaining table. But Hannah Riley Bowles and Emily Amanatullah have discovered there’s one situation where women get the same outcomes as men and are just as ambitious. That’s when they advocate for others. When they advocate for others, they discover their own range and expand it in their own mind.

They become more assertive. This is sometimes called “the mama bear effect.” Like a mama bear defending her cubs, when we advocate for others, we can discover our own voice.

7:01 But sometimes, we have to advocate for ourselves. How do we do that? One of the most important tools we have to advocate for ourselves is something called perspective-taking. And perspective-taking is really simple: it’s simply looking at the world through the eyes of another person. It’s one of the most important tools we have to expand our range. When I take your perspective, and I think about what you really want, you’re more likely to give me what I really want.

7:32 But here’s the problem: perspective-taking is hard to do. So let’s do a little experiment. I want you all to hold your hand just like this: your finger — put it up. And I want you to draw a capital letter E on your forehead as quickly as possible. OK, it turns out that we can draw this E in one of two ways, and this was originally designed as a test of perspective-taking. I’m going to show you two pictures of someone with an E on their forehead — my former student, Erika Hall.

And you can see over here, that’s the correct E. I drew the E so it looks like an E to another person. That’s the perspective-taking E because it looks like an E from someone else’s vantage point. But this E over here is the self-focused E. We often get self-focused. And we particularly get self-focused in a crisis.

8:25 I want to tell you about a particular crisis. A man walks into a bank in Watsonville, California. And he says, “Give me $2,000, or I’m blowing the whole bank up with a bomb.” Now, the bank manager didn’t give him the money. She took a step back. She took his perspective, and she noticed something really important. He asked for a specific amount of money.

8:47 So she said, “Why did you ask for $2,000?”

8:52 And he said, “My friend is going to be evicted unless I get him $2,000 immediately.”

8:56 And she said, “Oh! You don’t want to rob the bank — you want to take out a loan.”

9:01 (Laughter)

9:02 “Why don’t you come back to my office, and we can have you fill out the paperwork.”

9:06 (Laughter)

9:08 Now, her quick perspective-taking defused a volatile situation. So when we take someone’s perspective, it allows us to be ambitious and assertive, but still be likable.

9:20 Here’s another way to be assertive but still be likable, and that is to signal flexibility. Now, imagine you’re a car salesperson, and you want to sell someone a car. You’re going to more likely make the sale if you give them two options. Let’s say option A: $24,000 for this car and a five-year warranty. Or option B: $23,000 and a three-year warranty. My research shows that when you give people a choice among options, it lowers their defenses, and they’re more likely to accept your offer.

9:53 And this doesn’t just work with salespeople; it works with parents. When my niece was four, she resisted getting dressed and rejected everything. But then my sister-in-law had a brilliant idea. What if I gave my daughter a choice? This shirt or that shirt? OK, that shirt. This pant or that pant? OK, that pant. And it worked brilliantly. She got dressed quickly and without resistance.

10:16 When I’ve asked the question around the world when people feel comfortable speaking up, the number one answer is: “When I have social support in my audience; when I have allies.” So we want to get allies on our side. How do we do that? Well, one of the ways is be a mama bear. When we advocate for others, we expand our range in our own eyes and the eyes of others, but we also earn strong allies.

10:42 Another way we can earn strong allies, especially in high places, is by asking other people for advice. When we ask others for advice, they like us because we flatter them, and we’re expressing humility. And this really works to solve another double bind. And that’s the self-promotion double bind. The self-promotion double bind is that if we don’t advertise our accomplishments, no one notices. And if we do, we’re not likable.

11:12 But if we ask for advice about one of our accomplishments, we are able to be competent in their eyes but also be likeable. And this is so powerful it even works when you see it coming. There have been multiple times in life when I have been forewarned that a low-power person has been given the advice to come ask me for advice. I want you to notice three things about this: First, I knew they were going to come ask me for advice. Two, I’ve actually done research on the strategic benefits of asking for advice. And three, it still worked! I took their perspective, I became more invested in their calls, I became more committed to them because they asked for advice.

11:57 Now, another time we feel more confident speaking up is when we have expertise. Expertise gives us credibility. When we have high power, we already have credibility. We only need good evidence. When we lack power, we don’t have the credibility. We need excellent evidence.

12:16 And one of the ways we can come across as an expert is by tapping into our passion. I want everyone in the next few days to go up to friend of theirs and just say to them, “I want you to describe a passion of yours to me.” I’ve had people do this all over the world and I asked them, “What did you notice about the other person when they described their passion?” And the answers are always the same. “Their eyes lit up and got big.” “They smiled a big beaming smile.” “They used their hands all over — I had to duck because their hands were coming at me.” “They talk quickly with a little higher pitch.”

12:53 (Laughter)

12:54 “They leaned in as if telling me a secret.”

12:56 And then I said to them, “What happened to you as you listened to their passion?”

13:01 They said, “My eyes lit up. I smiled. I leaned in.”

13:06 When we tap into our passion, we give ourselves the courage, in our own eyes, to speak up, but we also get the permission from others to speak up. Tapping into our passion even works when we come across as too weak. Both men and women get punished at work when they shed tears. But Lizzie Wolf has shown that when we frame our strong emotions as passion, the condemnation of our crying disappears for both men and women.

13:39 I want to end with a few words from my late father that he spoke at my twin brother’s wedding. Here’s a picture of us. My dad was a psychologist like me, but his real love and his real passion was cinema, like my brother. And so he wrote a speech for my brother’s wedding about the roles we play in the human comedy.

14:01 And he said, “The lighter your touch, the better you become at improving and enriching your performance. Those who embrace their roles and work to improve their performance grow, change and expand the self. Play it well, and your days will be mostly joyful.”

14:19 What my dad was saying is that we’ve all been assigned ranges and roles in this world. But he was also saying the essence of this talk: those roles and ranges are constantly expanding and evolving.

14:35 So when a scene calls for it, be a ferocious mama bear and a humble advice seeker. Have excellent evidence and strong allies. Be a passionate perspective taker. And if you use those tools — and each and every one of you can use these tools — you will expand your range of acceptable behavior, and your days will be mostly joyful.

Seen through game theory, cancer and police corruption are pretty much the same thing.

And for one of them, there’s a cure

To defeat corruption, we need to understand why it arises in the first place.

Naturalists have long regarded ants and bees as a sort of living parable on the benefits of universal virtue.

Karl Marx was right, socialism works,’ said Edward O Wilson; ‘it’s just that he had the wrong species.’

Certainly, the eu-social insects (from the Greek eu meaning ‘good’ or ‘real’) are better citizens than you or I will ever be.

Reproduction is restricted to queens and drones.

The workers, unable to pass on their private genome, devote themselves instead to the service of the nest.

From the perspective of our own contentious societies, it’s tempting to view the anthill as a place of angelic (or robotic) order.

By Suzanne Sadedin

But that’s not quite right. Even in these superhumanly lawful communities, crime lurks.

In virtually all the eusocial insects, a few workers surreptitiously lay eggs of their own, eggs that can grow into reproductive males.

By diverting shared resources away from the nest, these workers selfishly reduce the fitness of their nestmates. They play the system for their own advantage.

In many species, including the Eurasian tree wasp, such unscrupulousness is held in check by a kind of policing behaviour. Wasps caught engaging in illicit reproduction are attacked.

In tree wasps, rather intriguingly, the attack behaviour is performed exclusively by wasps who are themselves cheats. They are bigger and tougher than average, which comes in handy both in their police work and their criminal activities.

In other species, however, the enforcers do not seem guilty of the same hypocrisy.

Ordinary honeybee workers detect and devour more than 99 per cent of the eggs laid by their sisters.

Among several species of ants, common workers will attack individuals whose ovaries indicate they might be reproducing, biting their limbs to the point where half of them die.

Such is the price of conformity.

And these aren’t even the most thoroughly integrated societies in biology. Nature boasts collectives so harmonious that we rarely even think of them as such: collectives such as you, you great lumbering swarm of self-replicating cells.

Your cells are astonishingly well-behaved.

They fall on their molecular swords at the faintest whiff of selfishness. They rat on any neighbours they suspect might be harbouring revolutionary impulses, wafting out chemicals that alert the immune system. And yet, even here, rogue elements are known.

With enough mutations, cells can abandon the collective cause and set out on that doomed quest for self-actualisation we call cancer.

To stop them, we have cellular cops – macrophages that monitor tissues and attack areas of unconstrained growth.

And just like the ant police, these cellular enforcers can be suborned. Tumors sweet-talk young macrophages, recruiting them to join the rebellion.

Instead of attacking the cancer cells, the macrophages grow excited, differentiating and multiplying. They start to secrete growth factors and defend the rogue growth from the rest of the immune system.

We are, in short, looking at a typical pattern in nature.

A population organises itself around rules. It grants police powers to some of its members – and then those law‑enforcers use their privileges to cheat the system.

Cliché has it that corruption is a cancer.

The truth, though, is probably the other way around: corruption is the more general phenomenon, manifesting in one context as melanoma and in another as illicit reproduction – or police extortion.

But what if I were to tell you that it is not inevitable?

That it can, to all intents and purposes, be eradicated from society? Would you believe me? And would you pay the price?

According to the non-governmental organisation Transparency International, each year around 16% of the world’s (human) population bribes a police officer.

That figure varies a good deal between regions, from just 0.5 per cent in Oceania in the Pacific Ocean to nearly 40 per cent in central Africa.

Studies in Ohio and Illinois suggest that 70-80 per cent of police officers witness minor corruption each year.

A 2002 police report claimed that corruption was so pervasive at Scotland Yard in the UK that crime syndicates could enter at will by bribing officers. In the US, investigations of police crime are said to be hampered by a ‘blue wall of silence’.

There’s a certain defeatism implicit in most approaches to these problems.

While we see sporadic efforts to ‘clean up’ a particular department, organisation or neighbourhood, they tend not to be very systematic, and usually fall off after a year or two as public interest wanes.

Perhaps our cynicism is justified. All too often, the very people who win power with promises to fight the rot are later found to be riddled with it. No wonder we collectively assign the problem to the global too-hard basket. But we shouldn’t be too hasty.

To defeat corruption, we need to understand why it arises in the first place.

For that, we need game theory. A ‘game’ is a stylised scenario in which each player receives a pay‑off determined by the strategies chosen by all players.

There’s also a variant of game theory that deals with so-called evolutionary games. In that kind of scenario, we imagine a population of self-reproducing strategies that get to multiply depending on the pay‑offs they achieve.

A strategy is said to be ‘evolutionarily stable’ if, once it is widely adopted, no rival can spread by natural selection.

The archetypal co‑operation game is the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Imagine that two prisoners, each held in isolation, are given a chance to rat on the other.

If only one takes the bait, he gets a reduced prison sentence while the other gets a longer one. But if both take it, neither gets a reduction. In other words, mutual co‑operation (saying nothing) provides a higher reward than mutual defection (ratting on your partner), but the best reward comes from defecting while your partner tries to co‑operate with you, while the lowest pay‑off comes from trying to co‑operate with your partner while he stabs you in the back.

The most obvious evolutionarily stable strategy in this game is simple: always defect.

If your partner co‑operates, you exploit his naïveté, and if he defects, you will still do better than if you had co‑operated. So there is no possible strategy that can defeat the principle ‘always act like an untrusting jerk’.

At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking that game theory is both appalling and ridiculous. Co‑operation clearly pays off.

Indeed, if you make normal people (people who are not economics students) play the Prisoner’s Dilemma, they almost never defect. And not just people. Rats will go out of their way to free a trapped cage-mate; rhesus monkeys will starve for days rather than shock a companion. Even bacteria are capable of supreme acts of altruism.

This trend toward biological niceness has been something of an embarrassment for biology. 

In fact, the task of finding ways around the more dismal conclusions of game theory has become a sub-disciplinary cottage industry.

In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, for example, it turns out that when players are allowed to form relationships, co‑operators can beat defectors simply by avoiding them. That’s fine in small societies, but it leaves us with the problem of co‑operation in large groups, where interactions among strangers are inevitable.

Game theory (as well as common sense) tells us that policing can help. Just grant some individuals the power and inclination to punish defectors and the attractions of cheating immediately look less compelling.

This is a good first pass at a solution: not for nothing do we find police-like entities among ants, bees, wasps, and within our own bodies.

But that just leads us back to the problem of corruption.

What happens if the police themselves become criminals, using their unusual powers for private profit? Who watches the watchers?

In 2010, two researchers at the University of Tennessee built a game-theoretical model to examine just this problem.

The results, published by Francisco Úbeda and Edgar Duéñez-Guzmán in a paper called ‘Power and Corruption’, were, frankly, depressing.

Nothing, they concluded, would stop corruption from dominating an evolving police system. Once it arose, it would remain stable under almost any circumstances.

The only silver lining was that the bad police could still suppress defection in the rest of society.

The result was a mixed population of gullible sheep and hypocritical overlords. Net wellbeing does end up somewhat higher than it would be if everyone acted entirely selfishly, but all in all you end up with a society rather like that of the tree wasps.

Is that where we live now? It can certainly seem that way. I grew up in Australia, which Transparency International lists as one of the least corrupt nations in the world. Even so, the local pizza shop delivered a pizza each week to the constabulary in gratitude for a certain forbearance.

The US, according to published metrics, suffers minimal corruption, but who needs illegal corruption when the police can legally pull you over, ransack your car and sell anything they find?

In Mexico, where one in five citizens has recently bribed a cop, an acquaintance recently paid several thousand dollars to persuade a pair of policemen to move out of her house.

In the original corruption model, the results left one tiny sliver of hope, a parameter region where corruption, though dominant, remained unstable. That observation suggested that, given a jolt, a society might transition away from the corrupt equilibrium. Intrigued by this, Duéñez-Guzmán and I decided to explore the model more deeply.

The results were startling. By making a few alterations to the composition of the justice system, corrupt societies could be made to transition to a state called ‘righteousness’.

In righteous societies, police were not a separate, elite order. They were everybody. When virtually all of society stood ready to defend the common good, corruption didn’t pay.

Among honeybees and several ant species, this seems to be the status quo: all the workers police one another, making corruption an unappealing choice. (Communist policing system outside the politbureau?)

In fact, the study showed that even if power inequalities later re-appeared, corruption would not return. The righteous community was extraordinarily stable.

Not all societies could make the transition. But those that did would reap the benefits of true, lasting harmony. An early tribe that made the transition to righteousness might out-compete more corrupt rivals, allowing righteousness to spread throughout the species.

Such tribal selection is uncommon among animals other than eusocial insects, but many researchers think it could have played a role in human evolution. Hunter-gatherer societies commonly tend toward egalitarianism, with social norms enforced by the whole group rather than any specially empowered individuals.

Perhaps we can see something like human righteousness at work among the egalitarian Turkana of East Africa.

The anthropologists Sarah Mathew and Robert Boyd of Arizona State University report that these 500,000-odd warlike nomads lack any kind of centralised political or military structure, yet they have maintained regional dominance for decades, raiding other ethnic groups at will.

It’s a dangerous life: nearly a quarter of the men die in raids. What drives them to take such risks for the collective good?

Not kinship, nor even friendship. They do not live in lasting tribes. Their settlements are loose and temporary. Most of the men participating in any given raid are strangers to one another.

Rather than personal ties, Turkana co‑operation seems to be maintained by a strong moral code, underpinned by the fear of egalitarian punishment. Turkana men were outraged by a hypothetical scenario in which one Turkana raided another; as Mathew and Boyd describe: ‘most subjects would not stand next to this warrior in a raid, entrust their herds with him, lend him a goat… or let their daughter marry him’.

And this righteous attitude extends to performance in war. Battles are discussed at length after the event. Minor acts of cowardice result in mockery and scolding.

In more serious cases, the culprit is tied to a tree and whipped by a group of his peers. Just desserts, in the community of the righteous. Is this what freedom from corruption looks like?

Game theory, of course, ignores the complexity of the human mind. We are all capable of behaving co‑operatively, righteously, corruptly and selfishly, all at the same time. Hardly anyone deliberately kills another person, for example, and in the absence of extenuating circumstances, most of us would turn in our friends for doing so. It would appear that we’re already righteous about murder.

Attitudes to infidelity present an intriguing contrast. Most people agree that it is wrong, yet we generally turn a blind eye to our adulterous friends.

Meanwhile almost everyone drives too fast and downloads popular TV shows without paying for them. Such quiet cheating is likewise evident among egalitarian hunter-gatherers. ‘It would be a rare Mbuti woman who did not conceal a portion of the catch in case she was forced to share with others,’ noted the anthropologist Colin Turnbull in Wayward Servants: The Two Worlds of the African Pygmies (1965).

Those differences in attitudes might seem appropriate to the severity of the crimes. And yet murder is far from being the only topic we get righteous about. We can be blithely judgmental of other people’s fashion choices, personal hygiene and manners. We seem to revel in generating and enforcing arbitrary social rules, from Catholic confession to the ritual nose-bleeding of Sambia men in Papua New Guinea.

Granted, our punishments for minor infringements are usually subtle: a joke, a snub, a verbal rebuke. But don’t underestimate their impact.

Repeat offenders are likely to find themselves gradually ostracised, mateless and unsupported in times of need. Evolutionarily speaking, social rejection might as well be a death sentence for humans.

And this is not the full extent of our moral flexibility. Even as we ruthlessly enforce our codes, we try to cheat them. Lord Acton claimed in 1887 that ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’, and the evidence supports him.

In a 2010 study, the researchers Joris Lammers at the University of Cologne and Adam Galinsky at Columbia Business School primed their subjects to feel either powerful or powerless. Those who felt powerful condemned others’ hypothetical immoral behaviour more harshly than those who felt powerless. But at the same time, the powerful cheated more on a game of dice, and then readily forgave themselves.

Such hypocrisy makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. As the Rutgers biologist Robert Trivers put it in Deceit and Self-Deception (2011), we evolved to fool ourselves so we could better fool others.

Righteousness is a sound strategy for the young revolutionary surrounded by righteous peers. On the road to power, you need allies who must be convinced of your sincerity. But once you have cemented your position, you can most improve your fitness with covert acts of selfishness, justified by a new-found sense of entitlement.

We would appear to have found our mechanism. Our tendency towards righteousness might be triggered when we feel equal to our potentially righteous compatriots; and the more secure we feel in our power over them, the more we switch to corruption.

Can we use social engineering to manipulate this switch? The model suggests that we can. If we decrease power inequalities, increase punishments and reward punishers, in theory that should trigger a societal transition to righteousness.

Here’s how it might look in practice. Imagine a city where police commit blatant traffic violations and never ticket one another. The authorities could decrease power inequalities by developing an online system in which all citizens are able to anonymously report dangerous drivers.

Anyone who received too many independent reports would be investigated – police included. This sounds almost laughably simple, and yet the model indicates that it ought to do the trick. It is, after all, essentially the same system used by many online communities.

Indeed, if anything, such systems might work a little too well. A punitive review on Yelp can devastate a young business. While uncensored communities are quickly overrun with trolls, communities that upvote good behaviour and sternly punish mischief can become stiflingly polite, awash with unique cultural norms, private in‑jokes and abstruse discussions of the code of conduct.

Behaviour that garners upvotes on Reddit will see you banned on Quora. As a species, we appear to have an insatiable appetite for enforcing arbitrary norms.

Imagine, if you will, a society where the laser eye of social condemnation is trained on every possible transgression. Safely rolling past a Stop sign earns the same disgust from your friends as if you were to pick your nose at the dinner table.

Listening to a pirated MP3 of your favourite song would shame your whole family, and your spouse would divorce you for sharing a sip of wine with your 17-year-old son. There can’t be many people for whom this sounds like an appealing vision.

Then again, if we can be righteous when it comes to fashion yet corrupt when it comes to adultery, is it implausible that we might be disgusted by bribery yet tolerate other small acts of rebellion?

Already, most of us participate in numerous different social contexts, switching adeptly between roles and social norms.

Armed with game theory and a wealth of social data, it seems we have – for the first time in history – the tools to start experimenting with democratic, egalitarian social structures that bring out the best in us.

We would, of course, have to proceed with caution. As early as the 18th century, the economist Bernard Mandeville envisaged a transition to perfect, peer-enforced co‑operation – and argued that it could only end in disaster. In his book The Fable of the Bees (1714), he depicted a society where prosperity and progress derive from endless conflict over ubiquitous corruption:
Thus Vice nursed Ingenuity,
Which join’d with Time, and Industry
Had carry’d Life’s Conveniencies,
It’s real Pleasures, Comforts, Ease,
To such a Height, the very Poor
Lived better than the Rich before

Jove, in a fit of irony, curses the bees with honesty. Their wealth promptly dissolves, society stagnates, and the population dwindles as the virtuous bees are unable so much as to contemplate any sort of creative rebellion. Sometimes it’s good to bend the rules. But which ones?

11 May 2015


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