Authors @ Google presents Michael Shermer

broadcast January 2008

Michael Shermer discusses his book The Mind of the Market as part of the Authors @ Google series.

How did we evolve from ancient hunter-gatherers to modern consumer-traders? Why are people so irrational when it comes to money and business? Dr. Michael Shermer argues that evolution provides an answer to both of these questions through the new science of evolutionary economics. Drawing on research from neuroeconomics, Shermer explores what brain scans reveal about bargaining, snap purchases, and how trust is established in business. Utilizing experiments in behavioral economics, Shermer shows why people hang on to losing stocks and failing companies, why business negotiations often disintegrate into emotional tit-for-tat disputes, and why money does not make us happy. Employing research from complexity theory, Shermer shows how evolution and economics are both examples of a larger phenomenon of complex adaptive systems. Along the way, Shermer answers such provocative questions as: Do our tribal roots mean that we will always be a sucker for brands? How is the biochemical joy of sex similar to the rewards of business cooperation? How can nations increase trust within and between their borders? Finally, Shermer considers the consequences of globalization and what will happen if nations allow free trade across their borders.

This event took place January 29, 2008 at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, CA.

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3 Comments to “Authors @ Google presents Michael Shermer”

  1. Randall Pratt Says:

    Dear Mr. Shermer,

    I caught a bit of your recent appearance on TV and as I am a regular subscriber to Scientific American. I read your article. As an almost 86-year old survivor I have the following to say:

    (1) I have been “cheating” you and the rest of the public for a very long time by not following “nature’s” rules and hence causing you and the public to ante up for my continued care through my private insurance, Medicare and Social Security, probably since 1982 when I accepted gall bladder surgery, definitely since 1985 when I accepted surgery for colon cancer, since 2001 when I started taking blood pressure lowering drugs, and most recently since taking l-dopa to prevent unconscious leg movement that interferes with my sleep Everything I have done to “cheat” nature has had unpleasant side reactions. .

    (2) The only real difference between my case and that of your athlete “cheaters” is that of perception. What I have done is “OK”; what they do is not, at least to some. You just weren’t lucky enough, competitive enough, and smart enough to use r-EPO, and it obviously still rankles.

    (3) The draconian set of rules you suggest to solve the prisoner’s dilemma is a surprise to me since you, I believe, favor “free” trade, and a hand’s off approach to goverment, I don’t think the public really gives a damn. They and I enjoy the sometimes incredible performance these “doped up” performers give. I still remember Jose Canseco’s “massive upper body muscles.” Hell, I am doped up and so will you be when you reach my age unless you become a Christian Scientist, in which case you probably won’t reach my age.

    (4) What we need to realize and promote is that there is nothing wrong with cheating nature, and to think that is wrong and muddle-headed . If a particular athlete is incredibly outsripping others, I believe he has just been smart enough to find a very knowledgeable physician. If we could just get rid of this Puritanical obsession, we would be far better off.

    But thanks anyway for your honesty in describing how a “loser” feels.

    Randall Pratt

    Bellingham, WA

  2. jeff platt Says:

    saw you on c-span last night for the first time. i forgot what is was like to think!

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