Daily Archives: February 11, 2010

Solving Social Problems: Why Technology Alone is Insufficient

Behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan’s 2009 TEDtalk deals with the seeming inefficiency of social change. A problem is recognized, solutions are hypothesized, tested, refined, produced, and distributed, but the problem doesn’t disappear. Why? In a nutshell, because our behavior is governed by mental mapping that doesn’t always adapt to the context at hand. Journalist and author Laurence Gonzales explores this conundrum at length in Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. People who perish in survival situations often behave in what are deemed to be irrational ways, but the science shows that it is rarely irrational behavior that kills them; in fact, their rationale might be entirely in keeping with the biological and behavioral mechanisms that have developed over millennia and, individually, from personal experience. The real problem occurs when these mechanisms do not align with the context at hand.
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