Personal Blog of Joe Brewer

Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Want the Power of a God? Become an Accountant!

In Complex Systems, Human Behavior, Semantics and Perception, Social Change on March 29, 2012 at 12:01 am

Have you ever wanted the god-like power to create entire worlds?  Wondered what it feels like to destroy a universe with the flick of your hand?  Then become an accountant.  That’s right, you heard me.  The Great Creators (and Destroyers) of reality are the people who define what is worthy of measurement.

Consider this:

Current wisdom says that the amount of global economic activity is the total of Gross Domestic Production (GDP) for all countries in the world.  This number tells us how much value is created each year through productive activity.  And yet none of this activity would be possible if children were not born, raised by devoted parents, and educated by society.  The most essential “productive” activity performed by humans is parenting. And what is the net economic value of parenting?  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  It doesn’t exist as far as economists are concerned.

And how do we know this?  Because it doesn’t appear on the accounting books!  Being a mother has no economic value — at least not according to the accounting schemes used by macro economics today.  This sweeping power to make massive value-creation disappear is wielded by accountants every single day. Continue reading “Want the Power of a God? Become an Accountant!” »

Where Human ‘Swarm Behavior’ Comes From

In Global Integration, Human Behavior, Wisdom of Crowds on March 16, 2012 at 9:32 am

It is increasingly clear that human beings are more than simply self-interested rational actors.  We are profoundly moral, immensely social, and deeply political beings who often “lose ourselves” in social causes.  A friend of mine who studies social psychology at the University of Virginia, Jonathan Haidt, recently gave a TED Talk about this that captures my thoughts very well:

A massive body of research now confirms that human beings are wired for empathy, tend to cooperate with one another through shared social identities, and mediate our socialness through layers of semantic meaning that arise in our conceptual systems — via metaphors, semantic frames, culturally shared cognitive models, and more.

Continue reading “Where Human ‘Swarm Behavior’ Comes From” »