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What are the best ways to change the world? (Repeat)

We all see aspects of the world that we want to change. How should we go about effectuating these changes? Some of the major approaches to changing the world include the design arts, education, literature, art, science, psychology, politics, economics, morality, and religion. In this discussion we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches to changing the world.

One way to look at the problem is along the dimensions of "change options" versus "change preferences". In the change options approach one focuses on designing new options that might spontaneously be adopted thus changing the world for the better. The more common approach seems to be to use politics, economics, and psychology to change people's preferences to effectuate change.

Here is another way to subdivide the problem:

1)  motivational or process approaches:

a. This approach aims to change societies/individuals views about what is best for them and what should be important, the hope is that when you change the motivation or view that behavior change will follow on its own

b. This strategy includes information provision, motivational interviewing, lobbying, and exposure techniques. How can we see these methods used in politics?

c. Example of using the arts:  Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher (2006)

"You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that  you probably can't, but also knowing that literature is indispensable  to the world ...  The world changes according to the way people see  it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way ... people look  at reality, then you can change it." --- James Baldwin

2) Outcome approaches:

a. This approach focuses on physical and objective change as the goal and hopes that will real objective change motivation and views will follow.

b. This strategy includes choice architecture, framing effects,context changes, subtle changes in environment to "nudge" people in beneficial directions, Behavioral economics traditionally placed here but can include more process/motivational approaches

c. Example in hiring policy: Pennsylvania hospitals ban the hiring of smokers (

3) Behavioral economics

a. While this approach relies mostly on nudges and environmental changes it does include motivational approaches as well.

b. Types of nudges:
    i. Eliminate choice (don't hire smokers, or fire them)
     ii. Restrict choice (only allow smokers to work under limited conditions)
     iii. Stick-type incentives (pay extra if you smoke)
     iv. Carrot-type incentives(reward for not smoking)
     v. Guide choices through default policy (auto-enroll smokers in smoking cessation programs, have them opt out)
     vi. Enable Choice (provide lots of free smoking cessation programs)
     vii. Provide information
     viii. Do nothing

Suggested reading and/TED talks:






Thinking, Fast and Slow:

This topic is a repeat of the one on Sun May 11th.

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  • Jyoti M.

    Great discussions!

    May 25, 2014

  • CJ F.

    One of the underappreciated ways to change the world that needs more creative, considerate, and careful effort is "homo faber" or "man the creator", that is, re-building or re-forming the environment with tools to re-make the world anew.

    Here is how Paul Valéry's puts it in "Eupalinos": "The Constructor ... finds before him as his chaos and as primitive matter, precisely that world-order which the Demiurge wrung from the disorder of the beginning. Nature is formed and the elements are separated; but something enjoins him to consider this work as unfinished, and as requiring to be rehandled and set in motion again for the more special satisfaction of man. He takes as the starting point of his act the very point where the god left off ... the masses of marble should not remain lifeless within the earth constituting a solid night, nor the cedars and cypresses rest content to come to their end by flame or by rot, when they can be changed into fragrant beams and dazzling furniture."

    1 · May 24, 2014

  • Jyoti M.

    I just finished reading a relevant article for our tomorrow's discussion in the Wall Street -opinion section . The article is about Adm.William H. McRaven's commencement address to the graduates of University of Texas. It is about 10 life lessons from Navy Seals training. I tried to post the excerpt of the article but unfortunately it exceeds the word limit. If the members will like to read before the meet up , article can be found online at .
    These 10 lessons are hard but worth exercising to change the world.

    1 · May 24, 2014

    • Ginger

      I was home so I read the WSJ article. It should be required reading in every high school.

      1 · May 24, 2014

  • Patty

    CJ, sorry, I'm in the middle of moving, and I have too much packing to do. I don't think I can make it.

    1 · May 24, 2014

  • Ginger

    I'm recovering, don't kno how I will feel tomorrow. Let a wait lister have my place. Such an important topic. Sorry to miss it.

    May 24, 2014

  • CJ F.

    For tomorrow's discussion here are some other ways to change the world:

    - Design
    - Leadership
    - Volunteerism
    - Art
    - Science
    - Engineering
    - Mathematics
    - Philosophy
    - Architecture
    - Management
    - Institutional design
    - Law
    - Story-telling
    - Parenting
    - Media (Movies, TV, Internet)
    - Religion
    - Prayer

    What do you think is a good way to change the world?

    What would you add to the list?

    Which ways are the best? What criterion for "best" would you use?

    1 · May 24, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry, my 90 year old dad just took a turn for the worse...change...change...change
    See you next time!

    May 24, 2014

  • CJ F.

    For Sunday's discussion "What are the best ways to change the world?", we will explore your ideas about changing the world. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your favorite approach to changing the world? What do you think of these suggestions?

    - Can passion change the world? Or is it problematical? W.B. Yeats: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

    - Can writing change the world? James Baldwin: "You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can't, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world ... The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way ... people look at reality, then you can change it."

    - Can reading, learning, discussions, or teaching change the world? Is on-line education changing the world?

    - Can entrepreneurship change the world?

    - Does the Thinking Society change the world?

    What ways would you suggest?

    1 · May 22, 2014

  • CJ F.

    Some of my favorite Bucky Fuller quotes relate to a design service mystique that belies the political economic and psychological approaches:

    "It is not for me to change you. The question is, how can I be of service to you without diminishing your degrees of freedom?"

    "War is the ultimate tool of politics. Political leaders look out only for their own side. ... They are obsolete as fundamental problem-solvers."

    "You can't better the world by simply talking to it. Philosophy to be effective must be mechanically applied."

    "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

    "Revolution by design and invention is the only revolution tolerable to all men, all societies, all political systems anywhere."

    "I learned very early and painfully that you have to decide at the outset whether you are trying to make money or to make sense, as they are mutually exclusive."

    May 21, 2014

  • CJ F.

    I wonder about this division of ways to change the world: invent new goals (visionary design), select among the goals extant (political economics), & modify preferences (psychology).

    The visionary design approach suggests we should create a new solution better than any extant option. It could integrate extant values & goals or transcendentally eclipse them bringing humanity into a new reality.

    The political economics approach: maximize a utility function or put the choices to a vote. Assume preferences, goals & values are fixed: to change the world, vote on it or compute a utility or decision function.

    The psychological approach: assume preferences, goals, and values are malleable, change the world by changing others. This approach includes some of the behavioral economics options that Katie studies.

    Is envisioning new goals feasible? Expedient? Is choosing a controversial goal by politics acceptable? Or by reducing it to economics? Or changing people? How should it be done?

    May 20, 2014

  • pam b.

    CJ's post inspired me to think about "awareness". We must live consciously and be more perceptive; be aware of our choices. Do we shop too much? Do we listen to the news media, and are they influencing our opinions? Are we being responsible in our research and voting of a candidate? Are we too accepting of embracing change that we didn't initiate, or are we part of the change?

    1 · May 20, 2014

  • Patty

    The issues that spring to my mind are: If the question is what is the best way for me to change the world, I'm limited by my resources and options. Also, notions of what changes to make to the world vary widely throughout the world. Very often I see conditions I wish I could change in some way, but I know I can't, or at least I can't do it alone. Then there is also the problem of resistance to change, people feeling threatened by change. Those are my thoughts.

    2 · May 20, 2014

  • pam b.

    I think about this every day! This venue is a perfect example of how we can make positive changes...."The butterfly Effect" with people.

    May 19, 2014

  • CJ F.

    The idea for Sunday's topic on "What are the best ways to change the world?" originated when I discussed with Katie the end of a Kathleen Bawn lecture on political economy:­ (from 58:00 to the end: most of the rest of the video is boring administrivia).

    Bawn sees two broad approaches to changing the world: 1) political economy assume that preferences, goals & values are fixed (in politics we look for a strategic way to favor our preferences over others while in economics we look to maximize our profit) and 2) psychology which studies how people's preferences, goals & values can be changed to our ends.

    In a taxonomy of different ways to change the world, surely there are more options than just the political & the psychological!

    What is your list of different ways to change the world? Can you classify them into categories? What are the strengths & weaknesses of each approach?

    Are you aware of any comprehensive taxonomies for ways to change the world? Where?

    May 19, 2014

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