Modern shifts



Changing understanding and circumstances are also leading toward a change in the education framework…

For instance, in a recent lecture for the RSA Action and Research Centre, Sir Ken Robinson explained that our education system was built on an intellectual view of the mind born in the enlightenment, essentially that intelligence is based on deductive ability.

Coming to a better understanding of intelligence, learning and behavior, especially through the mind sciences, has changed the paradigm in education.

Today experts like Kenneth Wesson educate on the neuroscience of learning.  In his own words: “If it’s your job to develop the mind, shouldn’t you know how the brain works?”


Calling for a paradigm shift in economics…

Introducing the ecosystem:

Source: GDAE, Tufts University


“… ecological economics calls for a “paradigm shift” in the sense of philosopher Kuhn, or what we have been calling, following economist Josheph Schumpeter, a change in preanalytic vision.  We need to pause to consider more precisely just what these concepts mean.  Schumpeter observes that “analytic effort is of necessity preceded by a preanalytic cognitive act that supplies the raw material for the analytic effort”. Schumpeter calls this preanalytic cognitive act “Vision.” One might say that vision is the pattern or shape of the reality in question that the right hemisphere of the brain abstracts from experience and then sends to the left hemisphere for analysis.  Whatever is omitted from the pre-analytic vision cannot be recaptured by subsequent analysis.  Correcting the vision requires a new pre-analytic act, not further analysis of the old vision.  Schumpeter notes that changes in vision “may reenter the history of every established science each time somebody teaches us to see things in a light of which the source is not to be found in the facts, methods, and results of the preexisting states of the science. ”

-From ‘Ecological Economics by Herman E. Daly and Joshua Farley


The constant process of changing the paradigm inside the brain:

“There is, in summary, then, a force for individuation (left hemisphere) and a force for coherence (right hemisphere): but, wherever the whole is not the same as the sum of the parts, the force for individuation exists within and subject to the force for coherence.  In this sense the ‘givens’ of the left hemisphere need to be once again ‘given up’ to be reunified through the operations of the right hemisphere.  This sense that the rationality of the left hemisphere must be resubmitted to, and subject to, the broader contextualizing influence of the right hemisphere, with all its emotional complexity, must surely explain the eminently sane and reasonable philosopher David Hume’s assertion that ‘Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and so never can pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”

-From “The Master and His Emissary”- Iain Mcgilchrist


Science is becoming increasingly interested in the subjective, in feelings, and in experience.

From ‘Ishmael’ by Daniel Quinn:

“First definition: story.  A story is a scenario interrelating man, the world, and the gods.”

“Second definition: to enact.  To enact a story is to live so as to make the story a reality.  In other words, to enact a story is to strive to make it come true.”

“Third Definition:  culture.  A culture is a people enacting a story.”


Author, economist and Harvard Business School Professor, David Korten explains, “Those who control the stories that define the culture of a society, control its politics and its economy.”


Inequality is emerging as a major source of contention internationally and domestically.

This article focuses first on the effects of inequality according to Richard Wilkinson, Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, cofounder of the Equality Trust and author of “The Spirit Level”.  Wilkinson Reveals the following revelations on inequality in a Ted Talk titled “How Economic Inequality Harms Societies”:

Through the “developed” nations, per capita income has no correlation with life expectancy.

Yet, within nations, income directly correlates with life expectancy. Wilkinson’s explanation for this relates to “social status” and “relative income”.

Inequality does correlate with negative health correlates determined by: Life expectancy, math and literacy, infant mortality, homicides, imprisonment, teenage births, trust, obesity, mental illness, and social mobility.

These have zero correlation across GNP per capita.

And Child well-being also a strong negative correlate with inequality.

Homicide rates, imprisonment,  within U.S. states also correlate with inequality.

He then points out that a healthy distribution can either happen through redistribution or through greater equality of income.  He finds that the health of the society benefits in both ways.

His last point was that even the most wealthy in an unequal society are less well off than the most wealthy in a more equal society.  Even if the income of the former subject is much greater than that of the latter.

While under our current model of individuals, we tend to see a rational individual and aim toward creating greater wealth for all, especially through introducing capital.  Well this may be similar to a dog chasing its tail. Of course, in reality humans are not purely rational and the social effects of inequality are quite stress producing.  Wilkinson finds that in less equal societies are greater fear of judgement, consumerism and status competition, as well as social threats to self-esteem.  They found that threats to self-esteem or social performance, in which others can negatively judgement your performance had the greatest effects on the physiology of stress. Wilkinson says that a great amount of research has gone in to showing the causality of the effects of social stress on the immune system, the cardiovascular system and other health indicators.

Wilkinson’s presentation shows a small sample of works done on inequality.  He points out that these themes are consistent across hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles.


Here are a few studies about the nature of happiness.

This first set, Nic Marks, has presented these on various Occasions.  They were part of a research mission put on by Foresight, a science based branch of the UK Government.

Five Actions toward Becoming Happier

  1.  Connect: Social Relationships
  2.  Be active: Be outside, move
  3.  Take notice:  Be aware of surroundings, the seasons, etc..  Mindfulness, Cognitive behavioral therapy.
  4.  Keep learning:  Throughout the whole lifetime, learning anything, curiosity based, not just knowledge.
  5.  Give:  Reward Mechanism in the brain:  Generosity and altruism

The point he makes here is that given our means, these actions cost very little of our means.  They are are not going to cost us the earth.

David Brooks and Human Capital: not grades, things we dont have words for:

  1. Mindsight,  the ability to learn from other peoples minds,  downloading reality.
  2. Equipoise the ability to have serenity to read the biases and failures in own mind.
  3. Epistemological Modesty, open minded in the face of ambiguity, able to adjust strength of the conclusion to strength of the evidence, curious.
  4.  Metus, street smarts, greek word,  meaning sensitivity to physical environment, ability to pick out patterns in environment, derive a gist.
  5.  Sympathy the ability to work within groups: groups are smarter than individuals,

effectiveness is based on ability to communicate, not iq.

Iain Mcghilchrist:

Conscious mind craves success, and prestige,  the unconscious, those moments of transcendence, when we are lost in a challenge or task.

Behavioral Economics

On Classical Economists, Matt Dobbins explains, “They would have said, we try to make the right decisions that are going to benefit us, in a world of perfect information.  Well of course that’s not what happens, and behavioral economics once and for all proves that.”

“The Concious rational brain isn’t the oval office, making executive decisions, it’s more like the press office, issuing reasons for those decisions.” -Rory Sutherland

What is Behavioral Economics?

From A talk given by Matt Dobin

Behavioural Economics is the synthesis of cognitive theory and psychology with economics. It focuses in the following areas…

  1. Why do we make different decisions? Especially irrational decisions… How does our brain hard wiring influence this?

Here are behaviours that he pointed out:

Anchoring: The brain uses an initial understanding as an anchor.  For a price this would mean that hearing a high price first, will make a lower price seem great!  In fact, even hearing a high number first, a number totally unrelated to the price of an object, increases expected price.

Herding Instinct, Social norms:  We don’t want to be left out. We want to fit in.

Choice Architecture:  We are very affected by the way choices are presented to us, in context, in various orders, depending on the layout/ display.

We use relativity and comparison to make decisions.

Heurestics, short cuts:

Cognitive biases:  The inherent thinking errors that we make in processing information.

  1. such as loss aversion, status quo bias.
  2. We are risk averse
  3. overly attracted to short term award

We can use this information to market, to design policies, and to design an economy which works with our human behavior instead of against it.

David Brooks on rationality


The three main learnings that David Brooks proposes are:

  1. Conscious mind writes the autobiography, the unconscious mind does most of the work. While the mind in each moment is taking on millions of pieces of information a minute, the conscious mind is capable of about 40. The unconscious mind, actually quite smart.
  2. Emotions are at the center of our thinking.  Emotions are the foundations reason, telling us what to value. Reading and educating emotions is one of the central pieces of wisdom. A brain is the record of the feelings of a life.
  3. Not primarily self contained individuals, we are social animals, not rational animals, we emerge out of relationships.  We are deeply interconnected.  Mirror neurons are one fascinating subject of today’s neuroscience advances.

Brooks suggests that we have “taken on a view of human nature that we are divided selves” and that “reason is separated from the emotions”.  This view that we are rational individuals who respond in straight forward ways to incentives, has become popularized but many times delegitimized by science.  Brooks points out that our policies are continually produced based on this understanding, and therefore continue to fail.


Individuals and collectives

In politics and economics two themes seem to emerge in almost every conversation.  On the right, Mitt Romney has exclaimed “We believe in individual initiative, personal responsibility, opportunity, freedom, small government, the Constitution.”  On the left Bill Clinton and Obama have attempted to make sure the public know, that “We are all in this together.”  From the liberal view, government can and should support initiatives that benefit the collective, believing that what makes our collective nation strong, will benefit everybody.

This tug of war between individualism and collectivism seems to exist in every intellectual pursuit.  These themes were present in designing Democracy and opening trade barriers; from philosophy in education to philosophy in sports.

Mounting evidence is showing in neuroscience, that this ‘tug of war’ exists prominently in the human brain.  According to Iain Mcgilchrist, author, psychologist and Neuroscience expert, the left hemisphere of the brain is being understood as a “force for individuation” and the right, a “force for coherence.”

In ecology, Darwin’s theory, ‘survival of the fittest’ might be compared with E.O. Wilson’s work and the benefits of cooperation, explained in his new book, the “The Social Conquest of Earth.”

Evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris explains her study of the evolution of bacteria and the tendency of organisms to break out from “the whole”, like an infant becoming independent from it’s mother, becoming an individual, distinguishing itself, until cooperation is eventually required to evolve, culminating with a re-communion of a new whole. This seems to indicate that at times, individuation is possible and at others, integration is essential.

This brings us to the question, how do we know who is right, in any given moment?

To take again from Neuroscience, Iain Mcgilchrist explains that “Wherever the whole is not the same as the sum of the parts, the force for individuation exists within and subject to the force for coherence.”

Though governments and societies have feared the freedom of individuals, we know in the United States that this freedom of individualization is what allows for innovation, and specialization.  When these elements are combined with cooperation, we see success. This is how the free market functions, and the ecosystem itself functions.  Species who are able to both specialize AND cooperate have a serious advantage. Biodiversity has been shown to in itself, stabilize the climate.

In the United States we have developed an incredibly sophisticated balance between the individual and the collective.  Many are saying that now, it is time to take this a step further.  To illustrate this point; let’s compare the art from European History with that of the Aztecs, who both had advanced civilizations in a similar time period.

Mona Lisa, Lenardo da Vinci, 1503–1519
Xochiquetzal: Goddess of Flowers and Love, Codex Borbonicus, c.1525

The Mona Lisa, like most other European portraits, were at the very least confined to one species. On the other hand, in the Aztecs, we see a culture, whose temples were align with the stars and whose Gods and Kings were intimately connected with other creatures.  Portraits, never portrayed individuals alone without other species and elements of the ecosystem.

The moment that we see the part within the whole and the whole within the part, humans in nature and nature in humans, is the moment of progress.

Air pollution

Air pollution is caused by the introduction of thousands of types of gaseous, liquid and solid compounds by animal activity, primarily human.  The main causes are transportation, electric powerplants especially coal and oil, and industry, primarily steel mills, metal smelters, oil refineries and pulp paper mills.

There are  six that are primarily regulated: particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone o3, lead.  Obviously, without regulation, and proper knowledge and information for citizens, the costs of polluting the air are distributed among all citizens and life forms, while the benefits go to polluting producers and consumers.

The first of the six, particulate matter is primarily caused by fuel combustion road traffic, agriculture and industry.  It is very unhealthy, as around 50% of the suspended particulates are able to penetrate deeply into the lungs and evade the body’s natural defense systems.

Sulfur dioxide SO2 irritates the respiratory systems, corodes metals, harms textiles, impairs visibility and kills or stunts the growth of plants, as well as cause acid precipitation.

Carbon monoxide is an extremely toxic pollutant gas caused by automobile emissions, and found at high concentrations in cities.  It is odorless and colorless and causes the most severe reactions among heart patients due to it’s binding with the hemoglobin in the blood. There is an increase in heart attack victims during high periods of CO concentrations. Other milder effects include mild headaches and the slowing down of mental processes and reaction time.

Nitrogen oxide is caused by combustion at high temperatures, auto emissions and power plants, and causes shortness of breath, coughing, respiratory diseases; it stunts plant growth and visibility, damages leaves, reduces visibility and contributes to formation of acid rain.
Ozone 03 occurs when photochemical oxidants combine with oxygen sunlight and nitrogen dioxide which is emitted by tailpipes.  Ozone season is considered to extend from May 1st through September 30th.  irritate mucous membranes of the respiratory system, causing couching choking and reduced lung capicity.  heart patients asthmatics and those suffering from bronchitis or emphysema are at special risk during periods of high O3 levels.   also cracks rubber, deteriorates fabrics and causes paint to fade.  eye irritation watery eyes.  Plant growth is severely impacted. ozone accounts for about 90% of annual u.s. crop losses due to air pollutions.  visible on leaves.   ground level ozone interferes with a plant’s ability to photosynthesize thereby reducing plant biomass and lowering crop yeilds.


There are of course many other pollutants, as mentioned earlier, thousands of gaseous, liquid, solid compounds put into the air by human and other activity.  While the six above have been identified as especially dangerous, it is important to note others.  Congress found 189 other pollutants in addition to the six many of which are toxic and carcinogenic, including asbestos, mercury, beryllium, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, radionuclides, and coke oven emissions.

As far as aggregate health data:

2-3% of all deaths in the U.S. each year are attributed to air pollution-induced respiratory or cardiovascular disease.  Similar levels of mortality due to dirty air have been reported i Poland and the Czech Republic.  WRI (1996)

Today research indicates thatairborne particulates cause over 100,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone.  (Schwartz, 2000)
According to WHO in 2003 urban air pollution reduces life expectancy in europe more than any other environmental risk factor.  Who estimates that long-term road traffic alone is responsbile for 80,000 European deaths each year.  worse in 3d world.

World wide 5-6% of all deaths each year can be attributed to air contaminants, both inddors and outdoors,  WHO  (saksena and smith, 2003)

Mystery of the dying lakes:

It is important to remember, that while our closest concern is for humans, air pollution is affecting all life and breaking down important components in our ecosystem.
417 acid rain.  by 2003 surveys showed that in New York’s adirondack mountains approximately 41% of the lakes had become too acidic for fish and other aquatic life;  the same situation applied to 15% of lakes in the new england states.  In new Jersey’s Pine Barrens, fully 90% of tall streams are acidic.  sulfuric and nitric acid, acid rain. Of course, these costs are not borne by the producers but by the many other affected.


The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recently did a report on the effects of climate change on health, stating that it worsens existing diseases and conditions, helps to introduce new pests and pathogens, causes sea level rise, floods, and droughts, as well as heat waves and hurricanes.  With dangers of asthma, respiratory allergies, and other airway diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, foodborne diseases, neurological disease, and waterborne diseases, among others.

In the category of living in agricultural communities they have researched everything from the link between children’s asthma in locations near feedlots, to slight neurobehavioral behavior in children of farming communities, to lower semen quality among men and limb deformities among amphibians.

They are responsbile for thousands of findings in the categories of chemicals, air, water, waste, ozone, pesticides, mold, and electric and magnetic fields to name just a few.

The institute of Environmental health and human health (TIEHH) works with the department of Environmental Toxicology to research the environmental impact assessment of toxic chemicals with human health consequences.  They have been in charge of researching everything from declines in quail population to counter-terrorism efforts funded by the United States military.

The United States Geological survey, a scientific agency of the United States Government states that “Public health problems caused by environmental contamination and emerging infectious diseases are a growing concern worldwide. These public health threats are affected by the relationship between people and the physical, chemical, and biological nature of our natural environments.”  continuing, “Understanding environmental and ecological health is a prerequisite to protecting public health. “

These understandings are at the core of an emerging field of medicine which compares geographical location and disease called geo-medicine.  Bill Davenhall says that doctors have had it wrong.  When we go into the hospital the doctor asks two questions, he asks generally about your diet and your physical activity.  Davenhall argues that there is a third, very important component, where you’ve lived, as he says your ‘environment’, and as a biologist might say, your habitat.  The connections not only internationally but within the United States are startling. This map shows heart disease in the United States.


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