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I'll Have What She's Having

I'll Have What She's Having: Mapping Social Behavior

foreword by Jhon Maeda
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    I'll Have What She's Having
    Book Description:

    Humans are, first and foremost, social creatures. And this, according to the authors of I'll Have What She's Having, shapes--and explains--most of our choices. We're not just blindly driven by hard-wired instincts to hunt or gather or reproduce; our decisions are based on more than "nudges" exploiting individual cognitive quirks.I'll Have What She's Having shows us how we use the brains of others to think for us and as storage space for knowledge about the world. The story zooms out from the individual to small groups to the complexities of populations. It describes, among other things, how buzzwords propagate and how ideas spread; how the swine flu scare became an epidemic; and how focused social learning by a few gets amplified as copying by the masses. It describes how ideas, behavior, and culture spread through the simple means of doing what others do.It is notoriously difficult to change behavior. For every "Yes We Can" political slogan, there are thousands of "Just Say No" buttons. I'll Have What She's Having offers a practical map to help us navigate the complex world of social behavior, an essential guide for anyone who wants to understand how people behave and how to begin to change things.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29886-5
    Subjects: Business, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    John Maeda

    Simplicity is a desirable state to achieve in the complex world we live in today, especially with the ongoing turmoil in our world’s economy. Alex Bentley, Mark Earls, and Michael O’Brien’s assertion that our civilization’s guaranteed means for survival has always been quite simple—namely to just copy the other guy—is an important one. It means that we need not worry at all because someone out there is bound to come up with a solution. And we will all copy it en masse.

    But what does their work say for all manners of copying? For example, in the negative...

    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-14)

    The writer and critic Susan Sontag once suggested that science fiction is not really about science at all. Hardcore sci-fi author Philip K. Dick pointed to the roots of the genre in seventeenth-century travel and adventure stories. Our feeling is that Arthur C. Clarke was perhaps nearer the mark when he supposedly suggested that science fiction is really just about us and, more particularly, about our ideas about ourselves. Certainly one of the most influential sci-fi works, Gene Roddenberry’sStar Trekseries, is, just as its creator intended, partWagon Trainto the stars and part human morality tale.


    (pp. 15-24)

    To other musicians, drummers and their supposed stupidity are a source of perpetual amusement. For example, how do you tell if the stage is level? See if the drummer’s dribbling out of both sides of his mouth. So when Pat Kane, the semiretired lead singer of Scottish pop group Hue & Cry, considered his drummer’s self-proclaimed “Protestant work ethic,” he wondered whether the opposite might represent our modern world just as well. In other words, isplaya lens through which we can understand much of human behavior? Kane’s book,The Play Ethic, is an excellent guide to this perspective...

    (pp. 25-40)

    Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey spent considerable time early in his career in Africa, first with Dian Fossey, studying gorillas, and then with Richard Leakey, studying the remains of our hominin ancestors. This experience fundamentally changed his views on what the brains of the great apes, us included, are for. In his essay “The Social Function of Intellect,” Humphrey describes his view:

    During two months I spent watching gorillas in the Virunga mountains I could not help being struck by the fact that of all the animals in the forest the gorillas seemed to lead much the simplest existence—food abundant and...

    (pp. 41-66)

    Until the year 2000, nearly all the several thousand inhabitants of Samsø, a small island off the Danish coast, heated their houses with oil, used imported electricity, and thought little about it. Within several years, however, after organizing energy cooperatives and seminars, they had cut their fossil fuel use in half through wind power, and by 2005 the island was producing more energy from renewable sources than it was using. The turbines cost a million dollars each, so they were purchased collectively, with shareholders receiving dividend checks from the generated electricity. It was the perfect story: people made money in...

    (pp. 67-86)

    In January 2010, a twenty-seven-year-old accountant from northern England, Paul Chambers, was planning a trip to meet an Irish woman—“@crazycolours”—whom he had met and wooed online. Romantic bliss, it seemed, was just a short flight across the Irish Sea, but that cold, snowy January day proved unusual for Chambers, life-changing even. Exasperated that he might miss out on future happiness because snowy conditions had closed Robin Hood airport, Chambers posted a message to @crazycolours on his Twitter account, saying that if the airport didn’t open soon, he would blow it “sky high!!” In his haste, Chambers accidentally sent...

    (pp. 87-110)

    In 2008, CNBC stock market analyst Jim Cramer shouted his infamous recommendation into the TV camera: “No, no, no! Bear Stearns is fine! Don’t move your money from Bear!” Soon afterward, Bear Stearns went belly up. On theDaily Show, comic Jon Stewart said, “If I had only taken CNBC’s advice, I would have a million dollars today—provided I started with $100 million.” A lot of people made fun of Cramer, including Cramer himself, who apologized profusely to his (former) fans who lost millions.

    Cramer has been a great piñata, but there is another way of looking at the...

    (pp. 111-128)

    Something odd happened in the upper reaches of the Niger River in West Africa in 1890: a whole mountain range—the soaring Mountains of Kong—disappeared. First charted in 1798 by the English cartographer James Rennell, and appearing on European maps for nearly a century, these mighty mountains—allegedly the source of the Niger itself—just disappeared. Or, to be more precise, they never really existed, having been nothing but a fable. Oddly, when nineteenth-century explorers of the region couldn’t locate the mountains, they simply figured they were misreading the maps.

    Fictitious places such as the Mountains of Kong acquire...

    (pp. 129-140)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 141-146)