Some passages I like from “The Social Animal” by David Brooks

On intelligence and form of modern world:

“We are masters at structuring our physical and social worlds so as to press complex coherent behaviors from these unruly resources. We use intelligence to structure our environment so that we can succeed with less intelligence. Our brains make the world smart so that we can be dumb in peace! Or, to look at it another way, it is the human brain plus these chunks of external scaffolding that finally constitutes the smart, rational inference engine we call mind. Look at that way, we are smart after all- but our boundaries extend further out into the world than we might have initially supposed”


Varieties of Capitalism approach by Peter Hall and David Soskice argues that:

“Different national cultures have different motivational systems, different relationships to authority and capitalism. Germany, for example, has tight interlocking institutions like work councils. It also has labor markets that make it hard to hire and fire people. These arrangement mean that Germany excels at incremental innovation – the sort of steady improvements that are common in metallurgy and manufacturing. The United States, on the other hand, has looser economic networks. It is relatively easy to hire and fire and start new businesses. The United States thus excels at radical innovation, at the sort of rapid paradigm shifts prevalent in software and technology.”

Do you agree / disagree? Sure cant explain the whole Silicon Valley phenomena, but interesting perspective, huh?


Importance of emergent systems to understand human behavior:

“Emergent systems dont rely upon a central controller. Instead, once a pattern of a interaction is established, it has a downward influence on the behavior of the components.

Emergent systems are really good at passing down customs across hundreds or thousands of generations. As Deborah Gordon of Stanford discovered, id you put ants in a large plastic tray, they will build a colony. They will also build a cemetery for dead ants, and the cemetery will be as far as possible from the colony. They will also build a garbage dump, which will be as far as possible from both the colony and the cemetery. No individual ant worked out he geometry. In fact, each individual ant may be blind to the entire structure. Instead individual ants followed local dues. Other ants adjusted to the cues of a few ants, ant pretty soon the whole colony had established a precedent of behavior.  Once this precedent has been established, thousands of generations can be born and the wisdom will endure. Once established, the precedents exert their own downward force.

The brain is an emergent system. A marriage is an emergent system. Cultures are emergent systems.

And poverty is an emergent system, too.”


To be continued…