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Will Kherbek is the writer of the novels Ecology of Secrets (2013) and ULTRALIFE (2016), both published by Arcadia Missa. His Ph.D. was granted by the University of London in 2014. In 2018, the poetry collections 26 Ideologies for Aspiring Ideologists (If a Leaf Falls Press) and Everyday Luxuries (Arcadia Missa) were published. Kherbek is also the writer of the essay "Technofeudalism and the Tragedy of the Commons" (2016) which appeared in the debut issue of Doggerland's journal. The essay considers the role of information in the writing of the Nobel Prize winning economist, Elinor Ostrom, in relation to the concept of the "tragedy of the commons" as formulated by Garrett Hardin. He has written about high frequency trading and finance for the award-winning German language publication, BLOCK, and has consulted and appeared at events with the conveners of the Alternative School of Economics and Rabbits Road Institute in London. His art journalism has appeared widely in publications including Flash Art, Spike Magazine, MAP Magazine, Berlin Art Link, Rhizome.org, and others.
From literature to economics, the Humanities have long been dedicated to exploring the ways in which humans make decisions. Only recently, however, has the science of decision-making itself become a subject of serious study.
In this episode of Office Hours, a podcast produced by the Belfer Centre, the science and international affairs institute of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, presenter Aroop Mukharji speaks to a pioneer in the field of decision science, Professor Jennifer Lerner. Lerner positions the field as sitting at the intersection of economics and psychology, or as she puts it later in the programme, "where the workings of the brain meet the world."
Lerner is particularly interested in the role emotion plays in decision-making. Arguing against the over-simplistic economic view of human beings as "rational actors" fully cognisant of their reasons for making choices, and the pretensions of B.F. Skinner's behaviourism, which posited a simple stimulus-response dynamic to explain human behaviour, Lerner argues that decision science is impossible to understand without factoring emotion into the process. This is, she notes, at present an inexact science.
To illustrate this crucial topic in contemporary social science, Lerner provides a description of key ideas from the field. These include the so-called "endowment effect" wherein once a person owns something, they see it as being more value than when they are considering purchasing it, and the notorious "sunk cost trap" in which individuals waste time and energy on losing propositions for the very reason that they've already wasted lots of time and energy on that same proposition.
This being the Kennedy School, the policy aspect of this research is central to her work. Lerner argues that the key challenge for leaders is to create 'decision environments' conducive to producing good choices. Looking at the world, one can only hope her research finds a wider audience. And the sooner the better.