Hello Etsy Recap: "Overcoming Your Monkey Mind" by Dr. Laurie Santos - Really!

In my last recap of Hello Etsy, we discussed the very inspiring and urgent economic presentation of Stewart Wallis of the New Economics Foundation.  After his 30-minute discussion, he was followed by Dr. Laurie Santos, Director of Comparative Cognition Laboratory and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Yale University.  Dr. Santos studies why humans repeatedly make the same irrational decisions.

Dr. Santos started the presentation by sharing her reasons for exploring this topic:

  • Origins that make people tick
  • Understand history
  • Understand our constraints

or put in another way, "If you put animals in the same situations as humans, would they make the same things over and over?" 

Using our closest animal counterparts, she conducts research on monkeys to see how their behavior and our own irrational behavior are linked.  Using recent examples such as the financial collapse, climate change, and other global issues we have faced in the last five years and are still facing, she shared with us that while research shows that while monkeys do make many of the same economic decision biases as humans, humans do have some that are totally unique to us.    

Below is a video of a TED talk that Dr. Santos gave three years ago, back in July 2010 that discusses her study of the monkeys with money that they introduced to them for them to use to purchase food at a market.  At around the 7:05 mark in the video, she shares a clip of research in action. When she shared the clip with the attendees, we erupted in laughter, but mostly out of understanding.  Money can bring out the worst in us as well as monkeys, even though they had never had such exposure.

Our key difference is how we share.  We have been sharing what is in our heads for sharings sake forever and no other animal does this. As an example, she mentioned the story of William Henry Fox Talbotthe British inventor known for inventing the photographic negative.

He invented his tool because of a scene he attempted to replicate via pencil and paper while on his honeymoon. His dislike of his sketch led him to develop what became the photographic negative and gave way to what we know as photography.  This need to share and create is what generates new technologies, like Etsy, Facebook, or even Instagram as a way to spontaneously share.

Dr. Santos comes to the conclusion that while we are different, what links us similarly is genetic evolution. The reason that our monkey counterparts master the art of using money and make the same mistakes that we do, even with little training is really a part of how we evolved.  And this means that it is really hard to overcome, which is why we react more risky when we're faced with our biases.

At this point she mentioned climate change by way of saying it is why even though our summers are getting hotter, our ice is melting, our natural disasters are more, we don't believe or do anything about it because it's relative. It is happening, but it's not happening to us. Our biases are different because we're not experiencing loss aversion (which we hate!), directly. Climate change for many is not like watching our stock market crash or having your checking account in the red, and therefore we can avoid it and put it off for the future.

The positive in all of this, is that we are changeable creatures. We are incredibly inspirational and like William Henry Fox Talbot, our need to share and trust, even with making the same mistakes again and again and again, allows us to find ways to break from our biases and do good things. 

I know you're wondering how does this have anything to do with Etsy? 

The answer is simple - we have still a long way to go to evolve, but at this point, and with tools like Etsy, we are connecting in good (and bad) ways unlike ever before and we can continue to create goods, technologies, and share our stories and experiences as a means to inspire those to come.  Etsy is doing that, and you are too, as part of the global Etsy community.

Writing this post today made me remember my own financial promises to myself during her presentation. It was easy to listen to her and think of the wealthy that have lost money, but I could see where my own biases come into play and how on a daily basis I make decisions that are risky when I shouldn't.  It's all about perspective after all. I wish you all better choices, continued evolution, and greater sharing with those you know and love.

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Dr. Santo's thought provoking research.  Until next time!

Hello Etsy Recap: "Good Jobs, Good Business, & Good Markets" - Good Economics According to Stewart Wallis

Stewart Wallis, Executive Director of the New Economics Foundation, and a jovial Brit, was one of three 30-minute presentations in the first opening session on Saturday, March 23rd, titled  "Reimagining Economy."  Mr. Wallis's presentation was the first of the three panelists and was not just a great intro to the day, but a great follow-up to Mr. Rifkin's keynote address the night before. In other words, anyone who may have been lost in Mr. Rifkin's session the previous night, got a lot more clarity the next morning thanks to Mr. Wallis.

Now, he talked more than just economics. He talked about environmental concerns, climate change, and the impact we have on these through the current state of our economics.  So lets get the economics over with. I don't think you really want me to go on and on about economics (I should note, I didn't do too well in my college economics class, but that's because I was tired and had no clue I would be in the business world to the extent that I am now. Age and wisdom is an amazing thing, no?), especially when Hello Etsy covered a great mix of topics and I'm itching to share those with you, too!

Stewart Wallis's main presentation was on what he calls, "the four U's" that are interlinked and causing systemic problems in our economies:

Unsustainable, Unstable, Unfair, and Unhappy.  As any good Economist, he threw out the following data to back up these U's:

  • We've been on the planet for 175,000 years;
  • In 1975 we were using what the planet had to offer. Now, we've exceeded it by 50%;
  • Over the last 23 years, 80% of real new income created in USA went to the top 1%;
  • Top 400 Americans have more wealth than bottom 155 million Americans;

Daunting to think about isn't it to read this?  I mean, how is it possible that 400 Americans have more wealth than 155 million Americans?! (Readers outside of the US, I am sorry to be honing in on America's problems, especially when we can look all over the world and see employment and economic concerns for humanity as a whole.)  Even more so, how is it that we've exceeded the Planet's offerings by 50% in 38 years?

Mr. Wallis went on to say that we've moved beyond "trickle down economics." No longer is it feasible to even consider the idea that tax breaks of other economic benefits provided by the US government to businesses and the wealthy, will improve the economy, or benefit the poorer members of society.  The reason why we've moved beyond this is according to Mr. Wallis because economics doesn't recognize resilience, not to mention the way it is currently being practiced is morally and ethically corrupt. To drive it further, he said, "currently, markets are considered a religion and that's bad!" Amen!

He went on to explain that everyone should have a living wage and that corporations, if you work for one, should be providing that.  Instead, we live in a society where salaries reflect scarcity and scarcity creates over consumption and lack of opportunity in everything (education, medical care, food, and money).  If you've ever watched a show about obsessive couponers or hoarders, you know what I'm talking about. It's why Walmart and Dollar stores do so well.  When people believe that things are scarce, their actions mimic that belief.

These beliefs and actions are what is spinning our commodity driven world to chaos and why we now, have exceeded the limitations of the planet in the last 38 years.  It is why our oceans are with dangerously low levels of fish, polar bears are dying in the Arctic, bee populations are dying, and we, humans, are besieged with medical problems. Our systems are polluted thanks to our actions.

Etsy sellers and buyers are changing this, though. The Internet is helping to change this. Think about the shift we are part of, that is helping give back that sense of value to others.

So how do we change all of this? 

According to Mr. Wallis change comes in three ways. The first being, the critical challenge of -

"how do we provide enough good jobs while remaining within planetary limits?"- the remaining two fold into this challenge. 

The answers to his critical challenge are many, but fairly simple:

  1. Shift in values - we must become stewards not consumers
  2. Shift in goals
  3. Shift in measurement
  4. Strong local economies
  5. Replenishing and enhancing natural capital
  6. Public service reform
  7. Strategic Governance
  8. Banking Reform (Markets as servants, power in markets, and tackling inequality)

All of these can be answered in how we see work. If you work for a company, that becomes how you are treated by that company. If you own your own business, that becomes how you treat yourself, your customers and business partners, and should you have any, employees.  This also means how you see your own relationship with money and the economy.   Mr. Wallis's list of what makes a good company, good includes the following:

  • Maximize returns to scarce ecological resource
  • Good job creation as a goal
  • Employees are seen as an asset and equity holders, not costs
  • Value of company is reflective of value created or destroyed

As for the changes necessary for the long term, to save the Planet, to get us back within planetary limitations, and to save ourselves, our values, and our happiness, we need to demand the following:

  • Countering Short termism
  • Changes to taxes and incentives
  • One bottom line that includes social and environmental as well as economic
  • Structure and diversity changes
  • Banking and finance reform

What is your part in making these changes?  You can begin by paying attention to you:

  • Your work
  • Your lives and communities
  • What you buy
  • What you demand

With those four points, Mr. Wallis ended with saying, CREATE A MOMENT OF CHANGE!

This may seem impossible, but it isn't. He's absolutely right! We can create a moment of change within our own world which will impact all those that we come into contact with, do business with, and share our products with (if you are an Etsy seller, or a buyer of Etsy sellers).  These actions will inspire others and before you know it, we're all humming a similar tune, a tune of change.

While doing research for this post, I came across a recent (today!) TEDxExeter talk that Mr. Wallis did much like his presentation at Hello Etsy.  I highly recommend you watch it, especially if you're interested in hear more than reading bullet points.

Next month, I'll cover another presenter from Hello Etsy. Until then, I hope you'll join me in becoming a steward!

As always, if you have any comments, or suggestions, leave them below.  Lets do this!

Hello Etsy: An Introduction to The Third Industrial Revolution and the Urgency of Jeremy Rifkin

Dear Readers,

Remember, how I promised to cover every session at Hello Etsy? Well, this month I'm going to share the opening Keynote presentation by Jeremy Rifkin, a man of many hats. He is an adviser to the European Union and to heads around the world, a senior lecturer at the Wharton School's Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C., and author of The New York Times best selling book, The Third Industrial Revolution, How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World.

Friday night, March 22nd, the Main Hall at Pratt Institute was a buzz. Everyone in attendance was focused on the Keynote presentations opening this year's Hello Etsy.  Beginning with a warm welcome from the organizing Etsy Values and Impact Team, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, offered an inspiring presentation that included comments on his decision to take five weeks of paternity leave after bringing home his son.  I could spend more time on Chad's presentation including his mention of the 1936 film "Modern Times" by Charlie Chaplin (video clip is below) and the following quote by Mahatma Gandhi, "Production by the masses, not mass production," but I will not. Instead, I will focus on Jeremy Rifkin, who came on after, and who Chad did a great job of setting the stage for what was to come that weekend.

Mr. Rifkin from the beginning was a breath of honest air. Many, those who don't believe in climate change, that our government needs a shake up, or who believe that our economy is on the mend, would disagree with what he would go on to say, but I sat glued to my seat and experienced a range of feelings- troubled, scared, agreement, and hope. Over all, I felt a hope that the two hundred people sitting in that room would feel the urgency of Mr. Rifkin's message and turn that into inspiration to do more.

The first thing Mr. Rifkin said to the Hall was, "Everything in our current civilization is reliant on petrochemical (fossil fuels)." Not surprising to me given the time I've spent working with a large corporation on business interested heavily linked to petrochemicals, but for many others this may be a surprise.  According to data he shared, crude oil production peaked in 1979 and 2006. We had the most oil per capita in those two years.  However, with the Great Recession of 2008, things are different. According to Mr. Rifkin, two moments proving that the world we rely on fossil fuel is ending:

  1. July 2008, when the prices of everything increased
  2. The Great Sichuan Earthquake which resulted in the fall of the Stock Market

Not only are these statistics important to his presentation, but I think they give another perspective to those of you following current issues being battled by environmental groups in the US, Canada and even Europe - tar sands and fracking.

As he went on, he touched on climate change and what he considers the most terrifying piece of the topic-the water cycle. According to research, every one degree rise in temperature creates more moisture in the air. This leads to more destructive hurricanes and natural disasters (last year's Hurricane Sandy l, or this week's Oklahoma tornado, anyone?) that impact us all on a global scale.

After sharing these terrifying statistics and with full-on urgency in his voice, Mr. Rifkin turned to us and said, "what we need is a new economic plan for this world. It needs to move quickly to off-set carbon in 30 years, if we want hope."

He then went into discussing the Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) - a lateral power shift -favoring small business and the World.  In discussing how we need a lateral power shift to really create change, he used examples underway in the European Union currently. The EU is undergoing what they call the "disruptive revolution" focusing on the use of distributive energies such as wind, heat, sun, and waves. Where instead of relying on fossil fuels, we look to these new energies as a way of producing what we need, but also being able to store and share these energies with others on a more global scale.

He did mention how Etsy is allowing us small business owners to be part of this lateral power shift. Rather than selling through middlemen and relying on traditional business methods and practices, the use of the internet and sites like Etsy, have allowed us to directly target our market and share our products (that are often times not as energy dependent as goods created in a large scale factory) with those who want and value them.  Even greater, is that we're not just limited to goods, we're using this power to educate, and we're winning what might seem like a small battle, but is actually a much larger concern.

In line with this topic of a lateral power shift, Mr. Rifkin stated the following, "In the next 20 years, failure will have everything to do with energy costs, not labor costs." 

We need to focus on renewable energies in order to move the TIR forward. While there are parties actively creating and looking to the disruptive energies listed above, there aren't enough.  Not to mention the EU can not be the only government entity looking to move ahead with these ideas.

I'm not sure that any of us Etsy sellers will be creating renewable energies, but we are part of the class of entrepreneurs in this new revolution, and if we are going to help create a shift in consciousness within the next 25 years, as Mr. Rifkin asked us to, then we need to start thinking about this and our role in how to bring more change and responsibility into our businesses.  Then use that as a means to change the political spectrum. We can use our muscle to demand sustainable practices and better energy systems the same way that large corporations and their lobbyists demand and promote unfair and bad business practices.

These same large corporations now, they are all eagerly publishing catalogs on the "socially good" programs they are creating and money they donate philanthropically, but we need to see more change. Unlike those large companies, we small businesses can make these goals part of our mission statements and part of our every day habits and really mean them.  I'm not criticizing these large corporations too much. I know I've helped keep them going, but as a small business owner and an environmentalist who cares about my impact on the World, I need to be aware and make necessary steps to keep my business aligned with my beliefs.

I could spend pages on his presentation, but I am limited here and I don't want to overwhelm you with too much more.  Before Hello Etsy, we received an email that included an article by Mr. Rifkin in the World Financial Review on March 20, 2012, titled, "The Third Industrial Revolution: How the Internet, Green Electricity, and 3-D Printing are Ushering in a Sustainable Era of Distributed Capitalism." 

It is heavy on economic terms and he discusses 3-D printers, which I didn't even touch upon, but I think it's a great way to learn more about Mr. Rifkin and what he believes needs to happen if we are to shift consciously and save the planet. 

What do YOU think, readers? Do you think we can help shift the global conscious? Is there something you can do to help move the TIR? Or better yet, just change one thing in your business to help? Let me know below in the comments. I'm always interested in the what I can learn from all of you.  

As for Mr. Rifkin, I don't know if he'll come across this posting, but if he does, Thank you Mr. Rifkin for your overwhelming and educational presentation. I am still thinking about it! 

More on Hello Etsy to come!