Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday TED Talk: Barry Schwartz and the Problem of Choices

Barry Schwartz studies the interface between economics and the psychology of consumers, and teaches at Swarthmore. In this memorable talk from the TED Global 2005 conference, Dr. Schwartz speaks of a timeless problem that confronts us even more pressingly today: the problem of making choices, and the accompanying illusion of autonomy. He cites examples with regard to cell phone technology and health care which are just as relevant as if this talk had been delivered last week, instead of four and a half years ago:

Here is a link to Professor Schwartz's bio, and to his home page (showing the books he has authored). Here is the link to the high-res version of his talk, or you may download it in that and various other formats from this page.


  1. An incredible example of propaganda at its most seductive best culminating in the "big lie".

    One of the scariest presentations i have heard in some time.

    This charlatan masquerading as a professor is the epitome of the false and disloyal teacher.

    He is ever so charming, clever, and personable. And, after all, he IS a professor, with "superior knowledge", tenured at the purportedly prestigious Swarthmore College; but, behind his mask, he is the consummate sophist progressive/marxist.

    Instead of empowering his students to learn how to be aware, selective, and how to arm themselves with the techniques to make good choices and sound decisions in their own best interests, (free will/free choice), he has but one interest in mind - his own / his self-serving agenda - to transform the freedom to choose and the intelligence to appropriately discern into negative, unattainable, even silly and shameful attributes through ridicule and fear, and to accrue the power he has stolen from his students to himself and his ideology.

    His "sophistry" combines truth, distortion and lies in a toxic cocktail resulting in the illogical and self destructive conclusion: "income redistribution will make everyone better off not just poor people because of how all this excess choice plays us".

    "All this excess choice" did not "play us", this deceptive false teacher just did.

    For the fun of it, identify his techniques and clever manipulative skills and compare them to the behaviors of TEC, Schori, Beers, and Robinson.

  2. Very interesting, bluebird272. I put this post up mainly because I liked the two differing cartoons re: the Ten Commandments - one saying "Yes, it's written in stone" and the other giving you a blank tablet, a chisel and a mallet and saying, "Write your own." The "choose-your-own" aspect to today's "Design-a-Religion" is, I think, a mirror of our modern delusion that each of us is autonomous -- something that Christians can never, ever believe if they are Christians.

    But you have uncovered an entirely different layer of meaning to the talk, and show how it is designed to support an unspoken political premise: "Don't fret your pretty little heads over all those choices; just let the government make the choices for you -- including the redistribution of everybody's income."

    Thanks for the comment. I intend these talks to stimulate thinking -- and your comment is a prime example of why I post one each Friday.