Russ Roberts

Cowen on Culture, Autism, and Creating Your Own Economy

EconTalk Episode with Tyler Cowen
Hosted by Russ Roberts
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Tyler Cowen of George Mason University and author of Create Your Own Economy talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in his recent book. The conversation ranges across a wide array of topics related to information, the arts, and the culture of the internet. Topics include how autistics perceive information and what non-autistics can learn from them, what Buddhism might teach us about our digital lives, the pace of change in the use of technology, Nozick's experience machine and the relative importance of authenticity and what the Alchian and Allen theorem has to do with the internet and culture.

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0:36Intro. [Recording date: September 2, 2009.] Origin of book has to do with self, pondering own ability to absorb and process information rapidly. Email having to do with autism; autistics can often process a lot of information very rapidly. Not unusual, vs. unusual. Autistic mindset; fight against stereotypes, Rainman, Dustin Hoffman as idiot savant. What is meant? Cognitive profile. Key feature of autism is high variance of outcomes: autistics tend to have cognitive strengths extreme in some areas, and often cognitive weaknesses which can be extreme in other areas. Variance, hard to comes to terms with. Label: disorder, sign of genius, loathe to yield that label. Key point of book: what do autistics do well and what can we learn from that? Not to say that autistics have no problems. What are the cognitive strengths? Ability to process and digest information in some areas, pattern recognition, attention to small detail, kind of phenomenally strong ordering, organization, collection of lists, putting things in terms of categories in structured manner. Web has made all of us a little autistic or brought out that strength: mimicking things autistics can do. Put together a playlist for an iPod, order your songs in some manner; or keep a blog or write a twitter account and keep some order. Internet has allowed us to do more ordering. Search is much more powerful; if you have a long order, you can get to what you want quickly--blog, tweets, etc. New kinds of structure that people were not doing 10 or 15 years ago.
5:00Paradox: trying to order an immense span of information relative to somebody 25 years ago, so bounce around across an array of experiences and information while on the web; very unfocused. Might be checking email every five minutes in between nine other things. More structure and focus in multi-tasking than a lot of people realize. Stuff coming out of nowhere, TV is on, cell phone rings, text message, etc., all within an hour. What that has in common is people are following narratives they really care about and want to flood themselves with information about that narrative; can now absorb it all much more quickly and effectively. More than we enjoy great novels. Contemporary culture: multitasking flow of information that may be coherent to you but to nobody else. Phrase: Drinking from a fire hose, meaning can't handle it, just too much. For many of us, more like cavorting in the fire hose; exhilarating. Before, had to make a long trip to the archives; now can do it with Google. You turned the firehose on; easy to turn it off. Could cut back, but most people want more. Turn it up! Want showerhead with the maximum flow. Addictive nature: hard to go off the grid, step away. Observe the Jewish sabbath; vacation very difficult. On vacation, fair amount of time on the web, but not literally exploring 24 hours a day. Blog about it, blogged every day for over six years, not missed a day. Of that six years, eight months probably out of town; all fun. Joys of completion: as a collector; Cal Ripken winning streak, at some point felt he had to keep going. Pick a day, compensate to not blog. Worried that if a day skipped, people would send so many emails it wouldn't be worth it.
10:29Controversial, thought-provoking idea: triumph of modern culture. Great time for culture. Most would say it's the nadir, not the apex; popular culture degraded, requires short attention span, not inspiring. Don Giovanni in another time. Mozart's opera personal favorite: has everything--beautiful music, humor, tragedy, pathos, characters, witty dialog. Nothing being produced today is like that. But takes three hours to hear, long opera, very expensive, need to find a performance; costly. People today take pieces of that and assemble them, cultural bits; extremely rich process, making us more authentic, more real, new kind of activity. Can debate if that's culture, but it's like culture: performing cultural-like activities. Not true even ten or fifteen years ago. Interiority: creating of your own economy inside your own head. Take the cultural stream of Russ Roberts: economics, maybe some baseball, go to You-Tube, music, photos: most makes perfect sense to Russ Roberts but not necessarily to someone else. If Tyler fed Russ's stream for a day, may not understand it. Interiority: the cultural me which we all create. Co-creators with artists out there in the world. In Yosemite a few weeks ago; wife wanted to do a particular hike. Russ is family photographer; enjoyed the hike last year and has looked at the photos many times since; those photos a huge part of his life; ready for a new hike. Facebook has ten billion photographs; Flickr. Personal photography; some is bad, but not relevant given interior narrative. Austrian emphasis on the subjective; Austrian term, interiority, as in Lachmann, Schutz; similar point applied to different context. Marriage is unlike a Picasso or Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni is something you visit every now and then, exciting, hard to get there; once it's over you don't come back again soon. Like a romantic affair, don't come back frequently; long-distance relationship. Can be great, thrilling; but marriage, you are with your spouse most of the time. To an outsider might look dull, but quite beautiful; take these small bits and weave them into a narrative. Imaging what makes a marriage valuable. Highs and lows of seeing Don Giovanni--can go all that way only to see a bad performance. Addictive nature of email, or your spouse; the little thrills every day. Fun email, twitter, you-tube. No web browsing on phone because wife bothered when Russ checks the Red Sox scores every 45 seconds. Cut that thrill out. When out with wife for dinner, no checking of email; take breaks from it. People say it is a waste of time, but learning from it; and people learn from you; listen to podcasts. Giver and taker. Hundreds of people have become cultural givers. What about that is a waste of time?
18:47Another criticism is that these doses of cultural thrills have created a shorter attention span; multitasking obsession, don't focus. Hal Varian podcast: Is Google making us stupider? About information. If it's about patience and time-horizon. What people do with Google is follow stories of long-standing interest. For Russ Roberts, it's about photography, hiking, baseball--the Red Sox, followed since 1958. Impatience is to get back to your chosen pattern of patience. Red Sox, favorite musician. People want to feed their interests. Skeptic: you are romanticizing something that is just people fooling around. Play is a central aspect of human existence. Obvious to argue that Google and the web contribute to science. Point of the dialogue is not necessarily about information. People choosing their points of view want to affiliate with certain values. When they criticize the web, they are perhaps subconsciously affiliating with values of a previous culture; some argument that the current culture is good makes them more nervous; no method of persuasion. Age divide; Paul Graham podcast: harder for older folk to understand some of the new technologies, in the neurological sense. Twitter: Who cares what somebody's having for dinner? Minutiae of people's lives. Twittering at EconTalker, if you want to follow this podcast. Harder for older people; pace is very intense; probably already left behind. Age gap has narrowed. The average twitter user in his thirties; facebook has become something for people who are older; young people not leaving the network but finding it not useful, not perfectly scalable. Different mode of communication. IM or texting as examples, different from phone calls. What takes place on a phone call different from ten years ago. How easy or difficult to change as you get older. IM with daughter every day. Awkward to ask kids how they are. IM lets a new kind of intimacy be created. Less emotion around the words, chance for the dialog to be better overall.
25:26Alchian-Allen Theorem: folk theorem going back thirty or forty years. Different versions. Intuitive version: If you are taking three hours to see a concert, you expect it to be pretty long, good, spectacular. If you are just crossing the street to hear your neighbor, you might just get one song. Formal version: when you add a per-unit tax to a high quality good and a low quality good, the relative proportion of consumption will shift in favor of the high quality good. Tougher, trickier, may not be true. First version in literature: Shipping the good apples out: if you want good apples, you don't go to Washington State; if you want great shoes you don't go to Italy--because the fixed cost of the distance the goods have to travel means that the willingness to pay of people farther away for the higher quality, higher cost version is going to be higher. Therefore, if you want good apples, you go to Boston, good shoes, go to California, because that's where the profit will be. Makes some sense, but problems. Best lobster is in Maine. But they don't travel so well. Shoes may not travel well, either. Should not go out for a movie; like movies in a theater, but when you go to a theater with kids, it's like a $100 evening. If you are going to do that, go to a play, because a play on an iPhone isn't nearly as good as a movie on an iPhone. So go for the extraordinary things. Application to the internet: Internet makes things readily available to you at low cost; could call it low transportation cost--just need to buy a connection for the computer. Going to sample a lot of small bits, feed into personal narrative; don't have to hire a babysitter, take the three-hour journey. Confirmation: number of times tear up listening to music a day. Go to You-tube, get your favorite aria. People read a blog post instead of a book; break it down into small bits and recombine it. Consumer is co-creator. Challenge: Tyler not normal, typical. How prevalent is this narrative? Don't know the exact number, but in wealthy countries most people are doing it and younger generation doing it. Over time, will be almost everyone; 5% will choose not to, will have meaningful lives in other ways. Long run percentage at 90% in wealthier countries. How would you know if the amount of time spent reflects weaving these small bits into a personal narrative? People do it; don't regard that as proof. Billions of people migrating to new medium in ten years; strong prima facie case.
31:45Chapter on Buddhism. Buddhism and mindfulness. Very diverse religion or philosophy. Idea of concentrating on a small number of items, not seeking to own or order them; seeking to be pure in a certain way in this focus and cleanse yourself of desire. Must sustained philosophic critique of what we are doing right now. If you are part of this cultural stream, the Buddhists would be where to look for the number one critic. Critique would be that it is self-frustrating process, alienating, doesn't yield satisfaction; satisfaction comes from the renunciation of desire and a lot of what we are doing on the web is propensity to want to own and order in some complex way. Peripatetic search for fun and momentary stimulus rather than deeper serenity. Gives you pause. Classic economist's response: at what margin? At some margin, we should be more Buddhist, at other margin, we should be this other way. Buddhist at dinner with wife. Good friend of wife entered Buddhist monastery, gets up at 4 a.m., doesn't have any possessions, no web connection. Seems a margin too far. Also, can use the web to be Buddhist--one possibility.
34:45Robert Nozick book, different kind of critique. Experience machine, philosophic construct: if you could give up your current life and plug into this machine, and have any dreams and fantasies, maybe last 200 years but have to give up real life--would you do it? Would feel real at the time. Point: the fact that people would say no to the machine means that we are not fundamentally about pleasure but fundamentally about authenticity. Cowen's book: at what margin? We already plug into a lot of experience machines; doesn't have to be virtual reality; we watch TV, self-deceive about our own lives, take different kinds of stimulants. At what margin should we renounce reality and opt for fantasy? Balance of some kind. Nozick's example doesn't refute the idea of fantasy--just don't have too much of it. We all have an interior life. Can be lonely or social. Starving in Burundi, would take the machine in a heartbeat. As an adult surrounded by beautiful women Nozick wouldn't take the machine--easy for you to say! Youngest person to get tenure at Harvard, best-selling book, won awards. Edward Castronova podcast, virtual worlds--escape your life. Historically appealing for many people. Will virtual worlds continue to grow? Haven't taken off. Underestimate how effective we are at creating in our own minds the narrative. Trying to centrally plan the narrative flow for people. More traditional media--future of television, Don Giovanni? TV is the big loser in a lot of ways. Can watch it on the web; games there. People watching less TV, TV revenues falling. Newspapers, same. Long-distance relationships, big weekends with Don Giovanni? Will do increasingly well over time--everyone gets cabin fever. Visceral, in your face activities will gain; stuff in the middle will lose.
40:15Chapter on heroes, Sherlock Holmes, not real by the way; but is quite real. Book forces you to think about the distinction between reality and fantasy. Could argue that wondering if Holmes is autistic or not is absurd. But we cry when people in movies die. Not tricked into thinking it's real. Can we learn from fictional characters, we can. Real in some way, bring ideas to life. Living with those ideas, people in books when writing fiction, or nonfiction. One hero: Adam Smith, suggest that he has some characteristics of autism; relate to the Theory of Moral Sentiments. By reading biography, hard to figure out, but can look at the past and say that successful people have particular traits; and then also say that if autistic people have those same traits, that autistic people may actually be able to be more successful than is commonly thought. If you read the extant biographies on Smith, he sounds like some autistic people. Window into autistic, cognitive strengths. All of us know a fair number of autistic people and can be inspired by them. Vernon Smith self-described himself recently as having asperger's syndrome. Theory of Moral Sentiments: framed rereading of it through the lens of autism. Alex Plank, at George Mason U., every autistic person is or has to be a sociologist; autistics sort world out by developing theories. Smith being a sociologist trying to figure out sympathy, which he sees as very important, but doesn't himself intuitively understand. Outsider looking at a strange culture trying to make sense of it. Martian. Doesn't mean he had to be Autistic, but a very different guy. Theme in book: people become more creative by allowing themselves to be more different. Any evidence on Smith? Friends with David Hume--wrote a lot of letters, the texting of their day; had face time. Book is obsessed with sympathy.
46:01Twitter at EconTalker, question from fellow twitterer: What kind of responses has Tyler gotten about his book from autistic people? Large number of autistic people, parents of autistic people, those who teach autistic people that they like it, agree, enthusiastic. Three have written with the contrary: autistics cannot succeed; my child cannot do anything with these cognitive strengths; incorrect portrait. Behavioral economist? If someone who assigns psychology a central place in thinking, then yes; if someone who fits into a particular Rabin, Kahneman, Thaler, point of view then not so much. They emphasize the imperfections too much, tend not to see how those imperfections blend into ways that make our lives meaningful. Framing effects: how a choice is framed can have different effects; can have consequences that are irrational. Can be led to make mistakes, tricked. No doubt it's true; but the most important thing about framing is that we use framing to give our lives meaning, to put things in order, give context. Go to a restaurant; how good does the food taste? It's really quite important how nice the restaurant is, how they treat you. Are the lights on when they serve the food? Is it colored blue or purple? Market produces positive framing effects that make the food taste better--marketing campaign, advertising campaign, polite waiter, sense of anticipation. Trying to bring more balance to that debate. Look at all behavioral economics in a market setting instead of just in the lab; competition out there; claim of Barry Schwartz that there is too much choice. Retail outlets that gain over time are the ones with all the choice. Present the choices in a manageable fashion. Like: People who bought these also liked.... The excess of choice is framed in a way that makes it work, not the way it would work in an abstract lab experiment.
50:48What parts of behavioral economics are going to persist and enter the mainstream of teaching economics? Top twenty program now--not much getting in. Gets in in second year courses, industrial organization. Not a fad, though the particulars may be fads. Dan Klein, Theory of Moral Sentiments podcasts--a lot of Adam Smith is behavioral economics. Cowen: Cultural critic, cultural observer; information collector. Information collecting fun. Unparalleled access; remarkable time. Smith and Hume. Marginal Revolution will last after death; even a non-religious person today would be cheered by the electronic legacy. Care about being gone. Can't enjoy it then. As a consumer won't be here, though. Last chapter: The Future of the Universe. Don't want to give away the conclusion, but specific prediction: adduce strong evidence for that prediction. Optimistic. Two projects in the works: systematic book on philosophic case for a free society and why that case is a sound one. Nozickian view of absolute rights fails and utilitarianism fails; synthesis. Book on the economics of food. Plus more blogging and hope for another future podcast with Russ.

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COMMENTS (21 to date)
John Strong writes:

Tyler, would you say that your taste for Amates from Guerrero corroborates the Alchian-Allen Theorem? Actually, people like you who develop a taste for Amates 1,000 miles from where they are produced are probably the exception, so maybe Alchian-Allen is not on such solid ground after all. My wife and I used sell wood lacquer products from a village in Guerrero named Olinala. The best pieces by far were made by the Ayala family (distant relatives, perhaps, of your friends in Oapan, the Camilo Ayala). We exhibited these lacquer items at fairs in Austin, Texas. People stared at them, praised them lavishly, but on hearing the price they would buy one of the crummier lacquer products (by a less able family) or move on to the next booth and buy a rain stick.

Steve Milanoski writes:

My friend introduced me to the writings of Leo Strauss. I don't see his name referenced in any Econtalk script. "Time magazine in 1996 called Strauss "one of the most influential men in American politics." according to "The Truth about Leo Strauss" by C.& M. Zuckert. Perhaps a topic for future podcasts?

Eric writes:

After this podcast I had the desire to listen to Don Giovanni. Less than a minute to search and I found a streaming performance from the Royal Opera House:
www.roh.org.uk/video/index.html?bclid=1780606125

It's still a substantial time investment to sit down and watch but here's a great example of how the internet can lower costs for access to an important artistic work - one of Cowen's "cultural bits".

Bob Calder writes:

I'm surprised you guys didn't talk about the attention economy.

Eric H writes:

I look forward to reading Tyler's book.

Tyler is an inspiring character. I wonder though: is "interiority" his attempt to redefine freedom within the context of big government? He has counseled libertarians that government growth and economic growth are a "package deal." Is interiority his version of Arnold's exit?

The interior world of the mind is the last refuge of the individualist, especially in an increasingly political world.

Netsp writes:

I enjoyed the part about the effects of a per-unit tax on relative consumption. I am always interested in economic principles that clearly exist in abstract and can be applied to questions people do not normally associate with economics.

*Does anyone know of a good resource for further understanding the effects of a per unit tax. Eg what are the absolute effects on the higher value per unit good. Can they be positive? ANy good examples?

Eric H writes:

I wonder too about Tyler's example of the distance of instant messaging providing an opportunity for a different kind of intimacy. I wonder if "we" didn't start to invest old forms of communication with too much emotion. "Just call--we're all connected." Remember that? Maybe IM-ing doesn't offer a new kind of intimacy so much as a return to an older type of intimacy: the routine, semi-formal type of regular social connections of family, religion, etc.

I don't instant message, but from what I've seen of it, it seems to pare away much of the emotional baggage built into phoning. Supporting emotional baggage takes energy. Phone conversations can become co-dependency sessions, arguments, etc. just as easy as face-to-face conversations can. Instant messaging might keep people at a distance but it frees them from having to expend excessive amounts of emotional energy every time they communicate. Freed of that expenditure, perhaps people will keep in touch more.

Chris Murphy writes:

Listening to this podcast I was struck with the notion that I would really like to spend some time hanging out with Tyler. We seem to be interested in a lot of the same "bits" as he calls them. Then I came to the realization that the web allows me to "hang out" with him anytime I want just by reading his blog, which I think relates to his whole point.

R.A. writes:

> People read a blog post instead of a book;
> break it down into small bits and recombine it.
The same was said for music (people hear a song, breaking down the albums into small bits).

I wonder: Is that breaking up perhaps just a normalization?

Books (and albums anyway) are not naturally the appropriate package for information - they were introduced for technical reasons.

The "natural" package size for texts normally is smaller than whole books:
You listen to a narrator for an evening, which means hearing an episode or two.
You ask a question and get an answer some sentences long.
You talk to a wise man for some hours to understand some topic.

The internet provides just the possibility to have information/texts in just the length appropriate for the specific example: A twitter-message, an email, a blog-entry, a long pdf, a podcast.

These are the bits that make sense, the necessity to combine many bits into a book has disappeared like the purely technical necessity to combine many songs into an album.

Yifan writes:

I have been listening to this podcast ever since its launch. This episode is definitely the most thought provocative, elegant and memorable one. Thank you so much!

Gerard McCusker writes:

Speaking of opting out of drinking from the firehose, Don Knuth (Stanford computer science super wizard) stopped using email at the beginning of 1990. http://www-cs-staff.stanford.edu/~uno/email.html

Wesley writes:

The "Buddhist" criticism you brought up seemed like a straw man. My reading of the four noble truths is that suffering comes from a gap between desire and reality. You can enjoy the internet, your music, etc without craving it. A good test of this might be whether you get or would get withdrawal symptoms if you stopped one day.

Butler T. Reynolds writes:

I just finished listening to the podcast. I found the discussion of Buddhism interesting given that just this morning I was reading from a blog called Zen Habits (http://zenhabits.net/). The author promotes the idea of eliminating a lot of the noise and disconnecting from the net at times in order to get more meaningful things done.

Interesting contrast. Now I'm not sure what I should do! :)

Cody writes:

In the past I've noticed a difference in interactions between IM, phone, Skype, in-person, etc. I have an interesting observation that is similar to Tyler's observation about IM with his daughter in Paris:

My girlfriend has recently moved about 4000 miles away for medical school and I previously studied abroad in England while she was in California, so we very often use Skype to stay connected. The intriguing thing is that while we can very easily talk, we often find ourselves leaving the video on and chatting rather than talking. We do this most often when things get tense; it's almost as if typing gives us the ability to lengthen the time between thoughts and better say what we mean. It gives us the time to think without the expectation of an immediate response the same way that talking demands.

Bob Calder writes:

Russ,

I suppose by this time you have at least heard about the research on how autistic people have a failure to mentally construct a theory of mind when it comes to interacting with others.

And I suppose a few of your colleagues have pointed out the research that says people who claim to "multitask" are particularly poor at it.

Perhaps Chris Anderson would be a good person to discuss attention economy with in context with long tail economics and the Internet.

I really enjoy your discussions with people you don't have too much in common with a lot more than the discussion with people who share your views. Sometimes when a person should be challenged, he isn't because both people don't want to poke a tender spot. You are particularly good at it and when you expose your own uncertainties, you get better.

Sam writes:

Russ,

I just thought I'd say that this was one of my favourite podcasts. I find the podcasts that are less focused on economics per se to be the most interesting. Although that may be because I think, talk and read about economics too often in the rest of my life.

Andrej writes:

Russ: "You're not normal Tyler, I'm not either." 29:53 min.
Tyler (Discover Your Inner Economist): "Most people think they are smarter than average, better drivers than average, and indeed simply "better people" than average." p. 114

Elliott writes:

I like his blog far more than the book. The focus on austism was distracting from his main points.

James writes:

The Experience Machine

Nozick's framing of the Experience Machine thought experiment is more than a little biased. The way he poses the choice is the problem. He asks people to make a huge decision; cut off their entire life in return for a fantasy life. This is too difficult a decision and most people will refuse, not because they actually prefer reality to fantasy, but because they are risk averse and do not like throwing their life away for any promised reward.

If you simply turn it into a daily choice people will overwhelmingly choose fantasy, which is kind of what Tyler Cowen is saying. If you say "Today, would you like to have 50 hours of a perfect fantasy life as a rock star/superhero/ninja/pirate, or 24 hours of real life as a student/teacher/writer, I think probably 90% of people would opt for the fantasy.

Another variable in the thought experiment is the 2 to 1 time ratio part. I'm not sure where this came from, but it obviously will bias the results in favor of the fantasy life. However, it is likely that long life could be assured by plugging the body into some kind of incubator that maintains perfect conditions (minimal heart rate and caloric consumption, along with a perfectly healthy diet, for example), so a 200 year life span is probably not unreasonable.

I think we as a society really do need to come to terms with the fact that as the virtual world improves and the real world stays the same, the virtual world will become increasingly attractive. As this happens, the main attraction of the real world will probably be the ability to exercise real power over real people (the masses of people plugged into simulators). This will become a huge political problem as the 10% of the population that are non-sims will essentially be making decisions for the 90% of people who are plugged in and apathetic about real-world politics. Furthermore, this 10% will by definition look unfavorably on the plugged-in lifestyle. Hopefully there will be enough people with a foot in each lifestyle to look out for the interests of the escapists.

Anyway, I think this whole debate is rooted in an assumption that no longer applies. The moral imperative to work hard and contribute to society is based on the assumption that resources are scarce and the survival of the species/country/tribe/family depends on everyone pulling their weight. With current technology this is no longer the case. Only 20% or so of the population is actually engaged in meeting our basic needs like food, water, shelter, etc. There will come a point (if we haven't already reached it) where there is simply no reason for the average person to work a 9 to 5. Already there are fewer and fewer worthwhile employment oppourtunities for the least skilled members of society (i.e. much of rote production, cleaning, garbage collection, etc. is now automated). Why bother working if you can only produce $2 an hour? The hard truth underlying the problems of the U.S. underclass is the fact that there is just not much for them to do.

This fact is ultimately the source of support for socialism and communism. Capitalism motivates everyone to continue working long after basic needs are met. What happens is that those who can provide luxury goods are handsomely rewarded, while those who can only provide basic services receive very little by comparison, and can feel "exploited". In the future if we have automated robotic production and cheap fusion power, the support for a communist/socialist "nanny" state will become incredibly strong. People will want society to be organized so that the government provides whatever basics are necessary to keep the simulators running and the feeding tubes full, while the citizens enjoy their fantasy lives.

Albert writes:

After hearing this podcast, I was concerned about a child abroad for a year getting texted daily by a parent, or anyone else for that matter, but especially a parent. I spent 10 months abroad in 1967-68 and never talked to a family member once. We exchanged lots of letters, but I often went days and even weeks without parental or familial input or even contact, and it was the best year of my life. I benefitted mainly from the long periods of privacy, solitude, new friends and experiences, and independent decision making. I don't think it would have been the same if I'd interacted with my parents very often.
It seems to me that the biggest drawback in texting, cell phones, etc. is the constant invasion, or threat of invasion, of privacy. It's like being a fireman doing his 24 hour shift in the fire station. It's hard to concentrate and plan if you're at risk of being interrupted. Neil Postman wrote on this type of thing in Amusing Ourselves To Death and other books. What do you other Econ Talk fans think?

Daniel writes:

Cowen claims that he is different than behavioral economists because he doesn't think framing effects are negative (among other reasons). But neither do behavioral economists. Behavioral economics research dealing with framing effects doesn't deny that framing might be a valuable psychological tool that our brain uses to help us cope with the world. Behavioral economics is about exploring the areas which might be improved in economic theory. Thus, all they have to say about framing effects is: "Economics claims framing shouldn't matter in decision making. We find that it does."

Anyway, other than that, fantastic podcast. Tyler Cowen is great.

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