Even though his speech is not about technology, psychologist Barry Schwartz would be a great speaker to bring to Bucknell. Schwartz, who studies the link between economics and psychology, advocates that we all need “practical wisdom”, not brilliance, to fight against our bureaucratic society. This “wisdom” cannot be learned overnight, but comes from experiences in which people are allowed to “improvise, try new things, occasionally fail and learn from [their] failures.”

Schwartz argues that both our wisdom and morality are being challenged by the two solutions our bureaucratic society offers to all problems: regulation and incentives. Regulated ‘scripts,’ such as how all kindergarten teachers in Chicago teach their students the letter B, prevent the possibility of disaster, but they “assure mediocrity” because people are not allowed to reach their full potential. Likewise, people who excessively rely on incentives can lose morale because they no longer choose do the “right” thing.

Throughout the lecture, Schwartz captivates his audience by telling stories that contain lessons on both wisdom and morality, such as kind-hearted hospital janitors and unwittingly stupid parents. Schwartz’s only reference to technology is in his discussion is of another speaker’s deforestation process in Indonesia. That project required large technical skill, but it was only successful because the Indonesian people supported the initiative. Technology does not exist in a vacuum, it requires understanding and accepting of those who the technology will affect. Although he is not the ideal ‘technology’ speaker, the Bucknell community would be privileged to hear Barry Schwartz’s discussion about practical wisdom. We all could use some of it.

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5 responses »

  1. bmp007 says:

    Although I would agree that Barry Schwartz would provide a valuable lesson in today’s unpredictable economic climate, I question whether he could adequately fulfill the role of a technology speaker. In my 3 and 1/2 at years at Bucknell, I have been to many speakers regarding economics and the financial institution but I have yet to hear about an innovation technology speaker coming to Bucknell. I believe a technology speaker would provide students with more diverse topics and insights than having, regardless of how distinguishable, another economic speaker.

    • hannahglos says:

      I agree with this post. There have been many speakers at Bucknell who have spoken about economics, but not many (or any to my knowledge) that have talked about technology. With technology becoming such a dominant force in today’s society, I think a technology speaker would be valuable to the Bucknell community, especially as many of us will be graduating and should be well informed about the technology that we use everyday. However, I am intrigued by how Schwartz combines wisdom and morality into one topic, and I would enjoy listening to him elaborate on that topic further.

      • kas054 says:

        I also agree that Schwartz is probably not the best speaker to bring to Bucknell. The Bucknell community would benefit more from a technology speaker than a psychologist because many people within our generation are truly unaware of the controversies that are occurring today, such as privacy and copyright laws. Even though he is a captivating speaker, Schwartz has no technological background and unfortunately cannot relate to today’s technology issues. I do believe, however, that Schwartz should be brought to the Bucknell community within the next few years.

  2. Connie says:

    Although Schwartz isn’t necessarily a technology speaker, I think it woud be interesting to see if he can apply his expertise on “practical wisdom” to this field. More specifically, Kate mentioned that Schwartz argues that our wisdom and morality are being challenged by regulation and incentives. To some extent, I believe that this idea of regulation can be related to the recent SOPA and PIPA acts. I woud love to hear him speak about the implications, if any, of these legislations on our wisdom in that copyright laws woud surely have a substantial impact on our access to information, i.e., the Wikipedia blackout. Additionally, Schwartz could tackle the incentives/morality issue from a YouTube or blog angle. There are many YouTube channels and blogs that specialize in reviewing certain products, such as makeup or technology, for their subscribers/followers. However, some of these channels/blogs are given free merchandise to provide a positive review on that company’s products. Evidently, these incentives that these “gurus”/bloggers are receiving bring up this idea of morality. Therefore, I think that although Schwartz isn’t a technology speaker, his ideas can be applied to various aspects in this field.

  3. cherylngn says:

    I do agree that when it comes to technology, Barry Schwartz will probably not be a suitable speaker to bring to Bucknell. The fields he tends to focus in his speeches revolve more around economics and philosophy, especially with a heavy emphasis of topics such as morality and wisdom. Therefore, it is quite difficult to categorize Schwartz as a technology speaker. I think a speaker with a more technology background will definitely provide a better vision and insight into the current technology scene. Since a significant number of Bucknell students major in engineering, it will be a very beneficial experience. However, it would be very interesting to hear more of Schwartz’s opinion on, for example, the link/connections between economics, morality and technology.

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