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Jonathan Haidt: “The Righteous Mind” | Talks at Google


In his new book, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion”, Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of morality and its basis in politics and religion. In this talk, given during his visit to the Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA, Jonathan provides an introduction to the core themes of the book, particularly as they apply to the “hive-like” mode of operation of Google, Zappos, and many other successful organizations. He investigates the question of why some successful organizations operate like wolf packs, others like beehives. And he links several theories from the natural sciences, religion, and philosophy to try to explain how and why humans can be far more “groupish” than “selfish”.

Jonathan Haidt is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and a visiting professor of business ethics at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He is the author of “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.


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  1. "The Selfish Gene" is very often misunderstood as saying that "humans are selfish genetically". The title is actually anthropomorphizing the gene and saying "genes are selfish" — individual genes are competing with one another and, via protein expression, construct elaborate biochemical networks and macro-molecular structures to protect themselves and ensure that they're able to self-replicate. This novel paradigm gives insight into the transition between a-biotic chemistry into self-replicating "living" chemical structures.

  2. I WISH IT WAS 2012 ALAS IT IS NOT. Sorry my caps button was stuck. I took the gummy bear that had been crushed underneath it out. Its currently according to my google calendar 2016 and times are very crazy indeed. I'm going to rejam this old gummy bear back underneath my caps button starting right NOW!

  3. New age marxist nonsense. War as a means to enlightenment? So men shooting their fellow men awakens a sense of interconnectedness and shared humanity? Seriously? This is the collectivist claptrap that has enabled Statism to kill over 100 million people in the 20th century.

    An individual destroying another life is murderer. An individual sublimating their self to a group surrenders his moral accountability on whatever fuzzy pretext the group uses to justify its collective crimes. His accountability is subsumed within group imperatives. Haidt, as a Jew, should see the threat in this – chiefly embodied by Nazi atrocities. SS soldiers were merely acting on orders and what the group determined was the righteous path. So, are they unaccountable? Perhaps their slaughter gave them a greater sense of being at one with the universe….

    The group, whether ethnic, political, or religious, is an abstract concept. The individual is a concrete reality. A group has no brain, no sensory organs, no conscience. A group cannot exist without individuals but an individual can exist without a group. Therefore the individual is of a higher moral magnitude than any group which is why democracy is a sham. Haidt is much better on his SJW campus stuff than neo-Platonism.

  4. At about 33 min, I have to comment: gossip is nasty and totally unnecessary, and violates many ethical principles, especially the golden rule. So I would never recommend encouraging gossip as a healthy way to punish freeriders. It is much healthier to have frank open consultation where people have a fair chance to defend themselves. For instance, often introverts are seen as not team players, but when investigated can be seen to be more productive and valuable to a team than loud mouth extroverts (who no doubt also have value).

  5. It's extremely ironic this talk was given at google, given their current stance on diversity as highlighted by the recent events surrounding James Damore. Haidt wouldn't be allowed on google's campus to give this talk today. He'd be a misogynist bigot.

  6. Humanity has the exceptional ability to create a virtual reality, to synthesize a false reality in which a particular concept is believed, such as the imagined personality of a leader who is a superbeing combining the best attributes of leadership, or exemplifies the optimal strategies and methodologies for the best logical outcome. (You choose). Ie we live in a virtual reality with exaggerated threats and promised benefits for sacrificing believability and delayed gratification.

    It's not surprising that older people who have tolerated extremes of failed fantastic promises, or those left out of the rewards, deserved or not, get cynical and resentful.
    "Traitor" needs to be better defined.

    "Obviously" promoting an impossible dream for no cost to the taxpayer is treacherous and probably treasonous, but the trait of self-interest is ubiquitous. Methodology is the measure of probable success and tolerance for deliberate lies is extremely short-term at best?

  7. Our mind and body are inseparable, just as our life and environment are also inseparable and inextricably linked. So, Sufi spinning and the Maori Haka make perfect sense. The latter formally being a war cry, now used in a cultural context and in light of that what matters is the core intent of the group, especially as regards creating value. [Humanism goes out the window as soon as others are abstracted; whether it is abstracting nationalities, religions, specific professions and so on]

  8. Oh how much Google has changed, and has become an extreme SJW think-tank, for most intents and purposes. They'd never allow this talk or what Jonathan would have to say today. Very ironic.

  9. Doesn't making your "group" look better, in turn, make yourself look better? If so, doesn't "group-ish-ness", at its very core, promote "sef-ish-ness?" A cluster of individuals trying to make each other look better so as to, in reality, make yourself look better.

  10. 6:45 he's dismissing the assertion that many businessmen are psychopaths.

    What is pushing short term profit over sustainability but the actions of the psychotic?

    The whole structure of maximizing corporate profits with no regard for anything else is CERTAINLY psycopathic behavior and it's naive to think many business leaders don't fall into that category.

  11. Haidt is wrong about the need for group selection. Individual selection is more than enough, when reputations are considered: people need to convince others they are going to recipracate and play by the rules, in order to convince them to cooperate and help; and the most convincing act is an honest one. Same reason people actually feel love, instead of just simulating it.There are even mathematical models showing how cooperation leads to tribalism through individual selection.

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