The Social Animal
February 29, 2012, RSA Conference, San Francisco—David Brooks, a NY Times writer and PBS speaker looked at social skills and how they will affect many systems. Our natural social behaviors are creating challenges for securing data systems.
Politicians are naturally social people. Bill Clinton could make anyone comfortable in a very short time. Mitt Romney can remember the names of all the people he just met in a town hall meeting. On the other side, Vladimir Putin comes from an environment where trust doesn't exist. When he met Bob Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, after their Super Bowl victory, he asked to see the championship ring. When Kraft handed him the ring, Putin put it into his pocket. Even after many entreaties and a promise to get a replica, he refused to return it.
So we see that immature people are running the world. Policies demonstrate our failures to see and understand people as they really are. The old Soviet Union had a lack of social trust, as demonstrated by Putin's behavior. In Iraq, changes in politics reflect changes in society. Before the financial meltdown in '09, bankers were thought to have rational self interest and would not allow an implosion. Obviously, this sentiment was wrong.
People learn from learned ones. Our inability to see reality as it really is results from conflicts between reason and emotion. In some ways, our brains are like computers, especially for computation. The brain is good for material objects and information, and bad for resolving issues when emotion and feelings enter.
We are generally good at teaching our children. In some suburbs, however, the uber moms manage and control their children's lives so the kids can only grow up to become junior workaholics. These kids have no fundamental skills to be a good person. In comparison, people over 70 talk about their life reports, and most spend very little time talking about past professions. Their emphasis is usually on their lives and interactions with others.
A minority of the elderly look at the chapters of their lives and lean towards risk. When they cannot control other people they cannot tolerate that situation. They demonstrate a gap in thinking of things that matter the most. Researchers are looking into full reasoning and emotions, and the field includes cognitive scientists, behavioral scientists, anthropologists, etc. and are developing a new view of human nature. The new views are that the conscious writes automatically as a biological functions while the subconscious performs most of the thinking activity.
Some examples include golfers who choke on a birdie putt, but then make the par because they have a greater fear of a bogie than a par. Studies show that it is better to interview at a med school on a sunny day than a cloudy or rainy one. Inmates seeking parole average a 35 percent approval rate, unless they are at the beginning or end of the day.
The unconscious mind changes our behavior. It is good at pattern recognition, but cannot process emotions. For example, people consider themselves stupid if they are bad at math. When you are buying furniture, the best way to pick something is to not get close and look at the details, but look from a distance. Your mind will place the furniture into its natural settings and allow you to see if it fits. If you have an arbitrary decision and decide to resolve it with a toss of a coin, choose the alternative that makes you happy, independent of the outcome of the coin toss.
Emotions tell us what to remember, and wires the brain together. Without touch, the brain doesn't form. We are not self-contained individuals, but need observation and immediacy to develop. Among the senses, smell is very important. If you lose your sense of smell, it causes a greater disruption than the loss of any other sense.
Foundational prerequisites for emotions that change out view of reality and human life. HR people have found that SAT scores are not predictors of success in a job, but IQ performance, the ability to incorporate new information and tasks, accounts for 25 percent of job performance. Other factors are also important.
Mindsight is the ability to share and learn from others. Babies can copy expressions and responses 43 minutes after birth. At 18 months, most have developed a secure relationship with their mother. They can mimic mom and the mom mimics them. These interactions are necessary to form the brain. 55 percent have this relationship with their mothers, while 18 percent got no feedback. This latter group are called avoidingly attached. Teachers notice that these people will walk up to someone then drift away without saying anything, because they don't know how to judge other's responses. Normal people relate immediately to others.
Equipoise is the ability to monitor your own shortcomings. Technology people are the most overconfident group, whit 95 percent considering themselves ok, where the reality is less than 85 percent really are ok. Men tend to be more overconfident than women, for example they will try to swim when drunk and drown instead. Women are better at most emotional functions and are more modest.
Meta, from the Greek, means to just know. This ability helps in pattern recognition.
Sympathy is the sensitivity to social environments, especially in groups. It is not the same as brainstorming. Person to person interactions are best in face-to-face groups. The intelligence comes from the group IQ and emotional serenity. In high performance groups, everyone takes turns and reads the body language of the others well.
Awareness of our own biases is important, though difficult. We tend to ignore path dependence and historical accidents. For example, the QWERTY keyboard was designed to slow down early typists, but we still use it. We have focusing illusions, meaning that nothing is as important as it seems to be at the time when we are thinking about it.
Fundamental attribution errors are thinking that a character is not the same as the situation. Similarly, a planning illusion prevents us from evaluating real probabilities. This mental error is most noticed when a committee is less than 7 people or more than 10. Proprietary issues affect judgments. In the marshmallow experiment, 4-year old kids were offered a marshmallow, or could get two if they waited for a while. Those who ate the marshmallow immediately ended up over time using more drugs and getting jail time, while those who tried to wait tended to have greater incomes and success in life.
External substructures help you to ignore irrelevant information, and find linkages. They drive the conscious often lead to greater incomes. The goal is to become entirely self-conscious, forget who you are and get totally immersed in your job. This is like a craftsman who has the desire to be lost in his work.
Happiness has little correlation to money. Age correlates with happiness starting with 20-somethings being very happy, dropping to a nadir at around 47, then going back up from 65-75. the first relationships that matter are friends and marriage. Joining a club that meets at least once a month leads to an average doubling of income. The data and relationships in a club are not the same as those for defining friends.
Friends have many similarities and people who are close synchronize. Breathing and conversations align and the people sense a level of comfort. External issues like vocabulary are correlated with IQ, but IQ differences don't mater much for people who are close. Trust is a fundamental building block.
There are levels and networks of trust. For example, in small companies, the company can grow until all of the relatives are hired, then it starts to stagnate. Trust leads to wealth, but levels of trust are declining. The levels of trust are approaching a critical area as more people have to trust their connections without the ability to meet them face-to-face. Those early interactions with our mothers drive us to interact on as close a level as possible. Americans are optimistic, but they need help with security.