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The Nobel in economics rewards a pioneer of “nudges”

NOT long ago, the starting assumption of any economic theory was that humans are rational actors who maximise their utility. Economists summarily dismissed anyone insisting otherwise. But over the past few decades, behavioural economists like Richard Thaler have progressively chipped away at this notion. They combine economics with insights from psychology to show how heavily economic decisions are influenced by cognitive biases. On September 9th Mr Thaler’s work was recognised at the highest level when the Nobel Committee awarded him this year’s prize in economics. Mr Thaler thus becomes one of very few behavioural economists to win the prize.

Mr Thaler’s has been a prolific career, spanning over four decades, the last two of them at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. His research has touched on subjects as varied as asset prices, personal savings and property crime. For example, Mr Thaler developed a theory of mental accounting, which explains how people making financial decisions look only at the narrow…Continue reading

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The future of mobility: Are we asking the right questions?

In the 2000 documentary No Maps for These Territories, science fiction author William Gibson remarks, “I think we live in an incomprehensible present.” An expert quoted in The New York Times insists that “we’ve reached a new level where nobody knows what’s going to happen.”

I disagree. The present is understandable and it is possible to make foresight-rich preparations for the future if we ask the right questions.

One of the categories requiring the sharpest questions about the future is mobility. The mobile present has many moving parts and is very complex, but base patterns are discernible. I believe every human on this planet needs at least to attempt to comprehend the current point to which the mobile revolution has brought us. Furthermore, I believe modern executives have a fiduciary responsibility to think long and hard about where the mobile revolution is taking us. 

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