Monkeys, money, and the primate origins of human irrationality


I need to listen to this later. The first thing that comes to mind is that teachers can pass infomation to their students in ways they don’t expect. Are we certain they aren’t learning the biases from their teachers? Did the experiment isolate this sufficently to prove it was instinctual learning or discovery that revealed both groups have the same irrational behaviors when using currency?

Seems fairly obvious to me!

But it feeds into my fantasy of making a giant “Monster Island” style sanctuary for humans where they can indulge their fascination with commerce and money in relative peace.

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This is an awesome podcast. It’s good hard science, but imagining those monkeys exchanging tokens for apple slices, and then making “budget decisions” made me go “awwwww!”. It’s literally monkey business, and yes, I’m using the word “literally” correctly. The GI Joe Fallacy bit is also priceless.

The thing is, we should not have expected anything different. It is just that for a long time the West has been dominated by religions that taught that humans were magically different from other animals, even the primates. Psychologists and behaviourists, especially in the US, have had to be very careful about not treading on the toes of religious prejudices.
The Chinese and the Indian religions do not have this bias, but it happened that they also did not start on modern science until after the West. So their viewpoint has only been available more recently.


Tom Waits had similar insights a few years ago: “We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns.”


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