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Home » The Lost Genius of Irrationality: Rory Sutherland (Transcript)

The Lost Genius of Irrationality: Rory Sutherland (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Rory Sutherland’s talk titled “The Lost Genius of Irrationality” at TEDxOxford conference.

Rory Sutherland’s talk, “The Lost Genius of Irrationality,” explores the power and effectiveness of non-rational solutions in influencing human behavior and societal norms. He argues that arbitrary laws, like the Sabbath or the French working hours directive, can have profound impacts on behavior due to their simplicity and universality, regardless of their rational basis.

Sutherland highlights the importance of understanding human psychology and social behaviors, such as the flock behavior observed in traffic patterns, to design better policies and systems. He introduces the concept of “heuristics,” simple, socially contagious rules or practices that can significantly improve societal behavior without the need for compulsion. One example he gives is the “Minnesota Zipper Merge,” which efficiently manages traffic flow through social norms rather than enforced rules.

Sutherland also discusses the power of naming behaviors, like the “designated driver,” to make them more socially acceptable and widespread. His talk advocates for governments and institutions to leverage these insights into irrationality and social influence to enact positive changes in a more nuanced and effective manner.

Listen to the audio version here:


Introduction to the Debate on Religion and Society

There’s an Oxford resident called, name of Dawkins, who’s written an influential and worthwhile, I think, book called “The God Delusion,” and I have no particular beef with it except I think with the Southern English edition. This is because, whereas there are parts of the world patently where the meme of religion and the divisions that it generally inculcates in society can lead to extraordinary dangerous and divisive effects, I don’t really see the problem in Britain to the same extent.

I mean, when I traveled up from Kent this morning, I didn’t really pause for a second or more to consider the possibility that my train might be hijacked by suicidal Methodists. When I walked from the station to the theatre here, I didn’t actually, you know, circumspectly glance around me all the time in terror that I might be pistol whipped by Quakers.

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