Alex Lamb – Tokenomics Lecture
Alex Lamb, professional business consultant and improv instructor presents his theory of Tokenomics to the Bay Area chapter of the Applied Improvisation Network. This is a repeat presentation of the talk that Alex gave at the International Applied Improvisation Conference in Amsterdam earlier in 2010.
Alex’s Recommended Ted Talks
Charles Limb – Your Brain on Improv
This has to be a great place to start. Clearer evidence of the profound neurological effect of improvisation would be hard to find.
Dan Pink – On Motivation
Based on his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
, a friendly, highly digestible account of motivation theory research. While this book has some things in common with Influencer, its thrust is more inspirational in tone. Dan Pink shows how the principles of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose broadly define what people want out of life, and how some of the most enlightened business leaders in the world have been able to put those ideas to work.
Dan Ariely – Our Buggy Moral Code
Ariely is the author of Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
, an approachable, clearly written book on the growing field of behavioral economics. For those out there who haven’t looked into behavioral economics, I highly recommend exploring it. It sheds a great deal of light on many quirks in the human decision making process–such as why we like free gifts so much, and how the credit crunch happened. This new field is rife with experiments that cry out for adaptation into improv games.
Laurie Santos – A Monkey Economy As Irrational As Ours
This is a great one to watch after the Dan Ariely talk listed above. Laurie Santos clearly demonstrates that the kind of decision-making ‘mistakes’ we make aren’t specific to the human race. This suggests that these patterns of reasoning are old. To my mind, this has important implications.
The patterns of decision-making that behavioral economics has revealed don’t just tell us things about how people react. They’re very likely to be providing us with important insights about how effective reasoning works. These ‘mistakes’ have been selected for over the course of millions of years of evolution. If they cause us to make some choices ineffectively, there must be other advantages that we gain. Though it may not be clear yet exactly what those gains are, experiments in Machine Learning are likely to help us find out.
Stuart Brown – Play Is More Than Fun; It’s Vital
Author Stuart Brown introduces concepts from his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
. The book is a must for applied improv enthusiasts. It lays out research that shows how the act of playing activates the oldest, most highly evolved system for learning that human beings have. The message is clear: training that doesn’t incorporate play isn’t really training. Sure, it might be informative, and even slightly useful, but nothing enables soft skill acquisition like the collaborative social experimentation that’s signaled by laughter.
Jeff Hawkins – How Brain Science Will Change Computing
Mr. Hawkins introduces ideas from his book on how the human neocortex works, On Intelligence
. Mr Hawkins wants to duplicate the learning system it employs and use it in software to create intelligent machines. His company, Numenta, is making great headway in this department, and has already developed software for motion detection and fraud analysis based on insights from biology.
At first sight, these ideas might not seem as relevant to applied improv enthusiasts, but this in fact was one of the most important books I read last year. It makes it very clear exactly what the brain does that’s so special, and how human learning actually works. Locked in here is the secret of why ‘I suck and I love to fail’ is such an important concept.
Daniel Kahneman – The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory
What I like about this talk is the distinction that Prof. Kahneman makes between the way we experience things and the way we remember them. He points out that the connection between the two is far shakier than we’d like to imagine. For me, this says interesting things both about the nature of declarative memory, and how we can use it to make our interactions with each other better. For instance, it seems clear that following negative feedback to a person with something a little nicer is likely to cause that person to walk away with a far rosier impression of the experience than if only negative input is received. This suggests that fixing some toxic workplace interactions may be as simple as bolting positive rituals onto the end of them–a fascinating implication, if it’s right.
Nicholas Christakis – How Social Networks Predict Epidemics
This talk is on how we can use an understanding of social networks to gain insights about the spread of diseases, social trends, and even emotions. Most significantly, Prof. Christakis reveals a simple mechanism by which we can identify ‘hubs’ in social networks and use them to gain advance warning of changes sweeping through a population. However, he also shows that interacting with these hubs provides us with a way to intervene as well as to watch. For instance, it tells us how to best to deploy a vaccine into a population to save the maximum number of lives.
The implication for applied improv here is that the same tools enable us to find those members of a community most likely to A: reflect the values of a culture, and B: change them, if we can engage them and give them the right tools.
Steven Johnson – Where Good Ideas Come From
Mr. Johnson’s research into the the kind of social environments that foster good ideas feels like a natural fit for applied improv. Lurking in here, I feel, are clues as to how to use the science of play and the study of behavioral games to create innovation incubators. This talk leads me to wonder what kinds of improv you can play sitting down with four molecular biologists in a Starbucks without having anyone raise their voice or leave their seat. My suspicion is that one can do quite a lot, and probably get some publication worthy material out of it at the same time.