Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Greed

Defensive drivers get into more accidents than aggressive ones.  A friend who  deals daily with people in auto-collisions just told me so.  He explained that aggressive drivers cause accidents, but that defensive drivers get into them.  I found this distressing.  He said that he toggles between both manners of driving depending on his needs.  I asked if I should switch, and he said "Nah, don't.  You're better off driving defensively."  But...

Anyway, this brought to mind an article I read a few months ago that was entitled "Upper class more likely to be scofflaws".  It was about a research study at Rotman.  "The increased unethical tendencies of upper-class individuals are driven, in part, by their more favorable attitudes towards greed," said Paul Piff, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the paper, published Feb. 27 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The first field study in this project was about aggressive drivers.  Upper class folk tended to be aggressive, and do things such as cut people off at 4-way stops.  These 'greedy' people also did other fun things like fail to report observed unethical actions, take more candy than their poor counterparts, withheld pertinent position information when negotiating salaries with new employees, etc...

What happens when you cut people off at an intersection?  You get to your destination faster.  When you take more candy?  You get more candy for free.  Withhold information when negotiating salaries?  You win.  That's taught in any negotiations class.  Not reporting unethical behaviour?  Well, here's the thing...  What is it to be greedy?  Is it really just greed?

Every situation above should be viewed within a game theoretical framework.  It seems silly to describe a greedy/not greedy tactic as either unethical or ethical.  If that's the case, then ... it isn't about being greedy/not, unethical/not.  It's tactical.  It's beyond good/evil; right/ wrong.  It actually becomes the educated best response, and not the intuitively incorrect one.

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