December 22, 2015

A bicycle carries a coffin

A bicycle carries a coffin? Credit: Kainet / Flickr Creative Commons

What are you most afraid of? Snakes? Heights? Spiders? 

Well, this week on Innovation Hub, we’ve got discussions about two of the most terrifying subjects in human existence: death and the economy. 

But don’t get too worried, because, as it turns out, both subjects might not be as scary as we think. 

First up, a story about how the fear of death drives a lot of what we do, and why that’s not always a bad thing. Sheldon Solomon, a professor of psychology at Skidmore College, explains that the awareness of our own mortality is the fundamental characteristic of the human species. It affects everything, from elections to racism to our legal system, even if we’re not always conscious of it.  

Then we’ll take a look at the “sharing economy.” Robin Chase, the co-founder of Zipcar, says that with today’s new tech platforms, individuals are now able take on tasks that were once only feasible for massive corporations – saving us time, money, and environmental damage. People already share cars and hotel rooms, and Chase wonders what’s stopping us from sharing even more. 

Then, have you noticed that you’re tipping just a little bit more these days? Author Nir Eyal says that’s no accident. When you take a taxi or a Lyft, companies are using something called the “anchoring effect” in order to get you to give a bigger tip. Eyal takes a look at how companies use technology to change our behavior in ways we don’t notice.

Finally, it might be possible to postpone death for a long, long time. Harvard geneticist David Sinclair thinks that cutting-edge science could lead to extremely long lifespans. In fact, Sinclair believes that the first person to live to 150 has already been born. We’ll examine what that will mean for our society. 

These segments originally aired in August of 2015.

David Sinclair, Sheldon Solomon, Nir Eyal, Robin Chase

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