Step up and solve a difficult social science question

February 20, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More

Here are ten of the biggest unsolved social science questions:

1. How can we induce people to look after their health?

2. How do societies create effective and resilient institutions, such as governments?

3. How can humanity increase its collective wisdom?

4. How do we reduce the ‘skill gap’ between black and white people in America?

5. How can we aggregate information possessed by individuals to make the best decisions?

6. How can we understand the human capacity to create and articulate knowledge?

7. Why do so many female workers still earn less than male workers?

8. How and why does the ‘social’ become ‘biological’?

9. How can we be robust against ‘black swans’ — rare events that have extreme consequences?

10. Why do social processes, in particular civil violence, either persist over time or suddenly change?

Related article at Nature.

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Category: Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Brian says:

    1} Tax unhealthy shit to internalize externalities.

    2) I don't know.

    3) Get them some Bayesian probability. Bitches love Bayesian probability.

    4) Kill the most skilled white people and/or least skilled black people until the gap is zero. Or ask a better question.

    5) See 3).

    6) By trying to design a working intelligence, not by seeking mysterious answers to mysterious questions.

    7) Don't ask questions you don't want answers to. Or, even better, actually want true answers to all questions.

    8) Neither are ontologically basic units of reality.

    9) See 3).

    10) See 2) to the extent question 10) gives rise to predictions. To the extent it doesn't, it is unfounded.

  2. rosa says:

    this looks like fun.

    1 give them a strong motivation to live, have love for themselves and their families, help them see the consequences of bad behavior, learning from the mistakes of others. taxes never work taxes are basically profiting from bad behavior not helping it.

    2 out of the sea a wild beast with seven heads and 10 horns with feet of a bear mouth of a lion (sorta a quote) that sea is rebellious humans who foster such governments that become beasts (unreasoning murderous predatory). isaiah speaks about the wicked being like the sea that is disturbed and stirring up seaweed and mire (unclean things)

    as long as humans feel god is using human efforts to bring about true peace and security people will still support and foster government by people.

    3stop watching the news reading newspapers and listening to false prophets called relgious leaders junk science scaremongers sky is falling prophets like using legit fears to gain more power and money do your own research learn from own experience and reading and applying the bible helps alot then share with others using a grapevine affect. wisdom is proved righteous by it's works (or the results whether beneficial or harmful).

    4this sounds drastic but get rid of all human governments and stop using human wisdom to decide what is right and wrong and Let God rule the earth and tell us he knows best. step up into his kingdom via worshipping him and only him. you can start by learning his name. he will make sure all gain the knowledge needed to be successful and prosperous. he will end wars to by getting rid of warmongers.

    5 and 6 we are in God's image, he is a creator hence we are too he gave us intelliegence and inquiring minds, rely on his word learn it and apply it, there is no better knowledge to make good decisions that i know of.

    7 because many employers probably believe woman are more inconveient, might get pregenant and leave or want some kind of benefit outside what men get, they call of sick more often due to kids being sick, or because of the monthlies, or because they feel their more likly to leave because they have hubby at home who works so they dont have sticktoitness. and because they may be prejudiced, and because they can.

    8 don't understand the question, next

    9 depends on the rare event, to hard to answer, not enough information next

    10 depends, they persist because the problems that stirred it persist, unjust gov, greedy corporations and theft by use of the power of the state, pride of race or country, black propaganda meant to arouse people's sense of justice or fair play against something, and they change when the situation changes and the types of injusitces or perceptions of such injustices change. they suddenly change when the other tactics and methods of change are not working. people take a different direction.

    do you mean this is all the questions? too bad this is fun.

  3. TheThinkingMan says:

    1. How can we induce people to look after their health?

    There is no way to force a person to stop being unhealthy. But the answer here is and will always be (as it stands for nearly every question that arises) education. But more than just boring school health classes and pbs tele-series on the subject.

    People need to see direct correlations between their health and their well being. Using good looking people and celebrities tend to advance the effect.

    Do not allow lazy and/or unhealthy people to get by without looking seriously into their health. As a society, if we treat unhealthy issues as pariah then maybe that may help also.

    2. How do societies create effective and resilient institutions, such as governments?

    There is no perfect way to make a perfect government for the simple fact that governments are extensions of human wills and intents. And humans, by design, are imperfect.

    But I think that is precisely where the key to the issue resides. If everyone realizes the mortality and fallibility of man and, therefore, of governments, that is a very important mental hurdle to overcome our issues with government.

    Once we overcome our prejudices and eliminate the "Us vs. Them" mentality, then I believe people all over the world can come together with like mind and riddle out the answers to the problems that everyone faces.

    Do not allow corporations, lobby groups, or any individual or group have more weight than any other. Education, open discussion and communication, and free information to all is what is necessary.

    3. How can humanity increase its collective wisdom?

    Refer to the above question. In other words, eliminate the ideal of seperation of peoples. Realize that we are all humans and thus have human desires and needs and wants.

    Also, become religious. Or spiritual. Not saying that one MUST adhere to a faith. What I mean is that EVERYONE should read and study EVERY faith and "Holy Book" written (even the crazy ones) and read them for what they really are: the musings of mortal men and women on the meaning of life and the purpose of human existence.

    Once we incorporate all this knowledge and wisdom into our mental libraries, we will garner an understanding for all cultures and increase our overall well being.

    4. How do we reduce the ‘skill gap’ between black and white people in America?

    Education,education,education!!!

    It is as simple as that. Prejudice still exists of course, and people should always be on guard against people and institutions that harbor such feelings. Do not let anyone get away with prejudice.

    Also, get rid of social programs that favor any group over any other. Allow the content of one's character and the success of their hard work determine their success in life. Period.

    5. How can we aggregate information possessed by individuals to make the best decisions?

    We already do this on a regular basis, and the internet is a vast network that has propelled our species into an Age of Information unparalleled in history.

    Once again, the answer is education. And open communication and free information. Exchanging of ideas, no censorship, debate everywhere without animosity!

    6. How can we understand the human capacity to create and articulate knowledge?

    We attempt to understand this all the time. Our brains are powerful deduction machines. We have evolved the necessity to understand the world, and that is what makes our species so powerful and numerous.

    Unlike other animals, humans are gifted with the unique self-perception as well as a yearning to garner knowledge to better navigate the universe in which we live. Perhaps this is an evolutionary advantage that increases the likelihood of Human survival. Perhaps this is a Godsend to allow humans to reacquaint themselves with the divine. Or perhaps it is the product of our eating from the "tree," and are thus incessantly driven to seek knowledge of good and evil.

    Essentially it all speaks to the same thing, though.

    7. Why do so many female workers still earn less than male workers?

    Similar to the gap between whites and blacks. Eliminate prejudice but also eliminate handicaps. Let people take care of their own work and let their actions and deeds speak for themselves.

    8. How and why does the ‘social’ become ‘biological’?

    It is all intricately intertwined, no?

    9. How can we be robust against ‘black swans’ — rare events that have extreme consequences?

    Read Nassim Taleb's book "The Black Swan."

    But also, understanding that humans are not all knowing gods and that we really don't understand the universe is a a powerful mental shift. Constantly seeking knowledge and understanding will better prepare us for events that we had not seen coming. But the very fact that we perceive that such events exists and happen on a regular basis already is a profound preparation for providing security against them.

    10. Why do social processes, in particular civil violence, either persist over time or suddenly change?

    Because humans are social animals and are ever changing. Social injustices persist because of lack of education and increasing enabling of prejudicial ideals without access to outer cultural influences or intelligences.

    Social processes change once education has come to people, and once people finally understand that no divide exists between them and others.

    Fostering education, human love and open communication is still the overall answer…

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