#121 Lorraine Daston – Why are rules a human imperative? 

In our new CONVOCO! Podcast Corinne M. Flick speaks with Lorraine Daston, Director Emerita of Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago, about:

Why are rules a human imperative?

Here’s what she said:

There is no culture without rules. So it must be something really quite deep in human nature. The obvious function of rules is to coordinate the actions of human beings, all of us who live in society.

You can certainly find examples where rules have proliferated beyond the bounds of reason. But I wonder whether there’s a natural limit to the number of rules that we have. I suspect not.

History tells us a whole lot about ineffective regulation. I think the cases of ineffective regulation probably outnumber those of effective regulation.

From the standpoint of business, I understand the yearning for predictability with regard to the law. But as a citizen and also as a historian I would like to live in a polity which follows the legal tradition of equity in recognizing both the existence of exceptions and the need to have a way of dealing with them.

The fact that there is no appeal to the algorithm … is one form of being subject to the empire of algorithms. … Those algorithms were designed for a one-size-fits-all world, and we discover, every day, that we are not that size.

If there is one thing which, unfortunately, is characteristic of current polities, it’s an enormous distrust of government officials, whether they are democratically elected or whether they are appointed by autocrats.

We’ve just confronted two global crises. One is climate change, which is an ongoing challenge. And the other was the pandemic … And we saw in both cases the screaming need for some kind of global governance. And so far, we’ve not been very successful, frankly, in devising that kind of framework for solving global problems.

Previous #119 Konstantin Korotov – Why Society Needs to Shape its Leaders


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