And yet we still insist, by and large, in thinking that we can understand China by simply drawing on Western experience, looking at it through Western eyes, using Western concepts. If you want to know why we unerringly seem to get China wrong — our predictions about what’s going to happen to China are incorrect — this is the reason.”

“Unfortunately, I think, I have to say that I think attitude towards China is that of a kind of little Westerner mentality. It’s kind of arrogant. It’s arrogant in the sense that we think that we are best, and therefore we have the universal measure. And secondly, it’s ignorant. We refuse to really address the issue of difference.

You know, there’s a very interesting passage in a book by Paul Cohen, the American historian. And Paul Cohen argues that the West thinks of itself as probably the most cosmopolitan of all cultures. But it’s not. In many ways, it’s the most parochial, because for 200 years, the West has been so dominant in the world that it’s not really needed to understand other cultures, other civilisations. Because, at the end of the day, it could, if necessary by force, get its own way. Whereas those cultures — virtually the rest of the world, in fact, which have been in a far weaker position, vis-a-vis the West — have been thereby forced to understand the West, because of the West’s presence in those societies. And therefore, they are, as a result, more cosmopolitan in many ways than the West.

For 200 years, the world was essentially governed by a fragment of the human population. That’s what Europe and North America represented. The arrival of countries like China and India — between them 38 percent of the world’s population — and others like Indonesia and Brazil and so on, represent the most important single act of democratisation in the last 200 years. Civilisations and cultures, which had been ignored, which had no voice, which were not listened to, which were not known about, will have a different sort of representation in this world. As humanists, we must welcome, surely, this transformation, and we will have to learn about these civilisations.

“When it comes to building the physical world, we kind of understand our limitations. We build steps. And we build these things that not everybody can use obviously. We understand our limitations, and we build around it. But for some reason when it comes to the mental world, when we design things like healthcare and retirement and stockmarkets, we somehow forget the idea that we are limited. I think that if we understood our cognitive limitations in the same way that we understand our physical limitations, even though they don’t stare us in the face in the same way, we could design a better world. And that, I think, is the hope of this thing.”

– Dan Ariely

“Bernoulli’s gift, Bernoulli’s little formula, allows us, it tells us how we should think in a world for which nature never designed us. That explains why we are so bad at using it, but it also explains why it is so terribly important that we become good, fast. We are the only species on this planet that has ever held its own fate in its hands. We have no significant predators, we’re the masters of our physical environment; the things that normally cause species to become extinct are no longer any threat to us. The only thing — the only thing — that can destroy us and doom us are our own decisions. If we’re not here in 10,000 years, it’s going to be because we could not take advantage of the gift given to us by a young Dutch fellow in 1738, because we underestimated the odds of our future pains and overestimated the value of our present pleasures.”

– Dan Gilbert