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Kenneth Cukier, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Francis de Véricourt

Human Advantage in an Age of Technology and Turmoil

4.1 (65 ratings)
32 mins

Brief summary

'Framers' by Kenneth Cukier, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, and Francis de Véricourt explains how framing, the way in which options are presented, impacts decision making. It offers insights into how framing can be used to influence outcomes.

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    Framers
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    Solving future problems will require the human capacity for framing.

    Since they were discovered in 1928, antibiotics have saved countless lives. However, their widespread use has also led to an unforeseen and chilling effect: certain bacteria have developed resistances to them. This means many people are now dying from once-treatable infections. 

    Replacements for these ineffective antibiotics were desperately needed, but scientists were having no luck finding them. New molecules similar to the old antibiotics might work for a time, but the bacteria could easily and quickly adapt to those, too – rendering them useless.

    Fortunately, Regina Barzilay, a professor in artificial intelligence at MIT, had an idea for how to frame the issue in a different way. And in doing so, she highlighted a uniquely human superpower. 

    The key message here is: Solving future problems will require the human capacity for framing.

    Barzilay’s new frame was this: What if she worked to identify substances that killed bacteria –⁠ not just recreating molecules that resembled antibiotics? 

    Pursuing that question, Barzilay and her team taught a computer algorithm to search through a series of molecules and identify potential bacteria-killers. In early 2020, they found just such a one – a molecule now known as halicin, which has the potential to treat drug-resistant diseases. 

    By reframing the issue of bacterial resistance to antibiotics and combining it with the power of AI, Barzilay solved a difficult problem. In the wake of the discovery, however, newspapers declared it a victory for AI – not for humanity.

    Those headlines missed the most essential part of the story, which was Barzilay’s reframing. Up until that point, researchers had framed the issue in terms of conventional drug development. It was Barzilay and her team –⁠ not the algorithm –⁠ that came up with the new frame, chose the compounds to teach the computer, and used their biological knowledge to confirm halicin’s potential. 

    So, sure, AI can make detached, objective decisions –⁠ but it can’t frame. That means we can’t rely on computers to solve all our future problems. But, equally, we can’t rely solely on human gut instinct, either. Leadership and decisions guided by emotion alone lead to disasters like populism and cancel culture. 

    The solution, instead, is to capitalize on the human power to frame. Framing allows us to see our greatest challenges –⁠ like climate change, pandemics, and violent oppression, to name a few –⁠ in a new light. And in viewing these issues differently, we may finally solve them.

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    What is Framers about?

    Framers (2021) takes a bird’s eye view of the issues facing our world today, from pandemics to political polarization, and presents a visionary solution. That solution lies with framing –⁠ the conscious or unconscious act of viewing the world through a particular lens. By recognizing and rethinking the frames we use, we can optimize our attitudes toward the world and give ourselves a leg up in the face of major social, economic, and scientific challenges.

    Framers Review

    Framers (2021) is an enlightening examination of how framing, the way we present choices and information, profoundly shapes our decision-making. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It explores the powerful influence of framing on our perceptions and behaviors, offering valuable insights for making wiser choices in life and business.
    • Through a range of compelling examples and case studies, the book delves into the practical implications and consequences of framing, enhancing our understanding of the world around us.
    • Rigorous research and analysis combine with accessible writing, making for an engaging and thought-provoking read that can transform the way we think and make decisions.

    Who should read Framers?

    • Abstract thinkers concerned about global issues
    • Decision-makers who tend to over-rely on their gut instincts
    • Innovators struggling to bring their vision into reality

    About the Author

    Kenneth Cukier is a journalist and a senior editor at the Economist. He is the coauthor of Big Data, a New York Times best seller, and hosts Babbage, a science and technology podcast.

    Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is a professor at Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute. He advises Angela Merkel as part of Germany’s Digital Council, and he coauthored Big Data with Kenneth Cukier

    Francis de Véricourt is a professor of management science and director of the Center for Decisions, Models, and Data at Berlin’s European School of Management and Technology.

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    Framers FAQs 

    What is the main message of Framers?

    Framers explores the power of framing in decision-making and how it shapes our perception of reality.

    How long does it take to read Framers?

    The reading time for Framers varies. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Framers a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Framers is definitely worth reading. It provides valuable insights into the impact of framing in our lives.

    Who is the author of Framers?

    Framers is written by Kenneth Cukier, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, and Francis de Véricourt.

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