169 - Leidy Klotz on Design, Behavior, and When to Subtract


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By Michael Garfield. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

This week we talk to Leidy Klotz about his book, Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less.

Leidy Klotz is an Associate Professor at the University of Virginia in the Schools of Engineering, Architecture, and Business. His wide-ranging, prolific, and highly-awarded research is filling in unexplored overlaps between design and behavioral science. Nationally recognized as one of 40-under-40 professors who inspire, Leidy has taught thousands of students, including 21 Ph.D. advisees, whose designing and teaching shapes the world. He founded and directs the Convergent Behavioral Science Initiative, which brings together scholars, funders, media, and practitioners to advance behavioral science for design.

We discuss the human cognitive bias to try and solve a problem by adding new elements rather than by subtracting pieces from the problem; how deeply-rooted and pernicious this is in both our evolution and our economics, and how it has contributed to the complex and compounding crises in which we find ourselves today; the implications of subtraction thinking for civil engineering, governance and collective behavior; how to communicate a subtraction strategy as a net positive without setting off people’s loss aversion alarms; whether it’s possible to “subtract” systemic racism and other structural inequalities; and in what ways the evolution of the technosphere will make for future humans both more and less than we are…


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Related Reading & Notes:

Edward Tufte - PowerPoint is Evil


NPR - To Save The Science Poster, Researchers Want To Kill It And Start Over


Martin Nowak, Joshua Plotkin, Vincent A. A. Jansen - The evolution of syntactic communication





complex systems





science communication


Parkinson’s Law

Jevons’ Paradox




The Anthropocene

urban design

landscape architecture


defund the police

information design

the non-euclidean curved attention landscape


Joseph Leidy

Andrea Wulf’s The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World

George Lakoff & Mark Johnson’s Metaphors We Live by

Brian Eno / The Long Now Foundation

Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow

Systems researcher Tim Clancy

Kate Orff’s Toward an Urban Ecology: SCAPE / Landscape

Marie Kondo

Tyson Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World

Rajiv Sethi & Brendan Flaherty’s Shadow of Doubt

Hunter Maats

Ann Blair

Herbert Simon

Kirell Benzi

Richard Doyle’s Darwin’s Pharmacy

Chris Ryan’s Civilized To Death

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow

Michael Phillips

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Program Info:

Episode mostly edited by my amazing wife, Nicole Taylor.

Theme music by Future Fossils co-host Evan “Skytree” Snyder.

Intro bed music by Michael Garfield.

Cover Image c/o Jad Limcaco/Unsplash.

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176 episodes