Jul 212015
 July 21, 2015

Durham-postcardThis summer, a group of rising juniors and seniors from Durham high schools will take part in The Bull City Dignity Project, a documentary theater project of the Kenan Institute for Ethics based on the lives of Durham’s diverse community members. Led by a team of Duke University students and faculty, the cast of Bull City Dignity will spend the summer turning interviews with Durham community members into a work of community storytelling. Heading up the project are Kari Barclay (director of Duke’s Me Too Monologues) and Lara Haft (slam poet and 2014 Kenan Summer Fellow).

Lara is writing periodic updates on the project, which discusses some of the themes from the interviews, as well as some of the issues they are exploring as a group, such as how to be authentic to another person’s voice, and how to present opinions against your own with respect and nuance:

We decided early on with our cast not to shy away from the points of tension in Durham’s history that can give insight into the city’s unique identity. Yet, there’s a fine line between examining these conflicts in a nuanced, thoughtful way, and using differences in opinion to manufacture cheap drama.

Jul 132015
 July 13, 2015

brainThe MADLAB, an interdisciplinary, vertically-integrated lab out of the Moral Attitudes and Decision-Making program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, received continued funding for its “Measuring Moral Implicit Attitudes” project. Project collaborators include Murali Doraiswamy (Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences), Tobias Egner (Psychology & Neuroscience), Scott Huettel (Psychology & Neuroscience), and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics). The Duke Institute for Brain Sciences offers yearly support to interdisciplinary teams through the Research Incubator Awards.

Read more about the awards and the other selected projects on the DIBS announcement.

Jul 092015
 July 9, 2015

dirk-philipsenKIE Senior Fellow Dirk Philipsen recently spoke at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London on need to move away from reliance on GDP numbers as indicators of economic prosperity.

I have been teaching some version of the history of capitalism for a very long time. It’s a course that always raises some very difficult and profound questions, often questions that deal with deeply internalized assumptions, assumptions about basic things like human motivations or the workings of markets — to what extent do they guide our lives?

Audio of his talk is available on the RSA website.

Jun 102015
 June 10, 2015

Reducing-Child-Labor-In-Cottonseed-FarmingA new undergraduate course was offered in Spring 2015, taught by DHRC at KIE program director Suzanne Katzenstein. A new report combines the research of six students on child labor in cottonseed farming, conducted specifically for Seva Mandir, a leading nonprofit development organization in India. The students, Shade Adeyemo, Maria Alas, Michael Bleggi, Michelle Khalid, Sayari Patel, and Caroline Yarborough, worked both individually and as a team to examine advocacy strategies and compare corporate case studies.

The course will be offered again in Spring 2016.

Jun 092015
 June 9, 2015

09 Tra-400A group of undergraduates and recent graduates from this past year’s Bass Connections team on Displacement, Resettlement and Global Mental Health have traveled to Jordan to interview refugees, mostly Syrians, who populate the camps there. During the academic year, they collected interviews with locally resettled refugees. Those whom they are interviewing now are either seeking resettlement or wish to return home, but are unable to safely do so. Check in with their weekly blog posts chronicling the challenges faced by the refugees, the humanitarian efforts meant to serve them, and our researchers as they build relationships.

For more information, read the blog from the previous project team and field essays from past DukeImmerse students from 2013 and 2014 working with refugees in Nepal, Iraq, and Jordan.

May 262015
 May 26, 2015

Dirk Philipsen, Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, has a new book hitting the shelves: The Little Big Number: How GDP Came to Rule the World and What to Do About It. KIE’s Katherine Scott recently spoke with Philipsen about the book, and how Gross Domestic Product became such a driving economic force.

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The GDP is something we all take for granted. In your new book, you examine its origins and illustrate some of its limitations. How did it become so established?

Up until the Great Depression, no one had these numbers, this knowledge, or had been measuring an economy by this metric. From 1850-1929, the sudden explosive growth of productivity and wealth that came along with industrialization is pretty well known. What is less known is that the growth also created constant crises – sometimes of massive proportions. This translated into people’s lives as unemployment, poverty, and despair. We now describe it as boom and bust cycles, but no one at the time knew why this was happening. The dominant economic theory was that the market would take care of things. Then the great depression hit. By 1932, the signs were clear that the system was in deep distress. Companies and banks were going bankrupt, over a third of the workforce was either unemployed or underemployed, and there was real public fear that America was falling apart. People like Senator La Follette pushed the Commerce Department to hire economists to figure this out. Through questionnaires, they generated the first ever comprehensive data set on national income – a tally of what was being produced, what happened to investments and profits, and how many resources there were. This became the foundation for the New Deal.

Then the U.S. entered the war. That’s what really pulled us out of the depression. Those economists who created the system to collect the data were able to make the U.S. the most productive nation in pretty short order.  After the war ended, there was a lot of destruction and a lot of pressure to rebuild nations. People still didn’t understand how the great depression happened, and were afraid that another might come. The solution was to latch on to increasing productivity. Industries latched onto it for profit, politicians latched onto it to increase the tax base, and workers latched onto it in hopes of employment and increased wages.

Through Bretton Woods, the United Nations, and the Marshall Plan, these national accounts then spread throughout the world, and this very basic output measure not only became the standard for measuring an economy, but also for welfare and progress. With globalization, the solidification of the GDP became complete. In order to support international trade and lending, you need the same metrics for comparison. There is no other ideology or system as universal as GDP. It’s as universal as the water in the fishbowl.


What are we missing be relying on the GDP now?

It doesn’t measure the quality of the productivity, the direction or purpose of the output, or the environmental impact. What initially was a means to analyze an economic crisis then became a means to win a war. After the war, this purely descriptive tool of output transformed into something prescriptive; productivity increase became the goal and the very definition of a national economy. When we discuss the economy today, we aren’t talking about the time and effort spent raising our children, the tomatoes grown in our backyards, or the freshness of the air. Because none of these things are measured in the GDP. Every nation in the world has as its primary function to keep alive the growth regime supported by the GDP, but this unending growth is completely unsustainable on our finite planet. You can see it in the news, this constant tension between those in finance and politics who constantly call for and reward productivity and consumption and those scientists who are trying to explain that there is a real environmental and social crisis.

Where does that leave us?

LittleBigNumberWith a range of far-reaching opportunities.  Changing the goal and metric of economic activities to something smarter, something that begins to reflect what people actually want, has the potential to be a game changer.  It could be the most significant lever to address, at once, core problems like inequality, climate change, and social disintegration.  All that is explored in more detail in the book

The Little Big Number is available in hardback, ebook and audiobook. All three are available at Amazon.com


May 212015
 May 21, 2015

re1365607_ariely_hires(Dis)Honesty – The Truth About Lies is a documentary feature film that explores the human tendency to be dishonest. Inspired by the work of behavioral economist and KIE Senior Fellow Dan Ariely, the film interweaves personal stories, expert opinions, behavioral experiments, and archival footage to reveal how and why people lie. It premiered at the Full Frame Festival here in Durham in April, and will have its television debut on Thursday, May 28.

Woven throughout these gripping stories of deceit are clever laboratory experiments conducted by the noted behavioral economist and best-selling author Dan Ariely. Along with a team of researchers, he reveals why so many of us lie in big ways or small, how we can still feel we’re essentially honest despite our duplicity, and what we can do to stem an epidemic of cheating that costs us billions in fraud and even more in the erosion of public trust.

May 202015
 May 20, 2015

BrethertonWriting for the Australian Religion and Ethics blog, KIE Senior Fellow Luke Bretherton (Divinity) looks at global migration and the idea of borderlessness through a Christian lens.

I will suggest we need a way of valuing our particular political community in relation to other nations and ultimately in relation to God, and that such a framework will enable us to make appropriate decisions about how to respect and value existing citizens and fulfil our duty of care to the refugee and vulnerable stranger from outside our country who nevertheless who seek a new life within our country.

May 202015
 May 20, 2015

Each summer, the Kenan Institute for Ethics supports selected undergraduate projects that explore—in a variety of ways—the answers to the question: What does it mean to live an ethical life? The students work with a faculty advisor to shape a project based on their personal passions and often their field of study. This year, four Kenan Summer Fellows have been selected.

Throughout the summer, read their weekly reflections as their projects take shape, and engage with their personal journeys around these very different topics.

Gautam Chebrolu is a rising Junior from Columbus, GA majoring in Biomedical and Electrical and Computer Engineering with a certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. As part of the certificate program he is constantly encouraged to think about pursuing social entrepreneurship, which led to the foundation of this project. Gautam will spend the summer trying to get a better grasp on what social entrepreneurship by focusing on the scalability of microfinance. After investing in a borrower through the online microfinance facilitator Kiva, he will travel to the Kiva offices in San Francisco, and then to Nairobi, Kenya to see where the money has gone.
Jeff Headshot-150
Jeff Feng is a rising junior from Virginia majoring in Environmental Sciences & Policy and minoring in Economics. He is interested in the intersections of environmental justice and sustainability, particularly in the realm of energy. In his free time, he frequents local farmer’s markets, reads books that were once trendy, and watches docufiction films. Jeff will be researching the impacts of surface mining and the ethics of necessity. He will be interviewing miners, activists, and other community members in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia and the Hunter Valley of Australia and focus on their experiences with surface mining. He will address the ethical questions that miners and activists encounter in their respective jobs and those of neutral parties caught in the middle of divisive environmental conflicts.
Snehan Sharma-150
Snehan Sharma is a rising sophomore from Grayson, Georgia studying History and Public Policy. He is particularly interested in refugee policy and the experiences of recently resettled refugees. In his free time he likes to discover new music and explore Durham. This summer, Snehan will be spending much of his time in Clarkston, GA, near where he grew up. Over the last few decades, Clarkston has been identified as a key location for refugee resettlement in the United States. On his mission to learn more about this diverse city and the ethical challenges faced by local refugee youth as they integrate, Snehan will be interviewing a variety of individuals who play different roles in this community.
Alex 150
Alex Zrenner is a rising junior from St. Louis, Missouri majoring in Economics with a minor in Mathematics. She interested in the ethics of the online society and economy. Alex will be working with a cyber harassment victim advocacy organization, and interviewing targets of cyber harassment throughout the summer and also at VidCon, a conference for online video enthusiasts. She will explore how cyber harassment violates free speech, and how targets can respond to harassment while protecting free speech. Alex plans to create a collection of different techniques that victims of cyber harassment can use to respond.
May 132015
 May 13, 2015

Collaboratory-logosThe Kenan Creative Collaboratory has announced selections for its first grants to incubate and advance partnerships among researchers, teachers, practitioners, performers and artists to find connections in the collective work of the four Kenan Institutes and their host institutions – the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the William R. Kenan Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science at North Carolina State University, the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.

The Kenan Creative Collaboratory provides funding for innovative research, teaching and problem-solving at the intersection of private enterprise, engineering, technology and science, arts and ethics. Awards ranged from $7,500 to $93,000 per project. To be eligible for funding, project proposals drew participants from two or more of the four universities that house Kenan Institutes.

“The grants provide a platform for creative teams of problem-solvers from across science, business, the arts and humanities to make a lasting impact,” said Dan Drake, President of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Funds. “By encouraging collaboration between the four Kenan Institutes and their four host universities, we are advancing new knowledge, inventing new pedagogies, enhancing economic development, and proposing new solutions based on creative synergies.

Eight projects were funded:

  • The “Science, Ethics, Identity and Human Rights” project by Duke and NC State will identify key challenges for applying scientific technologies in human rights contexts, with an initial focus on identifying human remains and reunifying migrant children with families on the U.S.-Mexico border. Leading the project are Sara H. Katsanis of Duke and Seth Faith of NC State.
  • The “Smart Economics for the Environment and Human Development” project by Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State and UNCSA will establish a diverse working group that brings together cross-disciplinary expertise and perspectives from all walks of life to create more comprehensive indicators to measure smart development and progress. Leading the project is Dirk Philipsen of Duke in collaboration with Brent Lane of UNC-Chapel Hill, Roby Sawyers of NC State and Corey Madden of the UNCSA.
  • The “Ancient North Carolinians: A Virtual Museum of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology” project by UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State will create an interactive, state-of-the-art resource which will be publicly available online. Leading the project is Vincas Steponaitis of UNC-Chapel Hill in collaboration with Brent Lane of UNC-Chapel Hill and Elaine Franklin of NC State.
  • The “Innovate NC: A Cross City Learning Collaborative” project by NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill will create a multi-city innovation learning collaborative to help five North Carolina communities make major gains in building and sustaining a new innovation model. Leading the project are Anita Brown-Graham and Sarah Langer of NC State and Jim Johnson of UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • The “Community Environmental Empowerment” project by Duke, NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill will develop community capacity to address environmental injustices and identify best practices for incorporating environmental equity into local environmental decision-making. Leading the project is Kay Jowers of UNC-Chapel Hill in collaboration with Kofi Boone of NC State and Deborah Gallagher of Duke.
  • The “North Carolina Venture Lab” by NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill will blend three elements of entrepreneurial education into a model: Pedagogy, experiential education, and a research clinic. Leading the project are Ted Zoller of UNC-Chapel Hill and Steve Markham of NC State.
  • The “ARDEO” project by the UNCS A and the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Health Care will work with theater faculty and students, doctors and patients to support the research, writing, development and presentation of a play based on personal narratives from doctors and patients that highlight the power, impact and significance of narrative medicine. Leading the project is Jacqueline E. Lawton of UNC-Chapel Hill in collaboration with Bruce Cairns of UNC-Chapel Hill and Carl Forsman of UNCSA.
  • The “Developing Frameworks for IP Commercialization in Entertainment Technologies” project by UNCSA and NC State will help faculty to work with industry and develop policies, guidelines and frameworks that address legal, ethical, entrepreneurial, and financial dimensions of the digital gaming technologies. Leading the project are Michael Young of NC State and Susan Ruskin of UNCSA.