Eldar Shafir, professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University and coauthor, with Sendhil Mullainathan, of the book Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives (Picador, 2013), talks to Metropolis Magazineâ€™s Avinash Rajagopal on how scarcity and abundance affect our actions as individuals and communities and what that means for architects and designers.
In the book, we talk a bit about this sort of empathy bridge. The idea is that if weâ€™re able to describe to you what itâ€™s like to be super busy, maybe youâ€™ll understand a little better what itâ€™s like to be super poor. I think this empathy issue is really critical for when we think about policy, including neighborhood designâ€”for you to perceive the other as not as exotic and bizarre and less good, but somebody who easily could have been you and vice versa, given a di erent situation. Our policies toward the poor, toward criminals, toward all kinds of people, are extremely nonempathetic. Itâ€™s very easy for us to erect enormous boundaries and distinctions based on our under- standing, which creates lots of trouble in everything, from neighborhood safety to sharing our ideas and everything else.