Did Covid-19 Kill the Handshake? (NSQ Ep. 1)

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Also: why can’t humans handle uncertainty already?

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Question 1:  What is one social interaction or habit that most people won’t revert to after emerging from the Covid-19 lockdown?

Stephen and Angela discuss why we shake hands in the first place and imagine how in-person greetings will change once social distancing ends. Angela predicts that the pandemic will kill the handshake forever, but only if we decide on a solid alternative. 

Angela DUCKWORTH: Saluting or bowing — if those things are going to meet the underlying need to show trust, to show openness, to show vulnerability, then there’s a chance they will displace the old behavior. If we can’t find a substitute behavior to meet the underlying need, all things being equal, we’re going to revert back. 

Also, Stephen’s inner hermit is thrilled with the current culturally-enforced solitude, and he vows to get better at rejecting undesirable social invitations post-lockdown. But how do you say “no” without coming across as rude? Angela shares some tactical advice.

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Question 2: Uncertainty has been a bedfellow for human beings for all of our history. So, why are we all freaking out now about not being able to predict the future?

Were our ancestors this obsessed with knowing when the plague would end? Angela and Stephen ponder why we haven’t collectively learned to deal with the stress that comes from uncertainty. They discuss the difference between uncertainty and risk, and why the former can be so much more anxiety-inducing than the latter. Also, how does unpredictability affect child development? And is there any positive side to uncertainty? 

If you’re interested in reading more about uncertainty, Stephen recommends checking out this paper by economist Daniel Ellsberg