Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Participants: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama; Thupten Jinpa; Daniel Batson; Richard Davidson; John Dunne; R. Adam Engle; Ernst Fehr; William George; Roshi Joan Halifax; Diego Hangartner; William Harbaugh; Antoinette Hunziker-Ebneter; Lord Richard Layaard; Matthieu Ricard; Sanjit Bunker Roy; Gert Scobel; Joan Silk; Tania Singer; Arthur Vayloyan
This conference facilitated dialogue between Buddhist contemplatives, economists, and scientists who have been exploring a new understanding of the role of psychology, emotion, and human values in economic systems under the rubric of neuro-economics.
Classic economic theory is based on the assumption that humans are self-interested and rational actors, and casts doubt on the very existence of altruism. New research in both economics and neuroscience reveals a much richer and more complex picture of humanity, where altruism and compassion are not only part of the equation but also can be encouraged and learned. Further, research is revealing that pro-social behavior is critical for the survival of humanity, while egoistic and non-altruistic behavior are antithetical to human well-being. These findings have profound implications for public policy and the shaping of future institutions, even as the recent global financial crisis shows how vulnerable economic systems are to negative human behaviors such as corruption and greed.