Framing: A Guide to Thinking in the 21st Century

An industrialist looks at a rain forest and sees trees to cut down and sell, while an environmentalist sees the ‘lungs of the planet’. To one person, complying with a mandate to wear a face mask in public during a pandemic is an act of communal responsibility. To another, it’s a denial of personal freedom. Same data, but opposite conclusions.

The reason for this, believe internationally acclaimed authors Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, is that we all look at the world through different ‘frames’. By recognising the frames that we are using, they say, we can all learn to rethink them and make better decisions. We can see the world in entirely new ways.

In May 2021 Cukier and Mayer-Schönberger came to Intelligence Squared to share their insights. In conversation with science writer Timandra Harkness they explained how our ability to adjust our vantage point on the world is the essential skill humanity needs for the 21st century and will help us address the looming challenges we face, from pandemics to populism, AI to cyberattacks, wealth inequality to climate change. As examples, they pointed to the way Spotify beat Apple by framing music as experience, how the #MeToo Twitter hashtag reframed the perception of sexual assault, and how, as they argued, the UK’s decision to frame Covid-19 as seasonal flu led to disaster, while New Zealand’s framing it as SARS led to only 26 deaths. The event was hosted by Timandra Harkness. 

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