Three of the 25 prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellowships awarded Tuesday went to scholars with Berkeley ties: one lives here, one works here and one just spent a semester teaching here.
“MacArthur Fellows are chosen for their exceptional creativity, record of significant accomplishment and potential for still greater achievement,” said fellows program director Daniel Socolow in a foundation news release. “This new group of fellows is a wonderful collection of extraordinary minds in motion.”
The winners with local ties are:
• Dr. Peter Hayes, co-founder of the Nautilus Institute, a California-based, nonprofit policy development organization that focuses on promoting global peace and sustainable development, with a special emphasis on East Asia.
• Matthew Rabin, a UC Berkeley professor of economics whose work integrates psychological research with formal economic models.
• Anne Carson, a professor from McGill University who was a Holloway Fellow in the English Department at UC Berkeley during the spring 2000 semester.
Each Fellow will receive $500,000 over five years of “no strings attached” support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
It is impossible to apply for the MacArthur Fellowships. There is no application or interview process, and first word of the award comes in the form of a phone call from the Foundation.
Speaking from Beijing, China, where he is attending a Nautilus Institute workshop on energy futures and energy security in East Asia, the 47-year-old Hayes said in a statement: “Although the Fellowship is made on an individual basis, it is also a strong vote of confidence in the mission and impact of the work of the entire staff of the Nautilus Institute.
A scholar-activist, Hayes works at the nexus of security, environment, and energy policy problems in Northeast Asia, with a special focus on North Korea. He both studies and seeks to shape energy policy in the region, where military and economic policies will have a significant effect on global security and environmental preservation in the 21st century, the MacArthur Foundation notes in its release.
Through the Nautilus Institute, which he and his wife co-founded, he has strived to enhance the area’s security, prosperity, and environmental sustainability, combining rigorous multidisciplinary training and technological knowledge with cultural sensitivity, policy acumen, and diplomatic skills.
“At the Nautilus Institute, I work with a team that develops proactive, innovative ways to enhance peace and security on the one hand, and environmental sustainability and social justice on the other hand,” Hayes said. “We advocate cooperative measures, for example, to eliminate the reliance of states on nuclear weapons to improve security, and to enhance social and environmental benefits of global investment.”
The need to curtail global warming by limiting carbon emissions may encourage Northeast Asia’s growing economies to turn to nuclear energy sources, such as recycled plutonium. This, however, may destabilize the delicate nuclear weapons balance in the region. Hayes applies his scholarship and singular access to leaders in the region to address these issues. His recent work in North Korea, for instance, demonstrated that windmills can provide a viable alternative to nuclear power and exemplified his remarkable array of skills, including non-governmental diplomacy of the highest order.
From 1992 to 2000, Dr. Hayes was Co-Director of the Nautilus Institute and was responsible for the Institute’s security and energy programs. He was appointed Executive Director of the Nautilus Institute in April 2000.
Hayes lives in Berkeley, with his wife, Lyuba Zarsky and their two children, Nadia and Benjie.
Knowing that human behavior such as procrastination, addiction and playing fair can affect the choices people make and produce subsequent economic outcomes, Rabin works on explaining the effect mathematically. Although the MacArthur Foundation describes him as a pioneer in behavioral economics, Rabin doesn’t think he is.
“I call what I do ‘second-wave behavioral economics,’” he said in a statement. “The pioneers were psychologists who came along 15 years ago and convinced economists that some of their assumptions were wrong. Now, people like me are working to carefully adjust the models and formalize the effect.”
Rabin “has done more than anyone to bring insights from psychology into mainstream economic analysis,” said Maurice Obstfeld, chair of UC Berkeley’s economics department. “He has shown economists the way toward a rigorous yet more real analysis of human behavior.”
Rabin, 36, said his work helps explain “addiction, dieting, procrastination, everything that makes us human but would never be predicted by economic models.”
The models most in need of revamping, Rabin said, include ways consumers handle credit card debt and stock market behavior in which investors infer too much from to little information.
“An investor can do well two months in a row just by luck, and people will think he’s a genius,” said Rabin, a San Francisco resident. “Then, they may pay a lot for his advice and it may not be worth anything.”
Rabin’s work on smoking patterns and addiction suggests that cigarette taxes would have to be a lot higher to discourage use. He also has worked extensively on procrastination and how it adversely affects saving rates and retirement outcomes.
“It doesn’t take much of a self-control problem and a desire for immediate gratification to really hurt yourself economically,” he said.
As of yet, Rabin has no idea what he will do with the MacArthur money, which he was surprised to receive. MacArthur fellows typically don’t know they are being considered for the prize until they are told in a congratulatory phone call.
“When I got the call, I think I said, ‘Thank you,’” Rabin said, laughing. “I don’t know the proper etiquette when someone gives you a half-million dollars.”
Carson, 49, is a scholar trained in the classics who has developed an independent voice as both a poet and an essayist. Her work challenges preconceived notions of poetry, fusing classical topics with a unique and thoroughly modern style and sensibility.
Carson has been praised for her original vision, analytical powers, and intellectual rigor since the publication of her first book, “Eros the Bittersweet.” In that volume, she uses a lyric medium to offer a new analysis of Eros in Greek poetry and Plato.
Carson will be teaching at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, in spring 2001, continuing a pattern of teaching one semester in Canada and at least one semester in the United States.