MIT Center for Collective Intelligence
Sloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
5 Cambridge Center
Cambridge, MA 02142-1347
Erik is a researcher at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence and leads the Climate CoLab (climatecolab.org) team’s partnership effort. He is also an incoming graduate student at the Sloan School of Management where he will pursue a PhD in Organization Studies.
Prior to MIT, Erik completed an M.Phil. in Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of Cambridge, UK. He also holds a B.A. in Economics and Human Biology (with honors, Brain and Behavior Track) from Brown University where he graduated magna cum laude and was elected to the Sigma Xi Scientific Honors Society.
While a student at Cambridge, Erik worked as a Research Assistant for the Cambridge Experimental and Behavioural Economics Group. The summer before starting his graduate studies he interned at Ajia Partners, an alternative investments firm based in Hong Kong, where he evaluated investment opportunities for the firm’s private equity division. While a student at Brown, Erik worked as a policy analyst for Senator James Sheehan and as a Teaching Assistant for the Brown University Biology Department.
Erik also has significant entrepreneurial and leadership experience. In 2010 he worked as the Director of Business Development for the Capital Good Fund (capitalgoodfund.org), a startup micro-lender based in Providence, RI for which he won 1st place (~$20,000) in the Brown University Business Plan Competition. Before his work with the Capital Good Fund, Erik managed Project 20/20, a student-run initiative that retrofitted low-income homes with energy-efficient lighting, free of charge. Project 20/20 retrofitted ~80,000 bulbs in over 5,000 households, saving residents millions of dollars in electrical costs and earning the project an Environmental Protection Agency Award. The project also garnered significant publicity, including an article in the NY Times and a segment that aired internationally on CNN.
Erik’s background in evolutionary biology informs the way he thinks about individual human behavior – particularly ‘irrational’ economic behavior – as well as the structure and evolution of organizations. Rather uniquely, his undergraduate honors thesis on “The Nature and Evolution of Human Cooperative Behavior” was conducted within the Department of Biology, despite being supervised by an Economist, Professor Louis Putterman. At the University of Cambridge, Erik continued studying the evolution of cooperation, this time examining the impact of religion and religious ritual.
As part of his M.Phil. dissertation, Erik asked shopkeepers in the medina of Marrakech, Morocco (this controlled for a number of factors such as sex, religion, and socio-economic status) to choose one of the following options: 1) I give you 20 dirhams (~$2.50), 2) I give charity 60 dirhams, or 3) I give you 10 dirhams and charity 30 dirhams. What he found was that if the call to prayer was being sounded out from minarets throughout the city then 100% of the shopkeepers chose option 2, the most charitable option, compared to only around 60% of shopkeepers at times when the prayer was not audible. This finding clearly has implications for how we understand the nature of altruism and religious organizations, but it also demonstrates the lability of preferences and the way in which subtle contextual cues can motivate different forms of behavior.
In addition cooperation, altruism, and collective intelligence, some topics Erik is currently working on or interested in include:
- How personality, context, and cognitive biases influence decision making, particularly financial decision making
- How organizational structure (particularly diversity) impacts innovation and creativity
- Prediction markets and human capital markets
- Social learning within organizations
- The spread and evolution of culture and technology
- How attentional biases impact self-perception
Erik is an avid musician. He grew up playing the euphonium and trombone and his band in college – Doss the Artist and the PGA Tour – won the Brown University Battle of the Bands competition and produced original music for the short film “I Play for Laina”, the winner of the 48hr Ivy Film Fest. Erik also loves to play the guitar, harmonica and – most of all – the piano.
Erik grew up in Mansfield, MA, where his parents still reside, and attended Moses Brown School in Providence, RI. He has an older brother who works for the Detroit Red Wings and two younger brothers, both of whom currently attend Brown University.