Why It’s So Hard for Us to Subtract


Leidy, professor of engineering at the University of Virginia, talks about his book, Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less, with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. As Klotz shows throughout the book, we pile on “to-dos” but don’t consider “stop-doings.” We create incentives for good behavior, but don’t get rid of obstacles to it. We collect new-and-improved ideas, but don’t prune the outdated ones. Every day, across challenges big and small, we neglect a basic way to make things better: we don’t subtract. Klotz’s work sits at a fascinating intersection between engineering, design, and experimental psychology. His pioneering research shows us what is true whether we’re building Lego models, cities, or strategic plans: Our minds tend to add before taking away, and this is holding us back.

Your Host

Lee Vinsel

Lee Vinsel is an associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology and Society at Virginia Tech. He studies human life with technology, with particular focus on the relationship between government, business, and technological change. His first book, Moving Violations: Automobiles, Experts, and Regulations in the United States, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in July 2019.

View Profile