Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
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Factfulness is … recognizing when a story talks about a gap, and remembering that this paints a picture of two separate groups, with a gap in between. The reality is often not polarized at all. Usually the majority is right there in the middle, where the gap is supposed to be. To control the gap instinct, look for the majority. •   Beware comparisons of averages. If you could check the spreads you would probably find they overlap. There is probably no gap at all. •   Beware comparisons of extremes. In all groups, of countries or people, there are some at the top and some at the bottom. The ...more
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Factfulness is … recognizing when we get negative news, and remembering that information about bad events is much more likely to reach us. When things are getting better we often don’t hear about them. This gives us a systematically too-negative impression of the world around us, which is very stressful. To control the negativity instinct, expect bad news. •   Better and bad. Practice distinguishing between a level (e.g., bad) and a direction of change (e.g., better). Convince yourself that things can be both better and bad. •   Good news is not news. Good news is almost never reported. So ...more
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Factfulness is … recognizing the assumption that a line will just continue straight, and remembering that such lines are rare in reality. To control the straight line instinct, remember that curves come in different shapes. •   Don’t assume straight lines. Many trends do not follow straight lines but are S-bends, slides, humps, or doubling lines. No child ever kept up the rate of growth it achieved in its first six months, and no parents would expect it to.
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Factfulness is … recognizing when frightening things get our attention, and remembering that these are not necessarily the most risky. Our natural fears of violence, captivity, and contamination make us systematically overestimate these risks. To control the fear instinct, calculate the risks. •   The scary world: fear vs. reality. The world seems scarier than it is because what you hear about it has been selected—by your own attention filter or by the media—precisely because it is scary. •   Risk = danger × exposure. The risk something poses to you depends not on how scared it makes you feel, ...more
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Factfulness is … recognizing when a lonely number seems impressive (small or large), and remembering that you could get the opposite impression if it were compared with or divided by some other relevant number. To control the size instinct, get things in proportion. •   Compare. Big numbers always look big. Single numbers on their own are misleading and should make you suspicious. Always look for comparisons. Ideally, divide by something. •   80/20. Have you been given a long list? Look for the few largest items and deal with those first. They are quite likely more important than all the ...more
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Factfulness is … recognizing when a category is being used in an explanation, and remembering that categories can be misleading. We can’t stop generalization and we shouldn’t even try. What we should try to do is to avoid generalizing incorrectly. To control the generalization instinct, question your categories. •   Look for differences within groups. Especially when the groups are large, look for ways to split them into smaller, more precise categories. And … •   Look for similarities across groups. If you find striking similarities between different groups, consider whether your categories ...more
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Factfulness is … recognizing that many things (including people, countries, religions, and cultures) appear to be constant just because the change is happening slowly, and remembering that even small, slow changes gradually add up to big changes. To control the destiny instinct, remember slow change is still change. •   Keep track of gradual improvements. A small change every year can translate to a huge change over decades. •   Update your knowledge. Some knowledge goes out of date quickly. Technology, countries, societies, cultures, and religions are constantly changing. •   Talk to Grandpa. ...more
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The United States spends more than twice as much per capita on health care as other capitalist countries on Level 4—around $9,400 compared to around $3,600—and for that money its citizens can expect lives that are three years shorter. The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other country in the world, but 39 countries have longer life expectancies.
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Factfulness is … recognizing that a single perspective can limit your imagination, and remembering that it is better to look at problems from many angles to get a more accurate understanding and find practical solutions. To control the single perspective instinct, get a toolbox, not a hammer. •   Test your ideas. Don’t only collect examples that show how excellent your favorite ideas are. Have people who disagree with you test your ideas and find their weaknesses. •   Limited expertise. Don’t claim expertise beyond your field: be humble about what you don’t know. Be aware too of the limits of ...more
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Factfulness is … recognizing when a scapegoat is being used and remembering that blaming an individual often steals the focus from other possible explanations and blocks our ability to prevent similar problems in the future. To control the blame instinct, resist finding a scapegoat. •   Look for causes, not villains. When something goes wrong don’t look for an individual or a group to blame. Accept that bad things can happen without anyone intending them to. Instead spend your energy on understanding the multiple interacting causes, or system, that created the situation. •   Look for systems, ...more
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Data must be used to tell the truth, not to call to action, no matter how noble the intentions.
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Factfulness is … recognizing when a decision feels urgent and remembering that it rarely is. To control the urgency instinct, take small steps. •   Take a breath. When your urgency instinct is triggered, your other instincts kick in and your analysis shuts down. Ask for more time and more information. It’s rarely now or never and it’s rarely either/or. •   Insist on the data. If something is urgent and important, it should be measured. Beware of data that is relevant but inaccurate, or accurate but irrelevant. Only relevant and accurate data is useful. •   Beware of fortune-tellers. Any ...more
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Being curious means being open to new information and actively seeking it out. It means embracing facts that don’t fit your worldview and trying to understand their implications. It means letting your mistakes trigger curiosity instead of embarrassment. “How on earth could I be so wrong about that fact? What can I learn from that mistake? Those people are not stupid, so why are they using that solution?” It is quite exciting being curious, because it means you are always discovering something interesting.
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In sales and marketing, if you run a big business in Europe or the United States, you and your employees need to understand that the world market of the future will be growing primarily in Asia and Africa, not at home.