Is being a freak a good thing? Should you re-train yourself to be one? Find the answers to these and other important questions in an entertaining package of a book.
The book Think Like a Freak, by Steven D. Evitt and Stephen J. Dubner, can provide enough material for your discussions at a party, at a water cooler, at a get-together of the local intelligentsia, or for your filler talk to a big audience when you are trying to cover the blanks between two popular acts.
Facts presented in form of exciting, nail-biting stories, unbelievable things that happen to people and companies, and everything else is packed in this short book.
Without giving away too much, here are a few things that you will ponder on.
People predict things even they are not sure
How do incentives play a role in making people predict things?
If you are a economist, you will get a lot of fame and fortune by predicting doom at the end of century. But, what happens if that doom never happens – well, no one really cares in the few weeks or months after your prediction. When there is no doom’s day, people will discuss some more and move on to the next big thing.
No one has a strong incentive to track everyone else’s bad predictions. There is also no strong incentive to say ‘I don’t know’. That would mean you are a person with no knowledge, and have nothing interesting to say.
So, people predict “something” even when it is statistically proven that the future predictions seldom work in the context of the present.
Don’t be contained by your biases
There is always an interesting angle to look at the problem and solve it. But, we always gravitate towards the most biased solution.
People may take the road less travelled and have a better opportunity to succeed, but they seldom do that. The reason if you look back is quite evident – if you took a ‘empirically accepted path’ and fail, you have tried hard enough. But the society will not be so kind if you fail doing something ‘stupid’. No one wants to be that guy even if the dumb stats say on the contrary.
Freaks don’t need to be controlled by these biases, giving them more chances of success.
An example is the ‘hot dog eating contest’ in Japan. Takeru Kobayashi, a new comer, did not think the 28.5 hot dog record was a “set in stone” upper limit. He ended up eating 50 hot dogs thinking about the eating process differently and setting a new record, which would again be beaten in the next couple of years.
Raw talent is over-rated
Practice and you will achieve the most ambitious of the tasks that you wanted to master. Corelate and solve problems rather than thinking about how monstrous the problem appears and how many people who are supposedly smarter have not found their way out of its charms.
Although the book is a quick read – it is well worth the 3-4 hours that you will spend on it. ‘Think like a freak’ may not revolutionize your thinking and lead you towards freakdom, but it sure initiate you to the process.