Who knew that ‘freak’ – a common term with negative connotations, can turn out to be more than what it seems on face value.
At least that’s what the authors of Freakonomics and Super-freakonomics will have you believe. What else would you expect from them when ‘brand freak’ is at stake here.
Or, could it be really true? Is being a freak really a good thing to happen? Should you retrain yourself to be one?
The answers are nicely explained in an entertaining package that can provide enough material for your discussions at a party, water cooler, an intelligentsia get-together, or a big audience that is polite enough to not throw tomatoes when you are trying to fill-in the blanks between acts.
Seriously, it is excellent.
If you have not read freakonomics or its twin, you should be ashamed. You should close the browser, buy the book at your nearest book store, read it and return to this page. Or better yet, head over to Amazon and buy it on Kindle if you are indeed a freak.
‘Think like a freak’ did not have the same shocking factor as the first book.
By this time, you would know the line of thought, how the facts are presented in the form of stories, and you are expecting some unbelievable things to be thrown at you in the commonest of scenarios.
All that excitement is very much part of the book.
The book answers some typical problems that would have nagged you when you are trying to think ‘intellectually’. Can’t remember when that was? Well, get in the line – you are in a well-populated place.
Without giving away spoilers, here are the three gems that influenced my thoughts.
Why do people predict things even if they don’t know?
The book convincingly explains how incentives have 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.
What happens if that doom never happens – well, no one really cares in the few weeks or months after your prediction. It it doesn’t happen, 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 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.
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 dumb stats say on the contrary.
Freaks don’t need to be controlled by these biases, giving them more chances of success.
An example – the ‘hot dog eating contest’. Takeru Kobayashi, a new comer from Japan, did not think the 28.5 hot dogs was the upper limit. He ended up eating 50 hot dogs and set a new record that would not be beaten for 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.
Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Evitt and Stephen J. Dubner.