An amazing reflection on our basic knowledge about the world and on the ways we distort facts.
This book did 2 things: it showed me that my factual perception of the world is biased and wrong, and it provided me a list of biases and fallacies to watch out for when evaluating facts. The result is a better mental model of the world and a sober understanding of its situation.
The core ideas:
- We’re 7 billion people on Earth. We might become 10 or 11 but then will most probably stay the same. The authors dedicate a chapter to dismantle the fallacy of the straight line, a bias of the human reasoning because of which we tend to think that what’s been growing will continue to grow indefinitely.
- People are approximately distributed as follows: 1 billion in the Americas, 1 billion in Europe, 1 billion in Africa, and 4 billion in Asia.
- There are no developed vs developing countries. There are no poor vs rich with nothing in between, but a continuous density of people of all income levels, and the majority is in the middle (thus out of extreme poverty). There are roughly 4 levels of income and people on the same level live in surprisingly similar ways regardless of where in the world they live.
- There’s no destiny that chains one people to be poor or to be lazy. All the people are at some income level and have the same possibility to grow from their level.
- We have a dramatic view of the world. Many bad things happen and will keep happening, but overall things are getting better. Dramatic events are covered extensively by the media and our brains are wired to register them and conclude that everything is getting worse and worse while in fact, it’s the opposite. There are fewer tragedies but our monitoring capabilities are such that we don’t miss any. And the media needs to cover tragedies more in an eternal pursuit of their customers’ attention.
- In a rush and under pressure we make the worst decisions. Never do something in urge unless you have no choice.
As a species, we are getting better on many fronts but we don’t have visibility of any of it. This book helped me see a few facts and gave me invaluable mental tools to judge them. I highly recommend it to anyone curious about the world.