Think Like a Freak PDF Book by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt


Click here to Download Think Like a Freak PDF Book by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt English having PDF Size 2.1 MB and No of Pages 228.

After writing Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics, we started to hear from readers with all sorts of questions. Is a college degree still “worth it”? (Short answer: yes; long answer: also yes.) Is it a good idea to pass along a family business to the next generation? (Sure, if your goal is to kill off the business—for the data show it’s generally better to bring in an outside manager.

Think Like a Freak PDF Book by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt

Name of Book Think Like a Freak
Author Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt
PDF Size 2.1 MB
No of Pages 228
Language  English
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About Book – Think Like a Freak PDF Book

Whatever happened to the carpal tunnel syndrome epidemic? (Once journalists stopped getting it, they stopped writing about it—but the problem persists, especially among blue-collar workers.) Some questions were existential: What makes people truly happy? Is income inequality as dangerous as it seems? Would a diet high in omega-3 lead to world peace?

People wanted to know the pros and cons of: autonomous vehicles, breast-feeding, chemotherapy, estate taxes, fracking, lotteries, “medicinal prayer,” online dating, patent reform, rhino poaching, using an iron off the tee, and virtual currencies. One minute we’d get an e-mail asking us to “solve the obesity epidemic” and then, five minutes later, one urging us to “wipe out famine, right now!”

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Readers seemed to think no riddle was too tricky, no problem too hard, that it couldn’t be sorted out. It was as if we owned some proprietary tool— a Freakonomics forceps, one might imagine—that could be plunged into the body politic to extract some buried wisdom. If only that were true! The fact is that solving problems is hard.

If a given problem still exists, you can bet that a lot of people have already come along and failed to solve it. Easy problems evaporate; it is the hard ones that linger. Furthermore, it takes a lot of time to track down, organize, and analyze the data to answer even one small question well.

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So rather than trying and probably failing to answer most of the questions sent our way, we wondered if it might be better to write a book that can teach anyone to think like a Freak. But let’s say you are excellent at a given thing, a true master of your domain, like Thomas Sargent. Does this mean you are also more likely to excel in a different domain?

A sizable body of research says the answer is no. The takeaway here is simple but powerful: just because you’re great at something doesn’t mean you’re good at everything. Unfortunately, this fact is routinely ignored by those who engage in—take a deep breath—ultracrepidarianism, or “the habit of giving opinions and advice on matters outside of one’s knowledge or competence.”

Making grandiose assumptions about your abilities and failing to acknowledge what you don’t know can lead, unsurprisingly, to disaster. When schoolchildren fake their answers about a trip to the seashore, there are no consequences; their reluctance to say “I don’t know” imposes no real costs on anyone. Think Like a Freak PDF Book

But in the real world, the societal costs of faking it can be huge. Consider the Iraq War. It was executed primarily on U.S. claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was in league with al Qaeda. To be sure, there was more to it than that—politics, oil, and perhaps revenge—but it was the al Qaeda and weapons claims that sealed the deal.

Eight years, $800 billion, and nearly 4,500 American deaths later —along with at least 100,000 Iraqi fatalities—it was tempting to consider what might have happened had the purveyors of those claims admitted that they did not in fact “know” them to be true. Just as a warm and moist environment is conducive to the spread of deadly bacteria.

The worlds of politics and business especially—with their long time frames, complex outcomes, and murky cause and effect—are conducive to the spread of half-cocked guesses posing as fact. And here’s why: the people making these wild guesses can usually get away with it! By the time things have played out and everyone has realized they didn’t know what they were talking about, the bluffers are long gone. Think Like a Freak PDF Book

If the consequences of pretending to know can be so damaging, why do people keep doing it? That’s easy: in most cases, the cost of saying “I don’t know” is higher than the cost of being wrong—at least for the individual. Think back to the soccer player who was about to take a life-changing penalty kick.

Aiming toward the center has a better chance of success, but aiming toward a corner is less risky to his own reputation. So that’s where he shoots. Every time we pretend to know something, we are doing the same: protecting our own reputation rather than promoting the collective good. None of us want to look stupid, or at least overmatched, by admitting we don’t know an answer.

The incentives to fake it are simply too strong. Incentives can also explain why so many people are willing to predict the future. A huge payoff awaits anyone who makes a big and bold prediction that happens to come true. If you say the stock market will triple within twelve months and it actually does, you will be celebrated for years (and paid well for future predictions). Think Like a Freak PDF Book

What happens if the market crashes instead? No worries. Your prediction will already be forgotten. Since almost no one has a strong incentive to keep track of everyone else’s bad predictions, it costs almost nothing to pretend you know what will happen in the future. How to explain this income patchwork? There could of course be presenttense reasons.

Perhaps the higher earners got more education, or had better marriages, or lived closer to the high-paying jobs found in big cities. But Spenkuch analyzed the relevant data and found that none of these factors could account for the income gap. Only one factor could: religion itself.

He concluded that the people in Protestant areas make more money than the people in Catholic areas simply because they are Protestants! Why? Was some kind of religious cronyism to blame, with Protestant bosses giving better jobs to Protestant workers? Apparently not. In fact, the data showed that Protestants don’t earn higher hourly wages than Catholics —and yet they do manage to have higher incomes overall. Think Like a Freak PDF Book

So how does Spenkuch explain the Protestant-Catholic income gap? The ocean journey of a slave from Africa to America was long and gruesome; many slaves died en route. Dehydration was a major cause. Who, Fryer wondered, is less likely to suffer from dehydration? Someone with a high degree of salt sensitivity.

That is, if you are able to retain more salt, you will also retain more water—and be less likely to die during the Middle Passage. So perhaps the slave trader in the illustration wanted to find the saltier slaves in order to ensure his investment. Fryer, who is black, mentioned this theory to a Harvard colleague, David Cutler, a prominent health economist who is white.

Cutler at first thought it was “absolutely crazy,” but upon deeper inspection it made sense. Indeed, some earlier medical research made a similar claim, although it was in considerable dispute. Fryer began to fit the pieces together. “You might think anyone who could survive a voyage like this would be very fit and therefore would have a longer life expectancy,” he says. Think Like a Freak PDF Book Download

“But actually this peculiar selection mechanism says that you can survive an ordeal such as the Middle Passage, but it’s horrible for hypertension and related diseases. And salt sensitivity is a highly heritable trait, meaning that your descendants, i.e., black Americans, stand a pretty good chance of being hypertensive or of having cardiovascular disease.”

Fryer looked for further evidence that might support his theory. American blacks are about 50 percent more likely to have hypertension than American whites. Again, this could be due to differences like diet and income. So what did the hypertension rates of other black populations look like?

Fryer found that among Caribbean blacks—another population brought from Africa as slaves—hypertension rates were also elevated. But he noted that blacks who still live in Africa are statistically indistinguishable from whites in America. The evidence was hardly conclusive, but Fryer was convinced that the selection mechanism of the slave trade could be. Think Like a Freak PDF Book Download

A long-lasting root cause of African-Americans’ higher mortality rates. How powerful are the right incentives? Within four days, a little girl went from potty-challenged to having the most finely tuned bladder in history. She simply figured out what it made sense to do given the incentives she faced. There was no fine print, no two-bag limit, no time-interval caveat.

There was just a girl, a bag of candy, and a toilet. If there is one mantra a Freak lives by, it is this: people respond to incentives. As utterly obvious as this point may seem, we are amazed at how frequently people forget it, and how often it leads to their undoing. Understanding the incentives of all the players in a given scenario is a fundamental step in solving any problem.

Not that incentives are always so easy to figure out. Different types of incentives—financial, social, moral, legal, and others—push people’s buttons in different directions, in different magnitudes. An incentive that works beautifully in one setting may backfire in another. But if you want to think like a Freak, you must learn to be a master of incentives—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Think Like a Freak PDF Book Download

Let’s begin with the most obvious incentive: money. There is probably no quadrant of modern life in which financial incentives do not hold serious sway. Money even shapes the way we are shaped. The average U.S. adult weighs about 25 pounds more today than a few decades ago.

If you have a hard time picturing how much extra weight 25 pounds is, take a length of rope and thread it through the handles of three plastic gallon jugs full of milk. Now tie this giant milk necklace around your neck and wear it every day for the rest of your life. That’s how much weight the average American has gained.

And for every person who hasn’t gained a pound, someone else out there is wearing two milk-jug necklaces. Van Halen’s live show was an extravaganza, with a colossal stage set, booming audio, and spectacular lighting effects. All this equipment required a great deal of structural support, electrical power, and the like. But many of the arenas they played were outdated. Think Like a Freak PDF Book Free

“They didn’t have even the doorways or the loading docks to accommodate a super-forward-thinking, gigantor, epic-sized Van Halen production,” Roth recalled. Thus the need for a fifty-three-page rider. “Most rock-and-roll bands had a contract rider that was like a pamphlet,” Roth says. “We had one that was like the Chinese phone book.”

It gave point-by-point instructions to ensure that the promoter at each arena provided enough physical space, loadbearing capacity, and electrical power. Van Halen wanted to make sure no one got killed by a collapsing stage or a short-circuiting light tower. But every time the band pulled into a new city, how could they be sure the local promoter had read the rider and followed all the safety procedures?

Cue the brown M&M’s. When Roth arrived at the arena, he’d immediately go backstage to check out the bowl of M&M’s. If he saw brown ones, he knew the promoter hadn’t read the rider carefully—and that “we had to do a serious line check” to make sure the important equipment had been properly set up. He also made sure to trash the dressing room if there were no brown M&M’s. Think Like a Freak PDF Book Free

This would be construed as nothing more than rock-star folly, thereby keeping his trap safe from detection. But we suspect he enjoyed it all the same. And so it was that David Lee Roth and King Solomon both engaged in a fruitful bit of game theory—which, narrowly defined, is the art of beating your opponent by anticipating his next move.

Let’s say you work for a company that hires hundreds of new employees each year. Hiring takes a lot of time and money, especially in industries in which workers come and go. In the retail trade, for instance, employee turnover is roughly 50 percent annually; among fast-food workers, the rate can approach 100 percent.

So it isn’t surprising that employers have worked hard to streamline the application process. Job seekers can now fill out online applications in twenty minutes from the comfort of their homes. Great news, right? Maybe not. Such an easy application process may attract people with only minimal interest in the job, who look great on paper but aren’t likely to stick around long if hired. Think Like a Freak PDF Book Free

So what if employers, rather than making the application process ever easier, made it unnecessarily onerous—with, say, a 60- or 90-minute application that weeds out the dilettantes? We’ve pitched this idea to a number of companies, and have gotten exactly zero takers. Why? “If we make the application process longer,” they say, “we’ll get fewer applicants.”

That, of course, is exactly the point: you’d immediately get rid of the applicants who are more likely to not show up on time or quit after a few weeks. Colleges and universities, meanwhile, have no such qualms about torturing their applicants.