Friday, September 12, 2014

The Roslings suggest we should make fact based decisions

Four heuristics that help in responding to questions about the world:

  1. Things are getting better, not worse.
  2. The world is no longer so divided between haves and have-nots; rather there is a single node distribution of income, with the poor at one tail and the rich at the other.
  3. Social advances are coming before income increases; the majority of people in the world are already enjoying many of the benefits we tend to associate with development.
  4. You overestimate the probability of harm from things you are most afraid of (and underestimate the danger of things you are accustomed to living with); you overestimate how good you are at dealing with every day dangers.
People make bad decisions every day because they don't understand reality. I like the suggestion that we don't understand global reality because of:
  1. Personal Bias: we grew up and live now in places that are unrepresentative.
  2. Outdated Facts: the things we learned in school are no longer true of today's world, nor are the things in books printed earlier than yesterday (i.e. all the books we actually read).
  3. News Bias: news media provide "news" that interests people rather than trying to describe the actual state of the world.
Of course no reader of this blog would fall into any of these traps (as I do all the time). But climate deniers, those who fear genetic engineering is a greater threat to the world than hunger, those who don't immunize their children because they have heard of (very rare) complications or imagined complications and others fall victim to these biases.

You are in a lot more danger in the USA from a gun owned by a good American and from a driver who considers himself safe than you are from a foreign terrorist.

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