SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance (Freakonomics #2)

And knowing what happens on average is a good place to start. By so doing, we insulate ourselves from the tendency to build our thinking - our daily decisions, our laws, our governance - on exceptions and anomalies rather than on reality

A pair of researchers named Kristen Schilt and Matthew Wiswall wanted to systematically examine what happens to the salaries of people who switched gender as adults. It is not quite the experiment we proposed above—after all, the set of folks who switch gender aren’t exactly a random sample, nor are they the typical woman or man before or after—but still, the results are intriguing. Schilt and Wiswall found that women who become men earn slightly more money after their gender transitions, while men who become women make, on average, nearly one-third less than their previous wage.

carbono. No hay nada especial en el nivel actual de dióxido de carbono, ni en el nivel actual del mar, ni en las temperaturas actuales. Lo perjudicial son los cambios rápidos. En general, el aumento de dióxido de carbono es probablemente bueno para la biosfera; solo que está aumentando demasiado deprisa.» Los caballeros de IV aportan nuevos ejemplos de creencias erróneas sobre el calentamiento global. La

Deliberate practice has three key components: setting specific goals; obtaining immediate feedback; and concentrating as much on technique as on outcome.

El enfoque económico no pretende describir el mundo como cualquiera de nosotros quisiera que fuera, o teme que sea, o reza por que llegue a ser, sino más bien explicar lo que hay en la realidad. La mayoría de nosotros querría arreglar o cambiar el mundo de alguna manera. Pero para cambiar el mundo, primero hay que comprenderlo.

«El prestigio parece ejercer una especie de magia que da salud —dice Andrew Oswald, uno de los autores del estudio—. Al parecer, subir a ese estrado de Estocolmo añade unos dos años a la vida de un científico».

From 2002 to 2008, the United States was fighting bloody wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; among active military personnel, there were an average 1,643 fatalities per year. But over the same stretch of time in the early 1980s, with the United States fighting no major wars, there were more than 2,100 military deaths per year. How can this possibly be? For one, the military used to be much larger: 2.1 million on active duty in 1988 versus 1.4 million in 2008. But even the rate of death in 2008 was lower than in certain peacetime years. Some of this improvement is likely due to better medical care. But a surprising fact is that the accidental death rate for soldiers in the early 1980s was higher than the death rate by hostile fire for every year the United States has been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. It seems that practicing to fight a war can be just about as dangerous as really fighting one. And,

In a complex world where people can be atypical in an infinite number of ways, there is great value in discovering the baseline. And knowing what happens on average is a good place to start. By so doing, we insulate ourselves from the tendency to build our thinking - our daily decisions, our laws, our governance - on exceptions and anomalies rather than on reality.

In the United States especially, politics and economics don’t mix well. Politicians have all sorts of reasons to pass all sorts of laws that, as well-meaning as they may be, fail to account for the way real people respond to real-world incentives.

kangaroo farts, as fate would have it, don’t contain methane.

La gente no es «buena» ni «mala». Las personas son personas y responden a incentivos. Casi siempre pueden ser manipuladas —para bien o para mal— si se encuentran las palancas adecuadas.

La probabilidad de que un norteamericano medio muera por un atentado terrorista en un año dado es aproximadamente de uno entre cinco millones. Tiene 575 veces más probabilidades de suicidarse.

«La prueba de todo conocimiento es el experimento —dijo—. El experimento es el único juez de la “verdad” científica». La

Los economistas ya han tenido bastantes dificultades para explicar el pasado, así que no hablemos de predecir el futuro.

los pacientes de hospital que mueren por una causa que no fue la que los llevó allí: malos diagnósticos (resultado del descuido, el orgullo o los prejuicios), errores de medicación (basados, con demasiada frecuencia, en la mala caligrafía), complicaciones técnicas (examinar una radiografía al revés, por ejemplo), e infecciones bacterianas (el problema más mortífero y más generalizado).

Los rumiantes del mundo son responsables, aproximadamente, de un 50 por ciento más de gas de efecto invernadero que todo el sector de los transportes.

Many of life's decisions are hard. What kind of career should you pursue? Does your ailing mother need to be put in a nursing home? You and your spouse already have two kids; should you have a third?

such decisions are hard for a number of reasons. For one the stakes are high. There's also a great deal of uncertainty involved. Above all, decisions like these are rare, which means you don't get much practice making them. You've probably gotten good at buying groceries, since you do it so often, but buying your first house is another thing entirely.

Most of us want to fix or change the world in some fashion. But to change the world, you first have to understand it.

Over time, some ideas do cross the repugnance barrier to become reality. Charging interest on loans. Selling human sperm and eggs. Profiting from a loved one’s premature death. This last example of course describes how life insurance works. Today it is standard practice to wager on your own death in order to provide for your family. Until the mid-nineteenth century, life insurance was considered “a profanation,” as the sociologist Viviana Zelizer writes, “which transformed the sacred event of death into a vulgar commodity.

People who buy annuities, it turns out, live longer than people who don’t, and not because the people who buy annuities are healthier to start with. The evidence suggests that an annuity’s steady payout provides a little extra incentive to keep chugging along.

Saber e fazer são duas coisas diferentes, principalmente quando a situação envolve prazer.

«se podría meter un camión por los agujeros de nuestros protocolos».

So it may be that going to the hospital slightly increases your odds of surviving if you’ve got a serious problem but increases your odds of dying if you don’t. Such are the vagaries of life.

¿son lo seres humanos capaces de actos generosos, desinteresados, incluso heroicos? Desde luego. ¿Son asimismo capaces de actos despiadados de apatía? Desde luego.

Supongamos, no obstante, que se puede desarrollar un algoritmo bancario con un 99 por ciento de precisión. Supongamos que en el Reino Unido hay 500 terroristas. El algoritmo identificaría correctamente a 495 de ellos, el 99 por ciento. Pero en el Reino Unido hay aproximadamente 50 millones de adultos que no tienen nada que ver con el terrorismo, y el algoritmo también identificaría erróneamente al 1 por ciento de todos ellos, es decir, 500.000 personas. Al final de las cuentas, este maravilloso algoritmo con un 99 por ciento de precisión daría demasiados falsos positivos: medio millón de personas que se indignarían con razón cuando fueran detenidas por las autoridades por sospechosas de terrorismo.

The brilliant rationalist had encountered a central, frustrating tenet of human nature: behavior change is hard. The cleverest engineer or economist or politician or parent may come up with a cheap, simple solution to a problem, but if it requires people to change their behavior, it may not work. Every day, billions of people around the world engage in behaviors they know are bad for them—smoking cigarettes, gambling excessively, riding a motorcycle without a helmet. Why? Because they want to! They derive pleasure from it, or a thrill, or just a break from the daily humdrum. And getting them to change their behavior, even with a fiercely rational argument, isn’t easy.

The data don’t lie: a Chicago street prostitute is more likely to have sex with a cop than to be arrested by one.

Un reciente estudio académico descubrió que un desastre recibe un máximo del 18 por ciento de ayuda solidaria por cada artículo de 700 palabras en los periódicos, y un máximo del 13 por ciento por cada 60 segundos de cobertura en los noticiarios de televisión.

When Al Gore urges the citizenry to sacrifice their plastic shopping bags, their air-conditioning, their extraneous travel, the agnostics grumble that human activity accounts for just 2 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions, with the remainder generated by natural processes like plant decay.

When the solution to a given problem doesn’t lay right before our eyes, it is easy to assume that no solution exists. But history has shown again and again that such assumptions are wrong. This is not to say the world is perfect. Nor that all progress is always good. Even widespread societal gains inevitably produce losses for some people. That’s why the economist Joseph Schumpeter referred to capitalism as “creative destruction.” But humankind has a great capacity for finding technological solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and this will likely be the case for global warming. It isn’t that the problem isn’t potentially large. It’s just that human ingenuity—when given proper incentives—is bound to be larger. Even more encouraging, technological fixes are often far simpler, and therefore cheaper, than the doomsayers could have imagined. Indeed, in the final chapter of this book we’ll meet a band of renegade engineers who have developed not one but three global-warming fixes, any of which could be bought for less than the annual sales tally of all the Thoroughbred horses at Keeneland auction house in Kentucky.