Think Like a Freak288
Think Like a Freak288
Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak.
Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you’ll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.
Some of the steps toward thinking like a Freak:
- First, put away your moral compass—because it’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it.
- Learn to say “I don’t know”—for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to.
- Think like a child—because you’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions.
- Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world.
- Learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day.
- Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.
Levitt and Dubner plainly see the world like no one else. Now you can too. Never before have such iconoclastic thinkers been so revealing—and so much fun to read.
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About the Author
Stephen J. Dubner, an award-winning journalist and radio and TV personality, has worked for the New York Times and published three non-Freakonomics books. He is the host of Freakonomics Radio and Tell Me Something I Don't Know.
Stephen J. Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and TV personality. He quit his first career—as an almost rock star—to become a writer. He has since taught English at Columbia, worked for The New York Times, and published three non-Freakonomics books.
Table of Contents
1 What Does It Mean to Think Like a Freak? 1
An endless supply of fascinating questions
The pros and cons of breast-feeding, fracking, and virtual currencies
There is no magic Freakonomics tool
Easy problems evaporate; it is hard ones that linger
How to win the World Cup
Private benefits vs. the greater good
Thinking with a different set of muscles
Are married people happy or do happy people marry?
Get famous by thinking just once or twice a week
Our disastrous meeting with the future prime minister
2 The Three Hardest Words in the English Language 20
Why is "I don't know" so hard to say?
Sure, kids make up answers but why do we?
Who believes in the devil?
And who believes 9/11 was an inside job?
"Entrepreneurs of error"
Why measuring cause-and-effect is so hard
The folly of prediction
Are your predictions better than a dart-throwing chimp?
The Internet's economic impact will be "no greater than the fax machine's"
The cost of pretending to know more than you do
How should bad predictions be punished?
The Romanian witch hunt
The first step in solving problems: put away your moral compass
Why suicide rises with quality of life-and how little we know about suicide
Feedback is the key to all learning
How bad were the first loaves of bread?
Don't leave experimentation to the scientists
Does more expensive wine taste better?
3 What's Your Problem? 54
If you ask the wrong question, you'll surely get the wrong answer
What does "school reform" really mean?
Why do American kids know less than kids from Estonia?
Maybe it's the parent's fault!
The amazing true story of Takeru Kobayashi, hot-dog-eating champion
Fifty hot dogs in twelve minutes!
So how did he do it?
And why was he so much better than everyone else?
"To eat quickly is not very good manners"
The Solomon Method
Endless experimentation in pursuit of excellence
How to redefine the problem you are trying to solve
The brain is the critical organ
How to ignore artificial barriers
Can you do 20 push-ups?
4 Like a Bad Dye Job, the Truth Is in the Roots 73
A bucket of cash will not cure poverty and a plane-load of food will not cur famine
How to find the root cause of a problem
Revisiting the abortion-crime link
What does Martin Luther have to do with the German economy?
How the "Scramble for Africa" created lasting strife
Why did slave traders lick the skin of the slaves they bought?
Medicine vs. folklore
Consider the ulcer
The first blockbuster drugs
Why did the young doctor swallow a batch of dangerous bacteria?
Talk about gastric upset!
The universe that lives in our gut
The power of poop
5 Think Like a Child 98
How to have good ideas
The power of thinking small
Smarter kids at $15 a pop
Don't be afraid of the obvious
1.6 million of anything is a lot
Don't be seduced by complexity
What to look for in a junkyard
The human body is just a machine
Freaks just want to have fun
It is hard to get good at something you don't like
Is a "no-lose lottery" that answer to our low savings rate?
Gambling meets charity
Why kids figure out magic tricks better than adults
"You'd think scientists would be hard to dupe"
How to smuggle childlike instincts across the adult border
6 Like Giving Candy to a Bady 119
It's the incentives, stupid!
A girl, a bag of candy, and a toilet
What financial incentives can and can't do
The giant milk necklace
Cash for grades
With financial incentives, size matters
How to determine someone's true incentives
Riding the herd mentality
Why are moral incentives so weak?
Let's steal some petrified wood!
One of the most radical ideas in the history of philanthropy
"The most dysfunctional $300 billion industry in the world"
A one-night stand for charitable donors
How to change the frame of a relationship
Ping-Pong diplomacy and selling shoes
"You guys are just the best!"
The customer is a human wallet
When incentives backfire
The "cobra effect"
Why treating people with decency is a good idea
7 What Do King Solomon and David Lee Roth Have in Common? 155
A pair of nice, Jewish, game-theory-loving boys
"Fetch me a sword!"
What the brown M&M's were really about
Teach your garden to weed itself
Did medieval "ordeals" of boiling water really work?
You too can play God once in a while
Why are college applications so much longer than job applications?
Zappos and "The Offer"
The secret bullet factory's warm-beer alarm
Why do Nigerian scammers say they are from Nigeria?
The cost of false alarms and other false positives
Will all the gullible people please come forward?
How to trick a terrorist into letting you know he's a terrorist
8 How to Persuade People Who Don't Want to Be Persuaded 188
First, understand how hard this will be
Why are better-educated people more extremist?
Logic and fact are no match for ideology
The consumer has the only vote that counts
Don't pretend your argument is perfact
How many lives would a driverless car save?
Keep the insults to yourself
Why you should tell stories
Is eating fat really so bad?
The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure
What is the Bible "about?"
The Ten Commandments versus The Brady Bunch
9 The Upside of Quitting 213
Winston Churchill was right-and wrong
The sunk-cost fallacy and opportunity cost
You can't solve tomorrow's problem if you won't abandon today's dud
Celebrating failure with a party and cake
Why the flagship Chinese store did not open on time
Were the Challenger's O-rings bound to fail?
Learn how you might fail without going to the trouble of failing
The $1 million question: "when to struggle and when to quit"
Would you let a coin toss decide your future?
"Should I quit the Mormon faith"
Growing a beard will not make you happy
But ditching your girlfriend might
Why Dubner and Levitt are so fond of quitting
This whole book was about "letting go"
And now it's your turn