Problem Solving


The basic laws of human stupidity

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo M Cipolla defined the laws as follows:

  • Everyone always underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  • The probability that a specific person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  • A stupid person causes losses to another person or group of persons, while he does not gain anything and perhaps incurs losses.
  • Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid people. They repeatedly forget that it is always a costly mistake when you deal with and/or associate with stupid people.
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Problem Solving

Countries moving forward will have a percentage of stupid people but have an unusually high fraction of intelligent people who overcompensate for the stupid people. Declining nations have many non-stupid people whose behaviour strengthens the destructive power of their stupid fellow citizens.

Two unhelpful groups:

  1. "Bandits" in positions of power that they use for their own gain.
  2. Passive people out of power that sit do nothing as if they are helpless.
Joint Decisions Psychology

A psychological study on joint decisions has an interesting observation about making asking someone out for dinner or any other plan.

If you are inviting someone, let them decide the place, but if you are asked by someone where you want to go for dinner, always state a clear choice.

People prefer to spend time with others who have a clear choice about what they like to do.

Most people don’t get this intuitively and think that if they are open to anything and are flexible, the other person would be pleased. According to new research on small joint decisions, the opposite is true.

Describing critical thinking

Critical thinking is described as a mode of thinking where the thinker improves the quality of their thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it.

Another definition describes critical thinking as a way to examine assumptions, discern hidden values, evaluate evidence, and judge conclusions.

Critical thinking is coming to understand a complex thing worthy of study, bringing judgment upon it, and be willing to be judged in turn.

By analyzing and critiquing the work of others, especially experts, students combine their thoughts with them. In doing so, they learn by imitation and learn to act as pacesetters.

Critical thinking is a constant interaction with changing ideas and knowledge.

  1. First, the thinker considers the background knowledge of the idea and the sense of identity.
  2. Then the thinker can analyze it. The thinker has to see its parts, its form, its function, and its context.
  3. Then comes evaluating it by bringing your unique thinking to it so you can point out flaws, underscore bias, and empathize merit. It means getting inside the mind of the author, or creator, and critique his work.

Immersion is more effective and faster for learning a language than sitting in a class.

However, most people make some key mistakes when trying to learn a language while travelling.

A tutor is a dedicated person who can answer questions, explain how the language works and be an opportunity to practice speaking while you're still trying to make friends.

  • Native people don't really have a high understanding of how their language works. They cannot explain the nuances of grammar or vocabulary. Professional teachers get this instruction and can often help.
  • If costs are too high, you can also settle for a dedicated language partner such as a fellow learner or native speaker.

If you want to learn a particular language, pick a place and stay put for a while. Then plan some travel after you've reached a moderate level of fluency.

Also, attempt to stop speaking your own language entirely during your trip. It will help avoid the temptation to fall into the bubble and will make practising much easier.

A strategic advantage is to work on pronunciation, as you want to convince people to speak with you in the language, instead of "helping you out" by speaking in your native tongue.

A simple way is to look at diagrams of tongue positions so you can mimic them when you're trying to speak. The goal is understandability so that native speakers don't struggle to understand the phrases you already know.

Creating a Native Language Bubble

When you land in a country, you usually don't feel confident speaking, so you might decide to start in your native language until you get your bearings.

But you might meet peers and other people speaking in your native language, and if this bubble sticks, you can end up living in a country for decades without ever learning the local language.

Socialising is essential for immersion.

In European countries, a younger person can go to meetups through meetup.com. In Asia, it is best to hire a couple of private tutors around your age and tell them you're looking to make friends to learn the language. They will usually facilitate introductions.

To learn the basics, find a tool that fulfils the two basic requirements for memorizing: repetition and recall.

  • You need to practice saying something more than once to master it, and then it is best to space those times out over days or weeks.
  • Recalling phrases is less common, but it is vital. Find phrases, and practice saying it correctly.

Starting phrases include:

  • I would like...?
  • Where is ...?
  • How do you say ...?
  • What is that?
  • What is your name?
  • Where are you from?
  • What do you do for work?

Successful people are unusually good at Step Zero, even though not many of them start out that way. 

We usually understand that we’re supposed to work hard to be successful. That makes sense: successful people work hard. But how did those successful people decide what they should be working on? That is never shown, and that is the Step Zero.

Someone once said that a thousand-mile journey begins with a single step. But in reality, a thousand-mile journey begins when you decide on where you’re going.
Skipping Step Zero

When you skip Step Zero, you end up on whatever default path is for people in your situation. You become a doctor because that’s what people in your family, ethnicity, or in-group do. You go to grad school because that’s what people with your academic background do

You are a follower, not having any space to decide what you really want to do.

Step Zero
When you have a task, the first thing you normally do is to start working on Step One. But there’s a step before Step One, and it’s more important: the step where you decide which task you should work on in the first place. 
The comfort zone of Default Options
  • The default option isn’t always the wrong one, but it’s always riskier than it looks.
  • The comfort zone of the default option is a dangerous situation and mindset to be in.
Step Zero is obvious the same way your blind spot is obvious: always front and center, but never quite in focus.

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