YouTube: https://youtube.com/watch?v=Ga5iQ1FB7Ys
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Uploaded:2014-01-03
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In which Hank talks about why we think the world is super screwed up and getting worse every day when, in fact, the world is pretty OK and getting better every day. There's so much good news every single day that cataloguing it would require all the newspaper in the world.

Loss Aversion: A Bad thing is twice as bad as a good thing is good: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_aversion

Confirmation Bias: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias Only hearing data that agree with things you already believe.
Good morning, John, and welcome to this special report from the Vlogbrothers newsroom. Today, January 3rd, 2014, at 10 AM Pacific Time, the Golden Gate Bridge did not collapse. 110,000 vehicles were safely conveyed over 8000 feet from one side of the bridge to the other, including cars, trucks, semi-trucks, not even to mention the countless bicyclists and pedestrians. The bridge did not collapse despite being exposed to harsh weather conditions and constant vibrations for more than seventy-six years. The death count at this point is unknown, but is thought to be zero.

Thanks for sharing all the good news, John, and there is so much good news. But there is also bad news, including the fact that many people seem to be physically incapable of believing that there is good news in the world. There are a lot of comments on your video, and I’m not saying all, but a lot, saying things like “Divorce rates are only down because the economy is in shambles and people can’t afford them anymore”. Nope. “Infant mortality is only down because there are more abortions being performed”. “Yeah, people are getting cured of more diseases, but there are more diseased people”. “Well my internet speeds didn’t get any faster, so I don’t believe it”.

It does actually seem hard to believe that the world is getting better and there are reasons for that, and it’s not just cable news, which we love to complain about.

Number one: Psychology. Studies show that we weigh bad stuff happening to us about two times more heavily than we weigh good stuff, which means that we have to have, like, two times more good stuff happen to us, just to think that the world is good, than we have bad stuff happen to us.

Second: Probability. So if your newspaper only covered you and the one thousand nearest people to you, there would be about one murder per lifetime. But as we expand that circle to all seven billion people on the earth, there are terrible things happening pretty much every moment of every day. Terrible and unusual, which our brains like to know about, just in case they might affect us, and so we pay attention to all of it, and it’s just too much.

Number three: Entropy. Things fall apart. Destroying stuff is easy, building it is hard. The universe tends towards disorder, so just keeping stuff from falling down is hard. Like, every day the Golden Gate Bridge doesn't collapse is a victory that goes uncelebrated.  And yet mostly bad stuff doesn’t happen, so we are constantly surrounded by good news, which makes it pretty boring so we don’t talk about it. Part of the big psychological theory of mind is that our brains pick out unusual things and focus on them, so we don’t think about all of the great stuff that just works and happens and no problems. There’s gas in the gas station and food in the grocery store.

Number four: Good is gradual. Bad stuff happens in spikes, like stock markets crash. They don’t crash upwards, just down. There’s no good equivalent of a terrorist attack. You can’t crash a cancer cure into a hospital and just, pfoo, everybody’s better. Can’t go to the airport with a gun that shoots healthy kidneys and then shoot a bunch of late stage diabetics – kidneys just flying inside of people - pthh, pthh, pthh, pthh. I got four now! Good stuff happens gradually over a long period of time, and that’s ok!

Finally, number five: Bias. All these factors pile up on each other and we start to believe that only bad stuff ever happens in the world, and once we believe that we only take into account information that reinforces it. This is a cognitive bias called confirmation bias which, I think, is why a lot of people were trying to poke holes in what you said in your last video, John, because it didn’t fit with the world view of the world is messed up and broken and going downhill like crazy.

And so you try and figure out why that isn’t the case, when in fact, it just is. The world’s ok. I’m not saying though that it is all unicorns and Sherlock premieres. Income inequality in the US is ridiculous, we have the highest incarceration rate in the world, and global climate change is going to threaten the stability of everything. I’ve got nothing against caution. We should be cautious, but we should also not be pessimistic, because that’s just gonna hold us back. John, I’ll see you on Tuesday.

I drew these things on the back of Hanklerfish drawings so if you got a Hanklerfish drawing, there is a chance that you will get one of these. And if you are interested in psychology, which is a lot of what we were talking about in this video, I am pleased to announce that the next season of Crash Course, I will be doing Crash Course Psychology. Also, go subscribe to Grace’s new channel, youtube.com/itsgrace.