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Duration:13:49
Uploaded:2018-07-23
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Very curious what people think about this video. I feel like, of course, some conversation and understanding has to exist outside of science, but I just feel like the more we do this, the more we end up with diverging ideas that have nothing to do with reality, much less each other.

But, then, we also need to converse...to propose new ideas and new ways of understanding the world. I just also think they should contain proper warnings about bias.

 (00:00) to (02:00) So I once heard about a study, and I can't find it on the internet, but, this is all gonna make sense eventually. 


I heard about this study, that said that in the World Book Encyclopedia they did an analysis, and if you don't know what this is, it's like back when Wikipedia was printed out basically and it was like, "we have to fit all the things that kids should know, or that anybody should know, you should be able to look it up in your encyclopedia, we're gonna print it out into a thing that's like this big [spreads arms wide]," it's like, takes up a whole shelf of your bookcase, and those are the World Books.

So, they did an analysis of the people who got more than a page dedicated to them in the World Books, and this was sort of like a way of saying, like, who out there is, du-, like, a big enough deal that World Book wrote more than a page about them. It's just a way of saying, like, who's an exceptional, great, notable person, and they were like, "what do these people have in common?" And one of the things they found that they had in common is that they were much more likely than the average person a- during their lifetime to have lost a parent while growing up, while under the age of like fifteen or something.

And that's a weird thing. That's a weir-, like, and, and, again, I don't even know if this is real. It's something somebody told me about, I haven't found the study because it's really hard to Google something when "encyclopedia" is in the wor-, is in the, the title because then Google thinks that you're looking for the encyclopedia entry.

But anyway, if you know about this study, and it's real, post a link in the comments. That would be very much appreciated.

 But I heard about this, and it fit into my brain holes in a way, and so I haven't forgotten about it. What do I mean, "it fit into your brain holes," Hank, you can't say that, what, what? I mean that I have a certain set of anchors and biases that allows information to make sense and to sort of hang on my knowledge tree when it jigsaws into the right place, you know? (02:00) to (04:00) So, it fit into my brain holes, that's what I mean! Does that make sense? I hope it does.


So the brain holes that this fit into... two of 'em. And neither of them are good, neither of them are good biases, or rubrics with which to understand the world, maybe?

Th- One of them is this, uh, this semi-conservative notion recently that, like, we are coddling everyone too much, and things aren't hard enough, and we are not providing enough adversity, so we are not creating the kinds of humans who do.. who achieve greatness, and so, uh, being an American, you just, you win every prize, everybody's a winner, nobody feels like they're special, and then you, you end up in this.. and so like, there's a piece of me that is like, 'Well, maybe... Maybe there's something to that.' Are we doing that out of some, like, weird Liberal conspiracy? I don't think so. And so, so the other brain hole that this fits into is, this, troubling, uhh, instinct I have to.. have an anchor on the value of life. 

 And so when I see new information I often will, like, consume it within the, the... with an anchor toward 'How much is a human life worth'. And that's a troubling way to look at the world, maybe, because we should be saying 'Human life is worth... there isn't a number - that's awful, why would you.. that's.. no, stop!' But, people do it, insurance companies do it, the US government does it, we decide how much it's worth to spend to save an individual human life, and there are a number of different ways we do that analysis, I made a vlogbrothers video about it a long time ago. (04:00) to (06:00) The main one is we sort of, like, look at how much people... need to get paid to do a job that is dangerous and has a certain percentage chance of leading to their deaths, so if there's like, a 1 in 1000 chance that you'll die doing a job, and you require the government... you require your employer to pay you ten thousand dollars more per year to do that job, then you multiply ten thousand times a thousand and get the value that your life is worth.


And that's, that's a guess. That's a, that's a way-And it's more than that. It's not, it turns out to be, like, thirteen million dollars, or something, that an individual human life is worth. Weirdly, that actually adds up to about, on average, the amount of money that a human being in America makes throughout their lives, so that's strange that those numbers tend to actually line up with each other. 

But, anyway, the point is that that number has gone up a lot. And that's why we spend so much money - not just in America, though we spend way more in America, but in general in the developed world, that's why we spend so much money on healthcare, because, like, it's.. This is one of the, like, true values that you can provide someone - being alive for longer, like, that's fundamentally a pretty great value proposition. And how much will people pay to be alive for longer, umm, and how long will the government pay to keep its people alive for longer and uh, et cetera, in other countries, or depending on how your individual system works because it all works differently in different countries.

 Anyway, the value of a life is going up in, in... globally, all over the world, and this is a very good thing. We should see this as, like, an unambiguously good thing, if, if a human life is worth more, that's good! If we will do - if we will work harder to protect an individual life, if we will, um, y'know, develop more technology to make people's lives longer and also, theoretically, more pleasant, (06:00) to (08:00) It's weird to think about lives being worth less in the past, but functionally, they were - we spent less time and money protecting lives. And so now we are in this objectively better world, in which human lives are worth more.


And I think people have, like, a rightly.. not huge fan of this way of thinking. I have a really hard time not anchoring to it, because I, I feel like it explains a lot of things, but I don't see it talked about a lot in research. 

 I don't know why that is, but, like, maybe that it's not a good way to imagine the world. And it might be that it is not explained very much, and so all of this anchoring that I'm doing to this idea is functionally not helpful. That is... what this video is eventually going to be about, but before we get there, I.. heard this thing, about orphans - people who lost a parent, or both - being more likely to become notable people, like, having their World Book page. And... that made me think, like, maybe there is something to this idea that, like.. being tested has an impact, and it can either push you to a very bad outcome, or a better than average outcome, and.. and maybe that is.. as simple as, like, 'I had to take over family responsibilities earlier, and so I was earlier to being good at managing things, and having conversations with adults, and all of that stuff. Like, it's interesting to me, having done a bunch of Make-A-Wishes, Make-A-Wish kids are almost always, like extremely eloquent and feel much more adult than, uh, their siblings or friends, because they talk to adults all day! (08:00) to (10:00) They have to, like, have adult conversations with doctors and researchers and their parents, and face annoying, difficult and terrible things. And so often times, like, I'm- I'm weirdly surprised by, like, hanging out with this fifteen year old who seems like they're thirty-five because they've spent a lot of time talking to adults. Um, and so I think you do have to sometimes grow up faster and I think that that might sometimes lead to high- better than average outcomes. I think it also might lead to worse than average outcomes. But if we are using this framework, that I am thinking about right now, if the value of life is increasing then we need to protect all of them. And so what you might get is, like, a clustering where we have fewer bad outcomes because we're more careful with people and we don't give children knives like we used to. And then you- maybe also do you also bring down the level of totally notable people and then horror of horrors, you end up with more sort of normal people that aren't gonna be- like, have their own World Book page but might have perfectly happy, normal, pleasant lives. Oh no. So, like, is there- is there that? Like, we're saying we're not hard enough and so you don't create the great people but you also don't create the- the just completely destroyed folk. You have more meeting in the middle where you take people's problems seriously, you take what they think and say seriously, how they feel seriously, and you try and create a world that is pleasant for people to live in. And that ties in all of these things: the World Book study; the conservative belief that we're too easy on everyone and that's decreasing our chances of creating great people; and this idea that human value is worth more and so we're more careful. And ultimately, like, if that's the cause of all of it, then this is good because it means people are worth more and we're being more careful with them because they're more valuable.  (10:00) to (12:00) But... what this video is really about... is that this is bunk. Like, it's just an idea I had. It's something that came to my mind because it fit into my brain holes and then I said it to you. And now, a bunch of people, and I think it's okay for me to do this with this example because it's not that insidious like it's pretty bland kind of idea. But it's easy to have ideas like this that are going to make sense to a certain number of people. Like there's people who are listening to this right now who think "that made sense to me".  There are other people who are thinking, "I didn't agree with that and here are a number of reasons why." And I encourage you to leave comments telling me why because this is not an idea that has any basis in reality - it has basis in mental frameworks.


And when we say an idea that has a basis in mental framework, that has a basis in bias is what I mean by that, it's- it's based in bias, in order for it to move past even the- the- where it's at right now it would need somebody to be like here's how you could do a study on this and come up with something useful that might tell us something about any of this. Even whether the World Book study is real and I didn't just make it up and my friend wasn't just lying to me when they told me about it. 

 Because I think it's so easy to say something that seems like it's real, and throw it out there in the world, and have everybody say like, yeah, and then you turn around three days later, everybody sort of like has incorporated this perspective into their brain. And I just think that this happens so fast on the internet that it's really easy to throw out something that is- that the entire basis of is bias and- or- or it's like I've- I've read this study and so I think this might be the case and so I'm going to say that in a way that is honest about the fact that I think I'm guessing. (12:00) to (13:49) But because that's not how we work as people, we- more people use that as an anchor, more people use that as their- as their- you know frame with which to see things and that gets incorporated into peoples'- into peoples' bias. So, like I've been trying not to-to say stuff like that where it's ideas that I feel like make sense to me because they make sense, not because there's anything that seems prove-able about it or that has been proven. Um, so I'm curious what people think about this particular example, um, and I'm curious what people think about this, sort of like tendency to shout out, like "blurgh here's an idea I had. What if x?" And then everybody is like "Yes! X! that does make sense. It's coming from a legitimate voice, which is, look it's Hank Green! He's a legitimate- he does science stuff. And he- he talks loud-er than average. And he's in front of a bunch of books, so that's something! And he said stuff that I agreed with before. And so I'm gonna put that into my- into my brain tree. And make new brain holes with it and so that new things can fit into those brain holes. And just build my bias more." And I'm not saying that, like, we can avoid bias. We can't. We can recognize it, though, and we can be curious, when um, when our- when we see something that-that we disagree with, at least be curious like "Why do I disagree with that?" and um, then also when somebody says something that does seem to fit into your brain holes, be curious. Why does that fit into my brain holes? And then, never say the phrase 'brain hole' to send someone who hasn't seen this video.