Superfreakonomics

I am a big fan of the Freakonomics series, and this one is surely better. It goes more towards the behavioral patterns ofHomo Economicus in an arbitrarily harsh manner. Like the study where people living in old age homes had more weekend visits from their children if they had a big inheritance tucked away under the bed. At first shot people would say, this is because of good upbringing in the rich homes. To this the Rogue Economist points out that the frequency would be less than half if it involved the only child, but a lot more if there were multiple offsprings. Now who says humans are not competitive.

The other thing it talked about global warming and how humans will never change. And how it is already too late, if we all come to zero emission as of now, the dangerous gases which we have released have a half life of about 100 years! It also talked more about altruism through two games, one in which two unacquainted players take part. One is given 20 bucks and asked to share some amount with the second person, if the second accepted then only both go with the money. The second game in which the person with 20$ has to give whatever amount he pleases and the other has to accept. Both showed different results. Soon it went dirty, when options like ‘working to get the 20’, ‘taking 1$ instead of giving’, ‘taking all money from other’ were added.

It also played with doctors and their habits of not cleaning before an examination. One surgeon even discovered that washing hands properly before performing a child birth increased the possibility of mother’s survival. He found that most people like to fiddle with autopsy before coming to such case. Well he wasn’t given the Nobel prize, he was outcast by other docs and sent to a deranged care center, where he died trying to escape.

In major hospitals, docs were asked to monitor how often they washed their hands and all. After a given set of days, the average no. came out to be like 72%, which was not so bad. Little did they know that their nurses were watching them and they reported the no. to be 9%! In a lunch meeting, where one exec was pushing hygiene badly with the senior doctors, she came up with a brilliant idea. Before they went for their meals, all were asked to leave an implant of their hands in a silica gel tray. Within a few days, it developed colonies of bacteria marking the outline of the palm. That revolting image was used as screensaver and posters throughout the hospital and yes, it surely was effective.

Basically the book talks on 3 themes:

  • How to think like an economist?
  • Is the problem being exaggerated?
  • What is the cheap and simple solution?

It helps you to analyze for yourself what is good, bad, ugly … and as they put it, super freaky. Good read.

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