Farnham Street is a very interesting blog.

In a recent article they explain how shark attacks save lives.

But how can that be?

Surely, someone dies.

Well yes, but many more people die from drowning than sharks.

From swimming out too far, from getting cramp, heart attacks, jellyfish stings, exhaustion.

A single death from a shark makes people a lot more aware of the dangers of swimming.

So it stops a lot of people going in the sea.

Statistically, the San Diego authorities estimate that each shark attack saves ten lives.

What happens is, a shark kills someone, deaths go down.

Then, after a year or so, people forget about the shark and swimming deaths creep back up.

With lots more people in the water another shark attacks and deaths go down again.

They see the pattern repeated.

So, for the authorities, shark attacks are not necessarily a bad thing.

For us, that’s counterintuitive.

But in the real world many things are.

They make sense, but not according to our mental default setting.

For instance, at the start of World War One all British soldiers wore cloth caps.

But they were fighting against artillery shells that burst in the air.

Losses were terrible.

So every soldier was issued with a metal helmet.

But almost immediately many more soldiers were injured and maimed, and the hospitals were overflowing with casualties.

What had gone wrong?

Had the steel helmets made them foolhardy, did they get careless because they thought they were invincible?

What had gone wrong?


The fact was that before they had helmets the soldiers weren’t getting wounded.

They were simply getting their heads blown off.

So they weren’t going to hospitals, they were going to cemeteries.

The steel helmet meant they might lose an arm or a leg but at least they were alive.

So the casualties at hospitals soared.

Again, it’s counterintuitive.

We look at hospitals as a bad thing, so we default to interpreting it as a problem.

We look at shark attacks as a bad thing, so we default to interpreting it as a problem.

Our default setting dictates our thinking.

And default mind is often the opposite of creative mind.

It’s just responding to what’s called a positive, reinforcing feedback loop.

That’s thinking like a turkey.

Turkeys know that kindly farmers only care about their welfare.

The proof is, every day the farmers feed the turkeys as much food as they want, every day they look after their every need.

Every day proves to the turkeys that farmers exist solely to keep them happy.

Every day is a positive, reinforcing feedback loop.


Right up until December 24th.