p. 112 – 114
Continuing on the issue of the fear instinct the author goes on informing us on various topics, highlighting how the fear instinct in humans has positively influenced progress and how it’s negatively influencing human behavior.
The examples presented in the book are worth reading as a whole. Here are only a few thoughts on some of the information mentioned in these pages:
First, the Chicago Convention of 1944, the place where the aviation industry decided on some common rules, built a form for incident reports and agreed to share those reports so that everyone could learn from everyone’s mistakes. The author of the book calls the Chicago Convention “one of humanity’s most impressive collaborations ever” (page 113).
Plane crash deaths have diminished a lot since the 1930’s and we could say that that’s thanks to the fear instinct which prevented most persons to use airplanes at the time when plane crashes were a common occurrence.
In a way, it’s like a cycle which eventually breaks. First, there’s innovation: this new thing which can transport people from one place to another via the air, the airplane. Second, there’re the failings of that innovation, the plane crashes and people die. Third, there’re two opposing forces that result from the previous two steps. One is the fear instinct which prevents humans from using this new innovation. The other is the desire of a group to make this innovation widely used, either for making life better or for profit or both. With the two forces at work, we get progress. In this example progress was the Chicago Convention which helped to bring down the number of plane crashes. Or as the author puts it: “The fear instinct is so strong it can make people collaborate across the world, to make the greatest progress” (page 113).
What a quote. It immediately got me thinking about today. There are all these industry conferences happening around the world all the time, collaboration around the clock all year long, yet nothing like the Chicago Convention seems to happen. I’m guessing it’s because of intention. The intention of that industry meeting in 1944 was specifically to find a way to reduce plane crashes. Most conferences’ intention is marketing and networking. This probably results in collaboration sometimes, but it’s not the same, is it? It’s like that 10,000 hours of practice finding: it’s not enough to simply log in 10,000 hours of a certain activity; it has to be deliberate practice.
Of course, as you will likely point out, most conferences, if not all, don’t deal with issues that are so dangerous people fear they will die from them. Sure, but then there are also all those official meetings of politicians, collaborating with the clear intention of solving specific problems, important, life-threatening even, problems and yet the progress we get from those doesn’t seem to be good enough either. So maybe it’s not simply about intention or the fear instinct….
Another example in the book is about war and conflict fatalities. These have gone down too. The author makes sure to point out that this is not much comfort to the people currently suffering and dying in conflicts, such as in Syria. But he also reminds us that “things can be bad, and getting better” (page 113).
There’s a wonderful quotable paragraph on this topic on page 114. Here’s just one sentence from it: “Without world peace, you can forget about all other global progress.”
The Spur of the Moment Guide to FACTFULNESS is a series of posts of first thoughts while reading the book FACTFULNESS by Hans Rosling (this is an affiliate link).


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