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Toastmasters speech #8: Almost Everything You Know About The World Is Wrong

When I decided to move to Australia 1.5 years ago, I broke the news to my closest friends in Geneva in an email titled “Guess where I am moving to?”, and I attached this picture: (slide)

One of my friends, Mori, replied within a few minutes, with this: (slide)

Now I have done my research before, so I was rather familiar with Australia’s reputation for being home to something like 9 out of 10 of the world’s deadliest animals. But Mori’s email got me thinking, I wonder, how many people actually die from say, snake bites in Australia?

So like how I always approach all my most important existential questions, I decided to do a proper research. In other words, I googled. How many people died from snake bites in Australia in 2014? The answer? One. (slide)

Dear madam Toastmasters, ladies and gentlemen, today I am going to commit the number one crime of public speaking – I am going to make my audience, you, feel really crappy about yourselves. I am here to tell you almost everything you think you know about the world, is wrong.

Let’s start with an easy one.

Which country invented the wifi? A. Australia B. The United States C. Germany (slide). Who think it’s A, B, C? The answer is A. The wifi, the single most important thing in my life, and I suspect all of yours, was actually invented in this country. I don’t know why but this knowledge makes me irrationally happy and proud.

Another follow up question on the internet – how many percent of the world’s population do you think has access to internet connection today? Who think it’s A. 80% B. 60% C. 40%?

The answer is 40%. So 6 in 10 people who are living and breathing on this Earth right now, do not have access to the one thing that most of us deem not a luxury, but a necessity. Think about what that means for a second.

Moving on to what some people might consider the second most important thing in their life – Facebook. A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge conducted a study on what we ‘Like’ on Facebook might reveal about us. They wanted to know what might be the best predictor of a person’s intelligence (based on their educational levels): do these people like pages on say, science, literature, Mozart, or perhaps, theory of relativity? Turns out, the single best predictor for if you are smart or not is:

Curly fries (slide)

Why is that? Nobody really knows, but that’s what the data say – intelligent people like curly fries. Actually I have my own theory on this but I’ll share it with you in private if you are interested, it’s kind of nerdy.

Another study by Harvard on happiness tracks the development of 724 men over a period of 75 years. The goal of the study is to find the biggest contributor to a person’s happiness and wellbeing. The study found that it is not career, social status, or even money that decides a person’s happiness. The best predictor of a person’s happiness and health? Good relationships. Period. Be it with your partner, friends or family.

I just came back from New Zealand a few days ago. When I was there I was googling some interesting facts about NZ, more specifically their recent endeavour to redesign their flag, and here’s something interesting I found.

The amount the government of New Zealand plans to spend on referenda to choose a new flag : $12,000,000

And the percentage of New Zealanders who are happy with the current flag? 60

Interesting, isn’t it?

The common wisdom is that if you want to get ahead in your career the last thing you should be doing is hanging out in bars. Actually you might want to do just that. A study conducted by the Journal of Labor Research found that regular drinkers make 10% to 14% more money than those who do not drink. Yeah, I know right.

On to something more serious. In the last 20 years, how do you think the percentage of people in the world living in extreme poverty changed? Did it A. almost double, B. remain more or less the same, C. halve? The answer? C. Don’t worry if that answer surprises you, most people surveyed got the answer wrong too.

Another question. How long do you think women in the world go to school, on average: seven years, five years or three years? A, B or C? The answer: 7 years. So things are not as bleak as we think they are, and again, almost everything we think we know about the world, is wrong.

So what can we learn from all these surprising statistics? The biggest lesson I learned, is that we shouldn’t believe everything the media tell us. Most of the time the cause of our biases is not ignorance; but preconceived ideas. And our ideas are inadvertently influenced by the information we are exposed to the most. So practice skepticism, be curious and always keep an open mind.

And if all else fails, eat curly fries, drink a few beers from time to time. And if you want to live a long and healthy life, do those things with good friends.

Thank you.


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