Muse #501 - we ain't so good at it
This is the first of the books that I read in the month of May which I had talked about a few days ago.
I am talking about the book Making Numbers Count: The Art and Science of Communicating Numbers by Chip Heath https://www.amazon.com/Making-Numbers-Count-Science-Communicating/dp/B08WHVBV9Y/
The single most important takeaway from the book is that we are not so good at numbers, especially large numbers. We generally compare everything we know to things that we know. Simpler things that we can relate to. And use this magnitude to adjust our understanding. We also attach emotions to how we feel related to the pain that we have experienced from certain things and when we relate magnitude to it, we are able to perceive larger numbers through those lenses.
Take an example. I have a wish list. To see 1st Jan 2050. Which I know is about 28 years. A generation away. I also count down to that date and I know it is about 10,090 days away. But this doesn’t help fathom the magnitude.
Put differently, I am 57 years old and if I make it to 2050, I would be 85. Now that gives it a different flavor. At around the bounds of possibility. Pushing the end of my life’s possibilities if I even make it there.
From this different comparative perspective, my kids will be in their 50s then. And my potential grandkids who aren’t around yet might be getting out from their schools into their work lives. That helps put the date in perspective in the amount of change that would happen in that time frame. And helps handle it in our tiny brains.