One day, somehow or other, I dropped a lucrative but ultimately unappealing career in computer science for English Writing. This led, more or less, to my deciding to come to Japan and live what's turned out so far to be the very rest of my life.
Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers is nifty because it goes ahead and explains "somehow or other" and "more or less" in detail bordering on surefire social physics. Did you know that if you're an aspiring Canadian hockey player born in January you're in a world of luck, but if you're born one month before, you're shit of of the same? Or that East Asians really are better at math than Westerners? True stories, statistically and causally speaking. The reasons why are meticulously set out like a dinner banquet at the Kremlin, so I don't wanna vulgarly ruin the endings for you, but hot damn are they nifty.
The book's profound for the same reasons. It turns out back in the 1970s and 80s, all the way up through the mid-90s, Korea crashed more planes than most any other place in the world because they were letting Koreans fly their planes. You're more likely to piss off a Southerner by calling him an asshole than you are a Northerner. Jewish immigrants of the early 20th century really were better prepared to be businesspeople than Irish or Italian peasants, and their sons were better prepared to be doctors and lawyers as a result. And a good majority of the folks at the top of Silicon Valley right now were born in 1954 and 1955, including Bill Gates, Bill Joy, Steve Jobs, and Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google.
Like. This should sound at least mildly offensive. But Outliers is wonderful like a crystal fucking waterfall because it explains the whys of all these generalizations and success stories in a beautifully succinct way, with the ultimate conclusion that it's neither genius nor genetics that seperate any of us. It's only culture and good luck and that the realization of that, properly applied, will lead to a more opportunity-filled world for our kids. It could stop there, having made an interesting cross-discipline case for causality, and left me in the bottom of the Well of Misery, but it didn't. And in not doing so, it became an apocalyptic book in the Greek sense of the word. It suggests and downright proves via multitudinous examples--and I'm gonna go ahead and ruin this--that since the success stories and tragedies of the past fall into patterns, even though they're often the result of innumerable chance occurences, we can better organize our society to promote successful citizens and diffuse culture-based tragedies long before they pick up momentum.
A lot of it has to do with proper education. Time to nix summer vacations in their current form: it seems that the smarts gap that typically forms between rich kids and poor kids happens primarily because over the long summers, rich kids have resources to enrich their minds (books, summercamps, educational encouragement) while lower-class kids don't, or don't to the same degree. Lower-class kids are less likely to be comfortable asserting or even expressing themselves to people in positions of power than upper-class kids. This isn't something the schools teach, but the parents. And in the case of lower-class kids, the parents apparently tend not to explicitly teach those lessons, while upper-class parents do.
The idea is that it's all momentum. If you take a human of average intelligence and put them in an environment to succeed, most of them will. Not all of them will become legends in their own time like Bill Gates or JP Morgan, but certainly the quality of their life will improve greatly over what it would've been. But they need a lot to go their way that's especially at an early age outside their control: proper schooling, proper parenting, proper opportunity.
Anyways I recommend this book.