Foolproof Book Summary - Foolproof Book explained in key points
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Foolproof summary

Greg Ip

Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe

14 mins

Brief summary

Foolproof by Greg Ip explains how the financial system is shaped by psychology and politics rather than just rational calculations. The book analyzes the history of financial crises and offers a way to create a more stable and sustainable system.

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    Summary of 6 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 6

    Sometimes, the safer we feel, the more we’re actually in danger.

    Although safety regulations are put in place to protect us, they can sometimes do quite the opposite. How can this be?

    When we make risky activities safer, we engage in them more often. Take driving a car, for example. In the late 1970s, anti-lock brakes were introduced in Germany to improve control over the car while braking. The government expected that this new safety mechanism would decrease the rate of fatal automobile accidents by 10 to 15 percent. Soon after, though, a study found that drivers in cars fitted with anti-lock brakes were more likely to engage in risky driving, such as driving faster and braking harder than drivers with no anti-lock brakes.

    Further research found that, as drivers were placing a little too much faith in their new-fangled brakes, they were rounding curves more quickly, which increased the rate of rollovers and accidents when exiting roads.

    A similar thing happened in American football. When helmets became mandatory attire in American football in 1943, the overall risk of injury was expected to go down. On the one hand, the helmets decreased the amount of broken jaws, teeth and noses. However, spinal and concussion-related injuries actually increased, with more than a 400 percent increase in broken necks.

    The reason behind these disturbing statistics was said to be that, as the players felt more shielded, they began using their helmets as battering rams against the opposition!

    The same happened in ice hockey too; when helmets were made mandatory in 1979, the prevalence of head fractures decreased while spinal injuries went up.

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    What is Foolproof about?

    Why do one third of Americans fear flying? After all, statistics show that you’re 1,330 times more likely to die in a car accident than a plane crash. Are we taking the wrong measures to truly stay safe? Foolproof (2015) explains why taking excessive precautions against danger can have terrible consequences, and why sometimes when we feel most in danger, we are actually quite safe.

    Foolproof Review

    Foolproof (2015) by Greg Ip is a captivating exploration of the history and intricacies of economic forecasting. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With meticulous research and in-depth analysis, it navigates the complexities of economic prediction, making it a valuable resource for understanding the subject.
    • Combining case studies and interviews with top economists, it provides a well-rounded perspective on the successes and failures of forecasting, keeping readers engaged throughout.
    • The book's accessible language and compelling storytelling make even the most complex economic concepts interesting and relatable, guaranteeing an engaging read from start to finish.

    Who should read Foolproof?

    • Students of risk management
    • Anyone interested in what caused the 2007–2008 financial crisis
    • People who are sick of that so-called “health and safety culture”

    About the Author

    Greg Ip is an award-winning reporter and chief economics commentator for the Wall Street Journal. He is the author of The Little Book of Economics.

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    Foolproof FAQs 

    What is the main message of Foolproof?

    The main message of Foolproof is that humans aren't as rational as we think, and our decisions are often influenced by biases and emotions.

    How long does it take to read Foolproof?

    The reading time for Foolproof varies depending on the individual, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Foolproof a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Foolproof is worth reading as it provides valuable insights into the irrationality of human decision-making, helping us better understand our own biases.

    Who is the author of Foolproof?

    The author of Foolproof is Greg Ip.

    What to read after Foolproof?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Foolproof, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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