The world is an interesting but confusing place. Here are ten facts that everyone would benefit from knowing.
1. Humans did not “grow” out of apes and prehistoric people.
Do you remember the evolutionary chart from high school? The one with pictures of modern humans evolving from apes into homo habilis, homo erectus, neanderthals and eventually homo sapiens? It turns out that it was pretty misleading. As a result, many people believe that we sort of “grew” from monkey to mankind — as if we gradually stood upright and became more intelligent over 2 million years.
However, each archaic human species fell extinct separately, oftentimes killing each other off. For example, homo sapiens (you and me) existed alongside neanderthals and even interbred. There is evidence to suggest that neanderthals perished because our species exterminated them. Another view is that we simply out-competed neanderthals and they couldn’t survive. But regardless, we did not “grow” out of them. If anything, they were our adversaries.
2. Farting, burping cows are hugely increasing global warming.
Methane gas is a leading contributor to global warming. Each time we let one rip we “exhale” a gassy cocktail of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen and hydrogen. However, cows, goats and sheep apparently drop deadlier bombs than we do. Their belches and butts produce over 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a serious problem.
Fortunately, scientists have found that feeding seaweed to cows can reduce their methane emissions by a lot. The challenge, now, is to produce enough of it to introduce to the diets of over 1 billion cows around the world.
3. You probably suck at investing in stocks.
If you want to invest in stocks, then you should put your money in a low-cost index fund. This type of fund simply tries to replicate, not beat, the performance of a given market (like the NYSE, TSX, etc.), minus fees. You should not try to invest in individual stocks. That is, at least, what the statistics suggest. Here’s why:
- Only a handful of trained professionals have been able to outperform the stock market on a consistent basis. While many may be able to beat it in certain years, few can do so each and every year. Study after study shows that most professional stock pickers underperform the market over time.
- Retail investors often buy high (when they are confident) and sell low (when they’re scared), which is the opposite of what one is supposed to do.
- Transactional fees from buying and selling stocks can eat into investors’ returns.
In short, the chances are that neither you nor I are very good stock investors. We would likely be better off buying a plain-vanilla fund that aims to track an index.
4. There has been an economic recession under every republican US president for the past 100 years.
Republicans bill themselves as fiscally responsible. It’s the democrats, they say, who spend like drunken sailors and are economically dangerous. However, every single republican president since Theodore Roosevelt has been met with an economic recession before the end of their first term. That includes Ronald Reagan, who is often viewed as the Great Lord Republican. George W. Bush oversaw two recessions, the latter of which in 2007 was the worst financial meltdown since 1929.
If anything, republicans are marketing geniuses. They’ve managed to convince Americans that they are fiscally savvy — the facts be damned.
5. Estonia is one of the most digitally advanced countries on Earth.
Estonia broke away from the Soviet Union after its collapse in the 1990s. Since then, the tiny country has sought to advance via technological means. Virtually everything in Estonia is on the internet. Here are some examples of how the country is lightyears ahead of western nations:
- Almost 100% of the population has a digital ID card, which serves as definitive proof of identification. It grants citizens access to Estonia’s e-services, such as filling prescriptions, signing documents, business filings and banking.
- The country has used blockchain technology to protect the integrity of government institutions (health, judicial, legislative systems, etc.) since 2012.
- Roughly half of the country votes online, instead of trying to find a polling station and waiting in line to cast a ballot. Online voting in Estonia has existed since 2007.
- By 1997, almost all schools in Estonia had internet.
- There is free wifi across the country.
- Estonia offers e-residency to foreigners. After gaining it, you can start a business in Estonia, open a bank account, file your taxes and access all relevant government services from the internet.
6. You don’t have a thyroid problem. You’re just fat.
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition that prevents people from producing enough of the thyroid hormone. Aside from increasing the risk of joint pain and infertility, it can also lead to an increased appetite and, thus, weight gain.
Many people use that as a crutch for being overweight, claiming to have a “thyroid problem.” Despite their best attempts they are unable to get in shape. However, just 2% of women and 0.2% of men are affected by hypothyroidism. The chances are that diet, exercise and lifestyle are responsible for one’s weight management issues.
7. You can change how your brain thinks.
If you don’t like your outlook on life or if you’re plagued by negative thoughts and anxiety, you can force your brain to change. That’s one of the aspects of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which has been clinically proven to improve mental health.
Put simply, our minds are quite malleable. Through practice, we can strengthen our brains’ positive neural pathways by training ourselves to think healthy thoughts. Simultaneously, we can weaken destructive neural pathways by blocking out or reducing negative thoughts. If you think negatively often, then it’s probably only going to continue. But if you try to stop yourself and redirect your mind to something positive, that will eventually become your norm.
8. Donald Trump inherited over $400 million from his dad.
Donald Trump is not a self-made billionaire. In fact, he inherited at least $413 million from his father, Fred Trump, who actually was a self-made real estate mogul. While there’s nothing wrong with using dad’s money, The Donald has spent his entire adult life building a brand on his alleged business prowess. In 2015 he claimed that he borrowed just $1 million from his father, which he then supposedly turned into $10 billion. He, of course, was lying.
Further, the New York Times, which uncovered the inheritance, found blatant evidence of Trump and his family committing crimes to avoid the tax consequences of passing down the generational wealth. Fortunately for them, they are protected from prosecution by statutes of limitations. However, his sister Maryanne, a federal judge, was forced to retire from the bench in 2019 in order to avoid further probes into her past.
The New York Times reporters received a Pulitzer Prize for their article.
9. Half of the world’s billionaires inherited their wealth.
In a similar vein, almost half of the real billionaires alive inherited all or some of their fortunes. While we typically think about people like Mark Cuban, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who built their empires from scratch, the fact is that many of the super-rich are just super-lucky. They happened to have wealthy parents and grandparents. Had they been born into different families, their financial experiences would be drastically different.
10. You don’t die of old age.
Humans don’t come with an expiration date. We don’t just die because we get too old. Rather, as we age our cells are less able to combat diseases, disorders and other health issues. For example, when elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease die in their sleep, it’s often because their swallowing systems fail. They inhale fluid and food, catch pneumonia and pass away. Age is a facilitator, not a cause, of death.