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tv   Talk to Al Jazeera  Al Jazeera  October 27, 2013 10:30pm-11:01pm EDT

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>> the epic battle of david and goliath is depicted here in the recent series, the bible. and every child knows how the story ends. the stone from the shepherd's sling strikes the phi philistinn the head. perhaps david wasn't the underdog we all thought it to be. it is the author's third book, since the tipping point and blink. i talked to him about his
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unconventional families and his upbringing in a biracial family. >> malcolm gladwell welcome. you turned the story of david and goliath on its head. another explanation other than it was improbably that david would have beaten goliath. you are saying that not only was it probable that he would have felled goliath but it was likely. >> yes. if you go back and read about ancient warfare, you describe that the sling with which david is armed is a devastating weapon. it's one of the most feared weapons of ancient times. he's taking a rock and rotating it six or seven revolutions, per
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second, and the stopping power of the rock from his sling is equivalent of the bullet fired from a .45 caliber weapon. it's an incredibly powerful weapon. once he decides to change the rules he has superior technology. then there's goliath, sort of facinating discussion between scientists, a acromegaly, clear, goliath can't see properly. he'll he's armed with superior technology, he's up against a lumbering giant. why is he the underdog?
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>> he should have won. >> he should have won. >> changes all of history, he should have won. >> it suggests to us that we have exaggerated the advantages of giants and underestimated the advantages of small nimble audacious people with cutting edge technology. right? which to anybody living in the 21st century this reinterpretation should not come as a surprise. >> you have actually giving some time to how this applies to other things. a lot of times when an inferior army has taken up against a superior army they've won. >> if you look historically at combats, there is really fascinating research done by ivan toft, a historian. one time's ten times greater than the other. and you look at in those
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substancsubstance instances, ifk attacked canada and canada decided to fight a guerilla warfare, in response, i put my moneys on canada and you and i are canadians. the fact that america is larger and wealthier and has better weapons is an advantage but not nearly as much of afternoon advantage as we think. so if you think of you are canada and invaded by the united states, what weapons would you have? you would have the weapon of anger. you would be willing to fight for your own country in the way an invader wouldn't be invested
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in the invader. >> in the 1970s they were fighting a gu guerilla war. >> it makes you appreciate your strengths. that's throughout the book. understand i can't play by conventional rules, i have to change the rules. >> you even use the american revolution, as an example, where washington was succeeding, and when he switched to more conventional methods he nearly lost. >> the american revolution was nearly lost, because washington forgot who he was. what he was was, he was an insurgent. he had to fight by insurgent's rules, he didn't have conventional advantages. a painful lesson was learned. >> when you think about it that way, it gives one pause in the current day when you think so many things that are going wrong
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in the world are things done by insurgents, rebels, terrorists. all of whom don't play by established rules. and if i extrapolate the lesson from your book, they have the upper hand. >> at least they have much more -- they need to be taken far more seriously as foes than is readily apparent. say when two very different parties battle you can't make assumptions. each have their own certain advantages, motivation, persistence, anger, which the smaller weaker party carries around with them are every bit the equal of physical women's. we can't be -- physical weapons,
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we can't be dismissive that the viet cong were outraged that the americans were in their country. that mattered a lot. that was the difference in that battle. that mattered more than the millions of tobs of bombs. -- tons of bombs. >> how does the average american read this book? i'm poor or of ethnic variety or otherwise disadvantaged but according to this if i change the rules of the game i can win? >> yes, i guess the lesson of the original david and goliath story, david refused to be passive. he didn't have armor, no ability with a sword. but instead of accepting his defeat, he said oh, i'm going to change the rules in which i have a disadvantage. i tell the story of a basketball coach, coaching 12-year-old
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girls. >> an indian basketball coach. his daughter is on this team, a 12-year-old. >> he decides the way americans play basketball, is puzzled he says things that make no sense. why do they run back on defense and wait for the other team to come down the court? this makes no sense to him particularly if one of the teams isn't very good. why would you let your much better team do things that would make them better? >> and the court at any given time you are defending a third of the court. >> no he says i'm going odefend every single part of the court every minute of the game. we are going to play this maniacal defence. what happens? he goes to the national
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championship. it's a beautiful example of he refuses to be passive over a series of seemingly u seeminglyt insurmountable disadvantages. >> you talk about dyslexia. >> simply, normally if we think of, if i give you a task and we make it more difficult, we think you'll do worse on the task. what is pointed out is that is not true. there are numerous examples of if i make a task more difficult you will learn better on it. you will learn more effectively if i erect certain barriers obstacles in your path. clearly two kinds of difficulties, undesirable ones that make your life miserable and desirable difficulties which may actually end up make you
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better than you were in the past. so the question in my book is for some dyslexics, who achieve disproportionately. the ranks of successful entrepreneurs are crawling with dyslexics. we think that 30% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. if you talk to them, they will say, i didn't overcome my disability. i am successful because of my disability. >> you site david boice, he represented ibm against the united states, al gore in his election, he also is dyslexic.
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the new statesman said, according to your theory, siting statistics showing proportionately more people with dyslexia enjoy worldly success than without. not even gladwell can run the experiment in which boyce repeats his dyslexia, seems more personal about the attack but there was a lot of it about the dyslexia part. >> you can say certain things, not every idea can be presented or tested with scientific rigor. it's not possible. in my book outliers, i play with the idea that perhaps something about the culture of rice cultivation in southern china has contributed to asian success, chinese success in mathematics. is that a provable assumption? have no, you can't rerun history, see how chinese would
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do it if they hadn't had a rice cultivation, but is it not useful to play with that idea? of course not. first submit it to seven layers of academic rigor, they're saying the world would be a very boring place. i think it's fun to play with ideas, so in the case of david boice and dyslexia, he's saying this is the story of my life. my dyslexia i believe caused me to shift direction and what he said was, i could not read as a child. and in order to deal with this very, very serious problem, i consciously set out to do two things. one, i realized i would have to remember everything because i could no longer -- i couldn't read it. two, i would get through school by paying extraordinary attention to the teacher. in other words, the only way i was going olearn was by
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listening to what a teacher said very closely and memorizing. now can we do another experiment where we run david boice through his spement experiment, no we c. >> and david boice has ascribed a lot of his success to this. >> i talked to two dozen very, very successful dyslexics who account for their success in this way. this is anecdotal evidence but it is interesting. there is a strain of people who struggle with my books because they are not comfortable playing with ideas, i am. you've got to be on board for that and if you don't like your ideas, if you don't like to take chances with ideas you should read textbooks, i think, that's more appropriate. >> perfect time to take a quick break. when we come back i'm going to ask malcolm gladwell how he
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became that guy who enjoys playing with ideas.
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>> we find the fault lines that run through communities. >> the shooting happened about 30 minutes ago. >> companies... >> the remains of the fire are still everywhere here. >> the powers that be at home and around the world... >> not only do they not get compensation but you don't even have to explain why? >> well thats exactly what i said. >> we question authority. >> so you said we could get access... >> that's enough! >> ... and those affected. >> investigative journalism at it's toughest.
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>> welcome back to talk to al jazeera. i'm talking to malcolm gladwell, author of his latest book david and goliath. we discussed how you like to be someone who plays with yrdz. a number of the critics of this latest book, that you're taking scholarly findings and you're trying to fit the narrative that you've agreed on. i want to read you this one criticism. i don't mean to be mean. >> okay, fine. >> if you want academic rigor don't read gladwell. it teaches little of general
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import for the morals of the stories it tells, lacks solid foundation in evidence and logic. i'm not looking for you to respond to the criticism. i'm looking for you to explain who you should be to the world. who is malcolm supposed to be and what your calling is? >> they're being kill joys a little bit. i said literally i like to take chances with ideas. i think that ideas ought to be thrilling, i think it should be as fun to read about some of the things that -- the notion of desirable difficulty. to me that's as thrilling as going to see a horror film or reading a fantastic novel. it sort of engages you. what i'm trying to do is give people ways of reexamining their lives and experiences, getting into things they otherwise have glanced over. my aims are in that sense
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they're quite modest but in another sense not modest at all. because i think that one of the principle problems with our society is that there is a growing divide between the fruits of academic thinking and the rest of us. and if the -- if the kind of logic nazis have their way that divide will only grow and they will constantly be harping on those who want to bridge it by saying you're popularizing, you're simplifying. >> you are the big easy popularizer around -- >> i am. i plead guilty. >> the book people kept around their house to look like they read it. and yet you had people on side with that. you did it with blink, you did it with outliers. why is that different here? >> i always get the criticism.
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>> that's not -- no? >> there's always been some push back, from people when would prefer my books to be -- to have less life to them. and to take fewer chances. >> let's talk about this. in the book you often, in some cases you refer to people's upbringings and experiences and how they framed them, including with dyslexia. what about your upbringing shaped who you are and how you think? >> yeah, i don't know. you know, you and i are both canadian. so we know there was something pecular and interesting and wonderful about canada. my mother's jamaican and my father's english. if your parents are that rebellious and so willing to flout convention, i think you get the idea that it fills you
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with a certain amount of courage. and a willingness to challenge -- >> it is a desirable disadvantage. >> it's a desirable disadvantage. although i wouldn't call my parents' marriage a disadvantage. it is a fabulous marriage. but there is a kind of thing where everything was wide open to me as a child. i felt like there was no barriers into what -- where i could poke my head. i have a chapter of the book about how good it is to be a big fish in a little pond. and canada is one of the great little ponds out there. and i think i was -- i got to be a big fish in a little pond. >> not too far south from you was the united states where your parents' marriage in some cases wouldn't have even been legal. >> when they got married, interracial marriages were still illegal in some american states. >> did that -- was racism an element of your thinking when you were growing up? >> when i came here, to america,
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first thing that happens is you become aware of how much race dominates american life. >> your father didn't want you to become a journalist, at least -- do whatever you want -- >> i'm making fun of him a little bit with this. in truth my father was quite happy with whatever i wanted to do. but in his experience as an englishman, journalism isn't a high profession. he thought i would be on fleet street tabloid chasing -- i tweak him by reminding him of that fact. >> what are you? a journalist? >> yes. >> if one could be uncharitable one could say you were a flame thrower with idea. what is the charitable way to
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say flame thrower? >> i think flame thrower is quite charitable. i'll take that. i like to get people -- i'm not alarmed when my books cause controversy. i write them to get people relied up -- riled up, you know. huge parts of this is to poke a stick at people. that is there is nothing greater that is the enemy of all things, than complacency. >> perfect point to go to a break. when i come back i'll talk about malcolm gladwell's next project. stay with us. >>the delta is a microcosm of america. [[voiceover]] we tell the human story, from around the block, across the country, with more points of view. >>if joe can't find work, his family will go from living in a
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motel to living in their car. [[voiceover]] connected, inspired, bold. >>about a thousand protestors have occupied ... on august 20th, >> welcome back to talk to al
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jazeera. i'm with malcolm gladwell, the author of david and goliath.
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his fifth book. let's go back to tipping point, first of all what caused you to write that, what void were you filling with this? >> i had moved to new york in '93 and then when crime was just an obsession. and then i woke up in '96 and i realized that crime wasn't anymore and no one could explain to me what happened with crime. so that just got me thinking about the nature of change. and how change -- so why are we always in a position of saying i have no idea how that happened and i have no idea how that happened so quickly. >> so you set out to illustrate how change happens. >> yes to kind of offer but again -- yes, just to kind of examine, all of these books are, they are little -- they are sort of circuitous journeys. i have a topic and i explore it and i'm not trying to be definitive and i'm not
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necessarily even trying to convince people. but i think it's interesting to took a tour of -- blink took a tour of snap judgments. they work really well but you know a lot of other times terrifying and disastrous. outliers was a tour of success, scratch your head and say hmm, is there other rules that we can extract about success. talk to people and think what they talk about, what actually is an advantage? and our kind of -- so all these books start the same way, that they're kind of -- and i think one reason they appeal to so many people is that that's the -- that is a very disarming way to learn something new. in other words, there are so many books out there that have very, very specific agendas of one kind or another. at the end of this book i would like to convince you of a, b and
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c, right? i'm not interested in convincing people of a, b and c. i'm interested in let's go on a journey and examine the advantage. >> they're not self help, they're not how to, they're not prescriptive. some people have criticized them for being not academic. you're not aiming them to be. >> no. >> you're now malcolm gladwell, you're expected to change the way we think or at least shine light on things we don't understand. >> yeah i mean i write books because i'm interested i want to go on that journey, that's all. i have -- there's stuff -- i want to have good excuse to talk to quirky eccentric people and have interesting things in the library. >> i like the lens for which he sees the world. >> that's exactly the best kind
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of feedback i get and very often i get it's really interesting when i am criticized i'm criticized by people who live in the word of ideas. so they don't appreciate that thing because -- >> you don't want the people that live in the world they are being -- >> they have a job they have kids, i refuse to apology to writing for that kind of person because i feel i am that kind of person. because i could have easily gone a different way, different position, i was this close to going to lawl law school. >> waiting for another malcolm gladwell who ended up writing it. what is your epitaph, i still have this this difficulty of reading malcolm gladwell books, if a martian had come up to me
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and said who is this malcolm gladwell? >> a fellow canadian, someone who has more hair than me, i don't know, someone really curious, shared the object of his curiosity with as many as he could. >> we'll wait for that. malcolm gladwell, thank you for joining us and thank you for joining us on talk to al jazeera. when i was a little kid, i just really loved the news. >>news was always important in my family. >>i knew as a kid that was exactly what i wanted to do. >>i learned to read by reading the newspaper with my great-grandfather every morning. >>and i love being able to tell other people stories. >>this is it, i want to be a part of this. >>this is what really drove me to al jazeera america.
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>> welcome to al jazeera america i'm jonathan betz. live in new york. online enrollment on has literally ground to a halt. new spying allegations and report set to be published in el mundo newspaper,. and syria sets a plan for getting rid of its chemical weapons. and remember the life and legacy of rock pioneer lou reed who died today at the a