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to al jazerra is next. featuring malcolm gladwell. and for news updates throughout the day. recent series, the bible. and every child knows how the story ends. the stone from the shepherd's sling strikes the phi philistine in 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 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 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 , ak acromegaly, clearly, 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? >> 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
substancsubstance instances, if merrick 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 in the invader. >> in the 1970s they were
fighting a gur 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 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, 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 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 championship. it's a beautiful example of he
refuses to be passive over a series of seemingly un seemingly insurmoun 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 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. 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 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 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 can't. >> 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 became that guy who enjoys
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>> welcome back to talk to al jazeera. i'm with malcolm gladwell, the author of david and goliath. 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 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 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 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 it. what is your epitaph, i still have this this difficulty of reading malcolm gladwell books, if a mar tian had come up to me 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 (vo) al jazeera america we understand that every news story begins and ends with people. >> the efforts are focused on rescuing stranded residents. (vo) we pursue that story beyond the headline, past the spokesperson, to the streets. >> thousands of riot police deployed across the capitol. (vo) we put all of our global resources behind every story. >> it is a scene of utter devastation. (vo) and follow it no matter where it leads, all the way to you. al jazeera america. take a new look at news.
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