Why the Functional Mindset is more important then ever? Great power comes with great responsibilities

As we have seen, there has been incredible changes from the perspective of scientific knowledge, not only in generic “sciency” stuff, but more importantly (for our purposes), regarding very practical matters that are relevant to the quality of our everyday life.

This progress has occurred at an unbelievably fast pace as compared to all of history, because we now understand the utility of using methodically a scientific approach. Discoveries don’t “just happen” anymore, we are out there looking for them, and we have a rather precise understanding on how to seek for new scientific data and (even more importantly) how to successfully choose between competing theories.

Only a few decades ago, there was absolutely no factual knowledge about the effects of either physical activity or nutrition on health. No knowledge on the habits that may promote or hinder happiness. No information of which factors promote a lasting relationship and which are most likely to end up with a divorce. No data on how prevent or treat mental disorders or, more in general, disabling or hamful mental elements such as anxiety or stress.

This has the potential to drammaticaly change our lives for the better. Unfortunately, so far we only managed to use only a small fraction of that potential.

Since the last few years, we have been the first humans in the whole history to have easy access to a vast amount of scientific data about how to make our life better, nearly in any of the fields we are usually interested in (from generic goals like health or happiness, to more specific ones such as losing weight or learning a new language). Whatever our goals in life are, it is very likely that we have a lot of science-based informations that can help us to achieve them, safely and effectively.

So, what change did this bring to our life?

In a fast paced world, several years, or even several decades, may seem like a lot of time to bring impressive changes. That’s certainly true for technology. A computer used to bring a spaceship to the moon, today, would not even be enough to run the lastest version of Windows. If you bought the newest iPhone last year, that’s probably already passée.

This may lead you to think that scientific data from 40 years ago are as up to date as a steam engine car. We surely already figured that out, and even found something much better, right? Well, unfortunately not.

That’s where the Functional Mindset steps in. How much of this scientific knowledge are we applying in our life? How much are we taking advantage of the potential benefits? Or, simply, how much are we using it to prevent the harmful consequences we have the knowledge and tools to avoid?

Unfortunately, very little. We are arguably the generation with the highest opportunity to make a change. Yet, our functionality level is the worst in history. Knowledge is power. And power has a cost as well. Because we are responsible (to ourselves and to others) of the changes we will make. As the famous saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.

Sure, people in the past made some very poor choices. We may decide to laugh at them, and see them as ignorant or stupid. Yet, in a sense, it is the opposite. They didn’t have much choice. As we’ve seen, there has never been in history such a thing as scientific knowledge, until in very recent times. A natural mindset (as opposed to a Functional one), was not a choice. A Functional Mindset was never possibile. Taking advantage of scientific knowledge to achieve a certain goals would be kinda hard if we didn’t actually have any scientific knowledge about that topic, wouldn’t it? Which is why we are less functional than ever. We can choose.

And don’t get me wrong: I think we are currently living in the best times in history. From the perspective of medical care, widespread human rights, access to education or technology, opportunities for a happy and fulfilling life, there is simply no comparison with any other moment in history.

The question of the Functional Mindset, though, is different. I am not wondering whether or not overall we are doing things better than past population (which we do). I am wondering how much of our potential are we actually using. And the answer is very little.

We often fail to realise the incredible knowledge and power we have. We have enough potential to create a world with widespread health, wellbeing and happiness, at a level we never ever dreamt of. 

Just as we have the potential to, say, destroy all human kind using our nuclear weapons.

Or, as we do today, keep living the way we used to: rejecting all scientific progress and pursuing our goals in life with the same strategies we ever used in history (mostly failing). We can keep relying on gut instinct, personal beliefs, tradition or by informations spread by the word of mouth – as we are used to – relegating the power of currently available scientific knowledge and technology only to have 24/7 access to pictures of funny cats on Facebook.

Which, I admit, isn’t as scary as a nuclear holocaust. But it’s not that far either in terms of wasted potential.

We’ll see in these pages several examples of practical outcomes that are dramatically different when we renounce to the pontetial benefits of the Functional Mindset in favour or the traditional, natural one. But, to put things in perspective, and to point out clearly why our functionality is worse than ever (even when it comes to life or death situations), let me briefly anticipate one of the most impressive studies about this.

In a research published in 2008, Ralph Keeney investigated how personal decisions affect premature deaths in his country, the United States. To me, he did two incredibly interesting things.

First, he measured the impact of the Functional Mindset in a life or death situation. “Functional Mindset” is a trademark we use on AuroraWay, so of course he didn’t use this term. But practically, it is the same thing. He went through all of the premature deaths occurred a given year, and checked how many could be ultimately attributed to personal choices which were made by ignoring readily available knowledge or alternatives on personal health and safety.

Which, given the definition we gave of the Functional Mindset, basically is the same as to ask: how many deaths could be attributed to the lack of a Functional Mindset. Assuming that “to stay alive” is one of the things you’ll hope to achieve. Which I guess is a reasonable assumption.

Second, he took the extra effort to make this comparison for all deaths occurred in year 2000, but also for year 1900 and 1950! In other word, he measured how the impact of the Functional Mindset changed in a hundred years when it comes to the rates of premature deaths.

How willing you are to base your and your loved ones’ survival on a coin toss?

What he found was that in 1900, only 5% of premature deaths could be attributed to the lack of a Functional Mindset. In 1950, that raised to 20-25%. By the year 2000, this skyrocketed to 43%! Almost half of deaths.

Practically, unless we shift towards a Functional Mindset, there is a toin coss probability that it will kill us. Head or tails?

To put it in other words: learn the Functional Mindset right now, or there is a 43% chance you’ll die. How’s that as a marketing pitch? Yet, that’s a serious statement based on scientific evidence.


Let me stress it once more: I am not suggesting things were overall better in 1900 or 1950. I think the very opposite. Life conditions, health, lifespan and wellbeing in general are much better now, and there is little doubt about that.

Which is great! The problem is that in 1900, the conditions (however poor compared to our own), were pretty much the best that could be achieved at that time. For us, the opposite is true. The rate of scientific and technological knowledge bring a lot of benefits and, as a consequence, we mostly have an overall much better life.

However, we have been taking advantage of such a little fraction of the potential benefits we could already gain today thanks to that progress, that from a functional perspective we are doing very poorly.

Which is why I started AuroraWay and decided to promote the Functional Mindset as a tool to improve our everyday life.

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