In our fast-paced and ever-changing world, knowledge is a powerful tool that enables us to navigate through life’s complexities. It empowers us to make informed decisions, broaden our perspectives, and contribute meaningfully to society. With an abundance of information at our fingertips, it becomes crucial to identify the most important ideas that can shape our understanding of the world and enhance our ability to engage with it effectively. In this article, we will explore 20 of the most important essential ideas everyone should know to expand the mind.

These ideas span various disciplines, from science and philosophy to history and psychology. They are not merely facts or concepts to be memorized but rather concepts that provide profound insights into the human experience and the workings of the world.

By familiarizing ourselves with these essential ideas, we can develop a more comprehensive worldview and become better equipped to face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

The selected ideas encompass timeless principles and concepts that have stood the test of time, offering a foundation upon which we can build our understanding of the world. They range from the fundamental laws of physics that govern the universe to the intricate workings of the human mind and society.

essential ideas

Whether you are a student, a professional, or simply a curious individual seeking to expand your knowledge, these ideas are essential in forming a well-rounded perspective.

Throughout this exploration, we will delve into concepts such as the theory of relativity, the principles of evolution, the nature of consciousness, and the importance of empathy, among many others. Each idea is interconnected and contributes to our collective understanding of the universe and our place within it.

By embracing these ideas, we can foster critical thinking, develop intellectual curiosity, and cultivate a deep appreciation for the wonders of the world. Moreover, they serve as a reminder that knowledge is a lifelong pursuit, and there is always more to discover and learn.

So, let us embark on this intellectual journey and explore the 20 most essential ideas everyone should know, for it is through knowledge that we can truly unlock the full potential of our human experience.

Here are 20 of the most important ideas everyone should know:

1. Cunningham’s Law:

Cunningham's Law

The best way to find the right answer on the internet is not to ask the right question, but to post the wrong answer.

Why? Because people are more interested in criticizing others than helping them.

2. The Lindy Effect:

The life of perishable things, like food, decreases with age.

But the life of non-perishable things, like ideas, increases with age.

The ideas that are most likely to exist 1,000 years from now are the ideas that have already existed for 1,000 years.

3. Dunning-Kruger Effect:

Dunning-Kruger Effect

People with little knowledge of a field will often overestimate their competence compared to more experienced players.

The show American Idol was a great example of amateurs who overestimated their ability to sing.

4. Confirmation bias:

We demand extraordinarily strong evidence for ideas that do not align with our beliefs, while accepting extraordinarily weak evidence for ideas that do.

5. Hick’s Law

Hick's Law

The effort required to make a decision increases with the number of options.

The more options you offer, the harder it is for customers to decide.

This is why most companies are now creating products with fewer options.

6. The Streisand Effect:

In certain cases, an effort to kill an idea can paradoxically lead to it becoming popular instead.

Banned books and music albums that end up becoming popular precisely because they were banned are the most famous examples of this effect.

7. Decoy Effect:

Asymmetric numbers can influence our perception of what is acceptable.

This is how cinemas sell more popcorn.

By artificially increasing the price of the middle option, they make the largest option the most attractive.

8. Luxury Beliefs:

Beliefs that confer status on the upper class while inflicting costs on the lower class.

Example: elites who support the abolition of police while living in privately guarded communities themselves, leaving poorer neighbourhoods to suffer the consequences.

9. Brandolini’s Law:

Brandolini's Law

The amount of effort required to debunk misinformation is orders of magnitudes higher than the amount of effort required to create it.

This is why misinformation is so widely spread on the internet.

10. Cultural Parasitism:

The ideas and beliefs that are most widely spread in society are the ones that are most likely to be transmitted to others – not the ones that are most likely to be true.

Fake news is an example of an idea that spreads very quickly despite being false.

11. Incentive bias:

Incentive bias

Strong incentives can cause people to adopt beliefs that are incorrect or false.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

– Upton Sinclair

12. Reciprocity bias:

We feel obliged to repay people who have done us a favor.

Example: When waiters gift free mints with the bill, customer tips go up by 14%.

13. Mimetic Desire:

People have a desire to be more like their role models by copying them.

This is why athletes like LeBron and Ronaldo are paid so much to wear Nikes:

People think they can be more like their role models by wearing what their idols are wearing.

14. Risk Aversion:

Risk Aversion

We often hesitate to purchase things because we hate the thought of buying something and regretting it later.

This is why companies like Netflix offer free trials – to counter our risk aversion.

15. Uncertainty Aversion:

People are more bothered by the uncertainty of a wait than the duration.

This is why you see countdown clocks at traffic signals.

It’s also why your food delivery app gives you an estimated time for your food to arrive.

16. Social Proof:

When people don’t know how to act, they will blindly copy what everyone else is doing.

This is how smoking spread among women in the US – advertisers paid female models to smoke at public events.

17. Status-seeking:

When choosing between 2 options, people will often pick the one that enhances their social status – even if that option is very costly.

Example: People will pay $2,500 for a branded handbag, even though its functionality is identical to a $250 bag.

18. Evolutionary Mismatch:

Evolutionary Mismatch

Humans evolved in scarcity but now live in abundance.

This makes it difficult for us to resist things that are abundant today but scarce in the past – like sugar and drugs.

This evolutionary mismatch causes many problems like obesity and addiction.

19. Metcalfe’s Law:

The value of a network increases as the number of users in that network increases.

This is how social media works: the more friends you have using an app, the more likely you are to join and use that app.

20. Fredkin’s Paradox:

Fredkin's Paradox

The more similar two options are, the more difficult it is to decide between the two.

You will spend much more time deciding between a Honda and a Toyota, than you will deciding between a Honda and a Ferrari.

To Sum up

Familiarizing ourselves with these essential ideas and ways of thinking builds a broader worldview and prepares us for the challenges and opportunities ahead.