A view from Dave Trott

A view from Dave Trott: Brains beat information

In the 50s, one man was so successful at betting on horse-races, he made millions.

He did it by doing the opposite of what everyone else was doing.

Lots of people would bet on photo-finishes.

As the winning horse crosses the line, it triggers a camera which takes a photograph.

If there’s a dispute, the picture is examined.

In the days before digital photography, it took about five minutes to develop the negative and print the photo.

During this time, some pretty intense betting would occur.

Because everyone would think they’d seen the finish, so they knew exactly who won.

And everyone was betting on a sure thing: the evidence of their own eyes.

So how come the only person who always won was Alex Bird?

Because he did the opposite of everyone else.

Everyone thinks that the more information you’ve got, the greater the advantage.

Alex Bird knew too much information can confuse the mind.

He stood where everyone else stood: as near the finish line as possible.

But everyone else opened both their eyes wide and concentrated on who crossed the line first.

And that’s how Alex Bird took their money off them.

He did something no-one else thought to do.

Because Alex Bird knew about the parallax effect.

The parallax effect means we need two eyes for depth perception.

Objects appear bigger when they are closer to us and smaller when they are far away; they also appear farther apart when they are nearer to us and closer together when they are far away.

That’s the parallax effect.

Alex Bird won 500 bets… The real secret was using brains instead of information. Because brains beats information

Alex Bird knew, to someone at the finish line, the horse farther away appears to be ahead.

So to solve the problem of too much information, Alex Bird closed one eye.

Just the way the camera only saw through a single lens, so did Alex Bird.

With only one eye, he didn’t experience the parallax effect.

He could see exactly which horse crossed the line first.

And over 20 years, he won 500 bets that way.

He became a multimillionaire by taking money off people who were betting on the evidence of their own two eyes.

People who thought more information was always better.

Because Alex Bird knew, in that case, a single eye was superior to two.

And no-one ever spotted what he was doing.

Everyone else was looking for more and more information when the secret was less information.

In fact, the real secret was using brains instead of information.

Because brains beats information.

But that’s something most of us still need to learn.

Dave Trott’s new book, One Plus One Equals Three, is out now