Survivorship bias is just the beginning. We humans love stories, particularly about just one person. Alas, only systematic review of ALL the data is the only hope of seeing effects that are not random chance and seeing how big those effects are.
I'd rather see speeches about how it's okay not to be a massive success. "Statistically, kids, some of you won't ever make it significantly above the poverty line. But you'll keep going, and raise a family, and when you look back on your life in the end, you'll realize that at least you were a more likable person than Justin Bieber.
Sort by price is the dominant way that shopping online now happens. The cheapest airline ticket or widget or freelancer comes up first, and most people click.
It's a great shortcut for a programmer, of course, because the price is a number, and it's easy to sort.
Alphabetical could work even more easily, but it seems less relevant (especially if you're a fan of Zappos or Zima).
The problem: Just because it's easy, it doesn't mean it's as useful as it appears.
It's lazy for the consumer. If you can't take the time to learn about your options, about quality, about side effects, then it seems like buying the cheapest is the way to go--they're all the same anyway, we think.
And it's easy for the producer. Nothing is easier to improve than price. It takes no nuance, no long-term thinking, no concern about externalities. Just become more brutal with your suppliers and customers, and cut every corner you can. And then blame the system.
The merchandisers and buyers at Wal-Mart were lazy. They didn't have to spend much time figuring out if something was better, they were merely focused on price, regardless of what it cost their community in the long run.
We're part of that system, and if we're not happy with the way we're treated, we ought to think about the system we've permitted to drive those changes.
What would happen if we insisted on 'sort by delight' instead?
What if the airline search engines returned results sorted by a (certainly difficult) score that combined travel time, aircraft quality, reliability, customer service, price and a few other factors? How would that change the experience of flying?
This extends far beyond air travel. We understand that it makes no sense to hire someone merely because they charge the cheapest wage. That we shouldn't pick a book or a movie or a restaurant simply because it costs the least.
There are differences, and sometimes, those differences are worth what they cost.
'Worth it' is a fine goal.
What if, before we rushed to sort at all, we decided what was worth sorting for?
Low price is the last refuge of the marketer who doesn't care enough to build something worth paying for.
In your experience, how often is the cheapest choice the best choice?
I take issue with the premise. "Sort by price" is certainly available on any ecommerce site, but the default is usually "best match". And while most places where I shop for airfare do sort by price, they also provide a score of other options for filtering by departure time, arrival time, layover duration, layover airport, and other features (which I don't care about but presumably others do).
TL;DR the default he claims, isn't the default, and the delight he wishes for, already exists.
I was very much hoping someone would see that. Hipmunk sorts by "agony", and very much changed how I book air travel. Amazon looks at match. Agreed, Seth is a bit wrong. I thought it an interestingly enough wrong take to share.
In the hours before International Women’s Day, a bronze statue called “Fearless Girl” was installed directly in front of Wall Street’s famous “Charging Bull” statue, without clearance or permission. Response to the statue was very positive (with certain exceptions). But now the creator of the Charging Bull statue – who in 1989 had also installed his sculpture without permission – wants Fearless Girl taken down. A case of hypocrisy emblematic of what women in multiple industries – but especially finance –deal with? Christina Cauterucci surprisingly didn’t think so:
Charging Bull was set up soon after the 1987 stock market crash and was meant to represent a booming economy.
Fearless Girl defiantly stares at the bull, symbolizing the sexual harassment that women deal with.
But Fearless Girl has changed the meaning of Charging Bull. Instead of hopes for economic growth, the bull now symbolizes oppression against the innocent.
Federal Law prohibits changing the meaning of a work in a way that could damage an artist’s reputation.
But removing Fearless Girl would be a symbol too – that women shouldn’t occupy space on Wall Street.
Some believe that Fearless Girl is a poor symbol for feminism. Instead of a strong confident woman, the sculptor went with a small powerless girl.
Yet others are critical that it was commissioned to draw attention to the disparity in the number of women on executive boards by State Street – a company that only has three women on a board of 11.
While there are many definitions of deliberation – and many substantive debates about what constitutes ‘good’ deliberation (or perhaps it must be good to count as deliberation) – I like Jane Mansbridge’s ‘minimalist definition’ as a good starting point for understanding the term.
Deliberation, she writes, is “mutual communication that involves weighing and reflecting on preferences, values and interests regarding matters of common concern.”
While there is much that may be missing from this definition, I do think that it captures the core of what deliberation is all about. It is, fundamentally, a form of communication which engages reason and normative beliefs about shared concerns.
But the simplicity of this definition, perhaps under-states the value of deliberation; the power people can have in shaping their own communities.
Dewey writes that:
Democracy is much broader than a special political form, a method of conducting government, of making laws and carrying on governmental administration by means of popular suffrage and elected officers. It is that, of course. But it is something broader and deeper than that…It is, as we often say, though perhaps without appreciating all that is involved in the saying, a way of life, social and individual. The key-note of democracy as a way of life may be expressed, it seems to me, as the necessity for the participation of every mature human being in formation of the values that regulate the living of men together: which is necessary from the standpoint of both the general social welfare and the full development of human beings as individuals.
When Dewey writes that ‘democracy is a way of life’ he means that the ideal of democracy can only be achieved when we co-create our values and institutions together; when we deliberate to answer the question, what should we do?
But more fundamentally, the Deweyian invocation to democracy as a way of life, tells us that deliberation is democracy. It is not “just talk” or isolated blather. Deliberation is the very stuff of democracy itself – and when we live our lives as good citizens, engaging regularly and rationally in conversation with all members of our community; when we treat every conversation as a chance to improve ourselves and co-create our world; when we take democracy as a way of life –
It’s time to begin this year’s Reader Request Week, and let’s start with something punchy, shall we? Janne Peltonen asks:
What do you think of the whole ‘punching Nazis in the face’ phenomenon? I found it very confusing. It seemed to me to be mostly about performance (‘let’s show the power-hungry extremists that we resist’) but is that reason enough to cross the line to actual physical political violence?
Well, I have two answers for that.
One: the starchy old Believer in the Actual First Amendment me believes that even Nazis have the right to peaceful assembly, physically unmolested, and that indeed this is the very essence of the First Amendment: that even the morally repulsive have a right to trot out their fetid wares in the public marketplace and see who wants to buy them, and that everyone else’s job is to make sure other people see those shitty ideas they’re peddling for what they are. Constitutionally speaking, provided the Nazis are peacefully assembling, people should not be punching Nazis just for being Nazis, and having Nazi views.
Two: I find it positively delightful people out there are punching Nazis, and could watch (for example) pathetic wannaNazi shitball Richard Spencer get punched for hours. And have! My understanding is this weekend Spencer got himself punched up again, and once more I find this utterly delightful. Nazis being punched will never not bring a smile to my face. Go get punched some more, Spencer! You certainly deserve it, you mountainous pile of crap.
“But Scalzi,” I hear you say, “how can you think both that Nazis should have the right to peaceably assemble, and that it’s delightful when Nazis get punched? Isn’t that a contradiction? Doesn’t that make you a complete hypocrite?”
Short answer: Yes!
Longer answer: I recognize that there’s a difference between what I believe is correct intellectually and philosophically, and what makes me feel good emotionally. Intellectually and philosophically, I stand foursquare with the First Amendment, and the right of even Nazis to have their spot in the political conversation of the nation. Emotionally, I find Nazis, whatever you want to call them — today we’re calling them “alt-right,” although that appellation is already past its “sell-by” date and no doubt some of the more marketing-savvy in that crowd are already casting about for a new label to brand their strain of racist fascism — repulsive, and the whiny, privileged, smugly awful, college dorm devil’s advocate alt-right variation of it particularly annoying. They’re assholes. So when one of their number gets punched, I feel pretty good about it, like I would when any asshole who deserves a punching gets what they deserve.
Are these two positions reconcilable? Well, I don’t know that they have to be reconcilable. There are lots of gaps between that things I believe intellectually and the things I feel emotionally. I know intellectually speaking that broccoli is nutritionally better for me than gummi worms, but emotionally gummi worms make me happier. I know intellectually speaking my preference for Levis over Lee jeans is pointless as they are essentially the same product with the same intent, but emotionally I don’t want to be seen in Lee jeans because they’re not me. Intellectually there is no superiority of the music of Journey over, say, that of Big and Rich, but I know which band’s greatest hits album emotionally affects me more.
Do these positions need to be reconciled? I don’t necessarily think so. I acknowledge them and accept the dichotomy. Now, there is an argument here is that there’s a difference between preferring gummy bears to broccoli, and believing Nazis have a First Amendment right to assembly and yet still being happy with them being punched. I wouldn’t disagree, although I note in this formulation, it’s a difference in degree, not kind. Fundamentally, I think we all have various places where we recognize and should acknowledge we have a gap between what we believe is correct intellectually (or philosophically, or morally), and what feels good to us emotionally.
This is one of mine. Nazis’ right to peaceable assembly is guaranteed under the First Amendment and they should not be punched merely for existing and being Nazis, and when they do get punched in public for being fucking Nazis, I feel just fine about it.
Now: Should there be consequences for the person who is battering the Nazi? Sure; they should be prosecuted for battery, assuming they are caught, and if convicted, they should do their time. On the flip side: Is it possible my intellectual and philosophical position re: the First Amendment right of Nazis to be in the public discourse is grounded in the fact that as a well-off straight white dude, I’m near last on the list of people that (specific obsessed and envious loser stalkers aside) the Nazis or other bigots are likely going to have a problem with? Again, sure. It’s easy for me to be sanguine about bigots and racists when I’m not directly in their line of fire. I don’t feel the same level of threat — and I don’t factually have the same level of threat — from them that other people do. It’s easy to say “even the hateful have a place in the discourse” when the hate isn’t focused on you, or is likely ever to be in a very serious way, and that is a thing I don’t think people like me appreciate on a gut level. We are free riders, in a very real sense, regarding the intellectual question of how the principle of free speech interacts with a philosophy founded on the idea that you are less than human, and deserve less than full human rights.
And yes, we here in the US are in a moment right now, thank you Trump voters, where everyone who isn’t a well-off straight white male can be seriously asking themselves whether this administration and its enablers actually believe they should get all the rights someone like I have as a matter of course. I’m not the one who is going to be asked to give over his phone and passwords coming back into the US. I’m not the one whose ability to control what happens to his body is being questioned, again. I’m not the one whose ability to pee in safety is being hauled up for discussion. I’m not the one who will have any difficulty being able to jump through state-erected hoops in order to vote. And so on. The Trump administration has racists, sexists and bigots whispering into the president’s ear (and the president himself is a real piece of work on these scores as well). So many people who kept their active racism, sexism and bigotry under a rock are now gleefully exulting in it. Is it a threat? Is it a threat that needs to be met with a punch or two? Not for me. I think other people might have a different thought on it, and an argument that the threat to them isn’t just one that exists in their feelings.
I think the next obvious question here is (and one I think that’s implied): Would I punch a Nazi? Unprompted, probably not. If one was coming at me or people with the intent to start a fight, I would feel fine defending myself or those near me. But again, that’s not peaceable assembly, now, is it? We move off the First Amendment square there, into another area entirely. Short of that, I’m not likely to be the one to throw the first punch. I might think about it, and how fun it would be. But I’ll stick to enjoying the YouTube videos. They are indeed lovely.