The Intuitive Leaps of Death

I’m recalling something I read in Steven Pinker’s writings. I don’t have the book with me so I’m paraphrasing. He basically said that while the human mind evolved to deal with the challenges of a hunter-gatherer world, the intuitions are wrong when it comes to abstract subjects such as mathematics and economics. For example, if a coin is flipped and comes up heads three times in a row, most people will say tails is “due” to fall next and many will predict the likelihood of heads landing again as decidedly much less than 50%. This is illogical, however, because presuming the coin is not artificially rigged or weighted, on any given flip the likelihood of it landing tails is 50%. The coin does not “know” how it landed last time and even if it did it doesn’t go out of it’s way to even the score on the succeeding flip. Statistically over time it heads/tails ratio is approximately even but that’s a function of the statistical probability in action over the long haul, not of the coin being “due” and “knowing” and then intentionally acting to even the score an any given flip.

Pinker pointed out also that people have an intuitive sense that every product has an inherent “fair value” and this is the reason that middlemen are reviled worldwide. People sense that the middleman is artificially inflating the price of commodities higher than the “fair” price and anybody who has gotten past fifth grade economics should know that this is wrong. Scented oil is much more expensive here than it is in Bahrain and the reason is that somebody had to invest some time and resources into getting it here to me. If I don’t like it the price I can just walk to Bahrain and get it my damn self. It is this intuitive idea of an objective “fair” price that drives much of the nativist hostility against ethnic groups that are seen as mercantile. This also explains why “Jew” is sometimes used as a verb.

I think this inherent idea of fairness also goes a long way to explaining why the workers at GM seem to think that $27 an hour for doing work any reasonably bright chimpanzee can do is fair. They don’t look at the skill level and effort involved, they gauge fairness by looking at how big the companies are and how many cars they produce. They don’t even care if the company is losing it’s lifeblood like a hemophiliac in a prizefight, all they can wrap their minds around is large sale price, many car, me fair wage = big money!

Oh yes, here is some more “fairness”. My cousin complains that illegal Mexican workers are “exploited”, other people I know complain about illegals coming here and “exploiting” the system. Well now there’s a crackdown on migrants and, without a work force willing or available to work for low wages crops are now being left to rot. The Mexicans lose, the farmers lose, and anybody who buys produce loses. But it’s ok because now nobody’s getting exploited.

Human nature, human nature. The sad thing is that, evolutionarily speaking, by the time our minds catch up to where they are geared for dealing with the reality of the 21st century, it’s going to be like a hundred years thousand years from now. Which, how many centuries is that? Big number, big century number, me say at least five!

13 Responses to “The Intuitive Leaps of Death”

  1. I once hired a chimpanzee to fix my car he didn’t do a very good job

  2. Mexigogue says:

    I keep telling you that guy was Italian.

  3. Phelps says:

    Hey, dummy, take a look at that article you cited. That’s BRITISH COLUMBIA, aka CANADA, where there is no crackdown going on. That’s just business as usual in Canada.

  4. Phelps says:

    Which actually kind of makes your bigger point. You expect the jobs to go unfilled in America is there is a crackdown. A crackdown happens, you see an article about unfilled jobs due to migrant workers leaving, and assume it has to be about America (i.e. you.)

  5. Mexigogue says:

    You know, I noticed that about ten minutes after I posted it but I didn’t feel like changing it. I was hoping no one would notice it.

  6. mexigogue says:

    Man, how you gonna get in a fight in the middle of a arrah kelly video?

  7. If he was Italian then why was he wearing a diaper?

  8. R says:

    So it took me five years of undergraduate work and then 3 more professional years experience in writing software for me to get to $27/hour.

  9. R says:

    Yep. That’s the software industry for ya.

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