“Mmm…kind of an oaky afterbirth.”
— Michael Scott, referring to a bottle of red wine in “Dinner Party”
“Dinner Party” — one of the best, albeit cringiest, episodes of The Office — finds Jim and Pam tricked into a dinner party at Michael and Jan’s condo.
The whole episode is worth watching, but for the sake of this essay, I’m going to focus on one scene. (Note that prior knowledge of The Office is not necessary to read this essay, though ardent fans will be more familiar with the scene in question. That said, if you want to watch it…
There is a well-established tradition in golf that if you make a hole-in-one, you’re expected to buy drinks for everyone in the clubhouse.
Some have proposed that this tradition exists to keep golfers honest. A golfer is less likely to lie about having made a hole-in-one, the theory goes, if they know that upon returning to the clubhouse, they’ll owe everyone drinks.
This sort of dry cost-benefit analysis is common among economists, who see humans as rational utility maximizers, trying to get the most out of the least amount of effort. From their perspective, if guilt (as a result of…
Amidst the pandemic, I embraced communism.
At the risk of losing readers immediately, I’ll clarify that I am not referring to the communism that has “failed every time it’s been tried,” but rather the communism that the late anthropologist David Graeber proposes is the basis for human social life in his book Debt: The First 5,000 Years.¹
He calls it “baseline communism,” defining it as:
“[The] understanding that, unless people consider themselves enemies, if the need is considered great enough, or the cost considered reasonable enough, the principle of ‘from each according to their abilities, to each according to their…
A month or so ago, Donald Trump launched a blog. Then, 29 days later, he shut it down. What happened?
The answer is, well, not a whole lot. From the Washington Post:
“On its last day, [Trump’s blog] received just 1,500 shares or comments on Facebook and Twitter — a staggering drop for someone whose every tweet once garnered hundreds of thousands of reactions.”
When Twitter decided to ban Trump, critics of the decision argued that it violated his freedom of speech. And yet, that Trump was able to start a blog illustrates that it wasn’t really his freedom of…
“Man is the creature who does not know what to desire, and who turns to others in order to make up his mind.”
— René Girard
In a universe parallel to ours, there was an Irish elk named Jim.
Jim graduated from a small liberal arts college in the midwest with a degree in economics. And — surprise! — he has no idea what he wants to do. Following friends, he moves to Chicago and gets a studio.
One day, Jim goes to a coffee shop. He runs into an old family friend, Max. The two of them grew up…
Approximately 11,000 years ago, the Irish elk roamed the land we now call Siberia. I like to think of their story as a parable for understanding the burnout epidemic.
The male elk, or bulls, who were born with a mutation that gave them slightly larger antlers than the rest would win fights with other bulls over mates and could more easily fend off predators. Eventually, these bulls developed a selective advantage and were more likely to pass along their genetic material to the larger population. And so with each generation, the species’ antlers grew.
But then the problems began.
In his book, The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good, economist Robert H. Frank makes the bold assertion that in 100 years, economists will cite Charles Darwin — not Adam Smith — as the father of the discipline.
Darwin was one of the first to perceive the underlying problem with markets clearly. One of his central insights was that natural selection favors traits and behaviors primarily according to their effect on individual organisms, not larger groups.
Darwin observed this problem in nature, noting that natural selection often favored mutations that benefited individuals relative to the rest…
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’
— Excerpt from This is Water, David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech given to Kenyon College’s graduating class of 2005
Yesterday, South Dakota released an ad to raise awareness about the amphetamine epidemic ravaging the state. Its tagline? “Meth. We’re On It.”
To use the analogy of the needle in the haystack, more data does increase the number of needles, but it also increases the volume of hay, as well as the frequency of false needles — things we will believe are significant when really they aren’t. The risk of spurious correlations, ephemeral correlations, confounding variables, or confirmation bias can lead to more dumb decisions than insightful ones, with the data giving us a confidence in these decisions that is simply not warranted.
Excerpt from Alchemy, by Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of Ogilvy & Mather
“Food is the single most important habit that we have as human beings. What we’re doing is bigger than tech, it’s bigger than food, it’s bigger than I think any of the things that I’ve worked in my career. We’re fundamentally changing how people think about the single most important habit of their lives.”
– Mani Gopalakrishnan, VP of Digital Innovation for Kraft-Heinz
Food and technology are having a moment.