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Sick of It All

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So, I originally started this post planning to cover various topics, but I think I’ll tackle them one at a time…there’s too much to cover and some research involved.

I’ve just got so upset with the amount of bad content that I see constantly posted and reposted on Facebook or elsewhere, it’s frustrating, it’s saddening, and it shows a general lack of interest in thinking. It doesn’t take long to visit a few websites such as snopes, RationalWiki or The Skeptic’s Dictionary. Really, it just takes a few moments of your time and you might be blown away by the things you find.

It took me such a long time to come around to thinking critically, but when I did, it was exciting, it was as if I got a new start in life. It was invigorating, it was tough and it has been totally worth it. Ignorance is not an excuse, ignorance is not bliss.

For the most part of my life so far, I went along thinking that I had to be told what to believe, and took things at face value, but now I’ve lerned to do my own research and adjust my thinking if I’m wrong. It’s made me a better person, though perhaps more vitriolic than before - that’s a side effect of seeing people you care about sucked into believing ridiculous things.

Two things which are worth constantly remembering are:

Older X is better

Normally in one of the following forms:

  • [Insert appliance/thing here] were made so much better before
  • Life was so much better X years ago
  • New technology X is ruining our lives / making us less social

I want to briefly address them one by one:

Quality of construction

This is easy, and something my wife and I have discussed several times. The appliance manufacturers do not put in time bombs into your dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, PC, mobile phone or printer so they die just out of warranty…but there are several important points to be made:

Things are a lot cheaper now. for example a brand new washing machine in 1970 would cost you around US $130, but your yearly (median household) income was around US $7600. Now you can find a washing machine for about US $400 or less - but the 2012 median income is about about US $50,000. That means an average household can now buy over 2 washing machines per year for every 1 they could back in 1970! (0.8% of yearly income vs 1.71%).

Grandpa knew how to fix the washing machine. It DID break down, but it was fixed at home. Some people can still do that, others can’t.

Confirmation bias & anecdote reign supreme. the articles / blogs I found saying “modern” things are worse were written without evidence, and were along the lines of “my washing machine broke down after 10 years, I bought a new one and it died after 2.” That’s not evidence, at least not by itself…Do you know the manufacturer return rates then vs now? What about giving a product time to see how long it lasts, a 2 year old product logically can’t have anyone using it for 10 years! Besides, this isn’t necessarily the truth. Modern appliances function better and are more efficient, saving you money in more ways than one.

The good ol’ days

Anyone who knows me has probably heard me rant about this more than once…

I won’t go into great detail but.

Violent crime is down see the following image of violent crime by gender per 1000 people: (via wikipedia) Wikipedia Image showing violent crime per 1000

Life expectancy is up! If you were lucky enough to be born in the 1850s you would have a lovely life expectancy of 38.3* years. If you were born in 2004, that age now becomes 75.7! Going further back in time than 1850, things are just as grim.

Kids these days / AKA the good ol’ days part 2

Something oft repeated…“this generation is worse.” “Technology is driving us apart.”

As always. There’s a relevant XKCD which nicely illustrates how people have been saying the same things for a long time!

Here’s an excerpt from a 1908 essay on ancient Greek Schools entitled “Schools of Hella - An Essay On The Practice And Theory Of Ancient Greek Education From 600 To 300 BC” by Kenneth J. Freeman.

The counts of indictment are luxury, bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect to elders, and a love for chatter in place of exercise.

Children began to be the tyrants, not the slaves of their households. They no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room ; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at the table, and committed various offences against Hellenic tastes, such as crossing their legs.

Kids these days are getting out of control.

People are afraid of change, time after time we see the same issues come up as long as you can go back. I hate it now that horses are domesticated, people are leaving their villages and families and it’s tearing society apart!

Anyone who does X is stupid

While there are many exceptions to this, the attitude of putting people into baskets is so detrimental. It means before you even get a chance to understand their reasoning, you’ve already judged them and even if you are wrong, you still experience confirmation bias.

Example: All goth kids are depressed.

  • JP: Hi Goth Kid
  • GK: Hi Judgmental Person
  • JP: How’s it going?
  • GK: good thanks, it’s a great day today but I’m not looking forward to going to work tomorrow
  • JP: I knew it, you have such a bleary outlook on life
  • GK: Oh, so you’re looking forward to work then?
  • JP: No, but…

Next time you tell a story think, why are you mentioning the race of the person or their sexual orientation as part of the story (unless it’s strictly relevant). I don’t often hear stories about this Australian driver (unless you’re overseas and then you can hear the Aussie jokes…), or this straight guy. You’re leading the listener on with loaded language and reinforcing stereotypes, even if it’s unintentional.

Conclusion

This turned out longer than I expected, but there is so much material to cover and I feel like I haven’t done it justice. I would love to discuss this more and I have some ideas for the content of my next post.

Just think!

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