Why do we stop at red lights? Part 2

This post from 10 years ago, Why do you stop at red lights?, continues to be one of this site’s most popular. I’m guessing, that’s just by accident, because I doubt many folks pontificate stopping at red lights, philosophically. They may, for example, be looking for study materials for a driving test.

On his blog, Arnold Kling wrote a similar post that I enjoyed reading, Messing with the web of social conventions.

Here’s a good slice:

“The late economist Hyman Minsky had an aphorism:

It’s easy to create money. The trick is getting it accepted

This aphorism can be adapted to other realms.

It’s easy to create a software standard (like the Internet protocols, or an operating system, or a programming language). The trick is getting it accepted.

It’s easy to create the software architecture for a social network. The trick is getting it accepted.

It’s easy to create a law. The trick is getting it accepted.

It’s easy to create a social norm. The trick is getting it accepted.

It’s easy to create a religion. The trick is getting it accepted.

It’s easy to create a credentialing system. The trick is getting it accepted.”

I can add, it was easy to create red & green lights. The trick is getting it accepted.

I recommend reading his whole post. I think it spans much of life.

I see businesses struggle with this. Creating a new product is easy. The trick is getting it accepted. That’s the hard part, that most business managers severely underestimate.

Fashion, music, food, exercise, language are some examples of this type of behavior. I still don’t know how athletes for eons got by without heavy ropes to flail and tractor tires to flip!

The sharks, on the TV show, Shark Tank, are basically trying to pick the products they think have a chance of getting accepted. They understand that it’s easy to create a product, but the hard part is getting it accepted.

As they try to decide what to invest in, they are looking for signs that it has a chance to get accepted. What are sales? Would I use this product? Why or why not? Maybe the product is almost there, but needs a tweak, will the owners be willing to pivot?

The Paradox of Pickup Soccer

I recently experienced true pickup soccer.

My previous experiences was with groups of friends where we just formed two teams and we all played the whole time.

True pickup is more of the ‘hard knuckle’ variety that I have heard described: you have to win to stay on the field.

We formed into 5-6 teams of five for a small field. Each round is 1 goal or 6 minutes, whichever comes first. The scoring team stays on the field. The nonscoring team yields to the next team up. If there is no goal after 6 minutes, both teams yield to the next two teams.

I’ve heard folks say how good true pickup is because you have to win to stay on the field, so that motivates you to bring your A game and to improve to earn your spot.

I agree.

But, after experiencing this format firsthand, I think there are benefits that don’t get mentioned.

One is that, surprisingly, you end up getting a lot of play time, even if you’re not that good!

A reason I shied away from this style of pickup is that I figured that I wasn’t good enough so I wouldn’t get much play time.

But, I was wrong. I got more play time than in organized league games.

The rotation was much faster than I thought it would be and even the teams of dominant players got tired, so that was a natural leveler. A weaker team with a full set of fresh legs could match up better to a stronger team with a full set of tired legs and often won that match up.

That’s the paradox of pickup. While you do have to earn your spot on the field, you also get more quality play time than you might in an organized game or pay-to-play leagues.

It even beats out the pickup style where everybody plays the whole time, because you get to rest. In everyone-plays-all-the-time pickup quality drops after 20-30 minutes when everybody gets tired.

Will TVs be relics 10 years from now?

Even after initial failures, smart glasses makers keep plugging away at trying to find a way to make them useful.

I wonder if they will eventually die out or if they’ve just been in their “Apple Newton” phase of development, where the tech seems promising, but the real world benefits aren’t there.

But, 10 years later that the Newton, in the form of the iPod, gained traction and changed the world eventually leading to the smartphone.

When I watch shows from 10-15 years ago, in most ways they seem fairly modern, except for one thing: their phones and how they interact with them. Just about the time I am thinking, ‘why don’t you just text him?’ or ‘just look it up on maps,’ they pull out their flip phone with low resolution display and I suddenly remember how different things were a relatively short time ago and how quickly we’ve adapted to our new digs.

That makes me wonder what will look silly when we watch today’s movies 10-15 years from now.

Could a flat screen TV date the show?

It seems to make sense that smart glasses will figure out a way to do the jobs that our TVs, computer monitors and smartphones do now.

Why have TVs in various rooms if, through your smart glasses (or similar device), you can have any size TV that you want wherever you want it? On your back patio, on a plane, in any room that doesn’t have a TV now.

A demarcation between the tech savvy and laggards now is whether you have become proficient with the dual monitor setup. Smart glasses might move that line to those who are adept with 10 monitors.

As with the Newton, it took some advancement in several tangential technologies to make it useful. Screens had to advance, both in resolution and interactivity. Wireless networks needed to advance to handle exponentially more data. Memory and batteries advanced to put a lot of data in our pockets with reasonable amount of powered on times.

5G is one advancement some think will help make smart glasses more useful. It’s tough to predict what other advancements might contribute.

In a world that’s been de-materializing for some time, it would not surprise me if smart glasses, or something else, continued that trend and turn our beloved flat screen TVs into junk.

Uh oh it’s magic

I’ve always thought it funny how folks can be fooled in magic shows but think they can’t be fooled in real life. Even so-called ‘experts’ in respective fields can’t figure out some simple magic tricks. That’s enough of an eyebrow raiser for me to ask them to show their work.

Steven Levitt recently hosted magician Joshua Jay on his podcast, People I Mostly Admire and they discuss this topic. It’s a good listen.

We should always remember how susceptible we are to being fooled. And as Richard Feynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

“Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit”

I find it interesting that Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection kit (guidelines on critical thinking) is similar to my tips for productive discussion.

His kit:

  1. Where ever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.

She also includes a list of the 20 most common logical fallacies.

#3 reminds me of a post of mine from a few days ago on why I’m skeptical of experts.

Mountain Bike Trails, Everywhere

Bentonville, Arkansas is becoming a mecca for mountain bike trails.

Previously, I thought mountain bike trails ought to be something that you drive out to, that are built on gobs of land, so you can get a few miles of trail and get a good workout.

Bentonville said, nah, we’ll put them everywhere. Why not have a mountain bike trail right next to a paved bike path in a park? Maybe trails can be short and technical, but close to where people are so they can get to the trail more often and learn, then they will be better when they go to the longer trails out in the wilderness.

On their Masterpiece trail, they’ve even built a bridge over walking path.

Segment of Masterpiece trail in Bentonville, Arkansas

Parks & Recreation departments looking to add some pizzazz to their parks or trails, might consider taking a closer look at what’s going on in Bentonville. It might give you some ideas on where to put little pieces of fun trails in your parks.

Now, I can see lots of places trails can fit. In parks with paths, in parks that even have a hint of wooded areas, along parkways, along roads.

The disruptive yawn

I’m old enough to remember when people wondered why they just couldn’t buy the channels they wanted. Instead of streaming services, people envisioned un-bundled cable packages.

And, I remember hearing all the reasons why that couldn’t happen. Perhaps there were even podcasts with very smart people explaining why not. It seems I recall a few.

While streaming may not be exactly what folks envisioned, it’s close enough and better! And the shift has been so gradual, that instead of opening it with the anticipation of a Christmas people, most folks yawned.

DVRs may soon be another casualty of technology evolution, as people transition from ‘time shifting’ what they watch from networks by storing a recorded copy in their home, to just bringing up whatever show whenever you want it, like how digital music libraries were short-lived, as bandwidth made it possible to stream music from wherever, whenever, mostly.

Ode to Cable TV

Cable TV is reminding me more and more of the real life towns like Radiator Springs, in the movie Cars, was based on.

Thriving towns cropped up on byways to serve weary travelers set free to roam and explore in their new automobiles. Those travelers needed a place to stay the night, eat, be entertained, fuel up and often times, get their car fixed.

But, as autos became less expensive and more numerous, they also became more reliable, faster and could cover greater distances.

Interstate highways replaced byways a mile down the road, and towns like Radiator Springs shriveled to shells of their former selves, caught between bustle and ghost town, as a generation or two of folks with a special fondness for the town didn’t want to move on.

When flipping channels on Cable TV, I feel I’m visiting one of those towns.

I get it. The interstate highway in entertainment is the long tail. Apps and the plethora of devices that we all have now serve that long tail by giving enough audience to niche shows to watch whenever they want, to make those profitable, while amassing enough users in total by creating lots of niche shows.

TV networks are still trying to maximize eyeballs for a given time slot, which means trying to put more content out with broader appeal.

But, now in comparison to the content that you really like, the more bland, broad appeal content is like stopping at the old roadside attractions in towns like Radiator Springs. In the days of 50 mph car travel, with no A/C or in-car entertainment, those were welcome diversions.

The TV networks are now a mile off the interstate and just not worth getting off the highway for a stop. Things change.

Discovery+ demotes cable subscribers to 2nd class

It makes perfect sense that you launched a streaming service. People have been cutting their cable TV subscriptions and it makes sense for you to offer a product to reach those viewers.

But, I don’t understand why you are punishing your remaining cable TV subscribers in the process by not giving us access to the same new content.

Presumably you already get a few bucks a month from us out of what we pay for our monthly cable bill. I would bet it’s on par with the $5/month you are charging for your base streaming service.

Presumably you also make money by selling ads on your cable channels. So, you are already double dipping on us.

Now you want to triple dip. You want us to pay you again to see the new content while those who have cut the cord only pay once.

At the same time, you’re running old content for us cable subscribers. Then, you remind us at every commercial break that what we have been paying you isn’t enough for you greedy a-holes to show us your new content and that we have to pay you more to see it.

That feels like quadruple dipping.

I can make the same gripe about Disney+.

You all should be treating your remaining cable subscribers and streaming subscribers as equals, rather than demoting us to 2nd class.

At minimum, your cable subscribers should have free access to the base level of streaming.

With pro/rel, D2 could = MLS today

A common retort against pro/rel is that MLS owners, having invested so much in a team, will not like the risk of potentially dropping to division 2.

This assumes that division 2 teams under pro/rel would be just as valuable as they are today, which is <0.

What if, under pro/rel, soccer division 2 teams became just as valuable as people perceive MLS teams to be today and MLS teams became even more valuable?

Then, MLS owners shouldn’t be concerned about dropping to division 2 due to monetary loss.

How could this happen?

An obvious reason is that the value a division 2 team would have the option value of earning its way into division 1. This would make instantly make all division 2 teams more than what they are worth today, without that option value.

Another potential is that division 2 teams could build better fan followings, on par with current MLS teams.

I know this is tough to imagine in the U.S. where college sports plays the role of a profitable second tier in football and basketball, to the NFL and NBA, and no examples of profitable second tier pro sports exists.

But consider, college soccer is nowhere near a profitable second tier to the MLS, as college football is to the NFL. It’s a money loser. The only folks who would miss it if it disappeared are the coaches, players and their parents. It’s an enigma in the soccer world, a strange beast that evolved in the Galapagos Islands of substitutions to favor raw athleticism over purposeful play, that has no meaningful connection to the game played around the world.

What if it were replaced by a 2nd tier pro system that more folks cared about and was connected to the larger the soccer world?

Look elsewhere in the world, like England, where pro club soccer is several divisions deep and you see the second division resembling in talent and income what you see in the MLS.

Like how a U.S. football fan might have his favorite college team and favorite NFL team, football fans in those countries often have their favorite 2nd or 3rd tier team and their favorite top tier team. They might watch their favorite 2nd tier team live and watch their favorite 1st tier team on the telly.

Maybe they are their kid played soccer for the the youth teams at their 2nd tier team, or maybe their kids had friends that worked their way through those teams to top tier teams.

Where markets have been banned by USSF/MLS from participating in the pro levels of the sport because their population doesn’t meet an arbitrary minimum criteria (you know, to protect players from unstable financial situation), perhaps 2nd division teams could find profitable existences in areas unimaginable to the writers of such arbitrary edicts, which could serve to grow the sport, rather than keep it limited.

Consider the club Huddersfield in England. It sits in a town of less than 200,000 between Manchester and Sheffield and it also sits near the bottom of England’s 2nd tier of soccer, currently 18th in the Championship (the misleading name of England’s 2nd tier division), is worth about $200 million and has been in business since 1908.

How can a team in a 2nd tier, in a town the size of which bureaucrats at the USSF think is too small to support a team be doing just as well as, financially, as an MLS team, ‘strategically’ places in much larger markets?

Critics might say, but England is a ‘football country.’

What if it got that way, partially due to to pro/rel? It didn’t wait until football was big to implement. It was like that from the beginning.

If it did contribute to its popularity, then we smother way to grow the game in the U.S. each year we don’t embrace it.