Big Data B.S. and Picnicking in the Mindfield

(All right! Down to a mere 70 draft items once I hit publish on this one. Woo, and, I might add, Hoo…)

My company held its annual all-hands strategic planning day yesterday (two months ago – old draft), during which we had the inevitable review of current and future technology and trends.

I tend toward a grizzled veteran’s view of tech trends: if it’s obvious, proven and clearly will make or save a ton of money, it will only take 10 – 20 years to get adopted. A large part is that the providers and their inside champions need to sell the idea to mostly risk-averse management (1) – and that takes time.  But the main factor, the one I’ve seen in just about every case, is that the people proposing the technology woefully underestimate how much trouble it will be for a company to implement it. I myself have committed this sin – I’ve tried to get people to use certain analytics without recognizing, at first, how difficult – well-nigh impossible – it is to get usable data upon which to do the fancy-dan analysis (2). Everybody – well, almost – thinks what I’m proposing is cool, and if they could get the data without having to design a massive IT project and get it funded, they might do it. In other words, it ain’t happenin’.

Take system integration. Now, things are mostly integrated – your phone gets emails and can access Wikipedia and perform stock trades and get you on an airplane, among hundreds of other things. Which is pretty darn cool. All it took was about 30 years of tech and infrastructure development costing billions, maybe trillions, to pull off. We old guys can remember, or were even involved in, efforts 30+ years ago to get things integrated. Everybody could see the value. For some levels of basic integration, the tech was there. The savings/revenues were obvious.

30 years later, headway has been made!

That said, we’re hitting at least the 10 year mark on Big Data. To me, a very lightweight math guy but possessed of some philosophy chops, the underlying concept of big data analysis are – fraught with risk sounds a little dire, but something like that. The simple, obvious risk is that we’ll get it wrong – that by applying Big Data analysis, we will come to think we understand things that we don’t understand. Then, with that confident misunderstanding – hey, it’s backed by Big Data! – we’ll make predictions and chart courses that don’t work, that have unpleasant unintended consequences, or lead people to take actions that harm people for no benefits. (3)

The other, larger problem is well-illustrated by those scenes from that Captain America movie, sort of psychohistory-lite, where Hydra claims, in a totally Big Data way, to have identified all the troublemakers out there, who will of course now, like so many Kulaks, be executed.

Nothing in the last century, certainly not J. Edgar Hoover’s blackmailing his way to the top nor 100 years of Chicago politics, would lead one to worry that Big Data would be misused, and the examples of  the Soviet, Chinese, and Cambodian mass slaughter of unarmed civilians can’t possibly apply to this country – our socialist are like Uncle Bernie, not like Uncle Joe! Right?

So far, we see only benign things, like Amazon suggesting that, based on my other searches, I might be interested in the works of some guy named Homer. However, one thing has long seemed odd to me: Is it a coincidence that, once the Chicago Machine was able to apply its years of, um, expertise to the Federal government,  Congress’s ancient jealousy of the White House infringing on its Constitutional powers seemed to fade away, after the manner of any opposition to J. Edgar? Would it be unduly mean-spirited to consider the possibility that a city with a porous government/mafia interface(4), as it were, would use the unprecedented domestic spying powers the government granted itself after 9/11 to reach an understanding with a few key congress critters?

Nah, that could *never* happen.

Effectively unlimited domestic spying + Big Data + political ambitions – any discernable moral restraint = uh oh.

  1. Management is risk averse for very good reasons, as the paragraphs that follow show.
  2. I’m working on another project at the moment that will, as a side benefit, collect exactly the data needed for the analysis – woot! Once more, dear readers, into the breech!
  3. As I understand it, and I got this from reading some Google documents years ago, the premise with Big Data is that you do correlation analysis without first having any hypotheses about causality – you don’t know or even have a theory about what the relations should be. Then, by thus naively crunching huge amounts of data, trends and correlations will be revealed. Next, if you were doing it right, you’d create hypotheses about what *causes* those relationships, assuming that there is a cause (that it is not accidental in the Greek sense), and test them with further data analysis.  But this last part is likely to get skipped. Some more or less innocent things will happen immediately (they are already happening): since people under 30 who use Uber on Tuesdays tend to order pizza when out of town, we’ll sell ads to out of town pizza vendors and push them at the victims whenever they travel! But there are other ideas that are not nearly so innocuous.
  4. Fred Roti, a known La Cosa Nostra made man, who ran the Chicago city government for over 20 years as an alderman – the kind of alderman who always voted first, so everybody else would know how they were to vote – was only put away in the 1990’s. As Wikipedia so delicately puts it: “Roti’s legacy lives on through the many City of Chicago employees whose hiring he effected.” Ya think? Those would be the people behind our current administration.

A Business Story: The Custom Die Maker

Continuing along the theme of showing what happens in business versus what people imagine happens in business, another story from my youth:

In the small job sheet metal fabrication business, (1) one often uses dies. Dies are special tools often custom built to punch a hole of a particular size and shape, or form a particular indentation, or both. Dies are used with punch presses or break presses – the piece to be worked is placed in the slot in the die, the press presses down on the top of the die with sufficient force to cause the hole(s) to get punched and the shapes formed.

Sheet Metal Component Dies
A typical sheet metal punch die. This is a small specialty die used to cut a particular notch or slot

If you are going to make more than a few copies of some piece that requires a non-standard (e.g., not perfectly round or square, or not a common size) hole or form, it’s usually economical to have a die custom made for the purpose.

So, after the manner of the free market, people set up specialty die making companies. Now, auto manufacturers or, indeed, any manufacturers that make millions of things out of formed metal either have their own die making teams within their companies, or order from large die making firms. But a little shop like my father’s would do business with correspondingly small die makers.

For the life of me (hey, it’s been 40 years!) I can’t remember the name of the guy who was one of our die makers. He had a one-man shop, where he had the specialized equipment needed to machine the specialized alloys used in die making. We’d get new dies made once in a while – by the time I worked at Astro-Fab, we had built up a pretty good inventory of custom dies, many of which got used over and over again as customers ordered more of the same pieces. This die maker had made many of them.

This die maker was a good, solid craftsman. There’s no way my dad would have used him if her were not. But, it turns out, he was a pretty terrible businessman. Steve, my dad’s chief engineer, the guy who would spec out any new dies and the guy who would estimate work, ordered new dies as needed.

Steve took to doing estimates for our die maker. In other words, when he ordered a die, he would make a educated guess about how much it would cost our die maker to make it. Then, if the die maker came in with a cost that was much too low – as he often did – Steve would instead tell him how much he needed to charge in order to make any money. Steve would offer to pay his supplier more than what the supplier was asking for.

This of course was not pure altruism: we wanted the die maker to stay in business. He served our needs, and Steve feared he would put himself out of business if he kept losing money on his bids. As a small businessman himself, Steve understood that risk all too well – it was his job with Astro-Fab to make sure that didn’t happen. My dad thoroughly approved of keeping the die maker in business.

But if wasn’t pure self interest, either. The sort of risk-taking, high-energy people who go start their own companies do, in my experience, feel a sort of camaraderie. My dad knew what it was like to start you own business and put yourself on the line every day, to experience the excitement of success and the fear of failure, often at the same time. He and Steve sincerely wanted the die maker to succeed.

In Walker Percy’s The Movie Goer, there is a scene where the protagonist, a private investment advisor/stock broker, meets another businessman on a train. They have nothing in common, really, except that they are both businessmen. But they see someone who understands them, someone facing the same challenges. They part on completely friendly terms, vowing to help each other out if the opportunity arises. And Percy’s character is sure that those feelings are true and honest, that they would help each other out.

In his weird, insightful way, Percy is both making gentle fun of his characters, and yet pointing out something profound: that even over something as trivial, in the big picture, as business, people can find a chance to be truly human.

  1. There are a fairly wide range of metal working companies, from giant steel mills down to super-specialized one-man precision shops. Astro-Fab, my dad’s shop, fell under the small job semi-precision sheet metal fabrication species. Semi-precision means we could get it real close – like, within a 1/100 of an inch – but were not, typically, getting much closer than that. For any greater precision, you’d want a machine shop or a specialized precision shop. Also, we didn’t do jobs that produced tens of thousands of items – that the ‘small job’ part. Larger shops could do those larger jobs more efficiently. Finally, we weren’t casting metal, but starting from standardized metal sheets (and beams, pipes, channels, etc.) – thus, the sheet metal fabrication part of the title.

The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect & Failure to Make Connections

Michael Crichton came up with the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, and explains it thus:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

I first became painfully aware of this when Proposition 1o3 was on the ballot in California back in 1988. At the time, I worked in insurance, and had first-hand access to the people and information on the ‘no’ side. What was amazing to me – hey, I’m congenitally naive – was how the concerns and goals of the insurance companies were consistently misrepresented. The only thing the press coverage of Prop 103 ever got right – you’ll be shocked – was that the insurance companies were in to make money.(1)  They never made the connection between not offering insurance or having unaffordable rates and not making money, though – that insurance companies, *because* they want to make money, would not red-line or price themselves out of a market *unless* they could not make money at it. Not racism, not fear of poor neighborhoods, not hatred of teenage males, not dislike of cheap performance cars – but the simple fact that nobody had yet figured out how to sell insurance to certain demographics and make any money out of it.(2)  Because, in the end, in the real world, businesses need to make money or they and the services they provide cease to exist. (3)

In an odd way, this story illustrates the point I want to make about how the Gell-Mann Effect is a special case of a more general characteristic of us humans: that when we learn something, we often fail nonetheless to make the obvious application of that knowledge to the next obvious case. Here, the reporters noted correctly that the insurance companies wanted to make money – in the shorthand of politics, that they were greedy. But then with the next breath, they’d report that these companies were obviously motivated by racism or sexism or something – even though the first bit of knowledge – they they were in it for the money – was an obvious and sufficient explanation.(4)

I have a friend who didn’t get his PhD in history for reasons that were never explained to him. The fellowships upon which he (and PhD candidates in general) relied upon to get him through the process, which were largely awarded by or based on the recommendations of the faculty, dried up. No explanation was ever given; no appeal ever brooked. He was just driven out of his program. (5)

Yet we argue regularly about beliefs inculcated or nurtured by universities as though they were somehow Gospel: a flat moral universe, Marxist analysis, the evils of capitalism and the US in general, just the mish-mash of ill-formed and irrational ideas that form the meat of modern post-secondary education. He himself knows first hand that the gatekeepers can keep out whomever they choose with no explanation, no chance at rebuttal, no appeal. Yet he does not therefore reexamine how it is that on almost all campuses everywhere in America some ideas are Accepted Wisdom while other are lumped together under Fascism or some other ism, and asking exactly how and why this is so gets the exact same treatment: No explanation is ever given; no appeal ever brooked. These bad ideas are just driven out of the impolite society of the desperate and vulnerable that make up the students and teachers.

Maybe we could call the more generalized idea the No PhD For You! Effect? I’m open to better suggestions.

In short, while it seems likely to me that this rigid compartmentalization is related somehow to how we humans are wired on some fundamental level,(6) our failure to see connections is nurtured and polished to a shiny-shine  by the compartmentalization of subject and grade in school. Where a classic education invites us to see how math, say, relates to the real world, and how poetry expresses morality and human aspirations, how, in short, the true, the beautiful and the good are one, modern education separates and isolates ideas. By the time kids get to college, they are all but incapable of making such connections, and have never been introduced to any reason why one would want to in the first place.

  1. Unlike the reporters writing the stories, who consistently turn down raises and promotions and give their excess earnings to the poor.
  2. The history of the insurance industry is in large part the story of people figuring out how to make money selling insurance to people who couldn’t get it otherwise. So, you can be really sure, as sure as you are that insurance companies want to make money, that any number of insurance companies have devoted real resources to selling insurance to *everybody* who could need it, regardless of the race, age, address, and vehicles they drive. Not because they’re into social justice or are saints of some kind – but because they want to make money.
  3. The company I worked for ended up moving their headquarters – and several hundred jobs – out of California, not so much because Prop 103 in itself made California unprofitable, but because it lowered the bar on demagoguery and stupidity so much that simple prudence dictated they not keep all their eggs in that political basket.
  4. The personal anti-business, pro-socialist tendencies of the reporters muddy this up, of course.
  5. The current Twitter kerfuffle, for another example, follows this pattern exactly. As I’ve harped on before, the signature feature of Hegelian (and, by extension, Marxist) thinking is that those who are unenlightened cannot be reasoned with – thus, purges are conducted without any need to hear the other side, and only explained for the benefit of believers. The victim himself is beyond help by definition.
  6. For example, I’m not sure most people most of the time don’t simply keep the various things they learn separate for simple efficiency’s sake. I’m not sure guys like me, who lose sleep wondering about how Calvin’s Catechism affects modern analytic philosophy, or if hybrid vigor is, in itself, an evolutionary adaptation, for a couple examples, are actually favored in the race for survival.

Another Mini-Review: Frankenstein

Have now read 42 out of 116 of the works in the Essential Sci Fi Library as suggested by John C. Wright. Latest conquest: Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.

frankenstein
Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. But it would be nice to at least have a plan…

Oddly, this seminal classic is way more chick book than sci fi – it must be 75% descriptions of landscapes and how people feel about things, 24% journeys and adventures, and maybe 1% science. The entire description, such as it is, of the making of the monster is about 2 pages long, with maybe another 5 devoted to the protagonist learning some science – and that’s it. Science doesn’t really figure into it otherwise. Like Star Trek’s Heisenberg Compensater, it Just Works.

There’s nothing wrong about that – Ray Bradbury wrote some classic stories similarly lean on science. And it is an amazing outpouring of creative genius for anyone, let alone someone 18 years old, to come up with the idea of a non-magical man-made monster and make a compelling story about it. So it is in many ways a commendable story, and I’m sure it was mind-blowing back in the early 1800s, when nothing like it had ever been seen before outside myth and fairy-tale. As true Sci Fi, It differs from fantasy in that, other than a world altered by science, the setting is true to life within the normal rules.

I complained earlier about the failure of Shelly to provide sufficient handwavium to account for the monster being a genius and an athletic superman, and for coming off the reanimation table totally healed so that he didn’t pop a bunch of sutures the moment he stood up, scream in agony and collapse into a pile of component parts. But these are minor complaints. Mrs Darwin points out a much more disturbing feature of the story: Frankenstein’s  near total amorality. Throughout the story, between scenes where he’s expressing florid love of his family and friends, he pretty much treats them like dirt unless he needs something from them. He’s a self-absorbed jerk, who goes away to college and can’t be bothered to write his family a letter to let them know he’s alive despite their pleading letters to him. He creates a monster, then promptly abandons it when it proves too ugly (?!). He never seems to realize he’s responsible for it and what it does – until it starts killing people. Or rather – worse – he sort of recognizes his duty, but it’s just so ugly! boo hoo hoo!

Spoilers: 

Continue reading “Another Mini-Review: Frankenstein”

Important Paleoanthropological Find: An Old Astro-Fab Brochure

(We are here straining the limits of the randomness that defines (note: that’s a joke, there) this here blog. You’ve been warned.)

The joy associated with emptying my late sister’s house was increased dramatically by the discovery of an ancient brochure put together for my dad’s business. Step aside, H. naledi – I got your earth-shaking find right here.

Love the stylized fabrication/engineering icons on the right. In case it’s not clear, from top to bottom: roll-forming a sheet of metal; (guessing) grinding wheel; welding; punch; die-forming in a brake press, engineering.

In 1962, my dad, Sid Moore, started a sheet metal fabrication company he named, in the spirit of Sputnik and Mercury, Astro-Fab:

Astro-Fab 1
The brochure scanned so poorly I’ve been reduced to iPhone pictures – thus the skew. There seem to be *2* Nash Ramblers parked up against the building – for the life of me, I can’t remember anyone driving a Nash.

I love the groovy name coupled with the Old West typeface – don’t know what, if any, thought went into that, but it’s weirdly cool.

My first real job, at age 11 or 12, was sweeping that building every Saturday. Armed with a push broom, a trash barrel, and a bucket of that dust-suppressing oily sawdust stuff, you worked your way through the paint area, shipping and receiving, material storage, welding, shearing, forming/brake press area, to layout and fabrication – 8 hours later, the floor was pretty clean, for a building housing a bunch of oily, spattery machines run by a bunch of sweaty guys.

Astro-Fab 3
That’s a lot of floors to sweep, there.

At a buck an hour, I was probably wildly overpaid – but I worked hard, and, to this day, have some serious sweeping chops, even though my hands have gone soft – no more callouses on my palms. Over Saturdays and summers through age 19, ended up learning how to do most of the manual stuff – never did layout or welding (except for spot-welding, which is different), but most everything else – punch press, fabricator, shears, brake-press, grinding, painting. And lots of sweeping up and getting rid of the scrap metal (which might be the most dangerous job in the shop – that stuff is sharp and pointy!).

Astro-Fab 6
Representative stuff we made.

The real hardship, such as it was, was the lack of insulation. Inside that building it was often well over 100F in the summer, and it took a long time to warm up in the winter. As hard as it is to believe and contrary to the received mythology, it can get down near freezing in SoCal. When it did, that building stayed cold for most of the day. Working with your hands when they’re numb is not a lot of fun. Yea, yea, uphill both ways.

The brochure is from around when I started working there, maybe 1970. Astro-Fab had moved to this location a few years earlier, after it had outgrown the original shop. At home, it was just known as ‘the Shop’, as in: dad’s going to the Shop. It was located a couple blocks into Pico Rivera from Whittier, right off Whittier Blvd, in LA county.

Displaying IMG_2068.JPG
I look remarkably like the Old Man. I think it’s the haircut…

Astro-Fab meant that we went from a family of 9 kids getting by on the wages of a sheet metal worker (certainly doable, but as much fun as it sounds) to living pretty well, in the working-class idea of what that means. by 1970, there was a nice house where the kids (mostly) had a bedroom to themselves, new cars every few years, a one-week vacation usually to the mountains or beach, and my dad could write a check to send me to college (it was a lot cheaper back then, but still). I am grateful. Certainly, my older siblings got very little of that.

Anyway, here’s to Astro-Fab, the American Way, and hard work. These are not myths, but reality. They are certainly not the only things or most important things, but they are real.

The Wealth of Nations as Understood by Heinlein

I’ve come across this quotation a couple places recently, most notably Gerry Pournelle’s excellent blog:

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

“This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

– Robert A. Heinlein

I’d admire this quotation more if it weren’t dead wrong. But first, what it is right about:

Poverty is the normal condition of man. Yes. Up until a couple centuries ago, human population and human activity was greatly restricted by the minimum sustainable harvest farmers in the area could produce. Think about this: you had good years, and bad years. In the bad years, people starved, or, more often, people who were already weak died, while the relatively stronger were weakened, and thus more susceptible to disease and accident. That’s why, prior to modern times, 80% or more of the people in any civilization were involved in producing food. In living memory, 80% of the Chinese were peasant farmers.

It is indeed poverty when you can’t be sure you won’t starve to death from one year to the next. Add to this the ubiquity of war, where armies ‘lived off the land’, meaning pillaged and plundered (and raped) their way through the country side, leaving the villagers more likely to starve if they weren’t murdered outright or enslaved, and that’s poverty.

Further, social gravity does tend toward despotism and tyranny. It’s a lot of work keeping any decent government up and running. A constitutional monarchy is a chore; a Republic under a representative democracy is constant hard work. People are lazy, especially if the slip into tyranny is slow and imperceptible. Representative democracies with free markets are the best way so far found to create abundance and stave off starvation.

So far, so good.

Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. This is too narrow a view. You need many people committed to sustaining the culture and government before the ‘extremely small minority’ can do their thing. Think of it as social infrastructure – under a despot, no one has rights to life, liberty or the pursuit of property. No entrepreneur or inventor stands much of a chance. At best, he’ll get benign neglect, at least until he does something beneficial enough to come to the attention of the tyrant. At worst – and this is far more common – the powers that be see any innovation as a threat. They rely, for the most part, on people sleep-walking their way through life, not spending much time imagining things could be otherwise than they are. People committed to changing things are dangerous.

However, Heinlein is correct that ‘all right-thinking people’ fear independent creativity and the independent wealth and power it tends to create, because right-thinking people, by definition, think what their masters want them to think. Thus, all who seek to expand tyranny oppose activities that tend to promote independence – and nothing promotes independence like having enough wealth to flip the Man the bird.

Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. True, but looked at inside-out: The tiny minority (and, frankly, it’s not all that tiny – there are millions of go-getters in America, even today) can only be kept from creating or driven out if the people at large have failed in their duty to preserve the Republic, to constantly enforce and reinforce the rule of law. Some creativity may take place with the patronage of a noble, but that same patronage tends to keep a lid on any change that might threaten it. In general, throughout history, the concept of a Commonwealth – of a people holding the nation itself as property (think: intellectual property rather than just Nation Parks) – is essential to any real material progress.

Think of Pericles’s funeral oration in Thucydides – the whole point is to show that Athens – not just the dirt underfoot, not just the monuments, but the whole intellectual content including history and art and everything that makes up a culture – was worth dying for, was worth loving. Every citizen had a share in this, and deserved honor for defending it. All that was lacking was for Christianity to infuse the Greek-loving Imperial Romans with the notion that each man was loved by God, that each was a special, worthy creation. Thus, the commonwealth becomes that upon which citizens rely for their freedom to become what their Creator made them to be.

Also, the ‘here and there, now and then’ line is denying the obvious: that sustained material progress is entirely the product of the West, of Christendom. It’s not some furtive, random thing at all – it took place when Jerusalem and Athens met in Rome. And nowhere else.

“This is known as ‘bad luck’.” OK, right again.

More Unintended Consequences: CEO Pay

From American Enterprise Institute via Isegoria via a William Briggs tweet (phew!). Not sure I buy that this is the complete story, but it seems to me that, given human nature – especially of the board of directors who would be accusing themselves of incompetence if they were to admit their CEO, the guy they picked to lead the company, was not at least average – that this accounts for much of the boom in CEO salaries.

Sometimes, true explanations are just this petty and stupid.

On multiple occasions the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] amended its rules to increase the disclosure of compensation data and to force boards to explain their rationale for the amounts. That, combined with the influence of the arbiters of corporate governance, created an inviolable requirement for compensation committees to be advised by consultants. A perfect recipe for increasing compensation.

Let me explain in my own case. I asked only that I be paid at market for my position and performance, and that my compensation be very heavily weighted to performance. Henceforth, I could rely on our consultants to provide essentially perfect market data on comparative compensation, accompanied by recommendations appropriate in light thereof, and there was really no need for much discussion or worry as long as our company was successful.

You can guess how it works. No board that isn’t about to fire its CEO really wants to admit that their CEO is a less-than-average performer by paying him or her less than average. But if the lowest-paid CEO’s are always being brought up to the average, then the average increases every year. Then for the high performers to be paid well, their compensation needs to be increased, but that raises the average… and so on every year. And the compensation committee and the board always have this market data before them, the recommendations of their consultants and “best practices” to adhere to. These influences are not easily resisted. You see the result.

Like many regulatory unintended consequences, it’s hard for me to see an easy way back. But it’s more than an academic question if you are a director serving on a compensation committee.

Read it all at the various sites linked above.

One of the most common shortcomings of modern discussions is the inability of many people to imagine themselves in the positions of those they want to judge. The most egregious example is National Socialism – those guys were just evil, not at all like us. Unlike the evil and twisted German professional classes in which Nazism flourished – you know, lawyers, doctors, teachers, bureaucrats –  our professional classes are nothing but sweetness and light, and would never fall to the peer pressure and demagoguery that those evil Germans fell for.

Right. We don’t have to worry about falling for demagoguery and peer pressure because we’re fundamentally better people than your typical 1930s German dentist. I wish I were kidding, and that people don’t actually think this way…

Here, a much less inflammatory example: if we somehow found ourselves in a nice cushy Board of Director’s job, we would never fall for all this gotta pay our CEO at least average CEO pay pressure, because enlightened! Instead, we’d resign! Or fight for a lower salary, then watch our CEO quit for a better-paying job, and then have to hire somebody else – at above average pay, or else we’re admitting we can’t find an above-average candidate….