Not Just Survivorship Bias

VK points out, quite correctly, that survivorship bias doesn’t completely explain our perception that things are getting worse. He is right. There are many other reasons; some have to do with perception and some with reality.

Actually, in the first place, I don’t just find the idea that home appliances have gotten worse incorrect – I find it incredible. From my point of view, it is so obvious that things have been  better in the past 15 years than they were in the 15 years before that, that I question the honesty of those who claim otherwise.

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The Bhaskar Ghose Glasnost

Swami, arguing against my point that deregulation makes things better, claims that Tamil TV hasn’t got better at all after the entry of private channels – the positive changes have been balanced out by the negative ones. My only experience with TV in Tamil Nadu involved watching midnight masala on Sun TV when I was in Chennai, so I am not very qualified to comment about that. But about National TV, I partly agree. Indian TV was at its best during the Bhaskar Ghose era. The quality of serials that were on air at that time has not been equalled since.

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Good Really Old Days

This is Survivorship Bias week at The Examined Life.

Hunter-gatherers may have been so lithe and healthy because the weak were dead. The invention of agriculture and the advent of settled society merely swapped high mortality for high morbidity, allowing people some relief from chronic warfare so they could at least grind out an existence, rather than being ground out of existence altogether.

Notice a close parallel with the industrial revolution. When rural peasants swapped their hovels for the textile mills of Lancashire, did it feel like an improvement? The Dickensian view is that factories replaced a rural idyll with urban misery, poverty, pollution and illness. Factories were indeed miserable and the urban poor were overworked and underfed. But they had flocked to take the jobs in factories often to get away from the cold, muddy, starving rural hell of their birth.

That is from the Economist once again. Here is something I posted on my blog four years ago.

(A tip: The Christmas special issue of the Economist is always worth reading. Lots of interesting stuff. )

Survival Bias in Home Appliances

Dilip D’Souza documents his recent misfortunes in home appliances and implies, (but as is typical for him, never says) that the quality of appliances has declined since the glorious period of Nehruvian socialism. That reminds me of a discussion thread I was hanging around in a couple of months back when the bridge collapsed in Minnesota. I can’t be bothered to find the thread right now, but here is what I remember.

Someone on the thread had brought up the example of Roman bridges. Why is it that bridges built by the Romans are still standing, while bridges built in modern times collapse within two decades?

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