Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right (You need way more wrongs than two) - Dilbert Blog

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right (You need way more wrongs than two)

Can a system convert bad thinking into good?

Have you seen the experiments in which strangers try to guess how many jelly beans are in a jar? The individual guesses are terrible, but when you take the average of those terrible guesses you end up with an estimate that is surprisingly accurate. Apparently that test can be repeated in a variety of ways.

And how about democratic governments? Individually, most people are under-informed and irrational. But somehow, when you add all that irrationality together, and unwisely add voting, we have stable governments that do surprisingly well.

Capitalism is another example of individual failures that gets transformed into value. Most small businesses fail. Most people don’t get the job they want, at least not on the first try. Most patents are useless, most products are unsold, and half of corporate America is in “Wally” mode. Still, the economy steams ahead as if everyone is doing all the right things. It turns out that “trying” is enough to support an economy because while we are mostly failing we are also getting paid. That is a good system.

How about investing? You could not sell stocks without buyers who believe they have magical powers to predict the future. Every study tells us that buying and selling individual stocks is as scientific as following horoscopes. But if there were no people who believed in their own magical abilities, the financial markets could not function. 

How about nature? Evolution is a dumb process that involves billions and billions of creatures operating in random, selfish, and stupid ways. But put it all together, wait millions of years, and you have the iPhone 6+.

Consider religion. If we assume you picked the right belief system (lucky!) and everyone that disagrees with it is wrong, that means about 80% of your fellow citizens are walking around in a total fantasy. But religion still works in the sense that people find earthly value in it.

And why the hell does Wikipedia work? The concept, as I understand it, is that any idiot can edit the “facts” on Wikipedia. What could go wrong, right? But somehow it does work. I guess the bad players get bored and go away while the serious folks stay around to correct stuff.

Even science, our keeper of truth, is mostly about tests and trials that don’t work out. You only need a small percentage of scientific successes to propel civilization forward.

This gets me back to the issue of the gender pay gap, and the larger question of whether any of us can be objective and rational on that question. How can millions of irrational people come up with a rational opinion? Can a system fix this sort of problem the way systems have fixed similar situations?

I think the answer is yes. And that is part of the experiment you will see play out on this blog.

My guess is that you need the following elements in your system to convert irrational opinions into rational opinions:

1. A curator willing to TRY to be objective. (No one can be 100%)

2. Lots of participants, so all voices get heard.

3. A “living” debate, with no end, in which the weak elements of both pro and con arguments evolve and strengthen over time. 

4. A comment system that allows people to respond to specific claims with links and counterpoints.

We now have all of that on this blog. My objectivity as curator is worthy of skepticism, so I try to compensate by listing my biases as I understand them. And in the end, my incentive is to do the best job of being objective, not to be on a winning side. Luckily for me, I am no longer in the traditional workplace, so I have some distance from the issue.

In a few days, when I think I have most of your comments and links for the issue of gender discrimination in the workplace, I will post my preliminary verdict. If my verdict ignores any important data or logic, I expect readers to fill me in. Then I will adjust the verdict as needed. And like the Supreme Court, I will explain in detail why I chose my verdict. 

And now I would like to ask any readers who are following this process to alert me to studies that support the existence of a gender pay gap. I haven’t done a deep dive on the links folks have already suggested on my prior post, but I saw one video of a well-informed feminist saying no credible data on the pay gap exists. And I haven’t noticed any links suggesting such a study. But keep in mind that science says I might be blind to them. That is why I ask for external eyes.

Did anyone submit – or see anyone else submit – a link to a study showing a gender pay gap once you control the relevant variables? I want to make sure I don’t miss it. And this experiment will fall apart if the argument only has data on one side.

Did I miss it?


In other cool news, soon you will be able to 3D print your own ion engine of the type that powers satellites. The trick is that ion engines have very little power, but that is all you need once you are in space. In prior posts I predicted that rich hobbyists will build rockets to spread Earth’s DNA samples to far-off planets. The cheap ion engine is the key to making it economical. Imagine sending a big rocket into space (a shared expense) filled with thousands of ion-powered rockets the size of your smartphone. Once in space, each small rocket takes off and searches for an Earth-like planet before opening its little parachute and landing to seed it. 

Earth was probably seeded in that fashion. Unless we are just a software simulation. We will never know, but probability-wise, those are you top choices.

@ScottAdamsSays (my dangerous tweets)

My book on success: “I feel the best I have ever felt after reading a book.” –  Puget Sound Paralegal  (Amazon 5-star review Feb 20, 2015)