8/13/2006

08-13-06 - 6

Humans are incredibly susceptible to taking the easy way out, or avoiding inconvenience or conflict. If you want someone to do something, make it the easy default. The option that's good for them is difficult or annoying to acheive. This happens is software all the type - MS installs a bunch of crud all hooked together by default; sure you can plug in different apps but that's complicated and time consuming, in practice nobody (1% of users) does it. Of course commercial services do it all the time. You get the $50/month plan. If you call and wait on hold for an hour you can get $5 off per month. That adds up to be well worth it over the years, but nobody does it. You get some great mail in rebate, but you have to xerox your box top and mail out five copies with completed forms, then call in exactly 30 days later. No one does it.

Video game producers use this trick all the time. Programmers are well known to hate meetings and human interaction in general, so the trick is just to keep talking to the programmer until he gives in. "Can I have this feature in 2 days?" "Umm no, it's more like a 4 day task to do it right." "Well, what if you do this and this, can I have it then?" "Um, no, let me explain how coding works..." "Uh, okay, but what if we just don't debug it, can I have it in 2 days then?" ... the meeting goes on and on and finally the programmer surrenders, "Okay fine, I'll do it", thinking to himself "just go away and let me work", and knowing full well he's compromising the schedule and giving himself late nights.

Some human beings go about their whole lives like this. They create an aura about themselves that they will be incredibly unpleasant, bitchy, argumentative, if they don't get their way. Their way may be awful, but you go with it to avoid the trouble of dealing with them.

In sales/retail situations this principle comes into play all the time. Stores by default are in a mode to screw you over. They do this because they know 99% of the time you won't protest because humans hate conflict and hassles, you'll just take the extra charge or the crappy service or whatever and not complain. The opposite action is that if you do complain and make a big stink they will usually just give in and let you have your way because they also hate hassle; they're only screwing you over because it's so easy, once it becomes a hassle for them they give in too.

Lawyers and cities make their income with this principle. They can easily drop a fine or a suit on you which could be totally bogus, but most people will rightly just pay it rather than fight it because it's so much trouble to fight. Just imagine if you could walk up to anyone and take $20 from them and hand them a form detailing a very complicated process to get it back + interest. Most people would just let the $20 go; they might intend to do the process, they might even do the first steps of printing forms and mailing them in, but then they call and get put on hold and just say "fuck it". Of course this sounds ridiculous, but it happens all the time.

It also happens when the Vice President wants the intelligence to indicate there are WMD's and Al Qaeda ties in Iraq. He calls the CIA "did you find them?". They say no. The next day, "did you find them?". They say no. Every day. Several times a day. Goes and grills the analysts. Finally they just say "okay, fine". It works too when Rumsfeld grills his generals, "Can we do it with less troops?" "No, we need 400k", "Okay, I'm going to assign a bunch of awful beaurocrats and you can meet with them every day and work out a plan for less troops" "OMG, please not that, okay I'll agree, we can do it with less troops". It's sick that this simple principle of human weakness is at play even on the most critical of national security issues, when people's lives are at stake.

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