One in 10,000: Progress is rarely obvious

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Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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96 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Booya. Home run, Vickram, on a ton of levels.Report

  2. Avatar Patrick says:

    Well done, sir.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Most people don’t actually think. Rather, they face a situation and roll with it.

    A+Report

  4. Avatar James K says:

    This is truly great Vikram.Report

  5. Avatar Lyle says:

    To paraphrase a bit of the work Rolf Smith Jr does in his 7 Levels of change consider the following:
    A definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
    But to do differently you have to think differently:
    And to think differently you have to think about your thinking.
    A bit of this is to change your thinking to think outside the box, as was done in the above
    example.
    Another way of looking at this is the work of Kirten in the adaptaion innovation index, which
    measures how when confronted with a problem one proceeds by either adapting or
    innovating See http://www.kaicentre.com/ for more details. The person who designed the new form of
    toilet paper holder was an innovator who was willing to think outside the box.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    [slow clap]

    Oddly, a very similar situation played out last year in the NBA with Royce White. He was quite outspoken about being a 1-in-10,000, yet got even supposed smart people like Chuck Klosterman to say he was wrong to expect different treatment because of his special needs. Unfortunately, that situation didn’t catch like this one did.

    Bravo.Report

    • I had never heard of Royce White. I suspect a big reason why the Incognito story got attention was the audio recording.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Look into Royce White. He wanted the NBA to accommodate his diagnosed mentall illnesses. They basically told his crazy ass to fuck off. I can’t believe there hasn’t been an ADA challenge yet. It did not help White’s case that his solid points (e.g., We don’t talk about mental illness enough/properly) were some really hard-to-take-serious ones (e.g., contemporary society either makes or is evidence that everyone is mentally ill). Hey… 1-in-10,00, eh?Report

      • ADA challenge

        I looked at his Wikipedia page. It looks like he’s still trying to have an actual career, which suing would pretty much preclude. If there is a lawsuit, it will probably only be after it is clear he doesn’t have a shot with any team.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        The Royce White situation is significantly more complicated than the Martin one. The Rockets worked pretty hard to accommodate him at first, but when they wanted to send him down to the D-League, things got messy. I suspect that a legal challenge would be likely to fail, in part because the Rockets have a bunch of accommodating acts to point to, and in part because White and his therapist have made accommodation almost impossible. Basically, it reached the point where he would have had to play only home games with the Rockets (no sending him down for development and experience). The Sixers might have left themselves open to legal action, though.

        I hope the NBA becomes more accommodating to mental illness, that sports culture in general works to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness, but White’s case probably won’t help that.much.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @chris

        Weren’t they unwilling to provide him with bus travel? Isn’t that a failure to accommodate? Flying to road games doesn’t seem like a requirement of the job; playing in them does. Unless it can be demonstrated that his performance suffers from bus travel, why should the team care how he gets to a game?

        I trust you know the in’s and out’s of this better on a number of fronts, so I’m assuming you can enlighten me here.

        I still think he raised really interesting points about mental illness and sports. When Klosterman (who said these things on a BS Report podcast, and thus I can’t provide links or direct quotes) basically said that White had no right to play in the NBA and therefore the Rockets had no obligation to accommodate his needs, it made my head want to explode. I tend to think Klosterman is overrated, but he’s no idiot or ex-jock. Yet if he can’t get his head around the idea that A) mental illnesses are disabilities and B) that sports are not exempt from the ADA, I think it shows how generally perverse our collective views are.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        @kazzy, they were going to provide him with a bus to some away games, though not all. He wasn’t asking for a bus to all games, though. He simply wanted to reduce the number of times he flew (he flew to most of his colllege games, but that was fewer than half the flights required for an NBA season).

        I believe he was going to buy a bus for himself when he was sent to the D-League, and the team didn’t have a problem with that. However, the stresses of the D-League, whether it was travel or whatever, led his therapist to recommend that he stop playing there. That’s where his relationship with the Rockets went irreversibly sour. I’m not sure what happened with the Sixers.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Oh, and Klosterman is an idiot.Report

    • I actually thought of Royce White myself (see Linky Friday #12!). I also thought of the Grambling State football team going on strike earlier this season.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    It’s not totally clear to me that every NFL locker room is/was exactly the way the Dolphin’s locker room was as of, say, November 1, 2013. And while there are absolutely players playing the role that Richie Incognito played on the Dolphins on every NFL team, it’s not totally lear to me that they all have the same methods that Richie Incognito does. Generally, it’s not clear to me that Jonathan Martin would necessarily have been as uncomfortable in every NFL team environment as we was in the Dolphins’ team environment. He might well have been, but all of that is just not entirely clear to me.

    Nevertheless, Vikram is right. Jonathan Martin is still 1 out of 10,000 because 9,999 out of 10,000 players in fact would have accepted suffered through the conditions and practices of the Dolphins locker room as they existed in the autumn of 2013, and Jonathan Martin different. And for that, everyone who cares about football and team sports in general, and in particular parents who look to those activities as character-building experiences for their kids, owe him a debt of gratitude, even if they don’t know it yet, or would even deny it. Because, even though every locker room in the NFL and other sports is necessarily not exactly the way the Dolphins locker room was this fall, they all have not completely dissimilar dynamics that go on, and this episode is going to put a real check on how far those dynamics are going to be allowed to be spun out as its impact ripples across sports culture. This is the kind of thing people were happy to just look the other way from before; now they really can’t. If there was any doubt this is the environment that that parents send their kids into when they send them to play that sports that cultivate the most extreme kinds of macho anti-sociality, now there can’t be except to the extent that steps are taken to change those cultures.

    This was a powerful, courageous act that Jonathan Martin did. Good on Vikram for pointing that out so clearly.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      dissimilarReport

    • Murtha does not say that it is the same everywhere. Rather, he just says to suspend everyone on the Dolphins if you are going to suspend Incognito. So, maybe there are some other team cultures out there that don’t rely on this sort of thing.

      I think you could be right about some locker rooms changing that have younger players. For the NFL to change, some other (perhaps retired) players might need to come forward and saying that they can empathize with Martin’s concerns.Report

  8. Avatar Murali says:

    I’m worried about confirmation bias here. Sure, this time the 1 in 10 000 was right, but how often is the 1 in 10 000 right about something and not just plain nuts?

    “Listen to the 1 in 10000” seems to be a bad maxim because it ignores all the times the lone complainer is just wrong.Report

    • Avatar Rod says:

      Confirmation bias works both ways though, doesn’t it? The “everybody knows” of conventional wisdom can be powerful cover for dismissing evidence that doesn’t conform to the reigning paradigm. The herd is comfort and safety.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        I don’t know that we would habitually defer to conventional wisdom if it tended to do so badly. I’m not saying conventional wisdom always works, but it is a matter of probabilities. Even if the heroic person were 10 times as likely to be correct as any individual sheeple, the probability that the average 1 in 10000 is correct is still 1 in 1000. You’ve got to posit something close to complete epistemic dependence on the part of everyone one else to get the odds up to anything remotely near a reasonable probability such that the complainer is worth listening to.Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        May I take it then that you enthusiastically support democratic majoritarianism? After all, “most” of the people are much more likely to be right than wrong, correct?Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Most decisions are probably not in the “right” or “wrong” territory.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @rod May I take it then that you enthusiastically support democratic majoritarianism? After all, “most” of the people are much more likely to be right than wrong, correct?

        Well, maybe “enthusiastic” isn’t where I am at, in the sense that I (and most people, and the Founding Fathers what with their checks’n’balances and small-r-republican design) feel that some things pretty clearly need to be protected from the force of popular sentiment of the moment – but would we support democracy at all otherwise?

        Isn’t the idea behind democracy (the worst system except for all others) basically the idea that “most of the people are mostly right (enough), most of the time”, mostly avoiding the disaster of one king or dictator (or a small group of ruling elites) making decisions that are catastrophic for everyone else?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Most decisions are probably not in the “right” or “wrong” territory.

        + .5Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        Here’s the bottom line as I see it: You’ve got your confirmation bias, you argument from authority, your argument ad populem, your gadfly fallacy (Einstein Delusion), tribal affiliations which require nurturing, the inertia of tradition, entrenched special interests biasing opinion, and dozens of other modes of fallacious argument and logic and distorted information. Most of the beliefs, even the true ones, held by most people, even smart ones like the folks that tend to hang out, are held for reasons that are dubious at best. And the hell of it is, even beliefs held for decent reasons can turn out wrong. Note how some fallacies come in pairs so they’re exact opposites, like ad populem and gadfly.

        It just seems to me that seriously presented ideas, backed up by data and reasonable argument, deserve respectful consideration regardless of whether they run in opposition to mainstream thought. Especially since a lot of mainstream beliefs are themselves are based on relatively unexamined and sketchy premises.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        It just seems to me that seriously presented ideas, backed up by data and reasonable argument, deserve respectful consideration regardless of whether they run in opposition to mainstream thought. Especially since a lot of mainstream beliefs are themselves are based on relatively unexamined and sketchy premises.

        Depends on which mainstream you are looking at. Mainstream of everyone? probably. Mainstream of experts? less so. But obviously I’m not going to disagree too much. What I do object to is the idea that we shouldn’t be surprised if 1 in 10000 gets a good idea because everything else being equal that 1 in 10 000 is likely to be just as boneheaded as the 9999Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I took it as listen in terms of ‘hearing what they have to say instead of rejecting them out of hand’ as opposed to listen in terms of ‘do what they say’.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        And sometime that’s unwarranted.

        “I’ve just discovered how to trisect an angle with compass and straightedge! Here, I’ll show you!”

        The only sensible response is”Go away now, or I’ll call Security.”Report

    • The advice isn’t to “listen to the 1 in 10000.” It is only that you shouldn’t be surprised if good advice comes without a lot of support from the establishment.

      Another way to say it would be that popularity of a proposal should be considered extremely weak evidence as to its how good the proposal is.

      Specifically to the Martin case, what this means is that the fact that Martin lacks supporters within the NFL shouldn’t by itself be taken to mean that Martin is wrong.

      I grant that NFL players know what it’s like in a way that we don’t, but that very knowledge may prevent them from seeing what it could be like. Like Tod said in his post, the idea that such behavior is necessary to the task they are to perform is not at all obvious.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        I’m not disputing that he was right in this case. I’m going after your more general thesis about the importance of the 1 in 10 000.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        I mean the you should be surprised if it does right? After all, according to any probabilistically coherent picture of what is going on, the likely hood of one lone fellow in a crowd giving good advice is still astronomically low.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        But let’s say that “society” has been doing a particular thing incorrectly for the last however many generations.

        This does a decent job of modeling what the early days of change would look like.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Sure, if we are going to assume that society has been wrong for so many generations then certainly that is what it looks like. But this is also what it looks like if one person is just unusually thin skinned and society has been doing it right. But the latter is much more probable than the former. The mere fact that this is what it looks like if society has been wrong in like forever and the lone person is right does not mean that there is not a more likely account that reproduces the same observations.Report

      • the likely hood of one lone fellow in a crowd giving good advice is still astronomically low.

        We disagree here.

        There are multiple explanations for why the lone fellow is alone. One, admittedly, is that his idea is stupid. There are others, however. If the people you are expecting to speak up would be risking their personal relationships and jobs, then you can’t infer much from their silence. If speaking up means admitting that their past behavior is wrong or the behavior of people they like is wrong, then again their silence means little.
        —-
        Caveat: If what you are saying is that most new ideas are bad, and that is the reason to distrust them, then that is a different argument than just using the unpopularity of an idea as evidence of its badness.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        No, I actually think most people have a low chance of being correct. But I’m sure most people disagree with me about that. There is an irony here somewhereReport

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        If what you are saying is that most new ideas are bad, and that is the reason to distrust them,

        Is it the general consensus here that this (conservative-ish) idea is true? I mean, it seems so to me (for ex. Sturgeon’s Law; plus the idea that most mutations are either useless or actively harmful rather than beneficial/adaptive would seem to apply to memes as well as genes).Report

      • Glyph,
        That’s a pretty complicated question. Ideas are not generated randomly like mutations are. A small fraction of ideas are actually articulated, and I think it is probably true that articulated ideas are much better as a group than the ideas we just let die in our brains. And ideas that are articulated despite not being in our best interests are also different than the set of all articulated ideas.

        At some point, I think you have to acknowledge that indicators can only tell you so much and you have to just evaluate the idea on its merits rather than look at who supports or opposes it.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        In the age of Twitter, is there such a thing as “the unarticulated idea”?Report

      • Sure there is. Despite Twitter, people still seem to be able to restrain themselves from posting the fact that they saw someone vaguely attractive. Twitter gets us closer to a mental dump of what a person is thinking, but it is nowhere near everything that a person thinks.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Ideas are not generated randomly like mutations are.

        Leaving aside further obvious Twitter-and-internet-related jokes, I’m not sure that’s true. The “memes are like genes” thing has some bits that don’t work, but some that do (not to mention, since ideas are generated from people who are *themselves* the result of random genetic mutations, the ideas *they generate* may be said to arise from that genetic randomness and share some of its qualities).

        More importantly, even if ideas are fully non-random, intentional and free-willish, any complex system (or even a simple TP holder) has other, non-obvious connections where it interacts with other parts of the machine (or, my bathroom wall).

        This is why I am often *broadly* sympathetic, at least in theory, to a Burkean skeptical conservative argument or questioning of new ideas, even though in practice this skepticism is often misused to, say, justify continued “traditional” bullying in a locker room or fraternity, or to keep black people at the back of the bus, or deny people the ability to love who they want, or to forbid gays to serve their country because “this is the way we’ve always done it and something bad could happen if we change!”Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Great comment Glyph.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Thanks guys! Basically for me this all threads back to a discussion a long time ago asking why people who work in tech fields are seemingly overrepresented in libertarian “just-leave-it-alone” circles, and my theory was “on-the-job experience”.

        Anybody who works in systems has had the experience of being “that guy”, who made what he thought was a small, obvious, beneficial change that would help people and make the system better, and in so doing inadvertently screwed up some other critical component way upstream or downstream that he either was unaware of or did not fully understand, and gotten called on the carpet for it.

        So the tendency to assume something that appears reasonably functional ain’t broke, and being accordingly reluctant to “fix” it, may be reinforced for guys like me.

        Doesn’t mean it’s always right, or that there aren’t ways to mitigate change risks somewhat, but a default slight skepticism towards the new is, IMO, generally somewhat warranted.

        None of this should be taken to say that locker-room bullying, even if it’s “traditional”, should be considered OK.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Shorter Glyph: thinking you’re the smartest guy in the room doesn’t mean you actually are???Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Or to put it another way, cold fusion will almost certainly come about sooner or later as I understand it. In the meantime, it’s not wrong to be skeptical about every single guy who claims to have accomplished it in his fridge using last week’s potato salad.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        For me it’s the opposite. Having spent decades working with complex systems and seeing

        1. How hard they are to build
        2. How many moving parts they require
        3. How non-obvious the relationships between the parts can be
        4. How many iterations it takes before they’re stable and functional
        5. The constant monitoring required to keep them running

        the whole plan being “burn the system to the ground so that better solutions can emerge” scares the fish out of me.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @mike-schilling – my position is the opposite of “burn the system to the ground”. It is instead a “are you sure you really want to mess with that?” tendency towards non-govt-intervention, or seeing if there might be unseen advantages to the way things are. This cautious tendency sometimes gets interpreted by people farther to the left of me as “well, then I guess you are OK with (entrenched injustice X).”

        And to be fair to them, if I made an argument asserting that, say, hazed footballers were better footballers, they’d be right.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        I actually agree with mike. Burning the system down to start over is absurd.

        On the issue of most new ideas are mistakes I agree complete with Murali. Even most well researched and fully vetted ideas fail that sound great fail.

        And this ties back to why revolutions and tearing don the old system is so dangerous. Even when libertarian anarchists suggest it.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Sometimes the gradual changing of parts in a deeply dysfunctional system only serves to reinforce and strengthen the system and its dysfunction.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        That said, as someone trained (indoctrinated?) in the scientific method, my own instinct is to distrust any new idea.Report

  9. Avatar Will H. says:

    That was really heavy.
    And I like the way you did that.
    Nice piece.Report

  10. Avatar Rod says:

    Kudos, Vikram. Perhaps 45°off topic, but this quote really stood out to me:

    From the beginning, when he was drafted in April 2012, Martin did not seem to want to be one of the group. He came off as standoffish and shy to the rest of the offensive linemen. He couldn’t look anyone in the eye, which was puzzling for a football player at this level on a team full of grown-ass men. [Vik: obligatory xkcd]

    That’s pretty typical autism spectrum behavior, either Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism (HFA). And if this amateur diagnosis from a distance with insufficient data is correct, then his quitting the team fits as well. He wouldn’t have the social skills to deal with the situation head on or recognize it as not really being about him personally or the emotional control to shrug it off and soldier on.

    People on the spectrum are both very likely to be the victims of bullying, being perceived — quite rightly! — as being different, and less well equipped to deal with it when it happens.

    Finally, if I’m correct here, I’m not surprised it took this long for something like this to happen in the NFL. Spectrum kids tend not to be great at sports since a deficit in physical coordination is part of the deal. Very few would ever make it past the high school level if that far, whether due to the coordination issue or locker room culture.Report

    • I think Murtha similarly seems puzzled as to how Martin didn’t wash out well before ever making it to the NFL.

      I think the explanation has to be that his high school and Stanford were able to create a culture in which behavioral differences were tolerated.

      If that is the explanation, then someone has to explain the relative success of Stanford football despite having a culture that accepts people like Martin as long as they are able to perform.Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        It’s also consistent with this tentative hypothesis that he plays in the offensive lineman position. I’m no expert at football but that sounds like a position requiring mostly strength and bulk. Isn’t his primary job to be part of a meat wall protecting the quarterback?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        @rod though off lineman also requires the most teamwork of any position outside of maybe the kicking gameReport

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        What Kohole said. A good O-line is five people who know each other so well that during a game their non-verbal communication approaches telepathy. Which is another reason an Aspie would tend to wash out.Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        Well, I said I don’t know a hell of a lot about football, but I’m not sure if being an Aspie, particularly mildly, it isn’t really a binary, on-off sort of thing, would impact that sort of teamwork.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        Offensive linemen also require a lot of intelligence and are typically among the most intelligent players on the team. The highest Wonderlic scores (and I am aware of the issue of using them as a proxy for intelligence) by position are:

        Offensive tackle – 26
        Center – 25
        Quarterback – 24
        Guard – 23
        Tight end – 22Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Rod, I thought the same thing re: the eye contact, though it could also be garden-variety depression, or…hey, some people are just shy and uncomfortable around other people, without any clinical meaning other than that.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Autism spectrum is a stretch. Maybe social anxiety, perhaps at a pathological level, but reports from his teammates at Stanford suggest he’s quite sociable when he’s comfortable with the people and culture. If he has underlying mood or anxiety issues, the Dolphins team culture might easily have exacerbated them.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Also, it’s worth noting that Martin has access to, and appears to be taking advantage of mental health resources. If a diagnosis is warranted, I suspect he’s gotten it, and is being treated for it. The same is true of White. In fact, I wish everyone had the access they have.Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        There’s a reason it’s referred to as a spectrum. Some kids never learn to communicate or end up like Rainman, others just come off as quirky.

        Autism spectrum is a stretch. Maybe social anxiety, perhaps at a pathological level, but reports from his teammates at Stanford suggest he’s quite sociable when he’s comfortable with the people and culture.

        That’s actually not an unusual pattern. It’s new situations and random interactions that are most troublesome.

        If he has underlying mood or anxiety issues, the Dolphins team culture might easily have exacerbated them.

        A big part of spectrum disorders ARE about mood regulation and situational anxiety.

        Look, I could easily be totally off-base here. I did say it was an “amateur diagnosis at a distance based on insufficient information”.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I think you are off base, just as I did with your self-diagnosis. It’s dangerous, because the treatments for run-of-the-mill mood and anxiety disorders are different, and for better or worse, some involve the person being treated to buy in (particularly in cognitive therapy). Convincing yourself or others that they have rarer, more difficult to treat disorders can cause you or them not to seek out treatment, to seek out the wrong treatment, and to not buy into the right treatment. It is highly counterproductive.

        This is why I brought up Martin’s use of the mental health care system. He’s doing it right . Armchair psychologists with no training in what, with spectrum disorders in particular, are usually complex diagnoses that require ruling out all sorts of alternative diagnoses, understanding what can and cannot be considered comorbid, and looking at all sorts of evidence, are doing it wrong. It frustrates me, a lot.Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        You know what frustrates me, Chris? The degree to which I’ve been ill-served by a medical discipline that’s about a century behind the rest of the field and in many areas still can’t find its ass with both hands and a flashlight.

        Regardless of whether my self-diagnosis is correct and regardless of the existence of effective treatment now, it would have been nice to at least understand my situation 30-35 years ago when it would have done me some good. It would have been nice to not have been mis-diagnosed by a licensed psychologist almost twenty years ago in the Navy. I’m okay with my life now, which is good because what you would have me do isn’t really an option. Drugs? The DOT don’t like drivers on psychoactives. I can’t even take that stuff — Chantrex? — to quit smoking. Therapy? I’m lucky to make it home on the right day for a dental appointment once every six months.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Rod, I understand your frustration, and I feel it too, though I would make a few points:

        1) Mental health treatment has gotten better and better since you were mis-diagnosed those many years ago. Training, in particular, has gotten better and better, particularly as the field becomes more and more specialized (which was necessary, I think, even if it makes the system more of a mess).
        2) All of the information you’ve gathered about autism spectrum disorders? It comes from mental health professionals.
        3) If you were misdiagnosed by a physician treating a non-mental disorder, would you abandon professional health care and diagnose yourself from now on? That would be a horrible course of action, one that would only hurt you in the long run.

        Since your post, which I commend you for writing, even if I think that your behavior is wrong and dangerous, I’ve seen a lot of people who’ve self-diagnosed themselves as being somewhere on the spectrum. It makes me sadder every time, because it’s largely a result of a lack of access to mental health resources, a problem that is not addressed by health care reform but desperately needs to be, and because it prevents them from seeking real help, and perhaps improving their quality of life significantly.

        I don’t know you at all. Perhaps you really are on the spectrum. I just wish you had access to the sorts of resources that could result in a diagnosis by someone trained to diagnose mental illness, and if possible, treat you (treatment for the symptoms of high-functioning autism is possible, and advancing every day — I know of a couple physicians who specialize in now, and I know how much it helps the people they treat), and I wish you had the motivation to use it. That the mental health system failed you in the past is unfortunate; that its failure caused you to essentially rebel against it is a tragedy, one that plays out in much the same way with way too many people.

        Also, if your job doesn’t accommodate treatment for an illness, you may have legal recourse, but only with a diagnosis.Report

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was previously under the impression that everyone was somewhere on the autism spectrum and that it was just people at the end of it that we call autistic and people who aren’t we call normal.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        No, the spectrum describes a range of disorders, not all of them related in their underlying causes, but exhibiting similar symptomatology. It is referred to as a spectrum because there are a wide range of disorders, and within some of those disorders, a wide range of symptom severity. Colloquially, being on the spectrum means having an ASD. If you do not have an ASD, you are not on the spectrum.Report

  11. Avatar Glyph says:

    This is a good piece but I do have one minor quibble with the TP holder example. I think it’s early to call the new design “superior”; in one sense it clearly is, in another sense it may not be.

    The old roller design (axle as two mated spring-loaded tubes), for all its flaws, has two advantages: 100% interchangeability, and low repair cost. When the old style failed, you could get a new one, from anywhere, and it would fit, and it would be cheap/fast (just swap the axle out).

    The new design is easy to load with TP and will likely last a long time; but when it fails, the assembly (all parts) will likely have to be replaced, and that will cost more, and be more work.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      There is an even better design for TP holders. The one shown has a place to fit the rod in after you put in the TP roll. But if you jut have a bent rod, not only are there fewer failure points, it is even easier to load and remove and there is no greater risk of the TP roll coming outReport

    • Glyph,
      I’m not convinced yet.
      (1) The design with a hinge should be fairly durable relative to a spring. Yes, the hinge design is perhaps not repairable, but it shouldn’t need to be repaired within any given human lifetime.
      (2) Do they really sell new spring-loaded tubes in standard sizes? I’m guessing that if I went to the hardware store they would have the whole assembly, not the individual tube.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Nah, you can buy just the axle.

        I just had to replace a TP holder that was only a few years old. It was an even simpler design than any thus far discussed – basically, just an L-shaped bar. Problem was, this puts all the stress on the single wall mount, and eventually it starts to point downward, as gravity dictates.

        My point is simply that there are often tradeoffs, and a design which was so widespread and persistent likely had advantages. The design you picture is likely durable, but sometimes there are non-obvious flaws with an approach.

        http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_sq_top?ie=UTF8&index=blended&keywords=toilet%20paper%20roller%20replacement&pf_rd_p=1535523722&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B005DMZQLS&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0H2Y78V8R8BDK9EAFEJPReport

      • Ah. Thanks for the link. I should probably pick one up for the upstairs bathroom.

        I should schedule a follow-up post for November 2023 so I can provide a durability update.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Yeah, it doesn’t really detract from your central point I don’t think, but it was on my mind. Like I said, the one I had previously, I was convinced was minimalist genius and simplicity (no moving parts! Picture an L, laid horizontal and joined to the wall at the open end of the short leg. The tall arm was the TP “axle”).

        But I only got a few years out of it, and had to futz around the better part of an afternoon with hollow-wall toggle-anchors’n’crap, to replace it.

        Or, and I have complained about this before many many times, ergonomic toothbrushes that you can’t set down – and these are now the norm. Not every design “improvement” is, even if *it itself* is widely adopted.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Do they really sell new spring-loaded tubes in standard sizes?

        I would say (not having made a deep study of the matter) one standard size, since it’s constrained by the size of the roll. Your choice would be in colors, materials, etc.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Unless you prefer a California Roll. It’s not quite as wide, but is a little longer.

        (More seriously, what Mike said. If the rolls are standard size, then the axle/spindle/roller/whatever that thing is called has to be too).Report

      • Do they really sell new spring-loaded tubes in standard sizes?

        You don’t need multiple sizes. The design allows a single “size” tube to accommodate a wide range of fixture dimensions. An afternoon at Lowe’s with a micrometer and you could easily determine the single set of measurements necessary to fit >99% of all fixtures.Report

  12. Avatar RichardS says:

    Slightly off topic, but I come from a science backround. The history of science is full of great ideas that initally met with huge resistance because didn’t fit with the establishment worldview. Galileo and Darwin are but a few example of brilliant individuals who rocked the boat.

    In medicine, there is the story Ignaz Semmelweiss who first made the connection between cleanliness (or lack thereof) and the transmission of disease. He was censured becuase the message that management wasn’t “wash your hands between pateints and improve outcomes”, but “my god, doctors are killing people”….Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      Galileo was actually a bit of an ass. Sure, his model was simpler, but for all its elegant simplicity it lacked the predictive power of the ptolemaic system. It was not only until much later when Newton came around could a Heliocentric theory pick up again this time with proper elliptical orbits. Galileo’s insistence of perfectly circular orbits was rather boneheaded even for his time as doing so got the predictions all wrong. And besides Einstein should have taught us that finding the absolute frame of reference of the universe was futile as there is no such thing. One frame is just as “true” as any other.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        And besides Einstein should have taught us that finding the absolute frame of reference of the universe was futile as there is no such thing. One frame is just as “true” as any other.

        Not so much. There is math to describe the orbits of the planets assuming that the earth (or any other body you like) is at rest and the remainder of the solar system is moving around it, but the necessary adjustments make it hideously complicated. (It’s what’s called a non-inertial frame of reference). If you assume the sun is at rest (more or less; the gravitational pull of the planets makes it wobble a bit around its center), the math is far simpler and more practical to use, because now you’ve got an inertial frame of reference. (Or close enough.) The former would be like assuming one of the elevator cars at the Empire State Building is at rest and the entire earth moves up and down to present different floors to it. Yes, you can describe things that way, but it would be ridiculous: you’d have to figure in the movement of the elevator when designing a motorway in London.

        Also, Kepler had deduced that the planetary orbits were elliptical before Galileo complete his version of heliocentrism. Galileo wrongly rejected that because there was no scientific reason they should be ellipses. What Newton added to the discussion was his theory of universal gravitation, which (once you have calculus, which Newton also invented) shows why orbits are ellipses rather than circles.Report

      • Avatar Gottfried says:

        once you have calculus, which Newton also invented

        I object!Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        NERD FIGHT!
        NERD FIGHT!
        NERD FIGHT!

        You come at Sir Isaac, you best bring mo’ nads!Report

      • Avatar RichardS says:

        “Galileo was actually a bit of an ass”

        True Dat. And Copernicus did figure it out first, but couched his thesis in a “what if” scenario so as not to piss off the pope. Galileo wrote his essay as a discussion between a learned person and an idiot… which pissed the pope off supremely.

        The point I was trying to make is that the truth is often painful for the establishment… and the truth speaker is often punished for speaking it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Leibniz is acting dotty again.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        That was surprisingly good.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      “Go ahead, laugh! They laughed at Einstein! They laughed at Darwin! They laughed at Jacobowitz!”

      “Who’s Jacobowitz?”

      “My Uncle Seymour. He’s a lunatic.”Report

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