Monday, October 13, 2008

Yikes Is Right

I kind of love this video from The Daily Show; maybe I'm giving Americans too much credit, but I'm not sure that we need to be treated like kindergardeners in order to best understand the economic crisis. Props aren't always a bad thing; drawings aren't always a bad thing. I had a philosophy professor who used stick figures to better demonstrate her examples. It worked partially because she had as much fun making them and having us guess what they were as we did guessing what they were. And because there was never the feeling that she thought we were idiots. That cartoon, the domino demonstration, even PBS' attempt to explain the financial crunch, all make it seem like those on camera think that those of us sitting on our couches are somehow incredibly mentally deficient.

Which is why I have been enjoying NPR's Planet Money podcasts. These are people who do not talk down to me; that may be a product of their medium. Visuals do not translate well over audio communication, and so the opportunity to bring out the cartoons and the oversized dominoes is very much lessened. At the same time, these seem to be people assuming that those of us who are not economists and who may have had no clue about how an economy ran until about a month or so ago can at least grasp the very basic facts of the situation. And they explain everything in grown up words.

1 comment:

John said...

The folks from Planet Money said what I've been thinking all along: that this current crisis couldn't possibly be the fault of any single person or organization. I'm a big fan of the History Channel's episodes of Modern Marvels that examine history's greatest disasters, and it seems that in nearly every case it took a cascade of multiple critical system failures to cause a major disaster. Take the big blackout of ... was it 2003? Whenever it was, (I seem to remember that)it happened because a substation failure in Canada triggered failures across the board, with each successive failure making the entire grid weaker until the whole thing collapsed.

There's an interesting article on the subject by Richard Dooling in the Times. Some might say it seems a bit alarmist or paranoid, but I don't think he's calling for the end of technology altogether, just for less blind trust in formulae too complicated for mere humans to handle.