Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sod's Law

I propose that Sod's Law is a very pessimistic idea. It implies that there are situations that reality just imposes on us, that we aren't responsible for and can't do anything about. But as Popper says, "The future is open. It is not predetermined and thus cannot be predicted - except by accident. The possibilities that lie in the future are infinite." I don't think that Sod's Law is compatible with Popper's view of reality.

If you imagine a situation in which something happens that you would prefer did not happen—let's say, your interesting friend phones you at precisely the same time that your favorite TV show starts. That is Sod's Law.

Now, let's imagine potential solutions. You could ask your friend to hang on a moment, record your TV show (perhaps you have TiVo, which would be convenient), and continue the phone call. You could ask your friend quickly if you can call them back later, and then watch your TV show. You could revise your opinion of the TV show and decide that you didn't really care about it anyway. You could watch the TV show again on Youtube. You could ask your friend to talk to you on AIM instead, and then continue the conversation via IM whilst watching the TV show. You could ask your friend to email to you whatever it was they wanted to say, and then respond to the email when the TV show is finished.

There are more solutions that one could come up with. But there's quite a lot up there that take less than sixty seconds to implement, so let's imagine that one of them is suitable for you. You have solved the problem, and Sod's Law is no longer in effect, because you are no longer being inconvenienced.

Complaining about Sod's Law is irrational. You can just think about the problem and solve it and then it doesn't exist any more. That is a rational way to behave. Throwing yourself at the mercy of situations and refusing to apply any creativity to them, and then complaining that reality is in some way inherently harmful or unpleasant in some percentage of situations (which is what Sod's Law means) isn't a very good policy.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Assumptions about Morality

During a conversation I was having today about social healthcare, this was levelled as a criticism at America:

some high up guy has admitted that this.. group.. for all the american healthcare insurance companies ran some sort of campaign to discredit michael moore's documentary because they were scared people would think universal healthcare is good
This struck me, because the person in question believed that social healthcare was good. Therefore, they assumed that the discrediting campaign was bad, because it was attempting to spread lies in a self-serving manner.

However, if we imagine a situation in which social healthcare is not good, I am not sure that the campaign would not be thought of as a bad thing. If somebody made a movie glorifying Nazism that had some populist appeal, and several Libertarian groups ran campaigns trying to discredit it, I doubt that most people would mind that very much. When voters turned out to rally against the British National Party in the recent EU elections, not only trying to discredit them but physically harrassing them too, by throwing eggs, the general consensus was that the violent rallyers were in the right, because consensus was also that the BNP was wrong.

I propose that insurance companies campaigning against a film promoting social healthcare should not be considered a bad thing. It might be said that insurance companies have an interest in people not liking social healthcare, but I would respond with the following two questions: is it not the case that Libertarians have an interest in Nazism being unpopular, and voters in the BNP having no power? And, precisely what interest do insurance companies have in people not liking social healthcare? There is no social-healthcare-company for people to switch to if they don't like medical insurance. Whether people like the idea of social healthcare or not, it won't actually lose the companies business if there is no social healthcare plan in place in that country.

In the interest of fallibilism, I suggest that even those who firmly believe that social heathcare is good should hold themselves open to the possibility that that they are wrong. Since I have provided several examples of cases in which groups may campaign against ideas that it is not in their interest to be popular, but in which those campaigns are good, I do not think that we ought to condemn insurance companies for their campaign.

Also, for interest's sake, note that the wording "some high up guy has admitted that [underhand plot]" has overtones of conspiracy theorism.