Big numbers, little comprehension


Is the CEO of your bank getting a bonus of $75 or $15 million?  What does this actually mean to our minds? Do we feel five times as good about receiving the 75 mil as we would about the 15…hell no. Human minds evolved during an era where resources and status were determined in ways that didn’t require a calculator.

I’m reminded of this whenever middle brows rattle off some number that is meant to impress me. Ok, where does that compare to other similar events? Where does that number fit within recent historical context? Often, people can’t answer these questions and the number means nothing to me. The media loves big numbers because people will read, or click, or buy a magazine based on them without thinking.

Part of the reason that this blog exists is to point out the irrationality in our human nature, and to make fun of it. Numbers provide endless entertainment. Those who proclaim stocks and bonds as too risky will gladly sign up for a massive mortgage. People who quibble over a $15 bar tab will blindly fork over thousands if it is for an “education.” Companies will ask their employees to steal pens, but sign up for millions of dollars in strategy advice.

No answers here, but shooting down your local blowhard just got a little easier.


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