Fighting Human Nature

There’s an editorial over at Planet Savage, which says that benchmarks are grossly overrated and simply encourage benchmark cheating.

There’s nothing in the piece I disagree with, except the notion that the problem can be easily fixed.

The core problem is not benchmarking. The core problem is not how websites use or abuse benchmarking. The core problem is not manufacturers taking advantage of benchmark dependency.

The problem is human nature.

People do not buy equipment like Vulcans. They buy equipment like people, and that means, to a large degree, buying is a psychological, emotional experience, not an intellectual one.

Computers Meet Unmet Psychological and Emotional Needs

The article decries people for having a “mine is bigger than yours” attitude, and gives a lot of objective reasons for this not being a good idea.

The problem with that approach is that this is the main or even sole reason why many, many people buy what they buy in the first place: to have a bigger one. If it weren’t a computer, it would be clothes, or a car, or a desirable partner.

You might call that immature, but if you take a look at the adults, they’re doing the same thing with different objects of desire.

It really boils down to the notion that things can satisfy and fulfill you. You could write a million words about why this is a notion that isn’t good in excess, but you have one big challenge on your hands.

People Are Lazy

All people are capable of being mentally lazy. The only real difference between them is how often and about what. Most people find thinking a tactic, a weapon, not a lifestyle. It’s not that they can’t think, they usually just don’t want to unless they get forced or have very good reason to. They are mental environmentalists who act like thought is a nonrenewable resource. 🙂

Making a truly informed decision about a product takes a good deal of work, and it can often be a very confusing, frustrating task even for those who want to do it in the first place. The more you know, the harder the decision becomes. There’s just so much more to think about, and every product has positives and negatives.

Every person also brings their own factors to the equation. How much am I willing to spend? How long am I willing to wait for it?

Doing the right thing can leave you with a sore head and general disgust with all the possible choices.

So what people do is look for a shortcut, and for many, one or two or three benchmarks provide a simple, clear, painless answer to the problem. In this case, ignorance can often be bliss.

Is that a bad way to approach it? Of course, but people like that look like product engineers compared to how their parents or the person next door decide what to buy.

I Know Best…


I Know Best

People think very highly of themselves and their judgment. So often they say, “I don’t want opinions, just give me facts so I can decide for myself.” Then (usually) they take the one fact that agrees with what they were already thinking, and decide. 🙂

And when you suggest that might not be the best approach in the world. . . .

NOW This Is Personal . . . .

Contrary to public opinion, you don’t have to insult people to insult people. They do it to themselves so well. So long as people follow the equation: “Your approach/conclusion is incorrect = You are wrong and stupid,” who needs personal insults? Just tell someone they’re wrong on something, and even worse, prove it, and you have a major firefight on your hands.

Selective Comprehension

People see what they want to see, read what they want to read. They don’t see what they don’t want to see, don’t read what they don’t want to read.

I could write an article that began with “AMD is in financial puzzle,” and end it with “The Athlon64 is so good that you should happily rip off your genitalia and sell them in order to pay for it,” and people will email me and denounce me for being anti-AMD.

I fairly frequently have people who quote something to me from a piece, then I look at the piece and the very next sentence after the quote put the comment in context and shows that the quotee agrees with me and not the quoter.

All Knowledge Is Political

Not political as in parties or candidates, political as in “our side has the truth.”

Yes, there are “truths” that are political in nature. How well or badly George W. Bush has been President is almost entirely a political issue. Saying that P2Ping copyrighted files without the owner’s permission is illegal is not a political issue at all. Arguing about whether it should be illegal is a political issue, but not whether or not it is illegal. It is; that’s an objective legal reality.

Yet many, many people treat the two as exactly the same. The notion that there are objective realities quite independent of their wishes and desires seems quite foreign to them.

Increased Suspectibility

Add to all this the usual age/emotional state of the person making the decision.

Age in and of itself is not an ironclad rule. A few of the best-reasoned, emotional balanced comments I’ve ever gotten have come from fourteen year olds. Some of the most immature comments I’ve ever gotten have come from those north of forty.

Nonetheless, as a whole, it’s safe to say that those on the left side of the bell curve for age are more likely to know less, be more susceptible to emotional manipulation, and be more resistant to being told that that’s what is happening than those who are older.

This is not exactly a new phenomenon.

Statistically, age, maturity, and bitter experience tends to eventually cure that. Sometimes.

The “Solution”…


The “Solution”

This is not a matter of people not hearing the right thing, or hearing the wrong thing. This is a matter of people not wanting to hear the right thing, which is much more formidable competition.

You can denounce all these human faults as being illogical and self-defeating and whatever, but it’s sort of like Spock pointing that out to Kirk and McCoy on the old Startrek. It did do a whole lot of good.

But it did some. That’s the saving grace of human beings. We are not bees; we can change.

Not all the receivers are turned off all the time. A few get the message right away, many more get it later, more than that get it only after experience has punched them in the face with it. Some don’t get it no matter what you do, and never will.

People ask me, “Why do you keep talking about X? Don’t you think everybody who wants to get it has already gotten it?

That’s not how people work, in any field. Look at your neighborhood church. How many times do you think the members (or you) have heard basically the same thing? Are they all (or you) saints?

In school, did you get everything right the first time? No? If you stopped trying to learn something after the first failure to get it right the first time, how much would you know now?

After you do this job for a while, you realize that the root cause of most overclocker problems isn’t lack of information or facts; it’s what is (or isn’t) done with them. The problem isn’t with the transmitters; it’s with the receivers. Receivers heavily biased by human nature.

But unlike real faulty receivers, the human ones are capable of being fixed. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as a firmware or BIOS flash.

No, you just keep sending out the proper code, and hope a few at a time pick it up and do the necessary flash themselves. You don’t get (or at least try not to get) frustrated when everyone, most, or even some don’t get it the first, second, or tenth time.

You just keep at it knowing what you’re up against, and count your successes one at a time.


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