Why we hate cheap things (and how to fix that crazy way of thinking)

I think this essay on consumption from the Book of Life is brilliant. Hat tip to Rory Sutherland for sharing it:

In 1927, a hitherto unknown air mail pilot called Charles Lindbergh became the first man to complete a solo crossing of the Atlantic in his fragile plane, The Spirit of St Louis.

For hours, he flew in the most arduous conditions, braving wind, rain and storms. He saw clouds passing below him and distant thunder claps on the horizon. It was one of the profoundest moments of his life. He was awestruck and felt he was becoming, for a time, almost God-like. For most of the twentieth century, his experience remained rare and extremely costly. There was therefore never any danger that the human value of crossing an ocean by air would be overlooked.

This lasted until the arrival of the Boeing 747 and the cheap plane ticket in the summer of 1970. The jumbo fundamentally changed the economics of flying. The experiences of gazing down at clouds and seeing the world spread out stopped being (as it had been for Lindbergh) a life-changing encounter; it started to feel commonplace and even a little boring. It became peculiar to wax lyrical about the red-eye to JFK or a mention of a spectacular column of clouds that one had spotted shortly after the arrival of the chicken lunch. A trip that would have mesmerised Leonardo da Vinci or John Constable was now passed over in silence.

The view from the plane window underwent an economic miracle that led to a psychological catastrophe: its cost dropped and it ceased to matter, though its real value hadn’t changed.

Be sure to read the whole thing here.

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Why we hate cheap things (and how to fix that crazy way of thinking)

Rory Sutherland on why self-conscious altruism is dangerous

From the great Rory Sutherland, Wired, Why appeals to altruism are dangerous:

“Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” That’s the 18th-century philosopher David Hume. I agree. I love my instincts — and, the more I read about decision science, the more sceptical I become about reasoned judgements. In business, I find, there are two kinds of decisions — good decisions and decisions that are easy to explain and defend. They are not the same. The use of reason massively weights people towards the second type. Unfortunately, the need to explain or defend a course of action may lead to a worse decision, because our natural instinct for arse-covering requires that we must then base our decision only on those few factors accessible to measurement or to numerical expression.

Read the whole piece here.

Rory Sutherland on why self-conscious altruism is dangerous