Sunday, 23 December 2007

Mobiles, magpies and markets

If there is one advert I really hate at the moment it's that Orange one with the slogan 'Good things should never end'. Several things about it make me want to put my foot through the telly. First is the irritating 'faux hippy' music and styling. Like, hey guys, we're just a bunch of crazy, idealistic slackers like you - our target 18-35 demographic - so why not sign up to a kooky contract with us?

But the slogan says it all really. It's the kind of meaningless hippyish-sounding but actually thoroughly self-indulgent blah you find in a lot of yoof oriented stuff these days. For instance, next time you're watching telly have a look at how many adverts are using folksy/hippy music, even as they try to sell you something you don't need and which is no doubt quite anti-hippy in its ethos. Unfortunately I'm too convinced that our feeble minds are easily fooled to not think that such hippy-corporate junk probably has an impact on us.

As an example of just how stoopid we can be, me and the Mrs were having a coffee this morning and saw a magpie land in a tree in the communal back yard which our flat faces into. We both agreed that when we see one magpie on its own we think of the "one for sorrow..." rhyme and instinctively feel a bit anxious. This is clearly ridiculous (unless someone is aware of any serious academic work suggesting a correlation between single magpie appearances and sorrowful events) but at some point in our lives we have been told it and, as irrational as it clearly is, it still features in our thinking even to the extent of provoking an emotional response when we see a single magpie.

This is turn reminded me of a bit in Naseem Nicholas Taleb's Fooled By Randomness (one of the best things I have read lately) where he talks about falling prey to a similarly irrational supersitition. He got a taxi to work one day, whilst working as a trader, and for once decided to get it to drop him off a block away from work and he walked the rest of the way. That day one of his trading strategies paid off handsomely. The next day he got a taxi to work... and got it to drop him off a block away from the offoce so he could walk the rest of the way. He knew that it was crazy to think that the taxi ride the day before had led to his trading success, but some part of his brain still compelled him to feel it had in some way been a factor.

We are constantly grasping for explanations, even where there don't need to be any.


Charlie Marks said...

Last week i had the good fortune to spend a few hours watching Adam Curtis' excellent tv series "the century of the self" - - in which he goes into, amongst other things, the way that American industry reacted to a generation of consumers - hippy baby-boomers - who were so determined to live life without considering the future that they didn't buy life insurance upon leaving university.

I know, I know. Another recommendation. But if you haven't seen it already, I advise you do. Very interesting stuff...

When I see a lone magpie i feel sad - because he's on his own. Used to be two of em in the neighbourhood and we all assumed they were lovers... The stories we make up!

Anyhoo Tom, I hope you have a red and restful Christmas...

Tom P said...

sounds interesting, will have a butchers.

have a good xmas!