On Rationality, And Web Browsers

[More from my correspondence with Dr. Hare, by far the best reason to head over to the Upper East Side now and then, below…]

Copyright 2006 Jens Haas - www.jenshaas.com

“Dear Dr. Hare,

I’m very much looking forward to next week’s appointment. I’m in the middle of reprogramming my website. In theory, I love doing this. Yet, there’s always a maddening difficulty involved: making it run smoothly on Windows Explorer, especially on the older versions of it (not compliant with Web Standards, if that means anything to you…). You end up coding all kinds of hacks into your site to circumvent the glitches, which is genuinely painful for a purist like me. Ah! There goes the beauty of simplicity. All this really bothers me. Why should a piece of poorly done software have such power over me? And most of all, why do so many people still stick to this software, when there are much better choices?

So, before I come to your office, do you have any consolation for me, or an explanation of the ways of the world?

Thanks so much,

“Dear Jens,

what can I say, I know nothing about computers. In fact, I went to my assistant to ask her about this, because I’m so badly informed. It turns out that she too uses the Explorer, so part of my office here is running on it. When I asked her what version we have, she said she didn’t know. So, we are part of the world that makes your life difficult. (Of course, I have my little notebook here on my desk with Firefox, which you downloaded for me, as you of course know. But would I have this if you hadn’t helped me?)

I see your point: why not choose better over worse? Isn’t that an easy choice? Perhaps, but first of all, one needs to care about it. Yes, I’m glad that I switched to my lovely new notebook, and I’m glad that things are really easy. But did I mind my old computer? Well, you would say that I did, because it was all a mess. But in my own memory, I didn’t.

Now, please don’t think that I don’t understand your frustration. It is in fact a deep psychological question why people do not tend to make the choices that are, by their own lights, best. Perhaps that’s why I’ve gone into this profession, because I want to know why. So, your question is not unheard, and not unappreciated. But it really is the question of whether human beings are, on the whole, rational or irrational, and I am not sure that I have found the answer yet.

And yes, please come in next week, we should talk – not about computers, preferably.

Dr. Hare”