19 votes

The twelve year mistake: Shamus Young describes the difficulty of diagnosing long-term problems in the moment

5 comments

  1. [2]
    vivaria
    Link
    This is a tangent stemming from a rant I gave about a knotty mess of topics: How small mistakes, decisions, and bits of bad luck can compound in destabilizing ways. Systems that are difficult for...

    This is a tangent stemming from a rant I gave about a knotty mess of topics:

    • How small mistakes, decisions, and bits of bad luck can compound in destabilizing ways.
    • Systems that are difficult for someone to claw their way out of because of their self-reinforcing nature (e.g. the poverty trap).
    • How much easier it is to see better choices from a distance (e.g. hindsight) vs. in the moment.
    • The tendency of internet commenters to ignore the above context and cast judgment on people who end up in difficult situations because they believe they could have navigated things better.

    Deimos shared this link (The Twelve Year Mistake) which covers a lot of the same ground, and I thought it would make for a good top-level topic. Excellent read + lots of directions to go for chats. :)


    Choice quote:

    I feel stupid now. It seems simple in retrospect, but of course the input data is incredibly noisy. Heating bills travel on a year-long sine wave. Electric bills follow the inverse wave. It’s hard to get a feel for how things are overall. But the other contributing factor – and I think this is true of a lot of slow-moving problems – is that it’s hard to diagnose problems if you view them at a really low framerate. I was only looking at and thinking about finances for ten minutes a month, and it’s really hard to see changes at that speed. If I was playing a strategy game and the last eight years were compressed into a couple of minutes I’d be able to see things easily. At any given moment a snapshot of the bills might look dire or reasonable. It's not until you average things out that you can see the true costs of living someplace.

    10 votes
    1. Deimos
      Link Parent
      I think this is a good excerpt too, from part 4: This was even harder to see coming or deal with during the time he's talking about (2008 or so), before online banking was common, and almost...

      I think this is a good excerpt too, from part 4:

      If you’ve never lived paycheck-to-paycheck, then here is how it goes…

      1. An irregular bill shows up. Something broke, somebody got sick, you get a speeding ticket, whatever.
      2. You don’t have enough money to pay the bills. The cash just isn’t there. Paying late incurs late fees, which make the problem worse, so you want to be late on as few things as possible. You pay as much as you can, taking your bank balance down to almost nothing.
      3. Except! You forgot about that one auto-pay fee for your website, or that one time you used the debt card to pay for gas, or you accidentally bungled the math and spent slightly more than you had, or there’s that one check you sent out two months ago and forgot about and the recipient is now getting around to cashing. Because of this, you bounce a check. That $100 check to pay the electric bill doesn’t clear because you only have $95 in the bank. The bank punishes you for this by charging to a fee, which ranges from $20 to $100 depending on the bank. So not only do you not have enough to pay the bill, but now your bank balance is actually negative. They charge you another fee for that. So your bank balance is now -$50 and you still haven’t paid the bill. A bunch of angry notices are sent out.
      4. You put some more money in the bank. Say $100. You now think you should have about $100, but you actually only have $50. You write another check to the phone company and it bounces, incurring another double-whammy overdraft fee + extra fee. Once again you’re in the hole.
      5. The mail finally arrives, and you realize your blunder. You’re now down a couple of hundred dollars and you still haven’t paid the electric company or the phone company. They hit you with some punishment fees for sending the bad checks, plus a late fee for not paying on time. So there’s another hundred bucks in random fees. More bills end up late the next month. Since you live paycheck-to-paycheck, you will never, ever be able to catch up.

      Think about a situation like that: You know that your entire coming week of work is all going to be eaten by fees stemming from a simple mistake.

      This was even harder to see coming or deal with during the time he's talking about (2008 or so), before online banking was common, and almost everything was paid with checks that could be outstanding for weeks or months. You couldn't easily get an accurate, up-to-date balance unless you kept careful records, and it was easy to make mistakes or omissions.

      14 votes
  2. [3]
    suspended
    Link
    You tagged me in your rant which pinged me, obviously. I, also, read it and was moved by it. I'd like to preface my self by saying that I am not a religious person and have never been....

    You tagged me in your rant which pinged me, obviously. I, also, read it and was moved by it.

    I'd like to preface my self by saying that I am not a religious person and have never been. Furthermore, I am not trying to proselytize you into another belief system.

    Thus, my comment here has to do with struggling with extreme adversity. Also, I understand that your particular struggles are unique and I am in no way diminishing them. I just thought that it may be helpful to see another person's account of grave misfortune.

    A few decades of friends and family pleaded with me to publish this story in order to make it readily available to others. So, I did.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      hhh
      Link Parent
      Reading that was completely...alien experience to me. I don't think I've ever had a religious experience (or really even very strong emotions) so reading through that was fascinating. Have you had...

      Reading that was completely...alien experience to me. I don't think I've ever had a religious experience (or really even very strong emotions) so reading through that was fascinating.

      Have you had any experience relating to your other visions since you wrote that?

      3 votes
      1. suspended
        Link Parent
        No.

        Have you had any experience relating to your other visions since you wrote that?

        No.

        1 vote