Sunk cost fallacy #854

When our kids went to primary school, once a term they would be sent home with a sales brochure from a company called “Scholastics”.

Inside this work of fiction were adverts for books and toys. My suspicion is the school was incentivised to hand this magazine out with kick backs in terms of money or “free” books for the school library and the Principal justified this because it encouraged the kids to request their parents to let them buy and read books.

Except, the kids were never interested in the books, but the toys grabbed their attention.

The adverts for the toys were case studies in creative marketing. What do I mean? This, for example.

The “Ultimate Spy Mission Kit” for just 25 bucks? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, let’s ask customer reviewer, S. Poyser:

Bought kit through loop book club. Spy ear – wires came off the circuit board during first use. Very disappointed 7yo. No circuit diagram to figure out how to reconnect it, even if I had a soldering iron.

That was the experience of our kids with everything they were tricked into splurging their hard-earned pocket money for.

Yesterday, I spoke to my now teenage daughter about the cycle of emotions she experienced during these purchases. First came the excitement of realising she could afford such a wonderful and life-changing toy. Then the anticipation and delayed gratification until the delivery. The unwrapping and playing brought a mild disappointment followed by grief and upset when the inevitable happened and the cheap plastic shite broke in her hands.

Rinse and repeat next term.

Our kids generally took three cycles of this until they realised Scholastic was a cynical wealth redistribution project to relieve kids of their pocket money in return for useless Chinese-manufactured crap.

I use this example frequently when trying warn my kids about falling for the sunk cost fallacy. I go on to explain how gamblers often trick themselves into throwing more money after their losses in the hope of a big win to make them whole again.

In completely unrelated news worth considering as you queue for your third and fourth booster shot, international flight routes have been shut down again, Central European countries are back in various versions of lockdown and masks are back to compulsory fashion wear in shops and public transport in the UK.

Bill’s Opinion

Remember how elated you felt when the vaccines were announced?

Perhaps you downloaded the vaccine passport with a little frisson of glee once that second shot had been given and the two weeks for it to “bed in” had elapsed?

Did you post a virtue signalling selfie on Instagram or LinkedIn urging everyone to do the right thing and get jabbed so we could /checks notes/ get back to normal?

How’s that investment going for you now?

Perhaps I might interest you in the exquisite rampant mackerel ashtray, diligently fashioned in blue onyx?

A long time between drinks

Life has somewhat got in the way of maintaining this organ recently, for which I apologise.

By way of recompense, I’ll put an unusually personal post up today.

Two months ago, I posted this little missive, which ended with some advice:

  • Find a doctor who will give you a vaccine exemption. It might be accepted by employers, airlines, restaurants and governments for a while,
  • If you are eligible for a passport from another country, apply. Having options is wise. Ask any American male with a Canadian passport during the Vietnam draft era.
  • Consider alternative education models for your children. Take control of their curriculum and hire tutors. If you stay within the current system, focus them on what matters only. STEM.
  • Spread your assets across jurisdictions. Be nimble.
  • Perhaps move away from major population centres, if these are where all the police and army presence is focused.
  • Learn to sail. If you one day find it necessary to steal a yacht from the harbour and sail away, having the skills learned in the Day Skipper qualification would be important

What of this, if any, have I since done?

All of the above, with the exception of learning to sail, that’s a skill I’ve had for a while.

I found a doctor who’d provide an exemption, just in time as my employer brought in a no jab, no job policy. Firing me now will be expensive for them. Don’t bother asking for the doctor’s details; they’ve since been told by the Dept. of Health to stop writing them.

I renewed the family’s second passports. Nice post-Brexit blue ones too.

Our kids have left the education system and are now homeschooling on the Euka programme. It’s very good and Year 9 English, in particular, is studying the classics rather than this piece of bollocks they were sent home with from the high school last term.

Our assets are now split across two jurisdictions. A house here, cash and pensions elsewhere.

We move house next month. We’re leaving Sydney and will be living in a small community within an acceptable commute from my work, assuming I’ll ever need to go there again. in addition, I’m looking for work internationally, pitching myself at employers with global roles who would need people who can work flexible hours.

….and this winter I’ll be putting my yacht on a stand in the driveway to renovate it and upgrade it to being capable of long ocean passages.

Bill’s Opinion

Predictions I would have dismissed as on the extreme lunatic fringe two years ago are now reality.

The smart thing to do with that knowledge is to assume other dire predictions are more possible than you would have previously assumed and prepare to ensure you have options to avoid these if they were to happen.

Everything is a balance of course, you don’t want to be the Kung Flu equivalent of the Heaven’s Gate disciples, but listening to what is being said about mandatory this and compulsory that, and responding accordingly would be wise.

William Nostradamus

Hopefully, if you’re a regular reader here, you don’t have me categorised as a conspiracy theorist. I’ve made it clear I’m a follower of Hanlon’s Razor, and don’t spend too much time trying to understand the “why?” of situations I stand no chance of parsing.

We don’t need to assume motives to extrapolate the present to the future though. Frankly, after the last 21 months of thinking to ourselves, “surely they won’t do that here?” about policies that were subsequently imposed on us shortly thereafter, we should expect more to come.

At some point, we probably ought to take notice of this trend and use it to predict the future. Even more so for those of us in The Lucky Country as we’ve only moved on slightly from the old joke;

As the plane lands at Sydney airport, the captain announces, “welcome to Kingsford Smith International Airport. The local temperature is 32 degrees and the local time is, oh, about 1992”.

We’ve managed to close the time difference these days, and we’re now only about six to nine months behind the developed world. In theory, this is great news; we can look at what’s happening in the northern hemisphere, see what to expect, and learn from their mistakes.

And, if you believe that, I’ve got a Harbour Bridge and an effective and perfectly safe vaccine I can sell you.

So, a little early this year, here’s my predictions for our next year:

Bill’s Predictions for 2022

  1. New South Wales will remove all local covid-related restrictions for everyone on December 15th, regardless of vaccine status, as promised.
  2. Following an increase of cases in late January, New South Wales will recommence the daily theatre of public health officials giving press conferences.
  3. Completely unrelated to the virus, hospitals will begin to see spikes in admissions for a range of issues, including late diagnoses of cancer. Victoria has already seen a foreshadow of what is happening in the USA.
  4. Australian states will revert to lockdown restriction in May.
  5. A high profile public official known for their lockdown zealotry will be murdered, most likely in the USA but possibly in Victoria.
  6. The NASDAQ will blow past previous record highs. Oil and gas, uranium, gold and Bitcoin will rise even faster. Inflation will continue on its perma-transitory journey and central bank interest rates will stay static. Lending rates will rise.
  7. There will be several high profile on-pitch collapses of previously fit athletes.
  8. Vaccine passports will be introduced in most western countries, eventually conforming to a UN standard. Other useful data will be added to the certificate.
  9. A smaller country, perhaps Singapore, will trial Central Bank Digital Currency.
  10. Several long haul flights will crash in mysterious circumstances. Maintenance diligence during 2020/21 will be found to be the eventual cause.
  11. Alec Baldwin will open a successful YouTube channel advocating the 2nd Amendment. His wife will translate for South American viewers.
  12. Petty crime rates will begin to rise significantly during the year.
  13. There will be a copycat spate of violent riots during the northern hemisphere summer.
  14. Taiwan will propose a referendum for 2023 to consider China’s proposal for reunification.
  15. President Kamala Harris is sworn in following her use of the 25th amendment after several conspicuous public dementia episodes by Joe Biden.

Bill’s Opinion

Who knows, eh? Things I would have thought were conspiracy theories and paranoia previously, have been our reality for nearly two years now.

Rather in the way I sometimes put people I like on my Deadpool competition selection, I’m very much hoping all of the above is just silly speculation.

Let’s review the list in 12 months, shall we.


Well, that didn’t take long. Already, the epidemiologists are calling for a return to personal relevance covid restrictions.

I can’t help thinking epidemiologists in 2020/21 are the equivalent of Palo Alto engineers suddenly discovering their high status job has instantly raised them from a 2/10 to an 8/10 with hot women. Who can blame them for not wanting that to end?

Fake paintings and lemons

George Smiley : Ever bought a fake picture, Toby?
Toby Esterhase : I sold a couple once.
George Smiley : The more you pay for it, the less inclined you are to doubt its authenticity.

Remember how, once we’d received the vaccines, we’d achieve herd immunity and we’d be able to go back to the lives we once led?

This study published in The Lancett suggests otherwise.

The SAR in household contacts exposed to the delta variant was 25% (95% CI 18–33) for fully vaccinated individuals compared with 38% (24–53) in unvaccinated individuals.

Your vaccine doesn’t prevent you catching the virus and barely reduces transmission to others.

But wait, there’s more:

Vaccination reduces the risk of delta variant infection and accelerates viral clearance. Nonetheless, fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections have peak viral load similar to unvaccinated cases and can efficiently transmit infection in household settings, including to fully vaccinated contacts.

To “steelman“ the case for the vaccinations, I would suggest there are three reasons for their use:

  1. To protect me from death or severe illness from the virus,
  2. To prevent or reduce my risk of catching the virus, and
  3. In the event I catch the virus, to prevent or reduce the likelihood of me passing it to others.

That’s it, right? There are no other reasons for the vaccine (or any other vaccine for that matter). Let’s avoid the conspiracy theories and temptation of assigning nefarious motives to the vaccine campaign; as we discussed earlier, that will just drive you mad,

So, those three reasons….

The statistical data from around the globe suggests (1) is valid. It’s not watertight, people are still ending up in hospital or worse, but there’s a clear drop off of the volume of severe outcomes correlated to the vaccine roll out.

The Lancet paper suggests the vaccines don’t contribute much towards (2); people are still able to catch it regardless of vaccine status.

The same paper confirms the vaccines barely prevent transmission relative to the control group of unvaccinated. 25% transmission rates versus 38% transmission isn’t going to stop us all from eventually meeting this thing. If you believe the study, anyone saying vaccines are required to stop the spread isn’t thinking straight.

Bill’s Opinion

The sunk cost fallacy is a very strong human urge. Nobody likes to admit they’ve bought a lemon.

How long we can pretend to ourselves that these vaccines do anything other than ameliorate the symptoms though, well that’s an entirely different proposition.

Expect the mass hallucination to continue for a very long time into the future. Add in a large helping of the sunk cost fallacy and we will be blaming the unvaccinated for every inconvenient data point throughout the northern hemisphere winter and beyond.