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.

UPDATE

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.

Have you got it yet?

According to Waters, Barrett came into what would be their last rehearsal session together with a new song. He was calling it, “Have You Got It Yet?,” and the first couple times they ran through it, it seemed simple enough. Soon the band realized that the song wasn’t simple at all – Barrett would change the melody and the arrangement constantly with each new practice run – slightly at first, but more and more each time they played it. Barrett would play it again for them, with the capricious structure changes, and each time he would ask, “Have you got it yet?”

Exhibit A: you’d better have 3 vaccines or you can’t earn minimum wage in Victoria. Meanwhile, please come and play in our world class tennis event, no need to have a single shot.

Exhibit B: rare, rare, rare, rare, rare, rare side effects. Meanwhile, it’s perfectly safe, so safe we have to threaten you with losing your income to ensure you take it.

Exhibit C: your three year old son is a threat to the State’s health so you can’t be reunited with him. Meanwhile, I’m flying to Tokyo and back for a taxpayer funded jolly to ink a deal with only one bidder.

Exhibit D: if you thought breathing through a face nappy was difficult, try it with a hand around your throat. Meanwhile, we pulled the science behind those rules out of our arse.

Bill’s Opinion

As Syd Barrett once asked, “have you got it yet?”.

If this ever was about public health, it stopped being based on fact or logic a very long time ago.

Now, it’s about remaining in power because losing it might mean criminal prosecutions or worse.

Chesterton’s Precautionary Principle

There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.” G. K. Chesterton.

To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a single instance in medical history where we’ve vaccinated one demographic with the sole purpose of protecting another group.

Children are at no significant risk of COVID19. It seems repetitive to have to state this, but we seem to have collectively lost the ability to think critically when it comes to this damn virus.

Yet, here we are talking hopefully of stars aligning in time for an extra special Christmas present for the wee bairns:

Why?

No, why would a parent of an otherwise healthy five year old agree to this?

As a parent, I would balance the risks as follows:

Reasons to vaccinate my five year old against COVID19:

  • To protect the five year old against the disease.
  • To protect others from the risk of the five year old spreading the disease.

Reasons to not vaccinate my five year old against COVID19:

  • Natural immunity has been proven to have better outcomes than vaccine immunity for this virus.
  • No long term data exists regarding the safety of the vaccines.

Where one lands on this question is very much determined by where you get your news.

If you have outsourced your thinking to a group of professionals with qualifications in using the English language rather than medical or statistical subjects, you are likely to be booking GP appointments for little Johnny and Janey and not reading this.

If, however, you’ve bothered to look for primary sources of data, you might be applying the precautionary principle and becoming somewhat anxious about a zeitgeist that’s championing this latest vaccine push.

Bill’s Opinion

I’ll resist the temptation to post lots of links to studies and reports to make my case. If you’ve not read these already, it’s unlikely these will persuade you of my view.

We are a year into rolling out vaccines for COVID19, which is, let’s remember, a novel coronavirus. That is, it’s new.

The vaccines are even newer.

We have unanswered questions about the long term impacts on health of both the virus AND the vaccines.

What impact do either have on fertility in young people, for example? Is there a decadal carcinogenic risk, perhaps?

It’s too soon to know the answers for either situation; catching the virus as a child or taking the vaccines.

What’s a good trade off of risks for your 80 year old granny may not be quite the same calculation for your fit and healthy five year old child.

If you are happy to accept the government’s advice (let’s hope it remains advice and not a mandate) on this, perhaps recall how much of the previous 20 months they looked like startled rabbits in the headlights as they so obviously had as much idea about this stuff as anyone else:

Three weeks to flatten the curve”

Masks don’t work”

“It didn’t originate in a lab”

“Zero covid”

Vaccinating five year olds against this disease seems like a typical bureaucratic response; we’ve found a solution to a problem, now we must find more problems for this solution.

You can vaccinate your five year old children, embryos in utero, long dead childhood pets, fictional characters and inanimate objects, but I think I’ll pass this time, thanks.

Australians can’t/won’t read data

The Australian government has published data about mortality in 2020.

It’s barely got a mention in any of the media outlets. That’s fair enough, there’s probably nothing of interest to most people anyway.

Despite this, let’s have a quick look, shall we?

Cherry-picking their own words:

Key statistics


In 2020 there was a decrease in mortality in Australia.

COVID-19 was the 38th leading cause of death (898 deaths).


The five leading causes decreased, with a significant reduction in respiratory diseases.


Rates from suicide, drug overdoses and car crashes decreased.


Alcohol-induced death rates increased by 8.3%.

Some other nuggets from the summary:

(The) median age at death (from/with covid) was 86 years. (The usual median age of death in Australia is 79).

Dementia was the most common pre-existing condition (of Covid deaths).


Chronic cardiac conditions, hypertension and diabetes were also commonly reported comorbidities (with Covid).

Influenza and pneumonia mortality had the highest proportional rate decrease of all respiratory diseases with a drop of 45.8% from 2019.


There were 55 people who died from influenza. This compares to 1,080 in 2019.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s a modern medical miracle; we’ve cured the ‘flu.

Also, we’ve locked up all the kids for two years to save grandma and grandad from a disease that has a median age of death (86) that’s 7 years older than the national median age of death.

Well done everyone, seriously well done.

Farewell vaccine passports – thank you CDC

Australian politicians and media (for they are in agreement on all things) have engaged the Nudge Department to convince us to get vaccinated.

One of the pieces of rhetoric is a future where so-called vaccine passports will enable a bio-security state of Apartheid. “Get doubled jabbed and you can go to the pub, otherwise it’s drinking alone with home delivery beer for you people on the naughty step”.

It’s highly likely this will be challenged through the courts soon. What might the government defence be, do we think?

There’s possibly two lines of defence here:

Firstly, that the unvaccinated are risking others’ health by spreading the virus.

Secondly, that the unvaccinated are at too great a risk of the virus so must be excluded for their own health.

I can’t think of a third defence, but if you can, please add it in the comments.

Point two is the weaker reason, protecting people who are personally at risk of injury by a virus has no legal precedent, otherwise we would have laws banning dangerous sports, excessive drinking, consuming sugar, or preventing people with heart conditions from jogging. People take their own risks in life, or at least that’s how it worked in 2019.

The first defence seems to be the key reason for the segregation by vaccine status. How might our plaintiff counter this?

Perhaps by printing a copy of this CDC report from August 26th (highlight, mine):

Fully vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others. However, vaccinated people appear to spread the virus for a shorter time: For prior variants, lower amounts of viral genetic material were found in samples taken from fully vaccinated people who had breakthrough infections than from unvaccinated people with COVID-19. For people infected with the Delta variant, similar amounts of viral genetic material have been found among both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people. However, like prior variants, the amount of viral genetic material may go down faster in fully vaccinated people when compared to unvaccinated people. This means fully vaccinated people will likely spread the virus for less time than unvaccinated people.

In plain English; Vaccinated people are as likely to transmit the Delta variant as unvaccinated people.

What about the suggestion they remain infectious for longer? The report has several sources linked at the bottom of the article. I challenge you to find any information in those studies supporting the that statement. I couldn’t.

Bill’s Opinion

I’m certain the minor talents and over promoted bureaucrats who are State Premiers and Chief Health Officers will push ahead with the next upgrade of the phone app to include vaccine status. The sunk cost fallacy applies in both money and political capital expenditure.

There will also be several legal challenges as soon as it is launched.

The case should be straightforward to decide; does not having the vaccine offer the general public any greater risk of transmission? The CDC says no.

Of course, in this “late stage democracy” world, trust in institutions has collapsed. We know we can’t trust politicians, we know we can’t trust the media, we will soon learn whether we should still trust the legal system.

Enough. Really, enough now

The modellers have been modelling.

Some idiot gave a laptop with Microsoft Excel installed to researchers at the University of Melbourne with, sadly, the predictable result that we now have yet another bunch of unprovable predictions and what/if scenarios to scare our politicians with.

They even got a WordPress website registered and set up, bless ‘em.

The website allows one to plug in whatever assumptions you’d like and spits out a result demanding MOAR lockdowns, masks and mandatory 17th booster shots of whatever vaccine the government procurement department managed to buy on eBay this week.

The Melbourne University report addresses some of the gaps in the Doherty modelling but it also points out the uncertainty around several factors that could make a big difference to results.

Here we go again. Repeat after me, children; multi-variable situations are almost impossible to predict. It’s an incredibly idiotic mental feat to convince yourself otherwise. Some of our worst human decisions are made as a consequence of thinking we can calculate complex probabilities.

This includes the proportion of people who get Delta that are asymptomatic and can spread the disease without knowing, and how effective the vaccines are at stopping vaccinated people from spreading the virus.

Oh, do continue…..

For example, the Doherty report assumed vaccination reduces the infection rate by 65 per cent but Melbourne University researchers believes this is too “optimistic” and they used a figure of 25 per cent on average.

And that’s it, right there. It’s over, folks. Go back to the office, open the schools, book your overseas holidays; the vaccines only reduce transmission by one quarter.

We are stuck with this thing forever. Get vaccinated if you want, take your chances if you don’t, but stop pretending this virus is not going to be around if only we could convince everyone on the planet to get the jab.

As for the fucking modellers:

“It is best practice for Governments and decision-makers to take a ‘many models’ approach to decision-making support,” the report says.

Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they. Remind me again, how do they get paid?

Bill’s Opinion

This is a mind virus now. Perhaps it always has been.

As commentator Liberator pointed out, Charles Mackay’s book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds has the perfect quotation for where we are, “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.

Happily, some of my friends are slowly recovering their senses. I suspect we will never speak openly of what happened to them.

Because

Because of a few songs wherein I spoke of their mystery, women have been exceptionally kind to my old age. Leonard Cohen.

That quote has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post, I just like it and it commences with “because”.

Conspiracy theorists always look for the “because”. It’s human nature to try to make sense of situations, particularly if they are causing you pain, suffering and anxiety.

It’s a fool’s errand though. The chances of someone affected by an externality to correctly guess the sequence of events leading to it are extremely unlikely.

What probably matters more is correctly observing all the pertinent facts about the present and drawing reasonable conclusions about how they might change in the future.

Some observable facts, then.

Using public health as the justification, despite 18 months of data showing it was, at a population level, a mid-severity flu and is now (with vaccines, regardless of what you may think about their safety), a very mild flu, the following changes have occurred:

  • International and domestic border closures,
  • Legislation and heavy-handed policing restricting freedom of movement, freedom of trade, freedom of association,
  • Curfews and military presence in suburban areas,
  • Legislation mandating quarantine of healthy individuals on the suspicion of infection,
  • Legislation mandating vaccinations for certain professions,
  • Closures of schools, replaced by very sub-optimal online lessons,
  • Vaccination of children against a virus that poses little threat to them,
  • Restriction of travel on several major airlines to those with proof of vaccination,
  • International airfares, for those allowed to travel, outside the budget of most people,
  • Unprecedented (there’s a word for our time!) government borrowing and economic stimulus, in the form of direct payments to business and individuals. In many cases, the government cheque is greater than the wage it replaced,
  • In those countries that have lifted some of the legislated restrictions above, the powers to re-impose them have been retained (the UK, for example).

That’s Australia today.

How might these situations change, do we think?

Borders will reopen and flights resume, but not for the plebeians for a very long time. The competition in international air travel drove prices down to a level where a middle class family could leave Australia once every second or third year. That’s not going to happen again for perhaps a decade. You’ll need a vaccination passport too.

Legislation restricting freedom of movement, trade and association will remain on the books, the powers to arbitrarily invoke the laws will be retained and used based on “cases” or new variants. Look at the decades old laws against terrorism for precedent.

Governments will not be tempted in the slightest to turn off the stimulus fire hoses. The creative destruction of free markets will be seen as a sign of policy failure. Universal Basic Income by another name will be here to stay.

Schools will re-open and close again several times based on “cases”. Masks for school kids, perhaps mandatory vaccinations too. Teachers’ unions will make demands for “safety” usually resulting in pay rises. The quality of the outcomes for pupils will be a distant footnote printed in tiny font.

Court cases will be brought by employees fired over vaccinations. They might win, they might not.

Bill’s Opinion

Don’t look for the because. You’ll drive yourself mad.

On the news every night, some idiot financial journalist will tell you “markets rose 17 points today because of new employment data”, or “fell because of new inflation data”.

Unprovable. All we can prove is markets rose or fell.

Similarly, we can’t be certain about the because of the situation we are living in now.

We can make reasonable extrapolations such as those I’ve offered above, though.

What to do then?

Here’s some suggestions:

  • 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.

It’s all a bit tin foil hat, isn’t it?

But then, imagine a conversation between your 2019 self and your present day self.

Of course, once we’ve moved to Central Bank Digital Currencies, there will be nowhere left to hide anyway.

So enjoy your current freedoms.