The Consumer Products Safety Commission wants to ban Buckyballs, the magnetic office toy for "adults with Asperger's", because kids swallow them.
("Hey, stupid, isn't the Buckyballs story two months old?" I'm writing a
book of pornography, it's taking up a lot of my time. "Of?")
This is the kind of story that gets the public to unanimously cry, "We're a bunch of coddled babies!" and if you cried that, please recall my useful heuristic: if you ever find yourself in complete agreement with the public, especially when "public" includes people you wanted to murder in the last election, then your position is not only wrong, it's not even yours. You have been trained to have this thought, so the money is in understanding why.
Here is the mistake the conventional wisdom makes: it forgets it lives
in the West. It is free to compare risks because it believes all
risks have been considered, by someone else. This isn't a social problem, it is a
philosophical one: we are taught to think like this. This is why an otherwise intelligent person still thought to say, "are you saying we should ban
electrical sockets? They kill more people than Buckyballs!" That person is confused, but it isn't his fault.
Here's how it plays out.
: Oh my god, you are an idiot, I am so embarrassed. I want an abortion.
What would you do? The balls are non-toxic and they can't rip out all your blood iron like Magneto. So you do what every parent does, you call a psychiatrist and wait for your kid to poop it out.
Of course the problem is the balls clump together while in different parts of the intestine, pinching through the intestinal wall, kinking or twisting it-- and as he's dying you're saying, "well that serves you right for taking after your father."
Now that I just told you this it seems obvious, but would you have known this before I told you? Would you have known to take the belly pain of your child
seriously? That's the issue: that the toy is "conventional wisdom" safe, the precautions taken are the same as for regular ball bearings.
If you doubt this, please admit to yourself that you will be more careful with them around your children simply because you heard about the ban. It is that warning that needs to be communicated by the product manufacturer. "Well, it says it on the box." As they point out in the complaint, however, the warnings so far have failed, kids are still swallowing them. "They're stupid." I agree entirely, however you've misunderstood me: the warnings have failed on the
. Note that "parents" here isn't your usual signifier for stupid parents (non-Asian minorities, Central Time moms, Christians, etc). Buckyballs are sold at Brookstone with proof of subscription to Wired, that's the demo.
It's probably necessary for me to announce loudly that I am AGAINST THE BUCKYBALLS BAN, but the point here is why in 20XX such a ban is not only possible but expected.
Have you ever seen a bus and had the fantasy that if you got hit, you could sue the city for $5M? While it's probably means you're a follower not a leader (e.g. "I hate frivolous lawsuits, but if everyone else gets to do it...") I want you to focus carefully on the implication of this fantasy: in the secret studio of your mind, even a bus accident is safe.
"Yes, we know, humans miscalculate risk." No, they are very good at calculating it-- for other people. No one ever thinks, "It would be awesome if my wife got hit by a bus and we sued for $5M."
"!HA! You're wrong, I think that every night!!!" You're a tool. And a cuckold. It's not that you are
willing to take the "risk"-- you are not altruistic-- you're just 100% certain she would die if a natural gas powered leviathan hit her in the tits and 100% certain you would live. (Sorry. It's the porn book.)
It is this kind of example that trips up the "public" when judging things like Buckyballs because we don't think in large numbers and apply to one (statistics), we think in terms of ourselves and multiply by 6 billion (narcissism). Here's a piece from an extraordinary video I am ashamed to admit I found on Metafilter. Watch this dummy try to climb 8 stairs (spacebar to play):