Time to Stand Up for Dumb

Time to Stand Up for Dumb
Let’s start out with a smart device undershoot that seldom gets mentioned: e-books. E-book sales fell in 2015 and fell even more in 2017 as both paperback and hardback sales rose. Why? Readers can probably chime in, but print is still easier to read and navigate.
You recall what you read better in print than in e-book form. And personally, I despised that my reader determined the e-book format. I found that I remember what I read where visually, and having all of the social science books I read appear in the same format meant that if I read several books on related issues, I could not recall which one was where I had picked up a particular factoid.
Use psychological pricing methods.
NC readers had probably assumed the NSA had back doors to smart phones; this sort of thing makes that idea a smidge more official (the fact that the surveillance types can presumably obtain access isn’t the same as being able to get at it in a legal-looking manner, like unlocking it with a search warrant).
That sort of thing gave us Robby Mook confidently dismissing the pleas of operatives on the ground in Michigan and Wisconsin that the Clinton campaign was in trouble and she needed to spend more time and money in those states. We know how that movie ended.
But it is another manifestation of the sort of top 10% preening that Thomas Frank called out in Listen, Liberal, the fetishization of new, data driven techniques even when they aren’t necessarily well validated.
Demonstrate the differences
Similarly, the fetishization of big data has cooled a bit (but not enough for my taste) as more and more users recognize that they can easily turn out to be means for institutionalizing prejudice or simply bad decision rules thanks to less than stellar problem framing and choice of data sets. As Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction, pointed out, “Algorithms are just opinions expressed in math.”
Offer a money-back guarantee
Finally, and far from least important, using smart devices puts you at the mercy of providers who are very good at forcing obsolescence or overt price increases upon you
Test your offer and price, and be creative.
To return to the main thread, yours truly is so resistant to the marketing push to get us all to surrender to being surveilled even more in the name of “smartness” that there are no doubt many smart thingies that have their fans and detractors. What dumb devices do you prefer and why?