23.1.14

DON'T WE CALL IT THE LAW OF DEMAND?

A New York Times article on excessive electronic mail cites a technology journalist who thinks about the role of information technology on productivity.
“It’s behavioral economics 101,” said Clive Thompson, author of a new book, “Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better” and an occasional contributor to The New York Times Magazine. “You make it easy for people to do something, they will do more of it.”
Perhaps it is picking theoretical nits for me to offer that "behavioral economics" is a term of art referring to Economics as if Agents are Not Rational Maximizers. The Law of Demand is the quintessence of Theory Based on Rational Maximizers.  The conclusion, however, is spot on.  It's much less burdensome to type and cc: or bcc: large numbers of people than it used to be to type a letter and carbons, let alone to send a wire, or to respect the discipline of 19 EAST CPY 3.
In the past, with physical letters, people put thought into what they were going to write before they sent it, [SquareOne (c.q.) founder Branko] Cerny said. With digital, it’s send first, think later.
In business, the gains from being able to communicate with more people more rapidly get dissipated by the costs of managing the volume.  In higher education, the gains from being able to seek advice from a professor or an advisor without waiting for office hours get dissipated by the resulting profundity of the questions following a power rule with the bulk of questions being relatively unprofound, often eliciting an irritated "check your course outline" from the person so beleaguered.

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