Category Archives: Education

Concorde, digger wasps and sunk cost

Recently came across some interesting examples on Concorde fallacy – aka sunk cost fallacy. The fallacy which makes you look silly for all your bad investments. Not sure they teach it in management classes though, do they? They should.

Concorde fallacy means a person/organisation continue to spend/consume resources/ funds/effort on a project/product with a sole rationale that already a great deal of resources/capital/effort has been poured in, even when tangible evidences show that there is no economical viable end results. In other words sunk costs should not influence your further decisions on investments; if they do then it is sunk cost fallacy.

Now the reason it is notorious as Concorde fallacy is due to an unjustified pursuit of a failed project by French and British government. Concorde was a defense aircraft, half way through the development of which there were evidences suggesting Concorde will never be economically feasible. Despite of that, governments continued spending on it with only reason “a lot has been spent on it already”.

British Airways Concorde in 1986

British Airways Concorde in 1986 – through Wikipedia

Let’s talk about shoes – Let’s suppose you have perfectly working formal shoes. Since people around you notice that you haven’t contributed for golden arrow for a long time, and you visit a showroom to buy new ones. Now, a smart ass salesman sells you a pair double the cost of your current shoes. But on 16th day she starts to hurt your feet, but you can’t take it back since there is no visible damage on the product. What will you do?

  1. You would still throw the old, working, comfortable shoes to attic and choose to wear brand new one, because you need to utilize all money spent on it. If it continues to hurt you, Karma to blame.
  2. You would decommission newer one and continue to use older one. Again, you can blame it on karma for money wasted.
  3. Go shopping again. Golden arrow will be extremely happy and karma never gets tired of taking blame.

If you are answer is 1) sunk cost fallacy 2) poor fellow like me 3) crazy shopaholic.

Let’s come to that interesting example I promised. Concorde fallacy is not just business philosophy; it is of interest to scientists as well. Apparently it’s not just humans who display such behavior; there are examples from biology books too.

Sphex (aka Digger wasps) insects are known to defend their nests with disproportionate amount of energy and rigor that they had spent to build them. In other words, for these wasps under attack, it would be wiser to forfeit and build a new nest, leaving pride aside. May be bad education on economics, eh?

(On related notes to wasps, but not on sunk cost itself)

Lets give it to them, digger wasps aren’t exactly the brightest folks in insect kingdom. They are known to show OCD as well. They are so much concerned about security of their nest, they become obsessive and compulsive. This is straight from Wikipedia:

Digger wasps - through wikipedia

Digger wasps – through wikipedia

Some Sphex wasps drop a paralyzed insect near the opening of the nest. Before taking provisions into the nest, the Sphex first inspects the nest, leaving the prey outside. During the inspection, an experimenter can move the prey a few inches away from the opening. When the Sphex emerges from the nest ready to drag in the prey, it finds the prey missing. The Sphex quickly locates the moved prey, but now its behavioral “program” has been reset. After dragging the prey back to the opening of the nest, once again the Sphex is compelled to inspect the nest, so the prey is again dropped and left outside during another stereotypical inspection of the nest. This iteration can be repeated again and again, with the Sphex never seeming to notice what is going on, never able to escape from its programmed sequence of behaviors.

Positive Rights vs. Negative Rights

Today’s lesson : “Positive Rights vs. Negative Rights”.

One reason there’s a lot of confusion about rights from both liberals and conservatives is that there are different sorts of rights. Besides the distinction between legal and moral rights, we also need to distinguish the different sorts of claims the assertion of a right makes. Philosophers generally use the expressions negative rights and positive rights to express these distinctions. Now there’s nothing evaluative about these terms. It’s not negative in a bad way. These are precise terms that philosophers use to make an important distinction. So let’s see if we can explore it.

Consider this claim: I have the right to go to the store and get a lottery ticket. Let’s begin with what this doesn’t mean. First of all, it doesn’t mean that I have an obligation to buy a lottery ticket. It’s up to me. No one should be forcing me to buy one, but also no one should be forcing me not to buy one. Second of all it doesn’t mean that the store clerk has any obligation to give me one. I’ll have to pay for it, which is shorthand for making a trade.

This works whether we’re talking about lottery tickets, milk, potato chips, coffee, beef. My right to get these things is not an obligation to get them, and neither is it a warrant to be given them. My right to get these things means that no one ought to stop me from making trades through which I can acquire them. That’s a little different from, say, when you get arrested and are informed that you have the right to an attorney. You know how they say it from TV. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. The store is under no obligation to provide me with a steak if I can’t afford one, but the folks who arrested me are obliged to provide me with an attorney if I cannot afford one. So these are different kinds of rights.

One way to get clear on this distinction is to think about the relationship between rights and duties. If Smith has a right then Jones has a duty. Understanding what different kinds of duties Jones might have is one way to understand what kinds of rights Smith might have. We’ll call negative rights the kind of rights which impose on others a negative duty, a duty not to do anything, a duty of noninterference. If I have a right of this sort all you have to do to respect that right is refrain from blocking me. Negative rights are sometimes called liberties.

Now we’ll call positive rights the kind of rights which impose on others a positive duty, a duty to provide or act in a certain way. If I have a right of this sort, you respect it by complying. Positive rights are also sometimes called entitlements. So my right to a lottery ticket or a steak is a negative right. No one can properly interfere with my efforts to acquire these through trade. Freedom of speech is another example of a negative right. I cannot be arrested for speaking out. The right of criminal suspects to an attorney is a positive right. One will be provided. One interesting feature of negative rights is that they don’t conflict and we can all respect everyone else’s liberties all the time. We simply have to refrain from using force to make people do our bidding.

Positive rights can conflict and in a couple of ways. One way they can conflict is scarcity. If there are 10 public defenders and 100 people get arrested, they can’t all have their right to an attorney satisfied equally. This sort of conflict can sometimes help us understand which claims are legitimate. Your property rights give you exclusive use of a resource so others can’t claim a right to vacation in your yard, at least not without your permission.

The other source of conflict raises a more troubling issue. Since positive rights create duties on others to act or provide, doesn’t that represent a violation of their negative rights, their liberty? It depends. Some positive rights are created by a contractual relationship. Since I’m a member of AAA, I have a positive right to towing services if my car breaks down. Nonmembers have a negative right to seek towing services, but I am actually entitled to receive them. That doesn’t violate anyone’s negative rights, though, because the relationship is entirely consensual and defined by a contract. If I claimed I had a positive right to a steak, someone would have an obligation to give me one, not as a trade but as a nonconsensual service. That would violate their liberty, making them involuntarily subservient to me. This suggests that if we’re free and equal by nature, any positive rights would have to be grounded in consensual arrangements.

Unfortunately, for a lot of so called positive rights this just isn’t the case.

Video and transcripts from learn liberty via Atanu Dey on India’s Development

India among the world’s most dangerous countries for women


According to survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation :

Female foeticide, child marriage and high levels of trafficking and domestic servitude make the world’s largest democracy the fourth most dangerous place for women, the poll showed.

* 100 million people, mostly women and girls, are involved in trafficking in one way or another, according to former Indian Home Secretay Madhukar Gupta.

* Up to 50 million girls are “missing” over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide.

* 44.5 pct of girls are married before the age of 18

Even scientists agree …

There you go.., full list of Rhetological Fallacies, Errors and manipulations of rhetoric and logical thinking through information is beautiful . My personal favourite is “Over 400 prominent scientists and engineers dispute global warming”. A similer one – (funny too) “Most of the present day scientists believe in God” :-)

Any ways, I have written few examples before, “even scientists agree that temples are most scientifically designed” and “Maharashtra Police, they are second to only the Scotland Yard of Britain

Children of Taliban

If you tame a snake to kill your neighbour, after doing that, its gonna come back to bite you !

Frankenstein monster is now in Pakistan. And you can watch it (if you haven’t already!) on PBS/Frontline documentary by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy “Pakistan’s” Children of the Taliban (2010) where she explores alarming consequences.

(That was 2010 movie, if anyone has follow up documentary, please share)

The Taliban often use radio broadcasts to drive home their message.

In one typical address, a preacher proclaims:

“Sharia Law is our right, and we will exercise this right whatever happens. We will make ourselves suicide bombers! I swear to God if our leader orders me, I will sacrifice myself… and blow myself up in the middle of our enemies.“

The Taliban have destroyed more than 200 government schools in Swat since they took control of the region.  Walking through the rubble of a school that once taught 400 girls, the reporter comes across two nine-year-old girls who used to study there.

image from