A Van Gogh!

A Van Gogh!
From the artists at ArtWorks945

Monday, July 26, 2010

News and More News

News Flash 1: Did you hear? A seventeen year old just traded from a cell phone to a Porsche.


I must admit – when I first heard about this story, I became quite dispirited. I thought that surely the novelty of trading up will now have worn off and so no one will want to trade with me.

But I now think that my reaction was irrational. This latest trading up might improve my chances. Why? Because the fact that a second person has traded up so spectacularly suggests that red paper clip guy’s trading up wasn’t a fluke. One person doing something very surprising might always be a fluke. Two people doing something surprising, however, suggests that the event wasn’t a fluke. And non-flukes are generally not as hard to reproduce as flukes.

But the latest trading-up story has made me scratch my head a bit. When the red paper clip guy traded, people may have been motivated to participate just for novelty’s sake. But this latest story simply involves a kid bartering over Craigslist for items of increasing value. So novelty doesn’t seem to have anything to do with it. Instead, what seems to be at play is irrationality. Over the course of fourteen trades, the collective group that traded with the kid lost close to a Porsche in value. So somewhere in the whole process some people acted irrationally.

So here's a question: Why would people act so irrationally?

And here's an answer: Because people are predictably irrational.

Indeed, a whole school of economics has sprung up recently that studies predictable irrationality. Dan Ariely, an economist at Duke, wrote a great book about it called Predictably Irrational. I highly recommend it.

All this has made me formulate a thesis, which I shall call the Irrationality Thesis (IT):

IT: Predictably irrational desires provide the fuel for trading up.

If IT is true, I should be feeling quite optimistic right now. Since art is by its very nature irrational, I may be working with jet fuel.

News Flash # 2

My attempt to make another trade fell through. I didn’t even go see the painting.

I was quite dispirited about this fact too. But then it occurred to me – the universe is giving me a sign. It is punishing me for my hubris.

After formulating the Ask Thesis in my last post – if you don’t remember it, the Ask Thesis asserts that asking for something is almost always a better strategy than not asking – I didn’t ask the universe for a trade. I simply assumed that the trade would happen. But the universe, I am now inclined to think, likes to be asked.

So, properly chastened, let me now announce to the universe:

I want to trade my Melanie Bamberg triptych for a really great painting.
I want to trade my Melanie Bamberg triptych for a really great painting.
I want to trade my Melanie Bamberg triptych for a really great painting.

If anyone wants to trade, let me know.

1 comment:

  1. Wasn't there a red paperclip for a house thing before this cellphone kid?