I’d linklogged already, but I now feel compelled to comment on this story – Camelot have had to withdraw winter-themed scratchcards because players cannot understand how negative numbers work. doctorvee, among many others, despairs of her intellect:
HOLY SHIT! This is how bad standards of numeracy have become. Unbelievable.
This woman’s poor numeracy is not in doubt, but staggeringly enough, that’s not the real problem here. The problem is what one unfortunate customer said:
“I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher – not lower – than -8 but I’m not having it.” [emphasis mine]
It’s the bits I’ve highlighted that really irk me – the sheer bloody-mindedness that illustrates a mentality along the lines of “well, if the laws of arithmetic don’t agree with my own intuition, then I’m going to bloody well complain until they fix it”. It’s not ignorance or stupidity that’s the real problem here, but the stubborn self-conviction that goes with it – the inability or unwillingness for people to ever now say “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know”.
And it’s not only scratchcards that this problem surrounds – virtually every major issue today, from the Iraq war to global warming to immigration, is characterised by people (on both sides) who will never even entertain the possibility they might be wrong, let alone admit to it. In the good old days stuck-in-the-mud irrationality and delusion was usually rooted in ideology or religion (“if Lenin/Smith/Jesus says so, it must be right”), but they are by and large absence from most aspects of modern life – which has created a vacuum into which some weird, fucked-up cult personality of the self (“if I say so, it must be right”) has entered. Add to that a culture where any grievance, no matter how petty, must always be redressed or avenged and it creates a terrifying vision of the future.
Of course, I could be totally wrong about this…