The negative utility correlation

Mini-column ‘Alison in Wonderland’, published in the Observant, Maastricht

People are getting smarter, and this is irritating. You used to be able to make smug comments like “You know, I read somewhere that [insert wildly inaccurate fact here: Geert Wilders was raised in a madrasa, Nederland is an Old Saxon word meaning ‘poor of weather but stellar with cheese’, etc.]”. Now, people want to know your source, and God forbid it be CNN, Wikipedia or your hairdresser. Equally irritating, many fields of study these days insist stubbornly on hard data. Quantitative evidence. Statistical truths. This is unfortunate, because it means countless social sciences students like me have to sit through insufferable lectures on Quantitative Methods or – what I’m ignoring at this very moment as I write – Mathematical Linguistics, which will no doubt take me 27800,500,000 hours to understand and turn out to be negatively correlated with usefulness.

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