The Huge Influence of Small Adjustments


Perhaps you are not surprised by these numbers. I was. They are a sign that we sometimes believe that behavior changes due to new technologies are far more common than they really are. Why? I offer two possible explanations.

The first is that people (and journalists) tend to pay more attention to what is new and new. This could especially be the case if the behavior changes occur in relatively wealthy people. The vast majority of American workers did their jobs in person even in the depths of the pandemic, but about half of professional workers were doing their jobs outside of an office at some point because of the coronavirus.

And Peloton, the maker of $ 2,500 exercise bikes for streaming fitness classes, has approximately 2.1 million customers who pay to use its exercise bikes or treadmills. For comparison, according to a veterinary trafficking group, approximately 3.5 million households in the United States have had birds as pets in recent years. Peloton may be less popular than parakeets, but it gets a lot more exposure.

That doesn’t mean Peloton doesn’t matter, remote working doesn’t deserve any attention, or that Netflix isn’t a big deal. Today’s innovations can become tomorrow’s everyday life.

That brings me to the second explanation, that relatively small but rapid changes in individual actions that are repeated millions or billions of times can disrupt everything around us.

I’ve already written about how many of our habits and how pretty much every store and city works has been fundamentally changed by Amazon and online shopping, which is still a fraction of what we buy. Ditto for Uber and Lyft. Corporations have a small percentage of miles driven in the United States, but their vehicles are a significant contributor to traffic, and their treatment of couriers has helped rethink the importance of having a job in the United States and Europe.

In an article on New York’s economic recovery from the pandemic, my colleagues dropped the overwhelming statistic that if only 1 in 10 Manhattan office workers stopped coming most of the time, it would mean that “more than 100,000 people a day don’t take off”. a coffee and bagel on the way to work or a drink afterwards. “

As you can imagine, this could hurt sales of a Times Square bar – and maybe help one in the suburbs when people swap an after-office drink for an after-zoom drink. Just a little more remote work could also fundamentally change roads and transportation systems that cater to office workers’ commute times.

The digital butterfly effect of myriad small changes can be unpredictable and uneven. People, businesses, and policy makers need to figure out how to deal with the big differences that small changes can make.

Tip of the week

Buying used products is often gentler on our wallets and the planet. Brian X. Chen, the New York Times consumer technology columnist, recommends which electronics and accessories are a clever used purchase – and which may not be worthwhile.

Storage for computers: Buy. Also known as memory or RAM, these sticks last indefinitely to improve the speed of a computer, as long as the previous owner hasn’t scratched them with a screwdriver. It is a good idea to look carefully at all of the product photos.

Batteries: Avoid. In general, I advise against buying a used battery for every gadget. Batteries are meant for limited usage, so it is better to buy them new.

Screens: sometimes avoid. The electronics screens wear out over time and look less bright. They are also prone to disfigurements such as “burn-in” and dead spots. You can occasionally find a good deal on a used TV with a not-too-old screen and good picture quality, but it is wise to consider these purchases only from someone you know and trust.

Additional accessories: Mostly buy. Peripherals like computer mice and keyboards are pretty reliable. It’s still ideal to test them in person to make sure all buttons and buttons are working properly. Be careful of all accessories that operate on rechargeable batteries that are not replaceable. And earbuds are a tough pass. Are you sure you want to wear someone else’s used earbuds?

Charging cable: Buy. As long as the cord isn’t frayed and the plug looks in good condition, it’s okay to buy a used charging cord. Try not to spend more than a few dollars apiece as brand new charging cables tend to be cheap.