We can’t argue about pinball any more

It was my first summer internship at my first real job.  One day at lunch I had a mock-heated discussion with a colleague about whether pinball was a game of skill or luck.  I argued for “skill” and as evidence offered up the fact that pinball tournaments exist in the world, which wouldn’t make sense for a game that’s pure luck.

My colleague didn’t believe me.  He claimed that there was no such thing as a pinball tournament.

And so a bet was struck: I needed to prove, irrefutably and by the end of the workday, that pinball tournaments existed.

This involved rushing back to my desk, finding a Yellow Pages, searching for pinball dealers in the Washington, DC area, and, from there, cobbling together a list of contacts until someone would send me a faxed entry form for an upcoming pinball tournament.

Of course this story is quaint today because we can no longer argue for more than a few seconds about this sort of thing.   If this were happening today, the argument would be resolved between sandwich bites by typing “pinball tournaments” into someone’s smartphone.

Less romantic, more efficient.

The fact is that nothing factual is out of reach these days.  While it wasn’t out of reach 20 years ago when I made this bet, the friction has been reduced to zero.  So if you want to know the difference between a Roth IRA and a regular IRA; if you want to know what “suited connectors” are in Texas Hold ‘Em and when to play them; if you want to learn how to knit or sharpen a knife or which mortgage is right for you or even what this whole debt ceiling debate is really about….well all of these answers are literally a click away.

So our ignorance about any topic is, in the most literal sense, willful in a way it never was before.  This is great news for people willing to make two (just two!) decisions:

  1. To be the kind of person who seeks answers, even when it’s scary
  2. To choose where to deepen your knowledge and to act on that decision by spending your time accordingly

That’s it.

No more pinball arguments, but so much more freedom for those willing to take that first step.

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5 Responses to We can’t argue about pinball any more

  1. Tanner says:

    Solid advice Sasha. But it’s important to keep in mind that it’s easy to find false information easier than ever as well. ;)

  2. Sasha says:

    Tanner, that’s true, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what’s holding people back.

  3. John Goldstein says:

    Sasha – interesting post which feels like the start of a conversation vs. the end of it. However, I am left curious as to whether there was a specific experience of/encounter with willful ignorance you recently had or a persistenly annoying dynamic you found that inspired this and, more to the point, whether that is shareable….

  4. Sasha says:

    John, there was, but it really isn’t that relevant. It mostly jogged my memory about this idea.

  5. Nathana O'Brien says:

    I also think that there is a distinction between information and action – lots of people who are overweight for example, know a bunch of nutrition facts. There’s some secret sauce that let’s you transform information into action and that you don’t get just from the information intself.

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