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All the Pretty Halos
Your guide to becoming old, fast, and pretty
“Beauty over function.”
In 1995, researchers at the Hitachi Design Center studied the “aesthetic-usability effect” with an ATM. A less usable but good-looking ATM interface beat easier-to-use UIs with poor aesthetics. The researchers found that a positive emotional response from visual design makes the user more tolerant of issues—such as software bugs, poor latency, or missing features. Pleasing aesthetics can be a literal mask for product problems.
Beauty creates a halo, making people believe that the product is high-quality. We perceive pretty people as smarter, funnier, and all-around better. An attractive person can charm us into overlooking mistakes or social fumbles.
The aesthetic-usability effect can prevent us from getting real feedback or understanding the actual value of something (i.e., pretty resumes could compensate for missing qualifications). When you want feedback on something visual, keep the design simple so people will focus on the content. Some designers even create purposely “ugly” websites to flex against this effect.
Keep the design basic when you want genuine feedback on the function or content of something (i.e., a piece of writing, an app).
Spend time on aesthetics if you want to improve adoption. The positive emotions elicited from your audience could be the “tipping factor” (i.e., a recruiter selects your resume because it looks better than others).
The Locksmith Paradox
“Faster value is perceived as worse.”
I once slept in a Walmart parking lot in West Virginia. Late that night, I arose to use the restroom and locked myself out of my car, sealing my keys, phone, and wallet inside. I wandered into the store, and a cashier was kind enough to call me a locksmith. Fifteen minutes later, Steve Locksmith (this was his actual name, according to his business card) showed up in a rusty truck, smoking a cigar. With a metal stick and a wedge of wood, he opened my door in under a minute. I paid him $40, and he was on his way. Immediately, I felt like a fool—I could’ve done this myself if I had a doorstop and a stick!
Here’s the paradox: A locksmith who quickly and smoothly fixes a troublesome lock makes you value their work less. Steve Locksmith saved me both time and money (he didn’t break my door, spurring more repairs), yet I perceived his value as lower. If he had sweat and swore and taken thirty minutes, I would’ve felt $40 was a steal, even though that was objectively lower value.
This paradox applies to many areas. For instance, I’m considering spending $5000 on corrective eye surgery that finishes in 17 seconds per eye. I’m happy that the surgery is so short, but I can’t help but devalue the benefit (unassisted perfect vision forever) due to the shortness of the operation.
Don’t assume great things require time. Sometimes, the best value is delivered quickly and simply.
[Graph of actual value and perceived value]
The Lindy Effect
“Older is better.”
When I lived in California, I drove a 19-year-old truck with electrical issues. I took it to a few mechanics, but they all refused to fix it since the car wouldn’t meet emissions standards. Ironically, if I could keep the truck alive for another year, it could become a “classic,” immune from emissions standards, and allow mechanics to repair it. Hang around long enough, and the touch of Midas could gift you golden years, I guess.
The Lindy Effect started as a joke about Lindy’s Deli in New York City—an old restaurant that was the favorite haunt of many colorful characters like Groucho Marx, Woody Allen, and Jewish gangsters. The joke was that since Lindy’s was so around for so long, it would be around forever. (It closed in 2018).
Nonetheless, the joke evolved into a theory described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to illustrate “non-perishable goods” like books, art, and ideas. If a book is helpful for 100 years, it’s likely beneficial for another 1000 years. This concept aligns with the “low info diet”—the idea that news around current events is noise and the signal lies in material that has stood the test of time: classic literature, first editions of scientific texts, etc. For better or worse, it’s something I subscribe to, and that ethos has permeated Turtle’s Pace—I try to surface concepts and “Lindy ideas” that should be relevant for years to come.
How we could print Wikipedia in an emergency
Kevin Kelly turned 70 and shared 103 bits of advice. My favorites:
The biggest lie we tell ourselves is, “I don’t need to write this down because I will remember it.”
Your growth as a conscious being is measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have
A great way to understand yourself is to seriously reflect on everything you find irritating in others.
You see only 2% of another person, and they see only 2% of you. Attune yourselves to the hidden 98%