Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If You Can Boil A Frog, Can You Freeze One?

It is a truism that frogs left in lukewarm water on a stove top with slowly rising heat will remain in the water until they eventually boil to death. (This rings true because frogs are cold-blooded, meaning that their blood adjusts to varying temperatures, unlike warm-blooded mammals like humans.) It appears from history that this can actually happen, however the rate of increase was .002 degrees Celsius per second, which left the frog dead in 2 1/2 hours. However the experiment failed at just .019 Celsius per second.

But it's a truism because it rings true in experience of human behavior at a transcendent level. From Wikipedia:

Al Gore uses the analogy in his presentations and the movie An Inconvenient Truth to describe people's ignorance towards the issue of global warming. It is extremely common in books about business, economics, and marketing to illustrate the idea that change needs to be gradual if it is to be accepted, and as a warning against being slowly "boiled" in one's job.
Well, I was just listening to a major cable station as I read email and was struck by a number of commercials that resembled those that used to only air in the middle of night -- the cheap cheap stuff that nobody ever needed or ever will that makes you think, "Darnit why didn't I think of that," at 3AM in the morning, but makes you think, "How pathetic are people that actually buy that junk, " the next afternoon.

Well those products are now appearing -- albeit in smaller segments -- in prime time major cable, which used to be out of reach to low-budget plastic and metal electrical widgets.

And so it hit me: if you can boil a frog by gradually warming the water temperature, can you freeze a frog by gradually lowering the water temperature?

What struck me was this: The economy slows not in one day or in one month, sometimes it slows over years. To wit, we have been in an economic slowdown, even in an official recession for over an entire year now. How much of our economic slump will arrive so slowly that while we're aware of hard times, we'll completely miss the many signs of the slowdown that would have been unthinkable even a few years ago?

Ironically, this is an optimistic view. The implications if true are that the worsening economy, stretched out over sufficient time, will lessen the full burden of economic change and deterioration.

It's just a theory. But now I've burned my dinner while blogging and need to figure something else out. Apparently broccoli burns no matter how slowly you heat it. Maybe I do need one of Ron Popeil's amazing min-chicken counter-top rotisseries.