Desert Island Fallacy

A fallacy wherein one asserts that a new-fangled (and often more convenient) technology/gadget should be abandoned in favor of an older, more primitive technology/gadget, because the new gadget might fail to function "if you're ever stuck on a desert island" (or in a similar, often contrived, circumstance).

Often times, the speaker is quite familiar with the old-fangled item, and feels threatened by the new-fangled item as it is something new to be learned. Or, the speaker is in an exalted position, with mastery of the old item creating a high BarrierToEntry into that position; and the new-fangled item lowers the BarrierToEntry (and thus threatens the exaltedness of the speaker's position or JobSecurity).

Examples:

Sometimes, of course, a new technology is demonstrably inferior to an older one in many respects. Automatic transmissions have been around for decades; only with the last couple of years have they gotten good enough to displace manual transmissions in many applications. (AmericanCulturalAssumption -in the US, many models of automobile are now no longer available with manual transmissions - and in many segments, such as performance cars, they are slowly being replaced by "clutchless" manual transmission or hybrid transmissions. In much of the rest of the world, manual transmissions are still the norm... but for how long?)

I fail to see why you call this a "fallacy". I find it quite respectable to dislike something on the base that you can't make it work in some circumstances; of course this is not a reason to "abandon" it, but nevertheless a valid point.

The fallacy is to claim that something should never be used because it will fail under some conditions. "Use only as directed..."

[It's still not a fallacy if that is contrary to requirements for reliability/fail-safe, although we then get into terminology issues about "never" and "some" etc. Everything fails, but some things are nonetheless unsuitable for some purposes. The Emacs/Vi argument that was called silly above is not silly in all circumstances. The emergency editor used to be "ed", and a fair number of people learned ed precisely for emergency circumstances. Some of those people disliked using multiple editors, and so went on to use ed as their only editor -- all because other editors would sometimes fail (by not being available).]


By contrast, this summer Ohio to Connecticut blacked out. Befuddled house apes were unable to get water from taps because their electronic hand sensors didn't work.

This does not mean that they all should have had hand-pumped wells instead of modern plumbing. It means that their systems should degrade gracefully. Even StarTrek, notorious for lack of fuses resulting in PlasmaToTheFace, had a manual door control.


Like all FallaciousArguments; sometimes this one can be used correctly. Depends on the cost/benefit ratio, I suppose. But that's why most gas furnaces have electric pilots, and most gas water heaters don't. You still need electricity to run the blower; so the electric pilot on the furnace doesn't decrease reliability/usability. Gas water heaters do not (otherwise) require electricity to operate, so putting on an electric pilot confers much less benefit compared to the costs.

Indeed, if there's a chance that you will end up on a desert island, it's not a fallacy.

Personally, I cannot stand electric faucets; and not because of this reason. In public places, they are a necessary evil in order to keep folks from leaving the water running, but people are putting the damn things in their homes? A steel spring would suffice to shut off the water.

Funny... I've never seen a faucet left running in a public washroom. And besides the point, electricity is not necessary to provide a timed DeadManControl... water pressure will do just fine.

You've never traveled down I85 in PA during the 80's OR you have tremendous bladder control. I-85 runs from Mumblefoo, AL to Petersburg, VA, so you're probably right.

[If you've never seen a faucet left running, then you've never worked at a gas station/restaurant etc. People leave them running all the time if they're not automatic. The fact that you've never seen it as a customer doesn't mean a thing to the owners paying the water bill.]

There is such a thing as a mechanical self-stopping tap ('faucet' to you colonial chaps); they are still quite common in the UK. It's a sort of plunger contraption, where pushing down opens it, and after a little while (never quite long enough) it pops up and closes.

Nah. A faucet is where you get water. A tap is where you get beer. Contrary to rumor (rumour?), we Yanks can taste the difference, at least some of us. Golly, what do you call it if it dispenses coffee? A spout. Then what comes out of a spigot?

I thought the advantage of the electric self-stopping faucet was that the user never has to touch the potentially germ covered surfaces in the public rest-room.

Assuming the client wears shoes of some kind, he can step on a foot-pedal to dispense water, much the same way as with industrial sinks, giving both the convenience of hands-free operation and automatic shut-off through purely mechanical means. I've never been able to figure out why these have never caught on in the general population.

But I think we can all agree that motion-sensor toilets are unalloyed evil. You're guaranteed to get multiple crotch-baths in toilet water if you use one without covering the sensor thoroughly. Might be fairly termed more useful if the power goes out.

I think we can all agree that motion-sensor toilets are unalloyed goodness. They're reasonably trouble-free. The electronic switch means never touching a flush-handle that the last guy flushed with his foot.

{It's not his foot that worries me.}


I recall my late grandmother advising me about 20-25 years ago that I really shouldn't go into computers, because no one was going to be able use them once the Soviets attacked all our power plants...

JoeBradley

Our latest invention has a whole bunch of things that require all sorts of special technology to maintain, but never fear: it comes with a hull and outboard motor.


Huh; synchronicity. I read this page yesterday, and today UserFriendly has http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20090301&mode=classic


See NeverBringaKnifeToaGunfight

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