Monday, October 17, 2016

What price is it?

There is a famous Yogi-ism, supposedly coined by the wordologist and Zen baseball player, Yogi Berra, which goes:

Other: What time is it?

Yogi: You mean, now?

I think that is a completely marvelous construction.  It opens the mind to the full picture of time as measure of our lives, time as relative to the sun and the diurnal cycle, a big factor in life on Earth.

I notice that the price of an item or commodity is getting to be like the Yogi-ism.  What is the price?  You mean Now?

Yes, I do mean the current price but as opposed to some notion of this time yesterday or last year, knowing the price of an item yesterday, last week or last year can be valuable information.  Still, even though we deal with fluctuating prices all the time, even expecting the price to fluctuate with the demand or desire for the item, we still expect the price to somewhat stable, momentarily stable during most moments.  There is a famous paper by Philip Warren Anderson, a physicist, published in 1972, called "More is Different".  The paper and the idea is a very valuable one for understanding the world.  The basic idea is that when you get lots and lots more of something, the situation is different in actual fundamental ways from when that something is rarer, less numerous, fewer.

I am still getting new ideas by the paragraph in "The 10,000 Year Experiment" by Cochran and Harpending.  One of the reminders they mention is that human speech is the first method of communication but it is fundamental to our lives and very powerful and important.  So, speech and by extension, writing and other means of communication such as photography and movies are a communi-sphere all their own.  

Material goods (air, water, food, clothes and many other items) are in demand all over so it is only to be expected that communication, marketing, advertising and price information are going to be included in our steady communication.  How much for that diamond ring?  How much for a new bike?  How much for that picture, that candy, that liquor, that book?

Amazon and others like the word "deal", meaning bargain, often a temporary bargain.  "I can let you have this car for the price of xxxx but only if you buy it today."  "I can let you have the car for half that if you buy it within the hour."  "Ooops, too late!  Sorry, but the price just doubled back to the one I quoted earlier."  Time pricing, also time-based pricing, as well as other names, seems to be poised for all sorts of fun and games.  

Ecclesiastes 12:12 says "Of the making of books, there is no end."  True, since we always have more comments and comments about comments.  Similarly, of the making of prices there is no end.

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