Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Perfect Solution

Other Terms and/or Related Concepts

Silver bullet; burden of solution


The advocate claims that because a proposed solution, idea, or system is not perfect, it should be abandoned completely.


1. Radio "shock jock" Kyle Jones is angrily discussing the speeding fine he received on the way to work in the morning. "These hidden camera speed traps are complete rubbish. I got caught speeding. Big deal. Down the road, after getting the ticket, I was immediately speeding again. They don't work. People still speed. It's just government revenue raising."

2. Recent changes in the sport of tiddledywinks, allow a referee to use slow motion video, infrared "hot spot" cameras and trajectory tracking and prediction "laser eye" software, in any close decisions. This really upsets commentator Gumptal Flabernarky. Commentating on a review in which he believed the referee incorrectly referred, he states: "Is he kidding himself? Even with the slow-motion replay he got it wrong! I could've told him that without the replay. What a joke this use of technology is. If he can't get it right even with the slow-mo, then why have it at all?"


In the first example, Jones argues that because the enforcement of speeding laws will not be able to catch every person who speeds (the system is not perfect), we should abandon any enforcement completely. This fails to take into account that it is not intended to be perfect and that enforcement is, presumably, intended to be a deterrent. If such a deterrent leads to less speeding and as such, lowers the road toll, then on balance it's probably a good thing.

The Perfect Solution fallacy is closely related to, and often made up of, the fallacies False Dichotomy and Burden of Solution. Speeding and enforcement of speeding laws is not a black and white issue. We need to consider how we deal with different degrees of speeding and repeat offenders, and examine the effect of permanent speed cameras, mobile speed traps, highway patrols etc. If we agree that speeding is bad, but do not like the current laws and enforcement, then we should probably propose other mechanisms, or risk being guilty of the Burden of Solution. How else can we try to stop motorists from speeding other than fines and court appearances? One cannot denigrate the current system, fairly, without proposing some other solution (or at least acknowledging one's own failings).

It is also worth noting that Jones goes on to impugn the motives of the police and government, stating that speeding fines are really about revenue raising, rather than lowering the road death and injury toll. He also fails to acknowledge that most other people wouldn't keep speeding after getting a fine, because most other people aren't self centered wankers.

In the second example we, the audience, are able to see that a referee made the wrong decision because we can check using technology. Yet Flabernarky goes onto argue, because the technology is not perfect, the referees ought to not use it to help make decisions? A self-contradictory argument if there's ever been one.

By analogy we can see the absurdity of this position. "Even with the very latest high resolution medical imaging equipment doctors still make incorrect diagnoses! What a joke this use of technology is. If doctors can't get it right even with the the latest technology, then why have it at all?"