Quantifying blame

You have probably heard the phrase “We are all to blame”.

I want now to argue that whoever says this is committing a fallacy, and for this, I have to build some argumentative infrastructure.

Some explanations first. I was motivated to write this piece after some politician has said somwhere online that “we are all to blame for [some unfortunate situation which is not really relevant to this piece]”. This has pressed my berserk buttons (all of them), and I had to think why I am so displeased with these words coming from this person. So, enjoy the results of my thoughts.

In today’s moral consensus (and my personal view), blame (and its less offensive sibling, responsibility) is a function of power. If you can change the situation, you are to blame. If you cannot, you are not. So far, so simple, and up to now, there is no contradiction to everyone being to blame for anything. However, the statement misses several issues.

First, what is the consequence? Usually, “we are all to blame” results in “you should pay and atone”, or just a deep-sounding “we should all atone”. However, other than sounding deep, these words do not really mean something material by themselves.

Second, what is the measure? The implied connotation is that everyone is equally to blame. And in the discussed cases, this is as much true as following “real possibility” from “nonzero probability”. In our world, the share of responsibility for any outcome is not equal. A politician has more power to change enviromental policies than a nurse, and a doctor has more power over a patient than a schoolchild 50 kilometers away, even taking into account that the schoolchild has the theoretical option to study medicine. But if no measure is supplied, the implied meaning is that everyone is equally responsible, by which no one is actually responsible.

What do we have in the end? I propose a heuristic: Everyone saying “We are all to blame” implies “we are all equally responsible” and tries hereby to scatter her share of responsibility. In the best case, this is a fallacy. In the worst case, this is an insult to reason and an attempt to evade judgment.

Internet usage patterns

It happens pretty often that I think about Web technologies and how cool it would be if the web sites were responsive and all the websites would turn into shiny rich internet applications.

And then I end up in one of these hotels where the only source of Internet is the lobby with really poor, dialup-quality bandwidth. Then I ask myself whether it is really, really necessary to build megabyte-sized websites that contain mostly text and a metric ton of fancy design.

You are a monster

I have noticed a pattern in the media and I’d like to share it. Earlier, the simplest way to get an audience and sell your story was a sensation or a scandal. In the worst case, one could invent those. Now, it seems that we have arrived at a point where reader attention can be generated by a new kind of scandal: your own enragement about anything.

How does this work? First, you have to know that humans have no or little sense of scale. And negative things tend to influence humans more than positive. So, you find a cause that seems very important (say, THE CHILDREN) and find people who do (or can do) some atrocity that demeans THE CHILDREN. This obviously makes you rage (no, RAGE!!!111). But there is a problem: there are not that many people who terrorize children. So you’ll have to invent a story why this new car (and everyone who is driving it) is an enemy of THE CHILDREN. No problem with that: the car can be too noisy, too silent (the poor guy/gal won’t hear it coming), too big (POLLUTION!!11), too small (no kids can fit) etc. So, well, we should probably get rid of all drivers of this certain car model before they get rid of children.


If I could give you an advice on living in Germany, that would be: never rent a flat with an address that has a letter, like Baker Street 221b. The shiny information systems that crave my Big Data seem to fail this not very seldom case.

In my case it happened that two databases could not understand that I, in fact, have a house number that is not a number.

As for the internets, it seems that my ISP and the backbone provider cannot decide who is responsible for my connection since my house seems to be connected through the neighbors, which means that I will have to talk to the landlord and ask him strange questions. This obviously had to happen two weeks after I ordered the phone and internet package, which is a little annoying. (Not to say: if I could, I would make them all get only 8 KB/s bandwidth for a month just to feel some empathy)