Monday Musings 263 – 1.01 versus .99
Some-times there is poetry in numbers. Recently I noticed a pearl in the otherwise banal deluge on the whatsapp which had only two equations – that 1.01 raised to the power of 365 was equal to 37.8 and that in contrast .99 raised to the power 356 was a paltry .03. Such was my disbelief in the enormity of the difference that I actually went and checked it myself and found that the calculation was indeed wrong. The later was actually .0255 and the author had been rather kind and rounded it off to the next higher digit and in the process save a bit of self respect for the tribe of .99.
I am sure the import of the equation is not very difficult to follow although the enormity might be difficult to digest. A tiny, inconsequential, statistically meagre difference over a large period of time becomes not only material and substantial but as evident gargantuan. The finance guys call it the power of compounding. I think the catchy concept might serve the purpose of explaining the phenomena very well in the world of the measurable but is woefully inadequate in expressing the enormity in the realm of the non measurable.
Over a long time how does one even begin to imagine the horrors two hour of watching TV over twenty years wreck on human intellectual capacity. How does one imagine what regular burger eating does over twenty years. I am sure there are burger fans and the TV addicts who might find this illustration offensive but then truth be told I cannot even begin to imagine the real long term impact of a very minor difference compounded over an extended time frame – assuming I can fathom the real implication of the equation above.
I am beginning to also ask myself how would this equation play out at work place or friendships or other relationships or our commitment to our professions. The difference between 1.01 and .99 is really too tiny and imperceptible, something that would in all likelihood pass notice however real it might be. The receiver of the service might not even know the difference, the consumer might not even be articulate the difference even though she might perceptually experience that tiny little gap rankling in her bones but the difference there is. Over the period of time the difference not only becomes material but also the differentiator. I wonder if I am the 1.01 kind or the .99 kind. I also wonder what will it take to know it.
I also ask myself what will it take for me to shift gears and then sustain itself over long times. An example that has stuck with me over many years illustrates the point. There was a mason who was perturbed about a small imperfection very high on the ceiling; upon being assured that no one else would notice it so high up, he remarks that he would notice. I think clearly he was the 1.01 kind.
Very recently I came across a professional who was perturbed about a satisfaction score of 4.62 as against the expectation of 4.68. I did not understand then about what the fuss about a tiny .06 was but I know now. I think they practice the power of 1.01.