It was my first summer internship at my first real job. One day at lunch I had a mock-heated discussion with a colleague about whether pinball was a game of skill or luck. I argued for “skill” and as evidence offered up the fact that pinball tournaments exist in the world, which wouldn’t make sense for a game that’s pure luck.
My colleague didn’t believe me. He claimed that there was no such thing as a pinball tournament.
And so a bet was struck: I needed to prove, irrefutably and by the end of the workday, that pinball tournaments existed.
This involved rushing back to my desk, finding a Yellow Pages, searching for pinball dealers in the Washington, DC area, and, from there, cobbling together a list of contacts until someone would send me a faxed entry form for an upcoming pinball tournament.
Of course this story is quaint today because we can no longer argue for more than a few seconds about this sort of thing. If this were happening today, the argument would be resolved between sandwich bites by typing “pinball tournaments” into someone’s smartphone.
Less romantic, more efficient.
The fact is that nothing factual is out of reach these days. While it wasn’t out of reach 20 years ago when I made this bet, the friction has been reduced to zero. So if you want to know the difference between a Roth IRA and a regular IRA; if you want to know what “suited connectors” are in Texas Hold ‘Em and when to play them; if you want to learn how to knit or sharpen a knife or which mortgage is right for you or even what this whole debt ceiling debate is really about….well all of these answers are literally a click away.
So our ignorance about any topic is, in the most literal sense, willful in a way it never was before. This is great news for people willing to make two (just two!) decisions:
- To be the kind of person who seeks answers, even when it’s scary
- To choose where to deepen your knowledge and to act on that decision by spending your time accordingly
No more pinball arguments, but so much more freedom for those willing to take that first step.