Atlantic Monthly writer James Fallows is on a mission to get people to stop using the boiled frog metaphor because frogs won’t actually stay in a pot of water as the temperature rises to a boil. He proposes as an alternative a cat litter box metaphor.
Here’s an email I sent to him explaining why one is inadequate as a substitute for the other:
I don’t think the cat litter box analogy is a perfect substitute for the boiled frog. The point I take away from the litter box is that people to become accustomed to conditions that make people who are not so conditioned wince. The point of the boiled frog analogy (despite the fact that it is not scientifically accurate) is that if environmental conditions change slowly enough, people will not perceive that change until it’s too late.
If I get a job on a chicken farm, the first day it’ll smell the same as it does a year later, but it won’t bother me nearly so much. I’ve changed, but the situation has not. In the boiled frog case, it’s the environment that’s changing. So despite the fact that the analogy is nonsense, it remains useful.
I expect it’s here to stay.
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