Saturday, February 04, 2006

Malcolm Gladwell: What pit bulls can teach us about profiling

the current new yorker has a great article looking at the problems with naive profiling, like racial profiling, or banning pitbulls. malcolm gladwell examines why we use such systems, and why they fail, and how might we be more effective.

here's a stirring part of the article that describes what happened when some pitbulls in ottawa, ontario jumped a fence and started attacking a young boy. pitbull-like breeds were banned in ontario days later:

The dogs jumped the fence, and Agua took Jayden’s head in his mouth and started to shake. It was a textbook dog-biting case: unneutered, ill-trained, charged-up dogs, with a history of aggression and an irresponsible owner, somehow get loose, and set upon a small child. The dogs had already passed through the animal bureaucracy of Ottawa, and the city could easily have prevented the second attack with the right kind of generalization—a generalization based not on breed but on the known and meaningful connection between dangerous dogs and negligent owners. But that would have required someone to track down Shridev CafĂ©, and check to see whether he had bought muzzles, and someone to send the dogs to be neutered after the first attack, and an animal-control law that insured that those whose dogs attack small children forfeit their right to have a dog. It would have required, that is, a more exacting set of generalizations to be more exactingly applied. It’s always easier just to ban the breed.

1 comment:

twm said...

Cool article, Omar. It kind of relates to personal decisions too - should I make a quick decision even though it may not be the "right" decision, but it'll do for the time being given the circumstances, or do I work it out, even though the process might become long and drawn out?

Though now that I think about it, I tend to go with long and drawn out decisions, and where does that leave me? Gut decisions, I suppose, can be considered a form of quick decisions? Most of the time my gut is right even though I don't listen to it!