focus and context, part II: WYSIWYG versus WYChIWYG

This is a follow up post to the first part of focus and context a post in which I tried to reflect on marketing from the viewpoint of an ordinary customer. This post gets again a little longer.

In my last post I was speaking about pattern recognition and that humans are usually better than nowadays machines in doing this. And coming to marketing/press etc. even for me as an outsider:
I see patterns emerge.

Of course in a lot of pressfotos you see big round heads, but this is because everybody has a head. So what I mean is rather that there are patterns in the sense that the choice of important news and issues e.g. in the world press is similar and timely related. I think this can only work if the news network is fairly good connected and not too big in order to allow for synchronization. Which in the turn means: its quite a responsibility for those guys who are working there.

One can discuss later whether this blog post here serves as an good inspiralation or not.

So lets spiral into that what I started in part I in order to find the focus:

It is no big news to state that our society is currently in a transition from a WYSIWYG (=what you see is what you get) to a WYChIWYG (=what you choose is what you get) paradigm change. Where I would like to extend the original WYSIWYG-meaning from computer science to a more general meaning. This extension will sound at first maybe a little far-fetched, but mathematicians like wild analogies for gedankenexperiments.

WYSIWYG means that you do something (e.g. type into the computer; walk around in a shop; go to church etc.) and that you get/see a specific result due to your action (e.g. wordprocessor; the product you wanted to buy; spiritual satisfaction, enlightment etc.). In particular you sort of know “before” you see/get/buy that that what you are going to get/see is well defined and (usually) there and that there is basically no other choice.

In contrast to this WYChIWYG means that you see the possibilities but what you are going to get is not clear unless you choose the final outcome. In terms of shopping this means: if you went lets say hundred years ago into a mom-and-pop store in the western world and if you had the intention to by sugar then you would get sugar. Nowadays you will have to choose from at least 6 different sugar brands. Takes a lot of energy. Even more: In a new design paradigma you have even to choose the design of your product, means if you want a bike then often you can choose not only the brands but also the parts, form, function etc of the bike. This holds also true for the computer-WYChIWYG, i.e. if I type in “:)” then php can link this to basically everything you want: from freely designed round smilies to straight jackets (a bit exagerated :) ) (see also LaTeX). Similar things hold for religion in modern worlds: Whereas in earlier times you had to live according to the religion of the place you lived in, you can nowadays choose what and even how you nourish your spirituality (if it exists). Even the development of democracies could be seen to fall under this trend. physics/math: quantum computers (also here. More on this maybe later).

And may be this applies also to the human state of evolution, since we are at a point where we can consiously think about the laws of evolution (see part I).

And so on.

So in principle one could think WYChIWYG is a good thing: the more variety the better. There is only one problem:


How do you find a decent way to make a “good” choice, i.e. a choice which makes you/the world feel better?

there are some major means which make decision making easier, like: delegating, timing , brands and occurrence.

delegating means: find someone whom you trust who has a key and/or someone who does a choosing job for you. This may be especially important if you have or if you are going to have not enough time soon and/or the amount of information is too much or if you have not enough access to the necessary information) or simply if you are too lazy or if you are too stupid to make up your own mind.

timing: Sell coolants if its too hot.

brands mean: some things/products stick out because they are more attractive for the customer as they are linked with a brand. However this is a complicated business. As an example: not all customers find the same things attractive, so if you want to satisfy your specific customer brand-needs in a very precise way then this may leed to such funny overcommitment constructs like relationship marketing. But there are of course more problems which can occur.

The categorizing mathematician in me would again like to generalize and extend the meaning of “brand” to refer not only to marketing. I.e. I define: a “brand” shall be an “assignment” of “something additional” to a “content” in order to make the content more attractive. In particular the symbol character of a brand will be hidden in the word “assignment” in this definition.

So in the marketing world “content” could still be “product” and “assigned add-on” could be “brand”. However with my definition also another product sold together (=assigned to) with a product would be a “brand”. Like if I sell airtickets together with frequent flyer bonuses then I would call the bonuses also a “brand” – also if marketing people will kill me for this. But for me it is the same: instead of a “real brand” which puts such add-ons as: reliability, quality, coolness, made-with-love etc. to a product you now have the bonuses as add-on. Both have the same legitimation: they make the product more attractive to a customer. With such a definition one can also have a brand-brand, i.e. an add-on assigned to an add-on. And a brand with empty content is may be a placebo or a Potemkin village.

Why such an extension? Why not call the brands brands and the bonuses bonuses? Because besides the mathematicians weakness this “branding” mechanism is not only prevalent in marketing.

Like e.g. in graphic design: If you have a poster with a certain text message (the product) then you do not just type the message on the poster. Even if you have no graphics connected with the text message it will still be important what you do with the letters. It will effect the way of how much your customer wants to read the message and how the message is perceived. Also the concrete formulation of the message is important and a solid knowledge of the involved language in order to make your textmessage more attractive. So e.g. also double meanings can be a “brand” for a product name. However this can be risky, as can be e.g. seen at the name of the german skin cream NIVEA, whose name led to unexpected german sayings. So if advertizing companies are running test series with regard to interpretation ambiguity then this is not the most stupid thing to do. In principle.

I think one can extend this also to art and poetry, but I am not going to discuss this now and in the two last disciplinces it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference from the brand to the product. But in fact this is also happening in marketing, where often equal effort goes into brand development as in product development.

I would like to call this the scientific method, since it reflects more or less the ontological commonplace that a knowledge becomes more evident the more I observe it. In science this means: if you see your cup of coffee falling down everytime you stop holding it, then after a certain amount of experiments you will assume that this is always going to happen. However in principle your cup of coffee could fly away the next morning. In physics there are rules of how many experiments you have to do in order that your observation is “true” to a certain amount. In marketing the same holds true, means e.g.: regardless of how practical the product is in reality – if almost everone or the ones of your peer group tell you its good then you are more likely to buy it. People can bear a lot of things if its a common believe that something is cool. And even shocking things appear in a different light if one sees them often enough, and even makes carefully fun about it. It’s actually a point where discussion usually becomes matter-of-fact and constructive.(an example from fashion..:)).

Anyways, the above reasoning presupposes that you are able to get/see the product/thing you think about to choose. Availability is a prerequisite.

Lets be straight.

The earth is a brand, brand,….brand(update?), brand. We all know this. It may be that the climate predictions are not as worse as one can get them, however there is strong evidence that very rough times are lying ahead for humanity.

It is an easy thing to argue that humans allways saw an apocalypse ahead of them and that at that point the boundaries between science and science fiction blurr. Yes – one should definitely work on the evidence part.

However ask a typical german who lived during the Nazi era, whether he/she didn’t notice that his/her jewish neighbours were dissappearing, the answer will allways be: yes we noticed that they were send to camps and we suspected that bad things happened there, but there was not enough evidence.

There is a certain point at which one should may be not wait for more evidence, a strong possibility is enough. It is time to put environmental issues every day on the front page – it better should not drown among Paris Hilton videos or some minor conflicts. May be she could serve as a brand for them. Try to make it cool and something everybody should engage into, dont treat it as an ideology.

Some personal thoughts and may be I am wrong with some of them:
People should be aware what they are doing if they use a car or plane, but dont make it a prequisite for being an environmentalist, this is as productive as forbidding condoms in thirld world countries. Improve technology, make bad cars expensive, improve public transport, make public transport more fun. People want and need to communicate, and this globally, so think about energy saving means.

Fossils and nuclear energies are evil* and not forever, try to get away from them, make them expensive, make plans to stop nuclear power plans and try to stick to them as best as possible! Invest in nuclear research and international cooperation in order to keep remaining nuclear power plants and waste under better control – until power will come from renewable energies. If you have the knowledge and the technology then corrections can be made fairly fast after a good balancing of reasons. Think in long terms – a temporal shortage should not be a decisive factor.

Push renewable energies as best as possible. Improve the networks make them open. Invest in energy saving technology. Be human, be creative.

put the global state of our world in ultimate focus and make it a top issue. it is probably urgent.

OK this sounds now like a butcher (or preachers :)) – like approach – however it is just our little contribution (occurrence principle) to the whichhunt.

* supplement 20.02.2012:
the term “evil” is here quite a simplification of what I actually think of eg. nuclear power generation, a more detailled explanation can be found on randform at

2 Responses to “focus and context, part II: WYSIWYG versus WYChIWYG”

  1. Rübengeztählt Says:

    Since you have clashed with her before, like about the question of free will – Sabine Hossenfelder has a new article out, where she casts the WYChIWYG principle into math language and applies it to the double slit (if we use your view of a quantum measurement as being a kind of choice), she writes on her blog:

    What the quantum particle does depends on what measurement will take place.

    What do you say about that?

  2. nad Says:

    “Clashing” is a strong word. Apart maybe from our discussion about how to talk about 16 year old Greta Thunberg, I think our disagreements didn’t come even close to a real “clash”. But -yes- I think I disagree with her amongst others about the definition of free will. I don’t know how common the term “free will assumption”, which she describes in her blog post really is, but she says anyways: “Keep in mind that superdeterminism just means statistical independence is violated which has nothing to do with free will.” So this “free will discussion” is not really important here.

    My blog post about the quantum computation game makes use of an analogy to describe quantum weirdness. I actually continued a bit on this analogy, but haven’t posted it yet. I have no idea whether she was inspired by this blog post.

    I wrote about Bell’s theorem here. On Wikipedia the question of statistical independence is described here. I actually thought before that the statistical independence of the hidden variables is part of the realism assumptions, but it seems the nomenclature is (now) not so. I have no opinion about superdeterminism. I think I would need to see, or conduct some experiments myself to say more. Moreover I left academia in 2010, after a postdoc position in Munich was suddenly not prolonged as promised. I am now very far from all of this.

    According to Wikipedia Sabine Hossenfelder has had research positions at Nordita and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies since 2009 without teaching obligations, she still leads the “Analog Systems for Gravity Duals” group. Hence I guess she spend quite a time with the questions of the Bell theorem. Furthermore Nobel laureate Gerard’t Hooft who was appointed a Senior Fellow Laureatus at the FIAS (Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies) in 2016, is also a proponent of super determinism, if I understand correctly. He reviewed her article “Rethinking Superdeterminism”.

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