Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Coffee Paradox

Apparently, the phrase “coffee paradox” is used in economics to mean something like coffee trade making rich, coffee-consuming countries richer while poor, coffee-producing countries get poorer. I'm not sure I got that exactly right, and it doesn't matter anyway, because it's not what I mean when I use the phrase.

The more down-to-earth variety of Coffee Paradox is this: if you get up in the morning, but are only physically awake and need coffee to get your mind going, how is coffee ever going to happen? And yet it happens. Yet we manage to complete this huge amount of mind-bogglingly difficult steps, and usually in the right order too: filling the coffee pot with water (“How much water again? There are no lines on this damn thing.”), pouring the water into the water tank (into it), putting the pot back in its place (making sure it is in just the right place), putting in a filter (possibly needing to throw out the old one), putting the coffee into the filter (how many spoons again?), closing all necessary lids and doors and hitting the switch. It really is paradoxical that we can accomplish this while we've only been awake for a minute or so. (Americans would probably go to a Starbucks. By car. Which leads to the so-called Driving to Starbucks Paradox.)

For a long time, I though I was the inventor of the phrase Coffee Paradox. I was pleased to see it appear on a web forum, written by someone I know in real life. It's really cool if your inventions go viral.

But today, when I mentioned this among some friends, someone else also claimed to be the inventor of the Coffee Paradox. And someone else else said that someone else else else (hm, perhaps I should've named them) had been using the phrase for many years, before I had ever made a pot of coffee myself.

So it's possible that I heard about the Coffee Paradox from someone else else else, forgot about it, and came up with it later thinking it was my own invention.

In science, there's also the problem of not knowing where something came from. They have a solution for it. If you state something, clearly indicate whether it is your own, and if not, give a reference. We should genetically enhance our brains to do the same. That would get rid of this nasty Coffee Paradox Paradox.


Eamon Nerbonne said...

Yeah well... I'm sorry to say that the coffee paradox is a regular part of my day :-(.

The unfocussed state of mind leads to mishaps such as:

- pouring coffee into a "whoops" missing cup
- pouring coffee into a cup. And then continuing.
- Forgetting to insert pads into the senseo downstairs
- succeeding in tipping over the coffee cup while attemping to grasp it.
- opening the senseo "just right", so that the used pad and padholder fall out (and into the waiting cup; which then usually fails to remain upright).
There must be more...

Anonymous said...

even though it's not the point of your blog entry, i'd just like to point out that the coffee paradox refers to the fall in global green (bulk, unroasted) coffee prices despite marked increases in coffee demand in consuming countries -- defying the so-called 'law' of supply and demand. this is because the people who set the price of green coffee (i.e. traders in commodity exchanges around the world) make their judgments based on the structure of the commodity chain and all the power relations within it and NOT on producer supply and consumer demand.

JH said...

Your comment "I'm not sure I got that exactly right, and it doesn't matter anyway, because it's not what I mean when I use the phrase" reminds me of Alice in Wonderland: "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."