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Dilbert Error

  1. Jun 18, 2006 #1
    Has anyone read their Sunday comics yet today? Here are the first three frames of Dilbert:

    1. Boss: Your project came in 10% over budget.

    2. Dilbert: Actually, it came in at exctly what I estimated.

    3. Dilbert: You cut my budget by 10% because you wanted to feel like a leader.

    These are not the same! For example, if the original budget had been $100, then it was cut to $90. Therefore, 10% over budget would be $99, not $100.

    I post this only to ask - do you think Mr. Adams knows of this error, or is this just another example of innumeracy in the general community?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2006 #2


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    So, if Mr. Adams had said the project came in 9% over budget, how would that have made the comic funnier?
  4. Jun 18, 2006 #3


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    Many years ago I corrected a collegue for a similar minor infraction. He jokingly responded, "Are you going to call me a lier for 1%?" I think we both laughed at what was actually a keen observation.

    Yes, I think he realized his inaccuracy before I opened my mouth, but he was interested in conveying an idea, not producing a mathematically accurate solution to a problem.
  5. Jun 18, 2006 #4
    It wouldn't have, but that wasn't my question. I'm just curious if you think he knew about the error. I'm not into nitpicking, I just like to think about the ways in which people think about mathematics.

    Q_Goest: I'm sure your colleague did know of his error since he made the 1% comment. Mr. Adams worked for a telephone company and is now a comic, so, again, I wonder if he knows.
  6. Jun 18, 2006 #5


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    The only way you can find out if he knows is to ask him (by email or whatever).

    BTW, the author of the Dilbert comic series is plenty smart - he's a member of Mensa. Consider the very likely possibility that he's making a deliberate error to pander to a lay audience that mostly doesn't understand the finer points of percentages and reciprocals and wouldn't get the joke if he'd been mathematically accurate.
  7. Jun 18, 2006 #6
    While I agree with most of your statement, membership in Mensa does not endure mathematical literacy. There are plenty of intelligent people who still make errors with simple computations.

    I wonder why he used percentages in the first place. If the statements had been made with, say, $1000 instead of 10% then they would be correct.

    I will always enjoy Dilbert, but when looking for mathematical humor I think I will stick with Foxtrot.
  8. Jun 18, 2006 #7


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    Did you mean "ensure" instead of "endure"?

    I doubt someone in the top 2% of the population would've trouble with a simple concept like this, even if their entire education was in the liberal arts. Maybe it was a genuine mistake (due to inattention) at the time, but I'm willing to bet he'll be able to see the error immediately if he had it pointed out to him.

    I still think it's a matter of pandering rather than a genuine mistake. Seriously, no-one "normal" would've gotten the joke if he'd done it mathematically right.

    I haven't seen anything especially erudite coming out of Foxtrot, I will concede their humor is slanted a bit more geekily though. Even then, some lay readers will be alienated by it - I have a Foxtrot clipping parodying the Linux/Windows situation pinned to my cubicle wall and very few people "get" it (I work in a hospital, not geek central). Dilbert is probably more accessible than Foxtrot, a lot of people have at least a passing familiarity with management dogma (obvious pun on Dogbert not intended).
  9. Jun 18, 2006 #8
    Yeah, they put the damn d right next to the s on the keyboard. Whoever thought of that should be abashed and chagrined.

    I see what you're saying, and I agree that 1) he would understand the error immediately, 2) the strip would not have been better if it had been correct and 3) he may have known about the error in advance.

    I also agree that Foxtrot will miss the general public. I admire the author for going outside the typical political satire, though. Here are some examples that I found online for the unfamiliar:









    He also likes physics:



    These are the few examples I could find. There are many, many more.
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