malfunctioning calculator(I should correct it)


by Jong hoon Kim

A malfunctioning calculator

"Kuak!" She shrieked, and it was the first time I had ever heard her voice. She broke her leg, which was dangling from her body, and she was trembling in fear and confusion. In the quiet room were only I and she, who was staring at me for a solution. I could do nothing but immediately call my father for emergency. He ran home from church within ten minutes. My father and I took her to a hospital. A surgeon said to us "It's gonna take ten dollars for putting her out of pain, but one hundred dollars for an operation about whose success I'm unsure." My father turned to me to ask of my opinion. And, without a tinge of hesitation, I chose the surgical operation for her broken leg. The surgeon asked me the same question again, to which I replied "what would you chose if your daughter broke her leg?" The surgeon said nothing more, and accepted the proposal. Fortunately, the operation was a success. Meanwhile, did I have a daughter? Yes, I had a rabbit daughter whom I had raised for three years.

In economics, people make rational decisions based on the cost. There are two kinds of the cost: the accounting cost, which is the actual expenditure as on a receipt or account, and the opportunity cost, which includes all the loss emerging from a choice. For instance, ten dollars and one hundred dollars above are the accounting cost, while the distress I might have felt and the loss of my rabbit's cheering smile are included in the opportunity cost of her euthanasia. In a normal calculator, the better choice would be euthanasia according to the accounting cost. Yet, once my malfunctioning calculator was given the opportunity cost data, the calculator produced the other answer - expensive, insecure operation -, a choice which the owners of the normal calculators criticized as irrational.

Likewise, my "malfunctioning" calculator tends to take into account the hidden cost. Whenever I make some expenditure, I consider it an investment. My friends often come to my dorm room to ask questions, especially concerning science. I always try the best to answer the problems. One may regard such behaviors as a waste of time. But my investment return in the form of my opportunity to ask my friends other questions. I could receive an algorithm solution from a computer-majoring friend who once asked me about chemical bonds. Had I rejected his inquiry because of time, I might have lost friendship as well as a chance of discussing an algorithm with him, an enormous opportunity cost which seems to exceed the loss of time. Similarly, an early adopter, I heard I was wasting money when I bought a used PDA and when I registered for a wireless lan two years ago. Yet, my purchase and register turned out to be good choices since I could use English dictionaries, phone-calling, mp3, word processing, and Internet with my PDA; if I had saved money instead, the opportunity cost would have been tremendous.

Namely, the seemingly "malfunctioning" calculator often estimates the true cost. An ordinary calculator tends to consider the expenditure of money or time a mere waste while my calculator computes the expense as an investment which could return with much interest. Although such cost as the loss of my rabbit's comforting smile, friendship, opportunity for give-and-take of knowledge, and benefits of PDA would seem obscure in the first hand, my calculator includes all the values for estimation. Nowhere in an ordinary calculator? Now here in my "malfunctioning" calculator.

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