Seeing that Google’s management (now called Alphabet) is at serious odds with its employees over working in China on Project Dragonfly, it appears that the Google Dilemma is very far from over. I wrote a short series of posts about the cultural misunderstandings between Google and the Chinese Government, and it’s still going on. To keep its own Individualist culture, and to avoid being co-opted by the Hierarchy of the Government security machine, Google must drop Dragonfly. The difficulty is that the Individualist culture impels Google to look for a profit at any cost, and so it doesn’t appear possible to drop Dragonfly.
Conservatives appear to be more receptive to liberal ideas when they are associated with the past. Conversely, though, liberals do not appear receptive to conservative ideas when they are associated with the future.
The abstract concludes :
“A large portion of the political disagreement between conservatives and liberals appears to be disagreement over style, and not content of political issues.”
Lammers, J., & Baldwin, M. (2018). Past-Focused Temporal Communication Overcomes Conservatives’ Resistance to Liberal Political Ideas. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication.
Here’s a photo taken a while ago that never made it into a post. It’s an advert I saw on a bus shelter. It isn’t the clearest photo in the world, but it tells a story. The story it tells is very clearly expressed by the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. It shows that in our society, being an individual is a task we’re assigned. We have to work hard at it. For example, there are things to buy. Buying things also bought by others is the surest way to achieve individuality. The irony, according to Bauman, is that individuality – the mandate of the society of individuals – is thus impossible to achieve. The quotations below are from Chapter 1 of Bauman, Z. (2005). Liquid Life. Cambridge : Polity 15-38.
Individuality is a task set for its members by the society of individuals – set as an individual task, to be individually performed, by individuals using their individual resources. Yet such a task is self-contradictory and self -defeating : indeed, impossible to fulfil.
When it is serviced by the consumer markets, the marathon of the pursuit of individuality draws its urgency and impetus from the terror of being caught up, absorbed and devoured by the crowd of runners breathing heavily behind one’s back. But in order to join the race and to stay in it, you first need to purchase the ‘special marathon shoes ‘ which – surprise, surprise – all the rest of the runners wear or deem it their duty to obtain.
(Bauman 2005 :25)
As a task, individuality is an end product of societal transformation disguised as a personal discovery.
(2005:19; cf. 29)
There’s a good summary of Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity – Chapter One at Realsociology.
But individuality isn’t the only kind of societal transformation that might be found disguised as a personal discovery. Communality, being part of a group, is also a kind of social demand dressed up as a personal task. There is a Japanese phrase: minna no kimochi. This means something like ‘being of one heart’. One could say: “Our feelings about the game came together and we played well”. Marie Mutsuki Mockett has written about how minna no kimochi is used to explain how political change might come to Japan after the great tsunami of 2011: by everyone feeling united about it.
This approach to the person is a little disquieting, since it encourages us to question the solid assumptions we have about our selves, how we come to even have something called a self, and how this process of ‘selfing’ relates to wider social processes.
If coding isn’t the new literacy, what is?
According to Chris Granger, modeling is.
Modeling is creating a representation of a system (or process) that can be explored or used… To put it simply, the next great advance in human ability comes from being able to externalize the mental models we spend our entire lives creating.
Incidentally, this is corroborated by Douglas Rushkoff’s very brief history lesson, Social Control as a Function of Media, in which he predicts that the corporate controllers will only encourage programming skills when the programs of the masses can already be assimilated.
self-organisation is a high-level property that emerges from the underlying network, not a feature of any of the individual components.
This has interesting consequences. Where any part of the mechanism is sensitive to the environment, the whole self-organising loop can be too.
See also: redundancy and resilience
“Kahan’s argument about the woman who does not believe in global warming is a surprising and persuasive example of a general principle: if we want to understand others, we can always ask what is making their behaviour ‘rational’ from their point of view. If, on the other hand, we just assume they are irrational, no further conversation can take place.”
Would you put in more effort if you thought you could win a large cash prize?
What about if that prize was broken up into a series of smaller prizes – how hard would you work then?
‘In praise of big prizes’ at the Freakonomics site, had some advice for a professor at the University of Texas who changed his practice of handing out cash prizes to students in favour of a more level system.
The author writes that actually,
“larger top prizes and a steeper prize gradient will elicit more effort than a flatter gradient, one with more prizes of smaller amounts (Lazear and Rosen, 1981).”
He suggests that a large amount of prize money is what motivates top sports people such as Tiger Woods, and that perhaps the professor could adapt and use this approach in an educational setting:
“he would get better written work if he went back to the old system, just as Tiger Woods is better motivated by a big winning prize for a whole tournament than he would be by small prizes for having the best score in a particular round.”
In a previous post on Fourcultures about Fatalist development aid I noted how schemes to randomly assign cash handouts to poor people seem to work quite well. According to the Economist, though, there are situations in which conditional handouts work better. In one example, would-be aid recipients were required to submit a business plan before going into the lottery.
Perhaps these schemes using contrived randomness, a Fatalist strategy, would be better if they used high value tournaments instead – a very Individualist strategy.
One small problem is that the prize money that seems to motivate Tiger Woods to get out of bed is slightly higher than that available in college classes or in development aid programmes.
First prize for the 2013 US Masters tournament was $1,440,000. That’s quite a lot of money. Even the 50th placed golfer still won $20,160.
In contrast, the top University of Texas student paper won $1,500. In even starker contrast, Kenyan villagers identified by the charity Give Directly receive $200.
“We send each recipient household a total of $1,000 over one to two years, or $200 per household member for the average household. Our analysis suggests that this amount is fair, well-understood, and potentially transformative.”
When Individualism can provide a US Masters level of money to colleges and to poor villages in Africa, maybe then its policy prescriptions will be more credible.
See also: Fatalist development aid
[image credit: public domain, pixabay]
When people don’t accept the scientific evidence, it may be useless to present them with yet more evidence. They are not stupid. They are simply protecting their cultural identity.
Here’s the journalism:
And here’s the original study, Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government
Kahan, Dan M., Peters, Ellen, Dawson, Erica Cantrell and Slovic, Paul, Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government (September 3, 2013). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=
Why does public conflict over societal risks persist in the face of compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence? We conducted an experiment to probe two alternative answers: the “Science Comprehension Thesis” (SCT), which identifies defects in the public’s knowledge and reasoning capacities as the source of such controversies; and the “Identity-protective Cognition Thesis” (ICT) which treats cultural conflict as disabling the faculties that members of the public use to make sense of decision-relevant science. In our experiment, we presented subjects with a difficult problem that turned on their ability to draw valid causal inferences from empirical data. As expected, subjects highest in Numeracy—a measure of the ability and disposition to make use of quantitative information—did substantially better than less numerate ones when the data were presented as results from a study of a new skin-rash treatment. Also as expected, subjects’ responses became politically polarized—and even less accurate—when the same data were presented as results from the study of a gun-control ban. But contrary to the prediction of SCT, such polarization did not abate among subjects highest in Numeracy; instead, it increased. This outcome supported ICT, which predicted that more Numerate subjects would use their quantitative-reasoning capacity selectively to conform their interpretation of the data to the result most consistent with their political outlooks. We discuss the theoretical and practical significance of these findings.
- Politics Makes Morons of Us All (motherjones.com)
Matthew Taylor of the RSA, blogs about collaboration styles in education…
“Science Confirms The Obvious: Strict Parents Raise Conservative Kids” – http://pulse.me/s/eC9fb If so, would it be possible to conduct similar experiments to test whether parents with a particularly strong cultural bias raise their children to have a similar bias? So, for example, do Fatalist parents raise Fatalist kids? My guess here is that the social setting is what’s at stake. It might be more appropriate to speak of, an Egalitarian family (ie. a social organisation) than of an Egalitarian parent. But maybe not if you happen to be a psychological researcher. In other words, the methodological individualism in psychological research necessitates the discovery of political or cultural biases in the individual’s head – because (apparently) there is no where else for those biases to reside. But a complimentary approach might be to investigate the ways these biases are constructed and maintained between people – in the their institutions (including the family), in their rules etc.