Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to Think Culture Scale

Hi! Happy Sunday!

The power is out so I thought I would write another post given my laptop is now pretty much it.

How do you think in culture? I find it interesting that of all the legal defences for committing crimes saying "my culture made me do it" has never come up as far as I know.

What is it about your behavior, or anyone's behavior, that is culturally derived? Geez, all my neighbors decided to take showers since the power is out. What's up with that? Anyway...

Let me tell you how to think in culture scale...right here.

We don't know. Got cha'!

Seriously, we don't know.

This is why in my previous post I called for more research into culture. We need to understand the programming of culture if we are going to scale.

When I say we don't know though, how bad is it? Well we do know some things. Then again, there are some scientists who argue that culture is a physical entity outside of humans. I'm not making that up. There are anthropologists in 2014 claiming that culture is its own thing. This is reminiscent of the calor where we once thought heat was its own entity called the calor.

So we are just getting started. But that is not to say we don't know anything. Not at all.

First thought about thinking in culture scale:
  • It is probably bullshit.
You should be inoculated with a healthy dosing of skepticism is the first lesson. Whatever claim someone is making about cultural influences it is a pretty safe bet those claims are probably bullshit and being made on bad evidence, no evidence or wishful thinking. My claims in the previous post were mostly self-evident. Conservatives do blame liberals and not themselves for the failure of education and have been doing so for decades seemingly with their hands tied behind their backs, impotent to do anything. Conservatives don't believe in social programs (except religious one), leaving liberals to run amok. The black community is in a cycle of poverty and racism still very much exists in America.

However, my self-evident truths posited are not very enlightening. My point was simply this: conservatives are caught in the same culture trap as the black community where some cultural force is holding them back from fixing something they know needs fixing. The conservatives can't seem to find it in themselves to fix education due to an individual-accountability-centric world view and blacks are in a cycle of poverty due to slavery.

What that sub-culture force is or how to model it is not well understood. Liberals have tried various social programs and failed in so many ways. Conservatives have used these failures to lambast liberal programs for being the cause of black poverty and black poverty's ongoing perpetuation. Liberals failing and then conservatives blaming are both symptoms of the same underlying problem: cultural forces are not understood.

Liberals just go way too far and too fast in implementing social programs on massive scales such as with ACA or affirmative action when the underlying causes are unknown. When the causes are unknown then experience is key, innovation is key. Conservatives have latched onto these liberal failures and gone so far as to label them as the root cause. Now we have a new cultural cycle feedback loop to break. Ugh.

When it comes to culture though I would still count myself a liberal before a conservative because of one important fact: they try. Conservatives have this bizarre notion that spaceships design and build themselves and societies do to without any effort. Conservatives see no reason to fix a social problem because they don't believe in social fixes, only individual accountability.

So, it is no surprise when it comes to climate change which side the conservatives are on. It is also no surprise that liberals are suggesting rolling out experiments at the global scale without first going through proper innovation scale. Our liberal/conservative cycle of culture dysfunction continues. 

All of the above discussion was imparted to get a single point across: be skeptical. Demand innovation for social experiments where trial-and-error is being used, the root cause is unknown. Demand solutions and not criticism when it comes to conservatives bellyaching all the time.

Second thought about thinking in social scale:
  • Anecdotes are only for illustration purposes. 
So many white people were posting anecdotes of black-on-black, black-on-white crime screaming "where is the outrage?" Hello? I saw the movie "Do The Right Thing" by Spike Lee back in like 1990.  In that movie the last scene is of a black neighborhood rioting and the first scene is police injustice. See a pattern? Then there is the following by James Baldwin in 1960. My friend Gregg posted this on Facebook after the Grand Jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson:
"The white policeman... finds himself at the very center of the revolution now occurring in the world. He is not prepared for it -- naturally, nobody is -- and, what is possibly much more to the point, he is exposed, as few white people are, to the anguish of the black people around him.......
One day, to everyone's astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up. Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches, and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is Negroes want to be treated like [humans]." 
James Baldwin, 1960
Black dysfunctionally albeit poverty or black-on-black crime is a symptom of a culture that is stuck, both the black sub-culture and the greater American culture. Michael Brown is just the latest in a long line of black bodies stretching all the way back to the first American slave.

Ferguson as an anecdote is emblematic of a problem going back hundreds of years of oppression, mistrust and institutionalized indignity we label racism.

Don't use anecdotes to generalize but only for illustration of known patterns.

Third thought on thinking in culture scale:
  • Correlation is not causation. 
It is true in the social sciences that correlation is accepted in lieu of causation as a kinda weak tea. If you are going to use correlation admit it, correlation is not causation and any remedy based upon such correlation is a guess.

My favorite place for watching massive logic failures when it comes to culture scale and correlation failing is gun violence.

Correlation fail number one: concealed carry weapon permits (CCW) reduce crime in states that have it. Correlation fail number two: countries like Great Britain and Japan have much lower per-capita murder rates because citizens are not allowed to own guns.  They are both failures because correlation is not causation. Cultures are big, gooey messes with lots and lots of variables and factors and isolating a single one is nigh impossible. All of the studies relating to gun violence only factor into those studies guns. Crime has been going down in every state in the Union for years now. The correlation of CCW with reduced crime rates never factor out the general trend or take into account tougher crime laws that get passed at the same time CCW permits are enacted. Great Britain and Japan do not have a second amendment and a culture steeped in owning guns.

My final thought on thinking in culture scale:
  • Intuition fails. 
People are not like you. The golden rule is problematic with culture scale in that people too often fail to get outside themselves to realize people have different ways of thinking and different mind sets, different emotional compositions.

I wrote a blog post about Freguson to point this failure of intuition out where I ponder what was Michael Brown's motive for murder? Going for a cops gun is either a suicide by cop or an intent to murder. In that blog post I speculated that Michael Brown had no motive to murder and if he did then he may have previously known Darren Wilson. My point was not to make a strong case about suicide by cop or any motive for murder. It was to point out that people's intuitive claims that Michael was some angry monster thug has no more basis in reality than a claim he previously knew Darren Wilson or was looking to commit suicide. Darren Wilson's testimony is heresy and Michael Brown is not around to dispute it. Yet people believe their intuition. They are wrong for believing their intuition as fact. Knock it off.

Your intuition fails when it comes to cultural scale. You don't know Michael Brown or his cultural influences.

To recap about thinking of claims of cultural scale:
  1. It is probably bullshit. Be skeptical first and foremost of authoritative cultural claims. 
  2. Anecdotes are only for illustration purposes. No trend no anecdote.
  3. Correlation is not causation. Own correlation as weak tea if being used to promote a cause. Correlation alone is weak science, don't promote it as absolute or even good enough.
  4. Intuition fails. The golden rule is problematic at the culture scale level. Social studies should be sought after that challenge your intuitions.
Happy culture scaling!

Well come! and Well met! 

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