Thursday, 30 July 2020

The problem of aggressive conformists

Paul Graham has written an interesting piece on what he calls The Four Quadrants of Conformism.

One of the most revealing ways to classify people is by the degree and aggressiveness of their conformism. Imagine a Cartesian coordinate system whose horizontal axis runs from conventional-minded on the left to independent-minded on the right, and whose vertical axis runs from passive at the bottom to aggressive at the top. The resulting four quadrants define four types of people. Starting in the upper left and going counter-clockwise: aggressively conventional-minded, passively conventional-minded, passively independent-minded, and aggressively independent-minded.

The whole piece is well worth reading as perhaps the quote below illustrates.

The conventional-minded say, as they always do, that they don't want to shut down the discussion of all ideas, just the bad ones.

You'd think it would be obvious just from that sentence what a dangerous game they're playing. But I'll spell it out. There are two reasons why we need to be able to discuss even "bad" ideas.

The first is that any process for deciding which ideas to ban is bound to make mistakes. All the more so because no one intelligent wants to undertake that kind of work, so it ends up being done by the stupid.


Graeme said...

Passive and conventional seems tough. As does aggressive and conventional

Sam Vega said...

Many thanks - that's a really fine article. Profound, but not too technical for ordinary people like us to understand.

I really liked this bit:
"it seems to me that aggressively conventional-minded people are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the trouble in the world, and that a lot of the customs we've evolved since the Enlightenment have been designed to protect the rest of us from them."

Those customs are what we need to protect, or we need to invent new ones in order to keep them in check.

it's interesting how the internet creates little groups where people can aggressively conform to almost anything. The covid shenanigans are the latest. Who knew we had so many militant swivel-eyed virologists prepared to tell us off and marshal us into correct behaviour?!

Graeme said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Graeme said...

National trust has just made 1000 workers redundant despite their vast cash reserves. They didn't have to close all their properties, carparks etc. Is this just a cull of the nonconformist staff!

wiggiatlarge said...

Graeme, National Trust falls in line with all the businesses / charities these days, it all started a long time ago, when I was training dogs a friend worked for Guide Dogs for the Blind, as a charity they have never had a problem pulling in vast sums of money they could never use as guide dogs can only go to compatible owners they are not a car, so when it was suggested they spend some money with St Dunstans there was uproar, no no no saying they needed the reserves 'in case', in case their pension fund goes short and the CEO needs a bonus, I did a piece on it at the time but long gone now.

A K Haart said...

Graeme - I can see us ditching the National Trust because as you say they didn't have to close all their properties and car parks. When Hardwick Hall car park was opened up again it was still necessary to book a space beforehand even for members.

Sam - yes it is interesting that people can aggressively conform to almost anything on the internet. One problem is that conventional viewpoints may stop short of the rampant silliness while still being silly themselves. Climate change is a good example of that.

Wiggia - I just checked and Guide Dogs for the Blind allocates only 64% of income to charitable works. Where the rest goes I've no idea but it is millions.