Wednesday, August 1, 2007

300,000,000 people can't be wrong, can they?

Read this.

"...I came here in peace, seeking gold and slaves...."
-- quote from article

Now, as funny as that was (maybe not to you, but now you can at least go write in your blog about how I'm stupid I am) doesn't it seem that if you gather a large enough group of people they tend to "think" and behave in this manner? Why is that? Is it a function of that neatly nebulous phrase we use to describe ourselves, "human nature"?

Is it cultural? If so, which culture? Why is the mob mind so base and puerile?

This sentiment is borne out in oft repeated statements such as: "I like persons, but I hate people", "I like Americans, but I hate America", "Saleem is ok, but the rest of those Muslims are terrorists", etc...

Could this be the root of all the negative stereotypes ever attributed to any group? Think about it. Large groups tend to adopt this '...and together we'll form, the moron!...', mentality. Historically, people didn't move around alot so populations were pretty homogeneous. Explorer/trader, 'Y', experiences group idiocy in the far off land of X, upon his return to 'civilization', he reports that the X-landers are idiots because of reasons one, two and three. We all know how rumors work so I'll leave you to fill in the rest.

The historical trend seems to be that group think levels out at the least common intellect. I'd be willing to bet that this was why the Founders (of the U.S.) sought to protect us from the "tyranny of the masses".

But how do you get the herd all mooing (moving) in the same direction? This article might provide some insight. (The text of the article that this article referenced is at the bottom of the post.)

Ok, we tend to emulate the choices of others. But, if the simple minds drive the conversation, how do their ideas gain support? Here's some heavy reading in that direction:



That was long, but the key points were simple. Repetition from one and/or many and ease of recognition. Let's make a construct with this information.

Given the following:

Everyone can count,
Counting is easier than adding,
Adding is easier than subtracting,
Subtracting is easier than multiplying,
Multiplying is easier than dividing,
Dividing is easier than exponents,
Exponents are easier than algebra,
Algebra is easier than geometry,
Geometry is easier than trigonometry,
Trigonometry is easier than calculus,
People prefer difficult math that they can handle,
Math below algebra is number math,
other math is abstract math.

Let's use math type as a popularity contest in a population with a normal distribution of intellect (try using everyone you've ever met as an example). For me, pretty much everyone I've ever met (that was of an age to have had access to this information) could divide. However when I get to exponents my population experiences a large drop off, this continues up through calculus. So the majority of my population can accomplish counting through division. This makes them less familiar with exponents and 'higher' maths. Now when I hold the, "Which type of math is most fun?" contest the weight of my population is going to exclude every math beyond division as a top contender.

The people beyond division are going to pull everyone up, but the people who can't divide are going to pull everyone back down. This means that number math wins by default.

There isn't really enough data to say which math would actually win, but it is likely that an explorer to this math country, upon returning home, would report, "They're a bunch of dividers that don't understand abstract math".

You've seen this in the election cycles for years. One candidate will repeat an oversimplified non-plan regarding some issue over and over which then filters through the populace and is repeated by the populace thereby enforcing itself. Whereas his opponent will give a nuanced plan that completely describes how to actually remedy the issue, but it goes over the heads of many of the possible 'repeaters' within the populace and thus fails to penetrate the populace's collective psyche.

Is public opinion worthless? I don't think so, but I have illustrated a way in which it is easily duped.

Referenced article.

If you or your organization has a pay login in you can do more reading here.

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