Wednesday, November 02, 2022

More House of Strauss

Ethan Strauss, talking about why polling is so bad, with an example from working at Yelp over a decade ago. 

So often we witness these arguments between conflict theory types, who believe a bad outcome to be the intentional result of a battle between groups, and mistake theory types, who believe a bad outcome to result from a well-intentioned error. Yelp taught me that there’s a middle answer, one where an almost accidental conspiracy takes place. It’s an outcome in which the conspirators might not even know they’re conspiring. They’re just trudging away from difficulty, sleepwalking towards their incentives, all the while believing themselves objective arbiters.

Everyone talks about this in terms of political journalism, trying to suss out what is intentional slanting of even the inquiry into news, what is echo-chamber obliviousness, and what is unconscious bias because of protecting tribal interests.  I have tried to look at this in terms of other subjects, of historians and psychologists and artists of all types especially if they are employed in the academy responding to tribal and even personal incentives that they do not see and deny even exist. It is the whole "you don't have to teach cats to catch mice" theory. (Yes, I learned here that older cats do have to teach younger cats to catch mice, at least in part, but you take the point.)  I have railed about my Arts & Humanities Tribe and their complete obliviousness to what is obvious to everyone else in what they will "interrogate" about a topic and which "subaltern voices" they will listen to and which they won't.

I very much hold to the idea that even when they are recognising that they might be slanting things or are finding workarounds to the slants they are being pressured into in their jobs, these intellectuals (and i am not using the term facetiously) are mostly responding to the incentives that will result in their tribe having more status, so that their children/nieces, their post docs, their culture-in-general gets more status and thus more jobs, friends, and mates. It's all about more food and more wives, in the end.

1 comment:

james said...

"To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their women." You have to translate slightly for the academic world, but to be proved superior and right is a good thing in life.