How to control society

People often talk about how much Western values have transformed since the 1960s, an interval of 60 years, but social change can happen much, much faster than that. Cultural norms can shift in 15, 10 or even 5 years under the right circumstances.

In 2006, 49% of Americans believed that it was ‘very important’ for couples with children to be married. By 2020, that percentage had fallen to 29%.

Between 2013 and 2019, the percentage who accepted same-sex relationships rose from 60% to 72%.

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Becoming less WEIRD

I previously wrote about how those with ancestors from north-eastern Europe are WEIRD.  We are culturally unique because we are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic.

WEIRD does not mean ‘white’.  Those whites on the peripheries of Europe, outside the Hajnal Line, are not WEIRD.

Most of the letters in the acronym could apply equally to the high-trust Asian Tiger societies, but they lack our extreme egalitarianism, guilt complex, and low consanguinity and ethnocentrism.

Over time, WEIRD people built the richest, freest, most creative, dynamic and technologically advanced nations in history.  That is changing.

The Decline

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Why has everyone gone crazy?

People overuse the term, ‘The world’s gone mad.’ I knew a guy in Asmara who’d say it all the time: when the rainy season lasted until December, when there was a crackdown on protesters in Sudan etc.; as though there had never been unusual weather or trouble in Africa before.

But 2020 was nuts in the sense that everyone went crazy. Look at social or mainstream media. Talk to people. Look anywhere.

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Does Australia need more Aboriginal teachers?

Just 1 in 100 teachers are Indigenous. That’s a problem — and it affects kids, too – ABC, August 2019.

“Aboriginal people just need to shut up and get over it.”

What a horrible sentiment. I would say it to Irish re: English, Koreans re: Japanese, New Zealanders re: the underarm incident, and China re: the rest of the world, but that’s different.

That’s a comment teacher Rachel Bos says she’s heard more than once in staffroom conversations about changing the date of Australia Day, which usually falls at the start of the school year.

Ms Bos, a Kaurna woman, can handle those “really uncomfortable discussions” — but that’s not the case for everyone.

Wow there are still based teachers. Must be outback Queensland.

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Do you even outgroup?

This post is to encourage you to read a long and essential 2014 essay from Slate Star Codex about our bubbles and prejudices:

I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup.

If you ever have one of those rare opportunities where you’re arguing with a Woke person and they ask you to give them one article that could change their minds, this is the one.

Scott Alexander is in the Blue bubble looking out:

According to Gallup polls, about 46% of Americans are creationists. Not just in the sense of believing God helped guide evolution. I mean they think evolution is a vile atheist lie and God created humans exactly as they exist right now. That’s half the country.

And I don’t have a single one of those people in my social circle. It’s not because I’m deliberately avoiding them; I’m pretty live-and-let-live politically, I wouldn’t ostracize someone just for some weird beliefs. And yet, even though I probably know about a hundred fifty people, I am pretty confident that not one of them is creationist. Odds of this happening by chance? 1/2^150 = 1/10^45 = approximately the chance of picking a particular atom if you are randomly selecting among all the atoms on Earth.

About forty percent of Americans want to ban gay marriage. I think if I really stretch it, maybe ten of my top hundred fifty friends might fall into this group. This is less astronomically unlikely; the odds are a mere one to one hundred quintillion against.

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Boiling point

Everyone’s very angry at the moment, but why?

You’ve probably seen this photo before. Look at the dress and tell me what colour it is:
The Dress

Some people see black and royal blue. Others see white and gold. Unlike other optical tricks like the vase vs two faces image, no matter what you do, you are unable to see what the other group sees.

This went mad on social media because it is a perfect example of what researchers have discovered makes an issue exquisitely controversial: the answer seems obvious to both sides, yet these answers differ completely. This leads each side to suspect bad faith and evil intentions on the other side. It is hard to believe that someone really does see colours you cannot see. It seems like a giant prank.

In the West, we have split into two groups like this on many, much more pressing issues. Our perceptions of reality are irreconcilable. Can you remember these proto-squabbles:

Was Trayvon Martin murdered, or did George Zimmerman kill him in self defence?

Even our idea of what the two look like, and whether Zimmerman was white or Hispanic, depends on our source:

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You are WEIRD

Map of nations covered by psychological studies

The trouble with people living in WEIRD countries is, we don’t know how WEIRD we are.

WEIRD stands for Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic.  Many countries have some of these characteristics, but only a few have them all, which makes them . . . weird.

The map above shows where 90% of psychological studies come from, adjusting country size by population.  These WEIRD countries account for only about 15% of the world’s population.  Some researchers are starting to think these studies must be culturally biased, and that broader studies are needed to understand human nature more fully.

This is because WEIRD countries are different.  They have certain Read More