Tuesday, February 12, 2008

88; BINGO!

Is the order of things important? To rephrase that in two ways: If you get to the right conclusion do the order of the steps matter? or, If you approach things in the wrong order can you achieve the same understanding form the conclusion?

On the 'right order' side of the argument you have examples like reading Dante before Virgil, creating a logical argument, solving a math problem without getting lost, or building, well, nearly anything mechanic.

In the red corner, representing 'order doesn't matter', are scavenger hunts, getting rich and famous, putting on your socks and underwear, and writing the introduction or conclusion first.

For you, perhaps, there is a vital order as to whether you should put on your socks or boxers, or you don't much care if you read Morgan before Mendel. (Geneticists. Mendel's experiments in plant hybredization blew the whole thing open, which Morgan followed upon with fruit flies. But you may ask yourself: are fruit flies more interesting to me? And you may ask yourself: can I stomach Mendel's prose? And you may say to yourself: this is not of any interest to me. And you may say to yourself: this is not my beautiful wife!)


Like most choices neither choice is the right choice. Each choice has potential to be the right choice, but there is no inherent quality to the choice which makes that choice the correct choice. And if you can follow all that then choosing to read this column was obviously the right choice.

You see my problem is Myers Briggs personality tests. The Myers Briggs test takes four categories and splits them into dual-choice options: Introverted or extroverted? Intuitive or Sensitive? Thinking or Feeling? Judging or Perceiving? Based on this you can get sixteen different categories of people. Further: based upon the combination of characteristics you can determine personality types, how people behave, think, and are likely to act.

So the query leads us to ask (in this case showing my preference to handle things in the right order): What is more important to our being? To take a case example, a friend of mine was raised for 18 years in San Francisco. Does that fact bear more relevance to trying to understand my friend's mindset than his being extroverted or introverted?

The priorities of the human condition. A plateau that we have arrived at before the final summit. If everyone is unique just like everyone else it is due to a sort of gigantic Myers Brigg dichotomy.

To take an example, start with a sample population, say the human population. Now isolate only those persons who are American citizens, narrowing the pool to about 350 million. Then isolate persons who live in Massachustetts, roughly 6.5 million. Then pick only those who are Republicans, or gay, or married. Eventually, if you add enough categories, your sample size will get to one.

But can we do this test with non-quantafiable conditions? In essence that is what the Myers Brigg test does, is asks you personal questions, which you cannot find on survey data. Nowhere in the Massachusetts State statistics will you find what percentage of the population considers themselves Thinkers rather than Feelers.

Bringing us to the ascent ahead of us. If people can, theoretically, be defined by a series of predicates, then I propose the possibility of a perfect human. Hear me out.

The idea of these predicates being applicable in every category would also lead to things like 'good listener or bad listener'? or 'industrious or generally lazy'? Virtuous traits would also be quantifiable. As such someone who had all the virtuous traits would be an ideal person.

Yet this may be a bit rash. Okay, I confess. That would be extremely rash, and the problem is inherent throughout the argument. While I may be 'generally lazy' until I'm 20 years old, the next twenty years of my life may be regarded as 'industrious'. If that person were to croak on their fortieth birthday would they be marked up based upon the first twenty years or the latter? In a word, the element which is lost is the question of change.

Let's create a grid. There's only one row, but thousands of columns. The columns are all labeled after virtues, and the row is either checked or unchecked. It's a scorecard, and everyone has one.

But the order doesn't matter. Someone may have 'humility' checked, whereas their boss may have 'good management'. Eventually, theoretically, you can get every box checked. You can look around and say, hey, I've got patience down, but that guy doesn't. Of course he'll be thinking that he's got good hygene, and you've got possum-killing breath.

So far I've not met anyone who has eberyhing down. Lessons I've learned have yet to be learned by others. Then again there are hundreds or thousands of lessons left for me to learn. The order doesn't matter. It may help, in certain cases and specific scenarios, but, to my mind, I think it's more in the camp of scavenger hunt. People will continue to develop at different rates, learn different lessons, and sometimes even regress. It's all good. The game eventually ends, and our scores are erased. All you can do, as they say, is try your best to make the summit. Or win the game. Pick your metaphor.

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