Posted by: CJ | March 23, 2011

I think this generalizes…

Robin Hanson had a post a few weeks ago about how people laugh at nerds because nerds completely miss some social dynamics that everyone else is getting. What’s funny is that they seem so smart in some ways, but they also are so completely clueless about the social games that everyone else is winning. So people laugh at them for the same reason you’d laugh at someone in a game of hearts playing as if it was spades.

I think his suggestion generalizes. People belonging to some group A laugh at others who don’t realize they’re playing “the wrong game”, in the sense that they’re not playing by the rules which will gain status in group A.

I think this is why some well-educated urban elites I know laugh at small town or rural folks. It’s not that they think they’re stupid, exactly. They just think it’s bizarre that this people think so highly of themselves when they aren’t playing to gain status in well-educated urban elites circles.

Conversely, the small town folks I know laugh/sneer at the urban elites for wandering around obsessing over unimportant things, whittling their lives away over money and clothes instead of family and community.

Though all of the above completely fits within the broader frameworks Robin Hanson suggests. He thinks a lot of social interaction isn’t about communicating ideas or sharing experiences or creating deep and meaningful bonds. He thinks it’s largely about gaining status in a given group.

And the more I’m around people, the more socialized I become, the more I tend to agree with him. Which, I’m surprised to say, I think makes me even more cynical than I previously had been.


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