Predictable Identities: 20 – Self and Other Labeling

This entry is part 20 of 21 in the series Predictable Identities

The last post set up the motivations and trade-offs of applying identity labels to yourself and to others. One can choose to oppose this ubiquitous labeling or indulge in it. With these two axes, we can sketch out the blogchain’s first (though inevitable) 2×2:

The anti-label corner is exemplified by Paul Graham’s famous exhortation to keep your identity small and Scott Alexander’s reminder that categories are just (occasionally) useful abstractions. This corner sees other-labeling as a distraction from more pertinent questions of what someone actually does or believes; they see self-labeling as a sacrifice of clear thinking for tribal conformity. “Nerd” is a bad label for this corner, but being resistant to labels is its very nature.

Identity politickers sit at the top right corner. They reinforce the centrality of identity built by stacking labels (intersectionality) and demand that others be loyal to their identity markers, as in the quote about black faces and voices. Identitarians are not fans of rich white guys like Paul and Scott, but these two at least stick to their expected role of adversary. They have much more contempt for identity traitors like Candace Owens.

On the top left are people who gleefully toss labels at their outgroup to reinforce its homogeneity and overall wickedness. This usually serves to distance oneself from a label. On the bottom right, a person can attach a self-label to some conventional opinion to demonstrate how nicely predictable they are and to associate with a group. 

These two corners are less of a committed stance and more of a tactical application of labels, but the same is true across the board – people change their willingness to label themselves and others depending on the situation. Labeling is a political tool; we should expect hypocrisy to be the norm rather than the exception.

From Pseudoevents to Pseudorealities

This entry is part 9 of 16 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

Next up, Renee DiResta talks about the dark side of reality construction, influencing and shaping consensus realities for political gains. This talk really pulls together Renee’s series of essays on ribbonfarm.

Domestic Cozy: 9

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Domestic Cozy

After a couple of more theoretical entries to this blogchain, time for a roundup of recent phenomenology. I have five exhibits to introduce into evidence.

Exhibit A, these schizophrenic shoes from Patara Shoes (ht Kyle Chayka). They appear to combine the comfort-oriented domestic-cozy appeal (and price point) of Allbirds with a bit of premium mediocre eco-signaling and public narrative construction (“globalist multicultural nomad” living dangerously on the edge of appropriation outrage potential). I’m seeing more and more examples of premium mediocre intersecting with domestic cozy (weighted blankets are a good paradigmatic example), mostly in incoherent ways, though analyzing the incoherence is above my trend-logger pay grade and is probably best done by somebody in Brooklyn.

Exhibit B. There’s a long article out in Buzzfeed News by Anne Helen Peterson that profiles a design firm called Pattern, and its first brand launch, Equal Parts, a cookware line. Take a moment to click through and check out the imagery and price positioning. Note the pastels, soft+rough textures, and sturdy, utilitarian designs. Note the comfy, cozy pictures of the team. This stuff is about the same price band as most things I tag premium mediocre, but the tradeoff seems to have shifted to delivering utilitarian value over signaling woke virtue. This stuff probably is more serviceable than it is instagrammable.

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Plannar — Co-Visioning with AR

This entry is part 8 of 16 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

Next up, Jessy Escobedo talks about Plannar, an experiment in co-designing reality, explicitly looking at political aspects of reality construction, using AR to explore speculative architectural futures with the people who will have to live in them.

The City as Weakly-Escaped Reality

This entry is part 7 of 16 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

In this talk, Drew Austin revisits the thesis he developed in his old ribbonfarm post The Holey Plane, looking in particular at the Los Angeles built environment, and arguing that the Philip K. Dick definition of reality as “that which does not go away when you stop believing in it” does not actually hold as strongly as you might think for physical realities. Also riffing on my post The Design of Escaped Realities along the way.

Introducing Xenoreaction

This entry is part 6 of 16 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

In this raucous talk, Anders and Moritz perform… something full of memes and gaming and schisms and stuff :)

Predictable Identities: 19 – Labels

This entry is part 19 of 21 in the series Predictable Identities

After consistency, the most important feature of predictable identities is a good label, a pithy description that tells others (and yourself) what to expect of you. 

Let’s say that you are consistent in the sentiment that individuals should be free from government intervention, and thus oppose business regulation and gun control. What should your position be on abortion, immigration, or campaign finance? It’s difficult to extrapolate a coherent position from your basic values, and often not worth the effort  — your take on campaign finance likely has zero impact either on government legislation or on your own life. It’s uncomfortable for your political stances to be so unpredictable.

On the other hand, you may simply adopt the label of “Republican” and acquire a set of stances on all political issues. The Republican position on anything is common knowledge, and anyone who knows that this label is part of your identity should not expect any surprises. Sticking to the label is often valued much more than consistency of actual opinion:

People strongly dislike labels that don’t actually help prediction, as illustrated quite hilariously by the recent backlash to “sapiosexual”. From what I can tell, here’s what people who call themselves that mean by it:

  • 10% are sexually aroused purely by intelligence, not appearance (yes, they exist).
  • 20% like hot people but only if they’re smart.
  • 30% weigh personality more than physical attributes in romantic partners, relative to others.
  • 40% use the term merely to signal their own intelligence.
  • 1 person (me) insists that it should mean “attracted exclusively to Homo sapiens”.

The end result is that people who haven’t met a single self-identified sapiosexual write articles titled You’re Not Sapiosexual, You’re Just Annoying in their frustration at the unpredictability of the label.

Self-labeling is a powerful tool for shaping your behavior and the reactions of others, to be used with care.

Value Investing in Cults and Religions

This entry is part 5 of 16 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

Next up, Toby Shorin talks about a framework for value investing in cults and religions, applying the metaphor of stock investing to think about investing in alt realities.

Escape’ Reality Presents – A Timeshare Opportunity

This entry is part 4 of 16 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

Next up, Nolan Gray looks at reality construction from a fractional ownership perspective.

Observability and Time

This entry is part 3 of 16 in the series Refactor Camp 2019

In this talk, Lisa Neigut talks about reality construction from the point of view quantum mechanics, pulling together the thinking of David Deutsch and Richard Feynman.