Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What if you were getting stupider?

I'm wondering if a service could be provided to let you know that you were getting dumber as your life trundled on. It would be useful, that's for sure, but it's probably not a commercially viable enterprise. As I read just the other day, there's a surplus of people who need their asses kicked, but few of them are likely to pay for it.

But there are an awful lot of people with that requirement, and if only 1% of them would fork over cold hard cash for a boot up their posterior, maybe there's a living to be made in it. It works for personal fitness trainers, why not for somebody with an overbearing attitude and a focus on mental, rather than physical deficiencies?

I'm not about to start a company that makes my fortune by yelling at people and telling them to smarten up. Come to think of it, I paid a man last year to do that for me; it was like being harassed by a (not very passive)-aggressive, pointing out that I was smart and capable, and then decrying my inability to do anything with those smarts and capabilities.

Some of this was new and useful, some of it was things that I already knew and did, and some of it was things that I knew but was too lazy, weakwilled, or confused to do something with. So there's positives to be had from the experience, even if not all of it was pleasant.

However, that's not what I'm targetting here. I'm thinking more of ways to tell if you really are getting more hidebound as you get older. Are you benefitting from all your experience and able to make judgments faster, or have you just accumulated a stack of prejudices and stereotypes to lean your aged body upon?

Some things are easy to discern. If you find yourself grumbling about women getting ideas above their station/people who aren't exactly the same skin tone as you not behaving the way you do then it's fairly obvious something's gone awry. But it's usually more insidious than that. Am I annoyed that my next door neighbours are using an electric saw at 11pm (that's not an example, they really are sawing something up as I type this) because that's a reasonable thing to be annoyed about, or am I having trouble living in a culture that's not identical to my own?

Or the other way: what if my boss really is a horrible person, and it's not just that we have different backgrounds? Is there an objective set of standards I can use to say "Yup, today I'm being sexist/racist/homophobic. I must mend my ways."?

Well, perhaps there isn't. As soon as you codified some, there'd be people looking for ways to get around them. It's those ruddy game theoreticians, they might look the same as you or me, but they ain't right people ... That's not helping...

You could try to act with greater empathy and respect, but then who's to say what constitutes empathy and respect, and what's just agreeing with somebody else? Or you could just follow the simple dictum "Don't be an utter dick" but without occasional correction, we still end up being unsure if we're utter dicks or not.
Cor, interaction with humans is a lot of hard work, isn't it? Better than the alternatives, though...


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