Keith Irwin

C/O personalities

Many are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality types. It is a system of four personality descriptors that uses a polar scale for each type. For example, a person can be introverted, or extroverted (I or E), or somewhere in the middle. There is a single axis to each of the four descriptions, so an individual's personality can be described as a point on a four-dimensional space.

People usually simplify this point to a positive or negative value for each axis, ignoring the possibility of a continuous scale. For example, someone with the personality type INTJ is considered an introvert. I think personality is more nuanced, and some people lie in the middle (e.g. 70% introverted / 30% extroverted).

I would like to propose a fifth axis for the Myers-Brigs types: an individual can have a Collective (C), or Objective (O) personality, or be somewhere in the middle. These terms are a bit strained because so many letters were already taken by existing personality types.

Measuring C and O

Here's an experiment we can use to measure an individual's C/O. Have a large room full of people where a simple question is asked. Something like, what is the square root of 9. Have all the people vote on the answer, publicly. One person is, unknowingly, the dependent variable to be measured, but all the others are patsies. The individual to be measured votes last, after everyone else has provided the same wrong answer, perhaps 4. If the last voter also votes for 4, then he has acted by the will of the mob and not by his own reason. I think most people will ignore their own arithmetic and vote with the mob, provided that it is big enough.

It's ok to be a sheep

I know what you're thinking. "Now, I'm no sheep! I would never say the square root of 9 is 4!" So I will argue that you actually do, to some degree, and it's not a bad thing. Let me tell you about a man who truly decided things entirely by his own reason, and did not regard the decisions of the pack (society) in any way when making his own decisions. This man was the transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau.

Thoreau is well-known for refusing to pay taxes to fund the Spanish-American war and going to jail for it. He is also known for writing one of the most boring books in the history of American literature (Walden). He is not so well-known for this little anecdote, which my high school english teacher portrayed to our class around 2008. I don't know if it's actually true or not, and I don't care, because it is the perfect example of the thought process of a man with a 100% Objective and 0% Collective personality.

Henry David Thoreau was strolling through Philadelphia one hot summer day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, etc. And it was very hot. In those days, people wore plenty of layers of clothing, even in the summer, as was fashionable to wear enough undergarments to require assistance in putting them on. And Thoreau, being the maverick of a freethinker that he was, pondered why he was sweating under so many clothes on such a hot day. He concluded that there was no logical reason to wear all the clothes, and that he was doing it entirely because of social pressure. And so he said, probably, "Now, I'm no sheep!" and sheared off all his clothes, right there on the sidewalk. Then he proceed on his way, butt-naked, until he was arrested and flogged, probably.

If only Thoreau had had a shred of desire to do what everyone else in society was doing, his contemporaries would have been spared from having to see his junk. This is a social norm for a reason: nobody wants to see your gross genitals. Societal standards are a sort of conglomeration of individual standards. That is, what the mob wants to do is, to some extent, a summarized version of what most of the people in it want.

Don't be such a sheep

With all that said, society doesn't have a major problem with people walking around naked. We have a problem with people who are unable to think for themselves, or learn anything that they aren't forced to learn in school, or vote for anyone outside of their party. This is what's wrong with the world today: not mass stupidity, but mass collectivism.

^ 2022/11

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