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Post Racial Multidimensional Taxonomy
How we would know anything if race were outlawed?
"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans. Aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. " -- Daniel Hudson Burnham
Some days I get fed up with my ordinary life. I could have stayed single, stayed in NYC and become a rich intellectual bastard. Some days I regret missing that invitation to the Hamptons. These are the days when I look at my so-called portfolio, feel the weakness in my right knee and understand that I haven’t done quite enough to get people excited about my big plans, like that virtual parliament I conceptualized decades ago. Yeah but I like being an American Dad, and I’m not dead yet. So hear ye, hear ye, corporate sloths, VC sharps and full-stack developers. There’s still gold possible if you heed some of my good ideas which are not small.
The Post Racial Taxonomy
There are several ways to deal with America’s race problems, but all of them entail seeing something other than race with finality. The simplest, most brutal way is to hang all of the postmodernists who will deconstruct and reconstruct race ad infinitum. Just as the Fabian / Frankforters reconstructed the global historicist struggle around race instead of class, and the various nth wave of the sexual revolutionaries are reconstructing the battle of the sexes around innumerable proclivities. One could be forgiven for thinking that the new intersectional math will prove that LGBTQ… is an irrational word in the same way that pi is an irrational number. It will still never be greater than 4.
Alas for brevity and civility we had no Robespierre in the Jim Crow South, but the gradualists triumphed. Case after case, decided by trials presided over by Federal judge Frank M. Johnson Jr, hacked away at institutional racism with the force of the infrastructure of the nation’s actual justice system, rather than the seditious outrage of ‘progressive’ HR departments and kids in the streets with fireworks and brown shoes. So I’m going to go with the gradualists, which means I must also slow clap the Fabians. Nevertheless, I’m also betting on scientists and rationalists and people who can count. Tangent into a couple stories.
Pigfeet & Prescriptions
When I was a young man I recall reading a story in the NYT that had a revolutionary discovery. It wasn’t so much the ethnicity & race, said the study, that determined the incidence of hypertension as it was diet. It turned out that all the way into the 1990s the correlation between being born black and hypertension was basically taken for granted. In the non-zero sample of me, doctors always asked if I had a history of high blood pressure in my family. The answer was always no; I met their arched eyebrows with a straight face. Then they would take my blood pressure and see. It wasn’t until some industrious researcher discovered that in the South whites and blacks had similar incidences… Wait what? My father is from New England. My mother is from New Orleans. None of us ate pigfeet, chitlins or various other varieties of soul food and giant buttered salty biscuits. No black eyed peas. No collard greens. We never, ever fried a chicken in my house. We were as Shake and Bake as kids from Omaha. It annoys me to this day that many Americans don’t know the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking. Sucks to be them, and of course it sucks to be a researcher who never bothered to ask which blackfolks ate which kinds of meals all their lives.
Fast forward a decade or so and I found myself working in my profession with a sharp dude out of Providence, RI who was among the first to build an analytic model of indications, diagnoses, prescriptions and outcomes. Since he worked for Blue Cross and said nobody had ever put all of those things in a database, I was a bit shocked again. As Walmart was large on the scene with generic drug alternatives, it was in the interests of BCBS to demonstrate health outcomes could be maintained at lower costs. These days, we take it for granted that some of this doctor work can be outsourced to computers. Lesson learned.
So what if I, like your insurance company or your mortgage company or your priest had several dozen facts about you? Unless all of that was calculated together, might we not be taking shortcuts in our recommendation and examinations? You had better believe it. In the future, if enough of us survive a 5 degree increase in temperature, we’ll have a good laugh at our current foolishness. Hmm. That reminds me to invest in refrigeration tech.
So let’s write a book, shall we? Let’s call it 1001 Non-Racial Character Attributes. Because as much as we all love quoting the blessed Reverend Doctor, we’re awfully stuck on the favorite fetishes of the Racialists, Sexualists, Class and Culture Warriors. I am appealing to the aesthetes, rationalists, cognitive theorists, psychologists, evolutionary biologists, the data scientists, and people who like to read paragraphs. I’m sure I have overlooked many possible collaborators, and maybe my heuristics look something like yours.
Let’s start with my favorites: Virtues
Then let’s have fun with experiences & skills deemed masculine by me, with a slight doff of the gentleman’s cap to some of the Goldman Sachs Elevator Rules. And that would be Mike’s Manly Man Checklist. Here are just a few out of the middle:
45. Score a touchdown
46. Perform the Heimlich
47. Calm an infant
48. Score a goal
49. Read Hemingway or Kipling
50. Tell a ghost story
51. Land a fish
52. Dress in drag
53. Finger whistle
54. Move a sofa
55. Drive a stick
Civil Religion / Philosophy
Then let’s take a serious turn to Limberg and Barnes who have in my estimation decoded the Rosetta Stone of American public intellectual debate.
There are surely dozens of firewalled frameworks we might appropriate from Nielsen to Zogby, but my favorite are those produced by Claritas, sprung from the mind and methodology of Michael J. Weiss.
I’m going to be a bit fatalistic here, but recall that I am Stoically allergic to wishful thinking. Claritas and those like them have an interest in not dumbing down their statistical representations of people. And they’re way ahead of the curve of social science and very likely medicine too (given HIPAA & GDPR) in getting their details right. I absolutely believe that we are on our way to social credit scoring because I believe that the whole of the Humanities in our universities have lost the plot and are woefully behind the curve. Some of them purposefully wokefully behind the curve. While I don’t expect AI to work miracles, there are such people like homicide detectives and psychology wonks who know exactly what to do with this kind of data in the best way. Hysteria, being what it is, these are the kinds of great guns that must be brought to bear when the great American peasantry consumes way more TikTok than great literature.
Now I’ve done it. Pissed myself off and lost my sense of playful humor on this subject. TikTok is real, dammit. At any rate, along with your welcome comments, there are the following high level categories which can offer us abundant alternatives to our reductive essentialisms. Please add regimes and frameworks that can be combined to make a future social credit scoring, or at least some key dimensions to be included in the research efforts of tomorrow.
[ Psychographics / Econometrics / Educational Certs / Physical Attributes / Religious / Geographic ]
Think what if. What if we had multidimensional models for all of the data debated in the academy and we could deal with the long tails? What if we kept longitudinal information in play? Now that we have more compute power than ever before, we lack excuses. I know I am tempting fate in fighting the near-determinism of Pareto Law, but unless we make accommodations for all of these particulars, the global median is going to swamp individuality. That is a frightening prospect in a world of unchained monopolists and a moribund Humanities subservient to political partisanship and viral disposable attention. Think 1980s K-Cars when Lee Iococca was the best America could do.
Don’t be afraid. Fight for pluralism against reductionism. That’s a bold plan.