In my post “The Kolmogorov Option,” I tried to step back from current controversies, and use history to reflect on the broader question of how nerds should behave when their penchant for speaking unpopular truths collides head-on with their desire to be kind and decent and charitable, and to be judged as such by their culture. I was gratified to get positive feedback about this approach from men and women all over the ideological spectrum. However, a few people who I like and respect accused me of “dogwhistling.” They warned, in particular, that if I wouldn’t just come out and say what I thought about the James Damore Google memo thing, then people would assume the very worst—even though, of course, my friends themselves knew better. So in this post, I’ll come out and say what I think. But first, I’ll do something even better: I’ll hand the podium over to two friends, Sarah Constantin and Stacey Jeffery, both of whom were kind enough to email me detailed thoughts in response to my Kolmogorov post.
Psychology has a golden rule: If I am warm, you are usually warm. If I am hostile, you are too. But what happens if you flip the script and meet hostility with warmth? It's called "noncomplementary behavior" — a mouthful, but a powerful concept, and very hard to execute. Alix and Hanna examine three attempts to pull it off: during a robbery, a terrorism crisis and a dating dry spell.
Wow! Just wow! This concept is certainly worth thinking about in greater depth.
I loved the story of police and harassment; it is particularly interesting given the possible changes we could make in the world using these techniques. It shows what some kindness and consideration can do to reshape the world.
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By now a staggering number of people recognize the name of Susan Fowler and have read some account of her experiences of sexism, sexual…