Social science explanations don’t usually require so much intentionality

“What will you do to stay weird?”  Ah, how many people responded with claims like:

No offense, but I think if you’re doing a lot of these things consciously and for the expressed purpose of being weird or differentiating yourself from those around you, you’re just a poseur. Truly weird people don’t have to come up with lists like this about how to be weird; they just follow their preferences.

But it’s not about intentionality.  Take one of today’s MR stories, namely that universities are tracking the locations of college students to make sure they come to class.  That is bad for the weird!  So if you are weird, and you like to cut out on class and read Gwern instead (recommended), maybe you shouldn’t go to a school like that.

Going to those schools might be bad for you.  Going to those schools might make you less weird.  But you don’t have to sit around thinking “I’m going to try to look really weird, as if I were getting a bizarre tattoo, by refusing to attend schools with surveillance.”  No, you need only to say “I love Gwern more than class!”  And then think through the means-end relationship of how to keep the weird stuff flowing to the weird you.

Thus refusing admission at such schools is part of how you stay weird.  But it need not have any element of poseur, artificiality, or deliberate image construction.  What you want is to read Gwern instead of attending class, which indeed is weird (and good).  At the same time, without artificiality you still to think through ends-means relationships, so you don’t end up stuck in class all day.  And thus it is worth thinking about how to keep your freedom to be weird, poseur-free at that.

Thinking that social science explanations require more intentionality than in fact they do is one of the classic mistakes of internet comments.


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