Tag Archives: Kuhns’s Law

Kuhns’s Law

Just a marker, for whatever it’s worth; I don’t think one gets a choice in this kind of thing and I doubt it’s going to be an issue anyway, but if there ever is a “Kuhns’s Law,” here’s my current best suggestion.

More often than not, people will define a “path to progress” as “more people/institutions sharing my beliefs/biases/preferences.”

Any added value here is very dependent on precision. Obviously, correlation between someone advocating program x, and program x advancing his or her personal wants, is very high. This is a bit different. What I’m picking up on is a tendency for people to believe that others need to be more like them, and to see in this a general improvement to society, or even the solution to any of a range of specific problems.

For example, what should we do about an economy that is excluding most people from the benefits of growth? Well, surprise surprise, Mark Zuckerberg believes fervently that more people need to “learn to code.”

What should we do about the risks of a greenhouse gas build-up wrecking Earth’s climate? Out of all the many many courses that could in theory resolve this global collective action problem? Surprise surprise, a vegetarian homes right in on livestock and concludes that the best thing you can do is stop eating meat.

I see this phenomenon frequently, since having recognized a pattern. I wonder if it is in some sense driven by the instinct to spawn; as with biological reproduction, it offers the prospect of adding rough copies of one’s self to the world, just in a behavioral rather than genetic sense. In fairness, I must admit that one can also look at this from the other direction, and consider whether there’s any alternative besides “do as I say, not as I do.” It’s a good question, but I think it’s also a good question whether or not it makes any sense to look at this from that direction; I have the impression that most people “discover” that x will solve all kinds of problems after they’ve been practicing x anyway, rather than the other way around.

Finally, I should note that I don’t want to slam people too hard, here. The instance that prompted this post, in fact, was this tweet from a friend whom I respect greatly. I am sure that if I start looking, I will be able to find instances of myself doing this same thing.

But, I think that’s the main value of a “law” like this, if any. Once you recognize something like this as a tendency, you begin taking notice of it… which allows you to call out other people, yes, but also hopefully allows you to start correcting for it in your own arguments.

It’s worth a try.