Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

The War on Noticing

From Noah Smith, aka yet another economist with a blog.

LET ME EXPLAIN JAPAN FOR WESTERNERS

There are three common mistakes that many Westerners make when observing or analyzing Japanese culture. First, they essentialize it – they assume there are some core things that never change, and that you can understand these things by studying samurai culture, or stuff like that. Second, they exoticize it – they assume that Japanese culture is very different from Western culture, and that there are deep secrets that only Japanese people themselves understand. Third, they homogenize it – they assume that the difference between Japanese individuals or subcultures is much smaller than the group difference between Japan and other cultures.

Let me translate this to you: Pattern Recognition is Bad. No, it’s positively Evil. You should not try to use your brain and notice things. That may get you into trouble, and certainly prevent you from getting a job as an economics professor. What you need to do is ἐποχή squared; suspend all judgment, and if possible all cognitive function. Just do as you’re told by your academic betters, i.e. me. 

Explanation of Japan for Westerners: Japan is a collection of rocks with some human beings on it. That’s the vast majority of what you need to know.

There you go. Nothing to see here. That’s the vast majority of what you need to know. For everything else, just get a student loan of 100,000 dollars and listen carefully to what I tell you. Which is not much because I myself do not judge, do not recognize patterns, and do not try to notice things. But I am en expert™ through living 3 years (on and off) there, during which my expertly trained non-noticing skills led me to not learn the language, not understand anything and certainly not noticing anything about the country. I did notice there were rocks and human beings; but that’s probably safe to notice. Right? Right??

That’s contemporary science for you.

 

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17 responses to “The War on Noticing

  1. Chris B August 15, 2014 at 09:23

    Yeah. He is a giant prat. Obviously the only reason Japan is economically developed, social strong and safe is because white man X-rays don’t work on Japanese.
    Utter prat.

  2. George August 15, 2014 at 10:20

    This (hilarious) post draws pretty much the opposite conclusion:

    http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/07/japan-and-how-i-failed-to-figure-it-out.html

    “It’s commonly said that Japanese culture is foreign to someone from the western world, but that’s not really a great description—a culture being foreign means more than having foreign customs or unfamiliar taboos or weird music. It means the people are wired differently than you are. Japanese foreignness is really about what goes on in the depths of the mind, not the zany cartoon ads.”

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  4. amac78 August 15, 2014 at 16:00

    Spandrell, I thought this was your parody of Prof. Smith’s writing.

    Explanation of Japan for Westerners: Japan is a collection of rocks with some human beings on it. That’s the vast majority of what you need to know.

    I was wrong, those are the actual concluding words of his post.

    There are currently 58 comments, mostly inane. I don’t know Prof. Smith, but if his moderation policy is as aggressive as that of the typical of thin-skinned leftist blogger, the latest entry’s half-life won’t be very long. I reprint it below.

    vanderleun 8:46 AM [8/15/14]

    “Let me translate this to you: Pattern Recognition is Bad. No, it’s positively Evil. You should not try to use your brain and notice things. That may get you into trouble, and certainly prevent you from getting a job as an economics professor. What you need to do is ἐποχή squared; suspend all judgment, and if possible all cognitive function. Just do as you’re told by your academic betters, i.e. me. ”

    https://bloodyshovel.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/the-war-on-noticing/

  5. Handle August 16, 2014 at 13:54

    “Explanation of Japan for Westerners: Japan is a collection of rocks with some human beings on it. That’s the vast majority of what you need to know.”

    It’s kind of a masterpiece of reductionism. I mean, take all of human sociology, anthropology, History, biology, etc., etc. and everything everywhere at every time has always been, “… a collection of rocks with some human beings on it.” There can be no important or interesting differences worth noting and certainly no explanations worthy of investigation. We’re all just equal humans on rocks, that’s everyone has ever been and will ever be. The end.

    • spandrell August 16, 2014 at 14:13

      It’s the only way academic economics can make any sense, by excluding every other area of scientific knowledge.

      • Handle August 16, 2014 at 14:47

        Well, sometimes focus on a particular coherent framework can be productive, but I just wish they wouldn’t exclude insight from actual Economics as well.

        You know, like, “Wealth levels have something to do with labor productivity, capital accumulation, comparative advantage, and technological innovation. Despite having crowded all their rocks with humans and having exhausted their natural resources and having no spare agricultural capacity, the median Japanese person is much wealthier than the median rock-residing human and their nations seems to have a comparative advantage at certain forms of innovation and making competitive, technologically sophisticated exports. Meanwhile Egypt exports crude oil and raw sugar cane, Turkey exports dried apricots and pistachios, and Cote D’Ivoire exports unprocessed cacao beans, because that’s the best they can do.”

        Huh, why should that be? Surely there must be some Economist with an explanation that isn’t brain-dead or religiously delusional. Best we ignore that too.

    • asdf August 24, 2014 at 16:26

      You’ll notice by the way the complete lack of romanticism or soul in the world as they see it. Why do these rock people even get up in the morning. Economists have no answer.

  6. a boy and his dog August 17, 2014 at 02:36

    Noah Smith uses his reasoning skills to always arrive at and justify the orthodoxy-approved conclusion, a skill that makes him a perfect staff writer for Bloomberg but not much of a thinker. He sweeps away the long term and widely held experience of not only the vast majority of expats but also half-Japanese (who would have an infinitely better understanding of the issue than him) with the words of a single snorting American writer (William Pesek?) and then goes on to invent a convoluted theory as to why they shouldn’t trust their own eyes. As an expat who’s spent many years in Japan I find Smith to be not only a prat but obnoxious and insulting. It’s true that people who worry too much about being accepted tend to be unhappy but on the other hand there’s a kind of social opportunity cost to living in Japan that you need to either accept or go home. Most gaijin will do the math: according to Smith’s elaborate nonsensical theory that makes them homogenizers (aka racist). So why isn’t he still in Japan then? Oops.

    It’s interesting that Japanese are allowed to notice the foreignness of gaijin but Westerners are not allowed to notice anything. Noticing only goes one direction according to Noah Smith’s blatant reverse racism.

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  8. Toddy Cat August 18, 2014 at 19:59

    “Westerners are not allowed to notice anything.”

    Smith could have just said this, and saved some pixels. Also, this guy just confirms my hunch that the last guy named “Noah” that you could trust was the guy with all those animals…

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  10. chris August 26, 2014 at 04:35

    http://meinnaturwissenschaftsblog.blogspot.co.at/2014/08/feminist-activist-women-are.html

    Feminist activist women are masculinized in terms of digit-ratio and dominance: A possible explanation for the feminist paradox

    Abstract

    The feminist movement purports to improve conditions for women, and yet only a minority of women in modern societies self-identify as feminists. This is known as the feminist paradox. It has been suggested that feminists exhibit both physiological and psychological characteristics associated with heightened masculinization, which may predispose women for heightened competitiveness, sex-atypical behaviors, and belief in the interchangeability of sex roles. If feminist activists, i.e. those that manufacture the public image of feminism, are indeed masculinized relative to women in general, this might explain why the views and preferences of these two groups are at variance with each other. We measured the 2D:4D digit ratios (collected from both hands) and a personality trait known as dominance (measured with the Directiveness scale) in a sample of women attending a feminist conference. The sample exhibited significantly more masculine 2D:4D and higher dominance ratings than comparison samples representative of women in general, and these variables were furthermore positively correlated for both hands. The feminist paradox might thus to some extent be explained by biological differences between women in general and the activist women who formulate the feminist agenda.

    • chris August 26, 2014 at 04:44

      In summary, the feminist activist sample had a significantly smaller (i.e., masculinized)
      2D:4D ratio than the general female samples. The size of this difference corresponds
      approximately to a 30 percent difference in prenatal testosterone/estradiol ratio, which was
      the index found to have the strongest association with 2D:4D (Lutchmaya, Baron-Cohen,
      Raggatt, Knickmeyer, & Manning, 2004). Directiveness self-ratings also exhibit a large and
      highly significant difference in the predicted direction. It is notable that the feminist activist
      sample 2D:4D was also more masculinized than those of the male comparison samples,
      except for the left hand in the aggregate sample (see Table 2).

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  12. Mike September 20, 2014 at 19:02

    Incidentally, Smith isn’t just yet another economist with a blog. He’s a Jewish liberal who’s into Japan and promotes all the usual things i.e. leftism, immigration, feminism, Cultural Marxism, etc. for Japan. Just see his Twitter and blogging and commenting history.

    So he poses as some sort of defender of Japan against these Western observers, when of course he promotes those very things which would destroy Japan, whereas these Western observers are just passive observers.

    He’s against these observers “essentializing”, “exoticizing” Japan because he doesn’t want Japan, and presumably anywhere else, to have an independent or unique i.e. “exotic” essence. And of course if Japan or anywhere else doesn’t have a unique identity or “essence”, as he wants everyone to believe, then it’s easier to get people to follow what everyone else is doing i.e. adopt Cultural Marxism.

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