I guess we’re all aware of this not-Onion piece of news:
The original press release is here:
I think the most productive way of thinking about this is asking: what would a Martian think? What are these humans up to?
A second-best option is to put yourself in the place of a 18 year old Chinese high school kid studying for an English exam. He reads this:
“we at Starbucks should be willing to talk about these issues in America,” Schultz said. “Not to point fingers or to place blame, and not because we have answers, but because staying silent is not who we are.”
What does that even mean? “staying silent is not who we are”? Why is a nominalized verb phrase the referent of “who”? And why is that verb the subject of “are”? English very hard mom do I really have to study abroad?
One of the best book of the 20th century was The Selfish Gene, because it gave a good explanation of human behavior in zoologic terms. Sex relations, tit-for-tat. Dawkins got a bit lost on Memetics though. Surely brains don’t get infected just like that. That’s where Haidt, Atran and others are trying to solve the problem. Humans are social; social behavior is complex, but it’s still mechanistic. And that’s why signalling explains so much.
So why is Schultz doing this? Running a bunch of absurd sentence without propositional value on the national press, making all their employees feel awkward, and I guess most of the executives feeling confused.
Either he is:
1- A true believer (whatever that means)
2- He has actual intelligence that this will sell, or at least produce enough attention that will eventually produce higher revenue.
3- Signalling to his wife, his friends, his fellow country club members how holy he is
4- Sending a probe inside his corporate HQ to see how his executives react to his nonsense; and thus appraise their loyalty.
Number 4 is the famous story of Zhao Gao, the eunuch in charge of the recently unified Qin empire, who brought a deer to court and asked everyone what they thought of his magnificient horse. Those who didn’t agree it was a horse were summarily executed.
My point here is that our brains have a little module which harbors miniature Chinese eunuchs who throw stupid ideas around just to see how people react. And that’s a reason why people generally dislike high standards of evidence. That’s just no fun. It’s not useful for social life. But absurd ideas and empty speech are very, very useful.
PS: Note how Schultz in the video says: “All our forums have been unscripted, but they’ve all been exactly the same.” No kidding. Now why would that be?
Bonus: Taiwanese animation news on the subject