Monday, January 12, 2009
It is interesting to note the "extreme"ness when people process information and interpret anything that is told to them. Among the things that I struggle while communicating with people - positioning 'degrees of something' or 'magnitude/proportion of something' has been one of the hardest. I have come to believe that people can assign only binary values to most things and it is almost impossible to convince them that there lies a spectrum of continuous values. For example; attributes like confidence, courage, honesty, credibility, unpredictability/randomness cause the most discomfort among other things.
Recently, I remarked that a person was more honest but also more unpredictable in his behaviour. And it was considered by some to be contradictory and by some to be impossible. A person is either totally honest or completely dishonest - they told me. Nowadays arguments have become 'arachai maavu' and so tiresome. So I didn't bother responding. However, I do think this trend is more dangerous. Many years ago, when I was interviewing college students when my IT company visited their campus, we caught a boy lying about his "extra curricular activities". I argued that the lie necessarily did not mean that his entire resume was a lie. That the people who didn't get caught were simply more lucky and not necessarily more honest. But these so-called high-moral people used an absurd logic of "oru paanai soru" (one apple is indicative of the entire set) on his resume and called his entire resume a bluff.
This so called "modern generation" has started to see a spectrum in things like "marriage" and "virginity" (as in 'she is more of a virgin than you') and I thought they would get the point when I argued that this 'extra curricular lie" could be an acceptable level of honesty. For example - it could be that the dishonesty that other Indian IT companies are now practising is more acceptable than what Satyam practiced.
Unfortunately, this generation of people have also grown up on useless pazhamozhis and proverbs that are more absurd than helpful. Stupid things like "if you can't do something 100% perfect.." seem to dominate the modern thought process and produce idiot columnists and nonsensical opinions. So absurd that if you mention that "person x is slightly more confident during interviews among the people I've seen" people assume that he is a stud-man rock star and totally capable of wow'ing everybody. They come back and tell me "he didn't get the job so you must be wrong and he must impotent" (when it is completely possible that his confidence may not have had much to do with his job result). "Somewhat" is always inferred as "100%". There is no moderation or middle ground. Everything is rounded off to its extremeties. Satyam's recent news items and a spate of opinions from people who have no clue as to what happened is also a case in point. Times of India had a headline fancily called "a-Satyam, Satyam a 1000 crore lie, etc". It could very well be possible that Satyam is 99% honest and 1% lie and so more honest than another IT company, which hasn't been found out yet.
Which brings us to a point on how people depend so much on "results" and "ends" to pass judgement on anybody. What does a scandal appearing in the media or a CEO confessing to fraud have anything to do with whether a company is operating outside the law or not? By virtue of the way this information has been given to us - it is almost as if we get this information when it is the most useless to us. Sounds simple when written in a blog but whether your or I can actually use rational thought process in the real world is the more interesting question.
Note: I use Satyam as an example only because it is recent and fresh. I don't know anything about the specifics of what happened/is happening. This post is about how people react to such type of information.