Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

April 1, 2008

The Information Conundrum

Filed under: books, culture, random — codesmithy @ 7:56 am

Rachel Donadio had an amusing piece in the New York Times titled “It’s Not You, It’s Your Books.”  Like some people described in the article, I do think that what you read is indicative of tastes, intellectual curiosity, education level, etc. which is probably as good an insight into basic compatibility as any other.  If someone hates “Catch-22”, I would be curious to find out why, since it is one of my favorites.  If they can’t justify it with anything more than “it was stupid” then that would appear to be a show-stopper.

However, dumping someone over Pushkin seems a little bit arbitrary.  There are countless brilliant authors.  Singling one work or author out would seem to cull a great number, but I guess to each their own.

I do have sympathy for the people who suffer the Ayn Rand fans.  The woman is rather polarizing.  Rand provides a complete philosophy and world-view that appeals to certain people.  It provides a theory of everything that these people find compelling.  As far as literature is concerned, it isn’t the best.  That, however, is precisely the point.  It is straight-forward, well-structured, and reassuring.  Her style compliments the industry she lauds.  Rand, in many ways, is supposed to embody the ideal.  The difference between the reality and the fantasy is best paralleled by Rand’s heroines and Rand herself.

Alas, I digress.   The larger point is the information conundrum.  An underlying current of the essay is that more information is now available before two people even meet.  While, this may at first be more efficient, it has its own set of concerns.  One concern is disqualifying information.  By putting too much information out, there will more a chance that a potential date will find something that they will not like even before they technically ask.  Good for the ask-er, not so great for the ask-ee.  Second, people don’t actually know what they are looking for in another person.  Maybe, there is a suitable suitor who has never heard of Pushkin.  Third, people game the system.  The most important piece of information is seldom the one expressed, but rather the ones left out.

Social norms have not adjusted for the vast amounts of information that is now readily available with the barest modicum of digging.  Much of it is just an adjustment in expectations.  Although, if there is one truth it is the difficulty in applying the same standards to ourselves as we apply to other people.  What do you think you look like to an outside observer?

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