Diversity

I just went through this series of posts on diversity (link to the last post in the series) by William Briggs. Here, in India, one does not hear much about diversity and I have not spent time evaluating policies to promote it. So I was a little surprised to see a five part series on diversity, making rather obvious points to come to this conclusion:

The whole point of this laborious, pedantic essay up to this point has been to prove to you what you might not have heretofore granted. That “diversity” as it is used by its proponents retains no shade of meaning with its plain English sense. It instead is a code word; a dodge to hide ulterior motives, perhaps even motives not fully understood by the word’s users; a phrase having a purely technical definition which runs something like this:

Within in a scope diversity is the state of (maximal or proportional, whichever is more convenient to my politics) difference in behavior and characteristic, both of which are chosen from a narrow range most conducive to my personal likes and political goals. Diversity is not diversity—a state of difference; dissimilitude; unlikeness.—but unity with my desires.

So I went ahead and read the comment thread on the last post and saw some passionate defence of policies to promote diversity. In this post, I will present my position on such policies.

Consider a hiring decision for a particular position

There is a desirable set of characteristics as determined by the position itself. These characteristics can include physical attributes, intellectual abilities, work experience etc.

There is also a practically infinite set of characteristics that are irrelevant (depending on the position).

The best hiring decision is clearly one that ignores the irrelevant characteristics completely. However, it is important to recognize that the persons making the hiring decisions can be influenced by biases, perhaps unconsciously. Biased decisions hurt everyone’s interests. In a world where such biases (both conscious and unconscious) are very obvious, it is desirable to have a policy in place that prevents biases.

Avoiding biases is a difficult task especially when some of the biases are unconscious. It requires active thought and effort. Statistically, avoiding biases results in diversity of irrelevant characteristics. A policy to promote diversity substitutes the goal (avoiding biases) with its statistical results (diversity).

This inversion of cause and effect in social relations is the essential and defining characteristic of social engineering. Policies to promote diversity can thus be classifed under that same concept. The only difference between such policies and policies like reservations and quotas is one of degree.

A queue is a one dimensional mob

via The Old New Thing. One dimensional mob! I just love that characterization.

Monna Vanna

I was looking to take a small break from work and ended up reading Monna Vanna, a play by Maurice Maeterlinck. It is easily one of the best works of fiction I have read in a long time. I only have a couple of regrets about it. First, that I don’t know French, so I couldn’t read the original work, and second, that I already knew part of the story.

The first act sets up the plot nicely and the next two acts are just brilliant – in particular, the conversation between Monna Vanna and Prinzivalle. The climax is both dramatic and logical, a rare combination. In fact, the entire play is like that – characterization is clear and the riveting plot is consistent with the characterization right upto the end. The character of Monna Vanna is inspiring.

I doubt if women in Renaissance Europe were as independent as Monna Vanna. None of the other works of fiction set during that period that I have read have strong women characters. I have a bit of fascination with fiction set in historical times (not sure why?) and the contrast with other works set in such periods makes Monna Vanna even more attractive.

I wonder if other works by Maeterlinck are as good as this. The Wikipedia page on Maeterlinck says that his plays are characterized by fatalism and mysticism. Monna Vanna is mostly free of both. There is no mysticism and only the character of Marco can be seen as fatalist.

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