What is the problem you are trying to solve?

The Scotts Aaronsen and Alexander both worry that following feminist doctrine makes geeky guys miserable and too scared to even attempt to form a romantic relationship with a woman. Hugh Ristik looks at feminist guilt, along similar lines to Catholic guilt. Laurie Penny responds compassionately to Aaronsen.

I still think of myself as in the Scotts’ tribe because of my awkward formative years, which my brain tends to give undue weight when compared to pieces of evidence like “you haven’t been single for more than, say, 6 months since you were, say, 22” (hint: learn to dance). So, I hope they won’t mind a little criticism.

Firstly, I wonder why arch-empiricists like the Scotts swallowed whole everything they were being told by the feminists. Why don’t the Scotts quickly work out that either they’re not being told what they think they’re being told (e.g. I bet if you asked the people conducting the harassment seminar, they wouldn’t have said Aaronsen was meant to take home the lesson that he did) or the people telling them this stuff are wrong about some things (e.g. if the people conducting the harassment seminar genuinely meant to say that men should never approach women under any circumstances just in case it’s harassment, they can safely be ignored without feeling bad about it)?

We get our beliefs wholesale

Possibly, if you’re starting from zero and desperately looking around for some rules on how to relate to women romantically, you might just latch on to the first subculture that claims to have expertise. It could have been much worse: Aaronsen could have run into the pick-up artists before the problematic patriarchal privilege posse, then he’d be going on about alphas and betas instead of privilege and de-railing, all the while wondering why having sex with people he despises for being stupid enough to fall for his con doesn’t seem to make him happy1. So, lucky escape there.

The Scotts might respond to me that I swallowed evangelical Christianity whole at the same age and that also messed up my relations with women a bit, so I’m in no position to criticise. That seems fair enough. What on Earth was I thinking? Both American Social Justice Internet Feminism (using my previous definition) and evangelicalism have the ability to form a rules-based system2. The temptation to swallow whole an ideology which has got some things right (especially things that everyone else seems to be ignoring) is common to all of us3, but geeks feel even more of a pull towards systems and clear “right answers” (previously, previouslier). Without wanting to say that evangelicalism and ASJIF aren’t problematically deontological, maybe some of the geeks’ troubles with them are down to these geeky tendencies.

Requirements analysis

Geeks: suppose you are writing (or, more often, updating) some software, as many of you do. The customer (or, more often, the person employed to prevent customers from seeing geeks that might alarm them) comes along and says “we want it to do X”. You’re like “but X will take ten years, will break Y, and the standard clearly says we must do Z not X”. But they’re like “No, X is super important and Customer won’t buy it unless it does X”. What’s the question you should ask now?

“What is the problem you are trying to solve?”

You should ask this because often in these situations you’re being given a solution to an underlying problem (the solution X) and you have to dig a bit to work out what the underlying problem is. The customer is an expert on the problem. You don’t get to say that their problem isn’t real (if you want to keep your job, anyway), but if they’re asking you to do something you’re going to have to live with for a while, you can and should look at that and see whether it makes sense in your context. This will usually involve talking to some people, tricky as that may be. Perhaps you can find a sympathetic geek on the customer’s side of the fence to thrash things out with. That usually works best.

Edit: in response to my question on Mefi (“why didn’t Aaronsen detect the bullshit?”), officer_fred reminds us that geeks take everything a bit seriously and have malfunctioning bullshit detectors.

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  1. This assumes that the PUA stuff actually gets geeks laid, of course. 

  2. The fancy word for this when applied to morality is deontology. As previously mentioned, ASJIF is “deontology on steriods”

  3. See in group bias and conjunction bias

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