Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Warning! Labels are dangerous!

The danger of labels has never been higher than now.
My friends, I ask you all to please consider this. We live in a time where our main news sources are biased, corrupted and have agendas which can be bought or are owned by corrupting political interests.  And, our internet news is fed to us based on what smart automated systems think we want to hear or are interested in (facebook, google, yahoo, etc.). This reinforcement of our personal biases and beliefs causes us to become drunk on our own bullshit and slip further into our own in-tolerances and closed mindedness.  

Image courtesy of Stamps by SPC via Amazon

And so, out pops the labels. A label is an easy way of quickly assigning a state or condition to something to help us keep track or understand the properties of something without having to research or verify those properties each time. For things which properties are reasonably self evident, this is very efficient.  For example, a bin labeled nuts, bolts, spices, etc.

However, a label such as "stupid", "right-wing nut job conservative", "commy liberal", "murderer", "criminal", "terrorist", "unqualified", "rapist", "predator", "gun owner", "pervert", "incompetent", etc. are easily applied in those news sources or by individuals and the persons these labels are placed on are then easily assumed to have those properties with little verification, or worse, verification by an "unqualified" or "incompetent" or "compromised" source. Do you see the problem here? There are even labels for validity of the source the labels.

There is an elementary axiom in mathematics called the "transitive property of equality". It simply says that if A = B, and B = C, then A = C. So lets suppose that Terrorist = Muslim, and Bob is a Muslim, then Bob must be a terrorist right?  The problem is in the first assumption that A=B. B is the label and A is the property.  The A = B in this case is only partly true in that we know that most terrorists of late have been Muslims. But with over a 1 billion Muslims in the world, clearly, not all of them are terrorists or have terrorist tendencies and desires.  Therefore, A does not equal B. In-other-words, labels come with assumptions. And there is another rule about "assumptions" that you've probably heard, "when you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME."

In the above case, both Terrorist and Muslim are labels with large grey areas of their property certainties, but Bob is an individual label. So Bob is certain.  So first, what makes Bob a Muslim? Did he declare it himself or was he observed going to mosque a few times? It is likely that if you read that in an article or post somewhere, that point will not be part of the content and for simplicity of digesting the article and saving yourself time in a very busy world, you might follow that assumption.  

One more example.  Child Rapist = Sex-offender,  Sex-offender = Bill. I'm sure it's all painfully obvious to many of us now that label of "sex-offender" now applies to almost anyone.  From someone who was simply  drunk and caught peeing in the street to a full-on child murdering rapist. So, if you've had your name published in the paper as "sex-offender" people will probably assume that you're at least a child molester, but won't consider that you busted for pissing in the street when you were drunk,  UNLESS THEY KNOW YOU and know otherwise. 

Labels are misapplied to so many things now, that it is corrupting our knowledge and information flows with bias, poor judgement or simply bad information. When you see a label like Liberal, Conservative, or Moderate, remember that what that label means may differ from your interpretation of it, and that it may only be partially true, if true at all, and should not become an emotion provoking or thought engaging point unless you're certain the context is relevant, the source is competent and the scope of the label is not a distraction from it's relevance. Unfortunately, that's a lot of metal work if all you want to do is read the news in peace. I find it simply easier to keep a very open mind to alternative views and information and never become emotionally driven or closed minded by any of it.

The misuse of labels is dividing us, causing us to fight, manipulating us and breaking down trust between us. Facebook has decided that I'm a conservative. Stop and hold in mind what you think of me at this moment.  I suppose because I support gun rights and smaller government and read a lot of this material that I've earned this label in their programmer's minds at Facebook. But I also support a woman's right to manage her own body and certain social programs. I call myself a Libertarian because my priority is to maintain the freedom for us all that was born of the many battles that formed our nation. Now what do you think of me? But I guess facebook doesn't have that label.  I wonder why?