How To Categorize People Properly: Beware Those Who Accept 80%ism

Do's and Don'ts for categorizing people.

80/20 Rule is useful enough... which is why we must be careful with it as is.  Exaggerating that "80%" of someone or something is bad is over the top, the worst insult.

We all need to make simplifications, rules, and shortcuts to efficiently survive.  The most famous and useful generalization is the "80 / 20 Rule", aka the Pareto Principle, which says that 80% of the value is in 20% of the transactions or stuff.  It's a risk management principle as well - 80% of the danger is in 20% of something.  I applaud this principle, and use it all the time in business, especially in training new staff.  What we teach people the first month on the job is the 20% of things they need to know to get 80% of the work right.  The learning curve is eventually going to kick in if training is regular and consistent.

But the 80-20 rule has a downside, too.  Donald Trump is on his way to being infamous based to his brute appeals to this kind of generality.

We can all imagine how we'd feel if the generality was actually reversed... there is nothing that feels more racist and insulting than to have your own demographic group called 80% stereotype.   Consider these horrible insults...

80% of men are rapists
80% of women are incompetent
80% of German citizens are Nazi apologists
80% of white Americans are racists
80% of black Americans are drug dealers

Most readers would agree that the statements above are difficult to even read.  They are simplifications that appeal - in the worst and falsest way - to the human instinct to generalize.  I'd call it hate-speech.  When I even use these as examples in conversation, I can see my friends blood pressure rising.

Now imagine I make it about how professionals do their work.  It's not racist, but a class of people nonetheless.

80% of doctors mistreat their patients.  
80% of carpenters build homes that fall down.
80% of environmentalists perpetuate hoaxes.
80% of soldiers shoot innocent civilians.
80% of police falsely accuse innocent suspects.

Ok, it no longer counts as "hate speech" if it's about a profession rather than a culture or race or demographic, right?

"80% of used computer importers dump junk to pollute their countries."

Imagine how Jaleel, 34, above, feels about that?  Jaleel is a guy who worked very hard in school, excelled beyond expectations for people from his village.  He was a great saver, a marshmallow experiment prodigy (see Standford Marshmallow experiment below for the "type" of person he is).

Or Jaleel's young son?

Or Jaleel's boss, Kamel?

Or his co-workers?

Or his father?

Or the people he buys stuff from, every day, in the market?  See, just how the "white lie" pervaded Europe, it is pervading Africa in the opposite direction.   The Africans all know the 80% lie.  Just the same as you'd know it if something extreme like that was said about you.

The number of educated European policy students and professors and German photo-journalists may well be impressed.  If your audience is the Privileged, you have safely made their discard decisions easier to navigate, and they will applaud you.

But the collateral damage to your organization from the people who know people who could not possibly have afforded internet, television, cell phone, or other teledensity measure if-not-but-for Jaleel and his world, is enormous insult.  They have never actually lived in a world where they are a "minority", and they really don't have first hand experience with Racism against Minorities, which is the subject or most writings on the R-word.

But it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck.

 It's 80=percent=ism.

I'm defining as "80%ism" the reverse of the Pareto 80/20 rule.  It is the description of 80% of something in the worst possible way, knowing that human nature may confuse it with the 80% of the perceived risk that comes from 20% of the population.  My hunch is that the 80/20 rule is used subconsciously by so many people that we perceive its 80% bad as a hyperbolic insult, and at the same time fear that people will "compromise" emotionally and consider 20% of us to be bad as a "likelihood".

So how do we harness the awesome power of the Pareto Principle, to simplify and economize the way we treat people, without triggering fear of generalizations and false identifiers?  Like a gun, most of us want the simplification method to be in the hands of authorities who protect us.  But we don't want it to be a short-cut or label for whole groups of geographies and demographics and religions and sexual orientations, etc.  To some, "politically correctness" verges on "disarming the police".  But none of us like it when it happens to us.  As comedian Chris Rock said, if a guy goes ballistic and kills his co-workers, it's probably a white guy.  But that's actually what occurred in San Bernadino, CA, and because it WASN'T a white guy, candidate Trump used the occasion to invoke the infamous "Muslim Ban".  That's how sharp the 80-20 simplification knife cuts.  Today it's pointed at a threat, and you feel a little safer that if only 20% of the people cut really were a threat (and 80% were innocent), that it's not your problem.  But when you are the subject of the "great rounding of numbers", nothing feels more threatening.

So I'm out of time, but here are two very famous psychological studies from the 1960s and 1970s which can help you to properly generalize people... and not by race or culture.  Not at all.  But these are really the things that you should be concerned by.

Stanford Marshmallow Experiment - This study looked at kids who were tested as follows.  They had to sit still at a table, hungry, and look at a sweet (marshmallow) for an hour or 30 minutes or something.  They were told that if they waited the whole time and didn't eat it, they would get two marshmallows (double ROI return on investment).  If they ate it, they would not.  The Stanford researchers kept track of the students, and found that those who had NOT waited for the second marshmallows performed poorly (economically) the rest of their lives.  Whether that's because they lacked discipline, lost accrued interest, or otherwise succumbed to instant gratification, is speculation.  Perhaps (I have pointed out) they lived in a culture where the Authority Figure (the one who made the "deal" over the marshmallows) is less likely to be truthful.

If so, then the Authoritarian Regimes the Global South is notorious for (to generalize) have a long term effect on the citizenry and the economics.  Accrued interest, Einstein supposedly noted, is the most powerful force in the known universe... nothing naturally observed grows at that rate since the Big Bang.

Milgram Experiment - this infamous experiment tested unwitting participants willingness to inflict pain on a third party if told to do so by an authority.  Just to simplify, about one third of people will refuse to do harm to the third party on moral grounds, about one third will inflict the pain or harm on the third party if told to do so by an authority.  And one third in the middle has to somehow be convinced, or it depends, or it's a little unknown.

What Nazis did was scare the hell out of that middle group by not threatening them directly, but by selecting a minority - should be kept at 5% or under - and applying the 80% Racist Stereotype against them.  Kill them.  Show absolute authoritarian power.  The "follows authority" group will do so, the wishy-washy middle just want to make sure they are not IN that minority.

This is how we should catergorize other humans.

By what they do when told something by an authority.

And who is willing to tell the most vulgar, exaggerated lie -  not that 20% of some people are unsafe to deal with, but that EIGHTY percent are unsafe.  That's the hypnotic power of evil, taking the naturally assumed, frequently good-enough 80/20 rule, and reversing it so that privileged white people in Europe actually feel really good about putting TV repairman Joe Benson in prison for fixing TVs.  They actually are hypnotized or persuaded that by doing so, they are agents of conscience, doing something good for the environmnet, saving the poor.

The problem is the false authority.

For Jaleel's network of humans, it's the Ayatollah of E-Waste.  He doesn't know it, but he threatens them with poverty and all the death, destruction, lack of education, etc. that goes with it.  And the most dangerous authorities are not evil people, they actually believe their simplism.  They know perhaps it's only 20%, not 80%, of exporters are violators, but they write laws focused on their own fame, and the number of people who believe they saved Africans, rather that dropped bombs on them.

Sorry, "collateral damage" is not an excuse for reversing the 80-20 rule to create a stereotype that makes bomb-dropping more acceptable to the privileged third of people following your authority.  You lied.  You damaged people.  And there is no way to cover this up, hundreds of students are doing forensics on it.  You

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