Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Illiterate institutions

Societies develop institutions which enable the majority to live their life well. Good institutions take advantage of the average man's stregths and alleviate his weaknesses. Different ethnic groups have big differences in average ability. Different groups need different institutions to enable daily life.

In Andhra Pradesh, a state in South India, the literacy rate is 60%. This is a weakness to be alleviated by traditions. The country is also quite overpopulated: it has 15 times more people for every km² than in Finland. Also even in the countryside people like to live near each others: while Finns like to scatter their houses and surround them by plains, the farmers in Andhra Pradesh live in central villages which are surrounded by uninhabited plains. This further concentrates population. This is a strength which can be exploited.

If a Finn wants to go to a new place, he uses a map. Maps are widely available and people are trained to use them during physical education classes when people go to forest to orienteer.

If an Indian in Andhra Pradesh doesn't know the way, he asks a bypasser. Even professional taxi drivers who earn their living by driving do so. Thanks to warm climate and dense population, there are always locals in the street, walking or idling. Therefore asking the way is possible thanks to the strength of dense population. Also since maps are hard to find (for example in Hyderabad, we had to find a big bookstores before we found one; by contrast in Budapest airport a free tourist leaflet contained a map) and many people couldn't read them anyway, a different way-finding institution is necessary because of the weakness of illiteracy.

In literate Finland, there is a stigma attached to talking to strangers. People don't do it naturally. If a stranger in the street comes to talk to you, he probably tries to sell you stuff, beg money or convert you to his religion. The stigma is useful, because it discourages interaction where you can only lose and where there isn't even any reciprocal advantage. The reciprocal help scenario, for example begging money to a bus ticket back home, is too rare to make it to the top three of stranger interactions.

In Andhra Pradesh, people are in general frighteningly extroverted, because they simply have to do more stuff by talking as writing isn't an option. There is less stigma attached to random talking.

This is one reason why Finland should be careful not to let in large numbers of third-world immigrants. They may seem like us hen you talk with an individual person for a few minutes, but they are not like us. Our institutions won't be able to handle large colonies of people with very different average abilities. The institutions (for example fire-fighting) will break, and will be replaced by something we don't like.

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