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June 20, 2003

Person Characteristics

Prop(x) = how much you really care about "survival" of x, how much effort are you willing to put into raising and ensuring the survival of x measured on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 is peak importance one can give, 1 is he is completely indifferent

Every person can find values for :

  1. Prop(yourself)
  2. Prop(immediate family)
  3. Prop(relatives)
  4. Prop(friends)
  5. Prop(human strangers)
  6. Prop(living organisms excluding humans)
  7. Prop(non-living things)

Then you can understand more about a person by finding the values of these for him, and then the items 2 onwards divided by item 1 will each define one important characteristic of that person.

Knowing your values is also a worthwhile thing to do.


On Human Behavior

People write their scripts early in life1. They decide what is the basic pattern of behavior they will follow throughout their time here.

For example, one will ask others to show care for him, if they dont agree, then he will hate them. This basic pattern seems a very simple one, but a significant amount of behavior of many people is just based on this one rule.

There are many such possible rules (or patterns).

It seems strange that a thing as complex as the human mind, will generate so much behavior that is based on just one such simple rule as this.

Finding the dominant rules for a person, is equivalent to understanding that person. When we say, "Bhargav is a very simple guy", or "Rukie is a very simple girl", we say that we unconsciously understand the basic rules that govern that person's behavior.

But understanding the rules explicitly, consciously, clearly goes much further ahead in understanding that person. You can almost make a computer program that would behave in the same way that the person does.

Let us get a better feel for those basic rules.

One basic rule that I have found to be very common is: "I want people to love me."

Other common one is "I want to laugh."

Though these look simple, they exist in more sophisticated versions in practice, and this makes them useful. For example, the "I want to laugh" rule may be expanded for some person to " I want to laugh. I will try to seek out people who can provide me this. A person who will make me laugh are good people. Those who cannot, are of no use to me and I will find them boring and uninteresting, I will try avoiding them. " And even more.

Some more are: "I want to think. I will go towards people who make me think.", "I want to cry. I will do something silly. And then cry. All those who can provide me this, I will be attracted to them." As I said, these rules take sophisticated forms when you actually apply to people.

These rules are based on mostly on how the person will interact with other people.

But, that is whats a person is. A behavior generator. And more specifically, he creates meaning by putting this behavior in front of other people that can store and communicate information. What meaning will he create if he behaves in an isolated planet, where nobody else who can store/communicate is present? SO, basically, when you derive rules for his generation of behavior, you define him. You define that person. All that he means.

The irony is that this whole meaning of a person that is present only in the human society, has no meaning outside our humandom. And that makes us ask the importance of this meaning. How is this meaning important to Star Sirius. How is this meaning important to a stone? How is this meaning important to the universe at large? In No Way. There is no meaning outside our humandom. Only humans know that Mother Teresa was good, Edison was good, Einstein was good, Buddha was good, Hitler is bad. The culmination of the irony is that even that meaning is not shared with all, all have a different meaning of the same thing depending on individual views.

Back to scripts - you can almost make out the structure of friends that a person will have based on his scripts. For example, "he will have some who will satisfy his need of humor, he will have some who will satisfy his need for intellectual discussion, he will have some who will give him the pleasure of telling that he acts smart, he will have some who will remind him of his good old days, he will have some who can make him emotionally intense" etc.

All of this can actually help in practical life.

But there is an extension of this, that may actually have dramatic uses.

The extension is - "identify your own scripts".

Introspect. Introspect your behavior. Why do you behave this way? What do you want? Where are you going? What are your basic desires? What are the patterns in your behvior, what are you scripts?

This will not be short. This will occur over a period of time. You will come to understand (yes in the same way mentioned above) yourselves more over time.

Then you may find some patterns are not good for you, and have harmed you previously. You will make a goal to remove them from whatever that is "yourself".

This will be a really hardest thing to do. You will find that the basic rules are so ingrained in you, that they are a part of "you".

However, repeated attempts will give results after some time. And you may actually succeed.

When you succeed, you will have changed yourself. You will have reprogrammed yourself. A program changing itself. Much like a LISP program.

(1. This sentence is taken from the excellent book "What do you say after you say Hello" by Eric Berne. The rest of the expansion is mine. I dont know what was his idea or how he expanded, but could be very similar to this. However, I would still credit this whole concept to him)


Changing self

After turning into a more contemplative person a few months ago, who asks "why?" to everything, I developed some conceptual insights into the way things work, and more importantly, into the reasons behind human behavior.

Then when I began to read some philosophical (or other) material, I found many of the things I had discovered myself were already discovered by people before and well documented. Of course, not that I was expecting that I was the first person to discover them, but...

Moral Relativism (or cultural relativism) was an idea that I realized myself over a period of some weeks last fall. Though it is a quite simple and obvious concept that everybody who has studied philosophy (or related disciplines) or read related books knows(or even by experience), knowing it by your own realization is a totally different experience than just reading it from a book or hearing from a friend.

The process is quite interesting. First you dont see anything, and believe them as just other oddities of life. Then you begin to see some patterns, and that is all you see. Then you see the common generator of the patterns. Then, applying the classic generalization and reductionism of Mathematics (and Science), you arrive at a concept that can explain all observed things perfectly. There. You have achieved enlightenment. (For this thing atleast). As time passes, you confirm it n number of times with new observations, and the idea sinks into your brain. It then becomes part of your basic knowledge, and you think of it as an obvious concept.

Reasons of human behavior can be a particularly interesting area to think about. Whats a human desire? What does a human want? What is the difference between different people? There are dozens of questions like these.

The concept of money as "a means to exchange services with the society", which is so obvious that it is money's definition, is quite enlightening. Atleast seemed to me, when I realized that sometime ago. From money, you go to services, society, economy, jobs, survival, work, the importance of science, the importance of technology, etc.

And yes, thinking about Darwin's Theory of Evolution can be the most enlighening of all things. The direction of human existence, human life, human behavior, human society, human behavior become suddenly clear. That all organisms including humans are just trying to survive and reproduce is an idea people knowingly disagree, but is the most important fact, I think so. It is the most important first thing you need to understand if you are to understand anything.

There were many conceptual insights (they were to me, may not be to many people) that I developed, a few of which I mentioned above, that have made my understanding of the world dramatically better.

What suddenly triggered this?

Why did I start thinking after 22 years of age? What was I doing upto that time?

The primary cause of this is changing a country, a culture, a civilization. This is a time which forces you to think about the basic assumptions about life you have made without even thinking about them. Then afterwards, it is just a chain effect.

Moving to another quite different country for some elongated time period is one thing I would recommend everyone.


June 19, 2003


Hofstede, in 1980, developed an interesting theory about Culture - he gave Culture 5 dimensions along which it varied. (you could say 5 coordinates of Culture)

You can find explanations about those dimensions at many places on the net if you search in google, for example, two good ones are:


(read both)

He also measured a lot of countries' cultures along those dimensions. The measurement results are here:


USA is found to be the most individualistic country in the world.

If you read the above links, you will find that there are some interesting correlations between the dimensions and other cultural things like teacher-student relationship, presence of rituals, economic development, warm/cold region, etc.


June 18, 2003

Culture note to prospective students

This is a copy of a mail I wrote today to a mailing list of Indians who were about to come to the US and join USC for Graduate/Undergrad studies:

[During my experience of 2 years in the US, my thought process and understanding of the world changed dramatically, and the basic purpose of this mail is give you a head-start into the broadening of perspective that took took some time to get to me.]

Everybody knows that there are cultural differences between India and America...but knowing only that is not enough.

One must know them in "some detail", and also an idea about "why" they exist in the first place.

Not knowing enough is a source of lot of problems - many people just dont like the things out here for a long time (months, years) after coming here and keep hating the US and US culture. (not all of it, but several aspects of it)

Yes, thats Culture shock for you, even if the person is not ready to accept that he is going through it.

The first thing one must know is: (my theory) Culture is just a "local" maxima. Ways of doing things in a culture are modified slowly to go towards a local maxima, and *not* towards a global maxima. And Global Maxima is very hard to define and identify -- the very definitions of good and bad change as you cross cultures, and a global maxima (absolute morality and perfect society), in fact, probably does not exist even in theory.

In other words, an *open mind* is the most important thing you need when you move to a significantly different culture - in this case - you are moving from a collectivistic relationship-based lawless (almost) society to an individualistic acheivement-based law-abiding society. Just remember this sentence always - "What is right and what is wrong was told to you by your culture - they are not *absolute*, they are *relative* to your culture."

Agree with this and you are more than half way through.

Now you need to understand what a culture shock is and what are the different phases for that - read this -


And this, a little smaller than the above:


Then you need to read what exactly are the differences in the cultures.

These are slightly bigger than the above, but important:
(on the utexas.edu link page, look at lower right - you will see a heading "Cultural Adjustment", read the four (small) pages linked from there)

There's one more - this one's a little boring, but read as much as you want -

This link is optional - it talks about business related cultural differences, but the information present is huge.

If you have read much of the above links, then you are going to have a better time in the USA.....I guarantee you!!

For the people who have become interested in this topic, here's some more material - rather more formal/academic - its about a study by Hofstede(1983) which postulates that differences in cultures can be understood in terms of five parameters and he in fact measured the five parameters for lots of countries.

explains the parameters; the actual scores on parameters of various countries are here:

USA is the most individualistic country in the world according to his measurements.

Then there's this interesting study on the link between corruption and collectivism - yes, its what you expected - collectivist countries have a higher rate of corruption than individualistic countries:


Hehe, they even calculate that there is a correlation of 0.7 between collectivism and corruption.

I cant possibly believe that you are following this email upto this line. Go check your mail (again).



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