Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:
Software developer Paul Graham recently posted a piece called “The Four Quadrants of Conformism.”
An individual’s conformist tendencies reveal themselves in childhood, says Graham, and he asks us to imagine a Cartesian grid.
“The kids in the upper left quadrant, the aggressively conventional-minded ones, are the tattletales. They believe not only that rules must be obeyed, but that those who disobey them must be punished.”
“The kids in the lower left quadrant, the passively conventional-minded, are the sheep. They’re careful to obey the rules, but when other kids break them, their impulse is to worry that those kids will be punished, not to ensure that they will.”
“The kids in the lower right quadrant, the passively independent-minded, are the dreamy ones. They don’t care much about rules and probably aren’t 100% sure what the rules even are.”
“And the kids in the upper right quadrant, the aggressively independent-minded, are the naughty ones. When they see a rule, their first impulse is to question it. Merely being told what to do makes them inclined to do the opposite.” In adulthood, he continues, the aggressively conventional-minded cry “Crush <outgroup>!” The passively conventional-minded fear “What will the neighbors think?” The passively independent-minded shrug “To each his own.” And the call of the aggressively independent-minded is “Eppur si muove”—“And yet, it moves”—Galileo’s dogged insistence, apropos of the earth, in the face of the Inquisition.