Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Power of the Minority

I'm currently reading the book Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. There is a great section where he talks about minority rule. The intolerant minorities change the world. He gives an example of kosher food.Only .3 percent of the population eats strictly kosher, however, because someone who is kosher is inflexible and cannot eat non-kosher food, whereas everyone else is tolerant and can eat kosher food, many common foods are made kosher by default. Thus the small kosher population has influenced the food choices of the entire population.

Probably a more common life example is going to a party. Many women do not drink beer. But they will drink wine. And men will drink anything. So once you have a number of women, you cannot only serve beer. Thus many times parties default to just wine because everyone will be able to drink it (and keeps it simpler then buying beer AND wine). So again, the minority drives the majority.

Possibly counter intuitive, majorities don't drive change, rather intolerant minorities do. Thus our laws, products, and even languages were probably shaped not for you, but for those with the edge cases.

What do we do? Well there is not too much we can do, because the system optimizes itself in this way to accommodate the intolerant minority. Taleb points out that "an intolerant minority can control and destroy democracy", thus we should be more intolerant with some intolerant minorities. Thus, distinguish if someone at your party really has a valid special request or is just being an intolerant ass and act accordingly.