The least interesting people in the world

Via the RPS Sunday Papers, comes an article about the dullest culture in the world. As mentioned at the top of the article, it’s not really complete without also reading a comment by the author of the original paper (scroll down to the comment titled “Work and Play Among the Baining”). Basically, these folks discourage play in favor of work, and have taken it to an extreme in their culture to the point where almost nothing they do is new or unique.

Why am I posting this in P&R? Here in the US, we have a strong history of pushing the importance of work. No one that I know goes to the extreme of the Baining, but certainly work seems to be the central fact of life for almost everyone I know. There are plenty of places in the world where statutory time off from work is quite a bit higher than the US. And even when you do get time off, work often intrudes…at least, in my personal experience that’s regularly the case.

Is this a problem? Are we missing opportunity for happiness and cultural advancement? Discuss!

Hands up, everyone who thought this would be about investment bankers. raises hand

I thought it would be about bureaucrats and got very insulted on behalf of my career choice.

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Yeah I totally thought this would have something to do with Romney, heh.

Forty years later, Jeremy Pool, a graduate student in anthropology, spent more than a year living among them in the attempt to develop a doctoral dissertation. He too found almost nothing interesting to say about the Baining, and the experience caused him to leave anthropology and go into computer science

Love this. I can just imagine him standing up one day going “Fuck this! I’m learning Fortran” and storming off.

What, it doesn’t???

Interesting. Well Baining culture didn’t invent anything close to modern Western civilization, but nether very independent cultures of native Indians or Africans.

This reminds me a lot of some of the heavy duty pot-heads I knew in the '70s.

I assumed this article would be about Canadians.

Canadians have Montreal. I thought this would have been about Singaporeans.

:( :( :(

You’re probably right.

According to that chart on vacation time I’m definitely living in the wrong country. Vive la France.

Given this is P&R, I assumed this was about Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman.

Robert Reich put his oar in yesterday about expanding mandatory vacation in the US. He argues it’s not only good for the people taking the vacation, but the economy as well.

If the productivity increases resultant from giving more vacation are actually real, and not simply imagined, then it seems that businesses would do such a thing voluntarily. I see little need to have the government mandate such at thing.

Regarding the original article, it was quite interesting. I especially found it interesting how they made the comparison of the culture to hunter-gatherers… it made me wonder, do other primitive agricultural societies have a similar aversion to playing?

If the productivity increases resultant from giving more vacation are actually real, and not simply imagined, then it seems that businesses would do such a thing voluntarily.

The contrapositive being that, since businesses have not done such a thing voluntarily, there must be no productivity benefit?

Where did this idea that all businesses are run at 100% profit-optimized come from? It’s not the case by a long shot, and I think we all know that. I challenge any person on this board to tell me about their workplace where there’s not a single piece of deadweight employed that couldn’t be replaced by a younger, better employee for less money. Business philanthropy wouldn’t exist, especially among monopolies like Utilities.

Certainly businesses aren’t automatically optimal in all cases… Lots of businesses fail.

But I think that, generally, successful businesses do in fact embrace principles that are beneficial… You’d at least see SOME businesses do it, and then those actions would lead to success for them, and then other businesses would follow by example in order to stay competitive.

I don’t think I really buy into the idea that there is some kind of secret sauce for running a business, that no ACTUAL businesses have figured out, and that only a handful of academics understand… and that these undeniable truths that no one has realized must be forcibly imposed upon those businesses, for their own good.

It just isn’t a very compelling suggestion to me.

I can understand the distrust of academics, the air does get thin up there in the ivory towers after all, but trusting business is equally daft. My experience with corporate America is that there is a constant struggle to figure out the right way to do things. Managing a business is hard and counter-intuitive good ideas that sacrifice short term profitability for long term gain are exactly the kind of idea that business are most skeptical about embracing.

I’m not actually sure about the vacation idea improving productivity myself, but I won’t dismiss it because of your supposition that if it was a good idea businesses would already be doing it.

It’s weird that you would ask this on a primarily gaming board, considering the known counter-productivity issues with crunching, and the fact that it’s still common practice with many game developers.

Ah, but I didn’t dismiss the idea that it could be true.

I dismissed the idea that it was OBVIOUSLY true, to such a great extent that it should be forcibly imposed on all businesses by the government.