Fitting, Pigeonholing — Humans, Obsession

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We seemed to be living in a world that always tries to fit things — just like in my day job where I try to fit lines / models (the one HBR called the sexiest job in the world, a few years back). But one thing that always intrigues me is, why are we always interested/obsessed in fitting things with humans — in social science?

In mathematics, the pigeonhole principle states that if n items are put into m containers, with n > m, then at least one container must contain more than one item.
– Wikipedia

Consider a typical classroom with 5 Students, A Teacher or someone who manages the classroom would just want to fit those 5 Students into 2 Buckets — Genius (those who learn quick and fast) and Idiots (those who don’t). This is not as same as Pigeonholing someone as an Atheist if he/she doesn’t believe any religion or perhaps this isn’t even Pigeonholing. But right now we’re not talking about the definition of an English word or a mathematical principle. It’s just our actions that speak louder to me — the action in the form of tagging humans with certain pre-defined tags: The Genius Tag, The Idiot Tag, The Brave Tag, The Coward Tag.

Why can’t be someone a bunch of something or just nothing? Why do we need a categorical tag that fits in our culture or preconceived notion? Moreover, Why are we obsessed with tagging (I don’t call this judging, neither it is) fellow humans with some role that could fit in our society? No, I don’t mean to say they could be aliens from a different planet, Of course, they also belong to this beautiful planet but our obsession with fitting things seemed to be getting beyond necessity.

I just came across this research conclusion: “ Creativity generally tend to decline as we age” . I’m sorry, I beg to differ. Nope not because my Old dad who’s in his Fifties just managed to fix my Door Grill (with a simple yet creative solution) which I (this stupid young Data Scientist) couldn’t even think of for about a year, But because so many so-called creative artists like Stephen King, Ursula K. Le Guin have been creative even when they’re old. So this research doesn’t seem to be telling me anything. I’m not evaluating this result if it’s flawed, But my concern is with taking this outcome of a research — a randomized experiment (just like a statistician would say) — applying to the general population. Before you give P (as in Poor) to my statistical skills, I very well understand the purpose of randomized experiments (with random sampling) and importance of statistical significance.

But think for a minute, Could a randomized experiment be too random to fit this entire diverse population? I’m not sure, Perhaps I’m not a platonist. Regardless, I’m not interested in pigeonholing n entities in m results. People are different — Just like I won’t see my mom in some other woman, Just like you won’t see Albert Einstein in some other man — People are too different to be fitted into some research conclusions.

“They think that intelligence is about noticing things are relevant (detecting patterns); in a complex world, intelligence consists in ignoring things that are irrelevant (avoiding false patterns)” ― NNT

Maybe, It’s time for us to realize that the standard deviation of this population is highly immeasurable even with the sophistication of Machine Learning and there’s no such thing called Average in humans, Hence fitting doesn’t work here — or maybe it does,with the inexplicably minimal accuracy!


Fitting, Pigeonholing — Humans, Obsession was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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