[Homeroast] Amateurs/Professionals & Craftsmen/Artists

Dhananjaya djgarcia at improbablystructuredlayers.net
Sun May 2 13:29:56 CDT 2010


You are absolutely correct. I should have said "I dislike bad use and abuse
of generalizations", which as you correctly point out is just a common (and
highly useful) mechanism for dealing with information. And hate IS such a
strong word as Joe mentioned.

I generalized the use of generalizations :(. Looks like I fell for the same
bad habit in criticising it! Chalk it up to hasty composition. The humanity!


DJ, getting ready to brew some Guatemalan espresso

-----Original Message-----
Date: Sat, 1 May 2010 20:51:53 +0000
From: "Ryan M. Ward" <silvercro_magnon at hotmail.com>
To: <homeroast at lists.sweetmariascoffee.com>
Subject: Re: [Homeroast] Amateurs/Professionals & Craftsmen/Artists
Message-ID: <SNT127-W41F257CD1D49C6AED996FAFDF00 at phx.gbl>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

I agree with your basic premise here, that skill at anything comes from
interest and love of the craft. I do agree completely that
love/interest/ambition/(insert favorite appropriate word) is the primary
root here.
As far as generalizations, I am not quite certain exactly what you mean by
generalizations, if you mean classifying members of a group into subgroups
based on common characteristics with the intent to draw inferences about the
members of the group based on those common characteristics, then what's to
hate. Generalizations in and of themselves are not bad things. If fact, I
argue that the ability to generalize is very important to us as humans. 
Take two Huskies- different dogs, different DNA,etc... but many common
traits- they are both huskies. The breed huskie is in fact a generalization.
Two different huskies have an astronomical amount of dissimilar traits, but
the few that are common between them make them huskies. 
Instead of the need to consider every single individual member of the dog
species, we have grouped together large chunks of the species into subgroups
which share common traits(we call these subgroups breeds). This gives us the
ability to make certain assumptions about the breed as a whole. 
Generalizations become unhealthy when we cling to them too tightly and take
them seriously to an inappropriate level or if we over generalize or
inappropriately generalize (Such as racial stereotypes).
In this discussion, we noticed a trend- speaking typically, amateur baristas
tend to do a better job at making coffee than professional baristas (or
whatever each particular person's take was on it, I am using this one for
illustrative purposes- and yes I acknowledge that this was not, strictly
speaking, the original topic of discussion). We then began to discuss why
this is the case. We then determined what was different between amateurs and
professions- namely pay. When then attempted to determine how this might
affect different in cup quality and end product. 

So, my point here is that yes we did use some generalizations but none of
which we took too seriously (See Mike's point, in which he used a
counterexample to the generalizations we used). Generalizations allowed us
to consider all members of the coffee craft simultaneously- but broken up
into broad categories, without the need to consider individual members
(unless appropriate to do so). Generalizations are our friend. They are why
biologists have a job (and most scientists for that matter).

Your point, however, is well received in that often times we fail to see
generalizations for what they truly are: tools- we either take them to heart
too much or we apply them inappropriately (Logicians recognize a logical
fallacy called a 'hasty generalization' basically you apply a generalization
argument before establishing that such a generalization is appropriate).
What we were interested in during this discussion was not individual
baristas, we were interested in the traits associate with broad groups of
baristas and how those traits affect their work. We need a thought tool to
do this. Generalizations are the appropriate tool. If you can think of a
better one to use to have such discussions, I would love to hear about it
because I would really like to win the Fields Medal, but have not come up
with any good ideas yet to do so :)

Ryan M. Ward

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