We have just entered the new year on the Chinese zodiac and as such it is the year of the Monkey. I don't know what that means exactly but I'm sure that it probably has nothing to do with the Monkey King, the Fish, the Pig or the monk Tripitaka. The Chinese zodiac with it's twelve animal signs for the various years, is kind of like the western zodiac with its twelve signs, in that it is total bupkis.
In the twenty-first century we have risen above such gibberish and replaced it with modern scientific things such as the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator; which is also total bupkis. For the record, I was born in the year of the Metal Cat, the star sign of Lambda and have the personality type of WBUR.
I think that one of the reasons why this sort of bupkis exists is that the world is a complex place and that people are equally complex. There are seven and a bit billion people on this planet and its useful for our tiny little brains to make quick judgments and compartmentalise people. This is why when we meet people for the first time, we tend to ask questions about where people come from and what sort of occupation they have. Like it or not, stereotypes are actually useful tools for making sense of the world. It's when stereotypes are used as excuse for discrimination and/or bigotry, that they become a problem. I automatically assume for instance, that when I speak to a
The Chinese zodiac is at least useful in the respect that provided that you know the order of the animal procession, you can work out what year someone was born in and just like the designation of which generational cohort someone comes from, you can paint someone with the broadest of brush strokes.
The philosopher Bruce Hood, wrote that the self is an illusion which is so strong, that we even delude ourselves into thinking that there is such a thing. Erving Goffman proposed that there might not even be a true self and that we we put on a series of charades to portray ourselves in the best light. If this is true, then logically it should be impossible for a self to accurately assess itself.
I've even read the theory that everyone has multiple personalities, which work together and come out at different times depending on the situation and that they appear on stage as actors as needed and that some hardly ever appear.
The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator also attempts to paint people with equally wide brush strokes with a sixteen colour pallette. Mostly it does this by arranging its four categories as dichotomous, and only admits room for either one thing or the other. The possibility that there might be a sliding scale of introversion or extroversion, which might be different in varying situations, and that there could be many multitudes of degrees in between isn't even considered.
I personally prove just how pointless the test actually is because depending on what time of day it is, how happy, sad, angry, joyous, content, frustrated, excited or in a patch of ennui I am, I can truthfully answer the questions in the test and arrive at all sixteen destinations. The Briggs-Meyer Personality Test is in my not very well paid opinion, a zodiac for intelligent yet deluded people but then again I would think that, for I am a WBEZ who was born in the year of the Cat.
I have read proper books into the study of personality and granted there are proper metrics which look into things like openness, temperament, risk aversion and the like, but these sorts of studies have looked into traits which can kind of be measured empirically and over a longer to timescale than just a single snapshot of a point in time. The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator has been generally shown to be useless in the real world by the US Army; if there was anyone who could benefit the most from having a tool such as this, its the army.
I suppose that the reason why people still want to read bupkis like astrology readings in the newspaper, want to know which of the sixteen personality types they are, or even stupid questions like the clickbaity "Which Justin Bieber Song Are You?", or " Which Hunger Games Character Are You?", is that we like to curate temples in our own minds to our own brilliance.
Humans are all a little narcissistic and the truth is that we like to look in the mirror at ourselves, even if the image is cracked and warped. Humans are also fiercely tribal and whether it is in the realm of politics, sport, occupation, interests or even personality, we want to know who is in our tribe and who is not. I bet that if there was a clickbaity survey of "Which Potato Are You?", that people would still want to know which tribe that they fit into (by the way, I am a Russet Burbank).
You can find out which modern astrological sign you are by clicking the link below. Be warned though, if this does seem creepily accurate, that's probably because you have narcissistically mapped your feelings onto the test, just like you would for your regular zodiac sign.