Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

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Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by jacob » Mon Dec 12, 2016 4:16 pm

I think this is beginning to deserve its own thread because we have some brief resurgences/discussions of the issue in various thread, e.g.

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=8415
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8179

With post-modernism, the debate problem based on the constraint that "you're entitled to your own opinion but you're not entitled to your own facts". Therefore debating meant finding a fact-compatible framework that described the facts but presented them in a different light. Whatever framing sounded more convincing won the debate.

Post-modern debate annoyed me because it demoted all knowledge equitable to personal narratives, e.g. "Your theory of gravity is just a privileged chauvenist narrative designed to hold everybody else down". E.g. it was metaphorically agreed on that everything falls down even if it wasn't agreed why, but Newton's insight was just his personal opinion.

In post-factual debates, everything is metaphorically up in the air, and it's not even expected that people care to agree on reality.

I wonder where things are going and where they will end up. For example, I've noticed that many debates/political campaigning now often exhibit the "I know you are but what am I" in its various incarnations ("I'm rubber, you're glue ...") straight out of 3rd grader playground behavior.

Where memes are allowed, people posting memes seem more effective in changing public opinion than people constructing logical arguments. There's even research into how one handles fact-resistant elephant riders on facebook: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the ... o-science/

Having "deconstructed the discourse" with postmodernism, are we simply regressing [back in maturity] now with post-factualism? If so ... is the next natural step to just go "lalalala" while shaking one's head when confronted with anything that one disagrees with. Alternatively, is this simply an age-old problem that's finally reached sufficient density on the internet to become apparent two decades after Eternal September.

It seems to me we almost need a replacement for Schopenhauer's old playbook: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_Being_Right ?

If so, here's a start on the post-factual anti-debate playbook.

1) The "I know you are but what am I"-retort for whenever one is accused of low-handed tricks.
2) The "Nobody really knows"-retrenchment for whenever one is confronted with anything more complicated than sqrt(16)=? because if only 30% knows or whatever then obviously the majority can't tell and so democratically speaking, nobody really knows.

Somebody could probably write a twitter-bot that would pass a Turing test with those two objections. Now Kahneman and Tversky wrote the book on adult-thinking fallacies ... but has anyone looking into 3rd grader thinking fallacies? (of course one could argue that 3rd grader fallacies are just a subset of adult fallacies, e.g. the "nobody really knows" is just argument from incredulity. However, some fallacies, such as these, are specifically presuming that most people don't understand simple psychological projection or lack any understanding of the issue under discussion in order to succeed.)

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by daylen » Mon Dec 12, 2016 6:45 pm

jacob wrote: Somebody could probably write a twitter-bot that would pass a Turing test with those two objections. Now Kahneman and Tversky wrote the book on adult-thinking fallacies ... but has anyone looking into 3rd grader thinking fallacies? (of course one could argue that 3rd grader fallacies are just a subset of adult fallacies, e.g. the "nobody really knows" is just argument from incredulity. However, some fallacies, such as these, are specifically presuming that most people don't understand simple psychological projection or lack any understanding of the issue under discussion in order to succeed.)
Here are my predictions. Didn't put too much thought into it, just getting discussion going.

biases 3rd grader are more susceptible to:
availability heuristic (maybe less?)
recency
salience

biases 3rd grader are less susceptible to:
confirmation
information
ostrich
overconfidence

neutral:
bandwagon
anchoring
clustering
survivorship
placebo

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:16 pm

I recently asked a group of 3rd graders to vote on whether they preferred turkey, pie or mashed potatoes. The votes were fairly evenly distributed until 3 kids in a row voted for mashed potatoes. Every child except 1 voted for mashed potatoes after the 3 kid run.

I think young children are more pre-factual than post-factual. They are willing to accept just about anything as being factual. The post-factual posture is just what every female who ever been in the passenger seat of a car or assisting with a home repair in the company of any man born prior to approximately 1977 (give or take for culture) has had to deal with on innumerable occasions. Thus, the high level of quaalude addiction to be found in the population of 1950s housewives.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by sky » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:19 pm

Get ready for sociopsychological disorders such as Salem witch hunts. If the mob is pointing at you, learn how to break the witch hunt before it gets to a witch trial.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by Ego » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:45 pm

This has been on the horizon now for a while and is the reason I have been so persistent about those who use pre-fact beliefs to guide their thinking on current events.

"If someone doesn't value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it?
If someone doesn't value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pk7jHJRSzhM

There was hope that the internet would spread knowledge so that pre-fact beliefs would simply disappear. It seems that something very different happened and the irrelevancy of facts has spread to those who don't ascribe to any particular pre-fact doctrine.

Today we see many figuratively enslaved by the consequences of their post-fact beliefs. Obesity. Indebtedness. Anxiety. Loneliness. Consumerism. I could go on. Tragedy of the commons means that while we may be free ourselves, we are chained to the enslaved and therefore free only by degree.

How many times has someone here operating on pre or post-fact beliefs told me that my persistent arguments are the wrong way to go about convincing people? Hah! What evidence can we provide to those who do not value evidence? None.

I am at a loss to see any option but to entice them to admit their delusion then ridicule it. They tend to cling tighter and flee to their safe-spaces but maybe others will see the ridiculousness and seek fact based answers. The other alternative - engaging them and answering their delusional arguments with patience and reason - only serves to provides credence to their argument as a possible alternative. In other words, treating them as if they have a credible point of view is a signal to others that they do.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by black_son_of_gray » Mon Dec 12, 2016 9:50 pm

jacob wrote: 2) The "Nobody really knows"-retrenchment for whenever one is confronted with anything more complicated than sqrt(16)=? because if only 30% knows or whatever then obviously the majority can't tell and so democratically speaking, nobody really knows.
Ooo! Public knowledge is a floor function!
And yet "no one knows" is always thrown out there with such certainty - making it more obvious that it is just a rhetorical device.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by BRUTE » Tue Dec 13, 2016 2:52 am

Ego wrote:They tend to cling tighter and flee to their safe-spaces but maybe others will see the ridiculousness and seek fact based answers.
maybe safe spaces/bubbles are a reaction to the super intensified intimacy and constant personal contact with thousands of random strangers that the internet provides. there used to be time and space to be alone. now humans are being bombarded 24/7 by literally billions of other humans, being told what to do, think, feel. due to human biology, it's almost impossible for 99% of humans to ignore these cues, since they're social animals.

on a purely biological level, the ability to agree and align with tribe members was developer long before the ability to think logically. the "factual" part of civilization has always been a tiny percentage. 98%+ of it is fluid dynamics.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by FBeyer » Tue Dec 13, 2016 3:02 am

Ego wrote:...The other alternative - engaging them and answering their delusional arguments with patience and reason - only serves to provides credence to their argument as a possible alternative. In other words, treating them as if they have a credible point of view is a signal to others that they do.
There is another, more pragmatic issue with that strategy. It takes an order of magnitude more effort to refute bullshit, than to produce it.
Unless the rationals outnumber the sources of shit 10 to 1 it's an asymptotically losing battle. If the rationals DID outnumber the sources 10 to 1, we wouldn't have this problem to begin with...

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by mfi » Tue Dec 13, 2016 2:39 pm

Speaking of idiocracy and idiots, Rick Perry was picked for Secretary of Energy today. Oops - the same Rick Perry who could not remember the name of the Department of Energy in one of the debates. How apropos for this thread that we are transitioning from Nobel-caliber nuclear scientists Moniz and Chu (who study the stars) to Perry (who was on Dancing with the Stars).....

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by George the original one » Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:07 pm

Three possible outcomes that I envision:
1) Authoritarian government becomes empowered to squelch all unarmed dissent. That government may or may not be fact-based. One might suggest the old USSR is what we could expect.
2) A period of chaos because no one believes anyone else and there are a zillion fractured "movements" to support each claim. Intrigue will then rule the day because everybody is manipulating to consolidate their powerbase or their movement dies. Eventually the silliness dies down because enough consensus returns.
3) A violent "Change the world" movement sweeps across the globe. Intellectuals or muslims or just plain old alarmists, some "enemy-of-the-people" are exterminated. Cambodia comes to mind (or Stalin's purges).

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by Ego » Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:31 pm

George, I wonder if technology makes uprising less likely. Fewer workers using technology to build a car. Fewer soldiers using technology to control the masses.

Perhaps the dividing line for sympatric speciation will be between those who operate in a fact-based world and those who operate in a belief-based world.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by steveo73 » Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:45 pm

Ego wrote:Perhaps the dividing line for sympatric speciation will be between those who operate in a fact-based world and those who operate in a belief-based world.
I've noticed what I'll call a gap recently based on how people interact with the world. Some people appear to like facts and others have beliefs. I accept that this isn't cut and dry but it's something I've noticed recently and I am struggling getting my head around it.

I think the fact that there is so much information out there and you can find something to support your belief has a lot to do with it.

I don't think though that it will cause humans to split into different types of species.
jacob wrote:In post-factual debates, everything is metaphorically up in the air, and it's not even expected that people care to agree on reality.
I completely agree. It's not here are the facts in all their complexity and let's try to draw some conclusions. It's here is the conclusion, the facts don't matter other than to be used as tools to back up the already formed conclusion.

I also find that people state facts which aren't even facts. It's like if you call it a fact then it has to be a fact.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by BRUTE » Tue Dec 13, 2016 9:58 pm

it feels/appears to brute like the facts/beliefs dichotomy is a wrong one. just one of those things where no solution is ever found by either side because the question is invalid.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by steveo73 » Tue Dec 13, 2016 10:11 pm

BRUTE wrote:it feels/appears to brute like the facts/beliefs dichotomy is a wrong one. just one of those things where no solution is ever found by either side because the question is invalid.
What is the question then. To me if you look at the facts then you can work through an issue. I just don't see that in lots of situations.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by BRUTE » Wed Dec 14, 2016 2:02 am

every time humans bring up that x doesn't use facts, it always sounds like "those dumb other humans aren't using facts like me! fuck them!".

it's a fact that most humans don't know any facts by first principle. even jacob hasn't measured the rising temperature of the earth himself at every measuring station. he's relying on other humans to collect and transmit and digest those facts.

reality is much too complex for any one human to know all relevant facts to many modern topics. therefore, "facts" are effectively as social a phenomenon as anything else humans talk about or value.

in addition, facts don't necessarily equal the truth. it's very easy to just list facts and still create a false impression. here's an example.

Facts about ERE:
- the founder lives on 7k per year
- he has written extensively on eating lentils
- he's lived in a leaky RV
- the forum community includes sexual deviants, humans living in vans or cars, and vegetarians
- ERE disciples often advocate against work and contribution to society

these facts tell a story about ERE that will turn many humans off. here's the counter example:

Facts about ERE:
- the founder is an accomplished physicist who speaks several languages
- ERE has allowed many individuals to pursue their dreams & passions, enabling them to travel or spend more time with their families
- ERE advocates prudent financial and investment decisions
- the ERE founder has repeatedly told people "not to worry about skipping that starbucks latte to save money"
- the forum community includes a variety of humans from all over the world, and all walks of life

fun fact (<- haha), living in a van (negative for most) and traveling (positive for most) might even be two facts of the same coin! C40 is living proof.


what seems to really be the case when "those pesky others just don't want to use facts!" is that their mental models or narratives differ. the same fact can lead to very different conclusions when presented to humans with differing world views.

for example, a cold winter might be "proof" that global warming is a hoax to a global warming denier. it might be a relatively irrelevant data point to a global warming alarmist, because weather is not equal to climate. it might be "proof" that the climate is swinging more extreme than before if the last winter was very cold.

this happens all the time in economics: the great depression is used by Keynesians and Chicago school economists to argue for more monetary control ("FED didn't print enough money"), and against monetary control by the Austrian school ("FED created the boom right before the great depression by printing too much money").

in fact, facts are often very useless to solve questions or problems. a fact is only a deciding key factor in solving a problem if a variety of circumstances are in place, such as: varying humans have agreed on what the problem even is, mostly share a common world view or idea of what's happening, and agree that the only difference left between their opposing opinions rests on this one fact. now, the fact is useful.

in conclusion, some facts about facts:
- humans rarely know facts from first principle
- almost all facts have passed a social channel
- it's easy to lie with facts by means of selective presentation
- the same fact can "prove" different things to humans holding differing world views, even the opposite on the same issue
- brute really likes lists

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by steveo73 » Wed Dec 14, 2016 4:16 am

BRUTE wrote:every time humans bring up that x doesn't use facts, it always sounds like "those dumb other humans aren't using facts like me! fuck them!".
I get what you are stating but I still think that there is a point where facts matter.
BRUTE wrote:it's a fact that most humans don't know any facts by first principle. even jacob hasn't measured the rising temperature of the earth himself at every measuring station. he's relying on other humans to collect and transmit and digest those facts.
I don't see why Jacob is relevant. I agree that we cannot know facts by first principle. This though to me is a meaningless argument. It's like stating because I can't personally work out how the TV works I can't use a TV.
BRUTE wrote:reality is much too complex for any one human to know all relevant facts to many modern topics. therefore, "facts" are effectively as social a phenomenon as anything else humans talk about or value.
I agree with your premise but not the conclusion. Facts matter to me.
BRUTE wrote:in addition, facts don't necessarily equal the truth. it's very easy to just list facts and still create a false impression. here's an example.
I sort of disagree with this. The facts are the facts. Some facts may be proven to be false or may give an incorrect impression but to me that is because the facts weren't actually clarified.

Different people can come to different conclusions though when it comes to the facts.
BRUTE wrote:what seems to really be the case when "those pesky others just don't want to use facts!" is that their mental models or narratives differ. the same fact can lead to very different conclusions when presented to humans with differing world views.
I just covered this. I'll state my position in a bit more detail. Good quality facts like good quality data can allow different conclusions to be drawn. That is good quality facts and data. Poor quality facts and data should probably be thrown out with the bathwater.
BRUTE wrote:in fact, facts are often very useless to solve questions or problems.
This is something that I completely disagree with. I think that possibly this is in some way how we differ in our assessment of the world. I tend to try and get the facts and then use the facts to draw a conclusion. I accept people can have different conclusions. What I don't understand is how the facts are irrelevant.

Thanks for the response. I don't agree with a lot of what you've stated but I enjoyed reading your perspective.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by Campitor » Wed Dec 14, 2016 5:42 am

steveo73 wrote:
BRUTE wrote:every time humans bring up that x doesn't use facts, it always sounds like "those dumb other humans aren't using facts like me! fuck them!".
I get what you are stating but I still think that there is a point where facts matter.
Facts matter but in context, i.e., if both of us are not experts about climate science, how would we know we have all the facts and/or if those facts are being presented logically and correctly? And would we have the maturity to look at the facts-in-opposition objectively to correct our beliefs?
steveo73 wrote:
BRUTE wrote:it's a fact that most humans don't know any facts by first principle. even jacob hasn't measured the rising temperature of the earth himself at every measuring station. he's relying on other humans to collect and transmit and digest those facts.
I don't see why Jacob is relevant. I agree that we cannot know facts by first principle. This though to me is a meaningless argument. It's like stating because I can't personally work out how the TV works I can't use a TV.
You may know how to use a TV but your lack knowledge about how it works will leave you ignorant in topics such as "what electronics can interfere with my tv signal?" or "how do I fix my tv?", etc. This lack of knowledge will make you susceptible to charlatans who will happily charge you for fixes that don't work or make your TV susceptible to further damage. Extrapolate this ignorance to climate change, politics, overfishing, car repair, finances, etc. After hearing the aforementioned example, folks will conjure a more simplistic model such as "you don't need to be a firefighter to know fire burns" which I will counter with - of course but you will need to know some rudimentary things about fire so you can use the correct extinguisher to put it out.
steveo73 wrote:
BRUTE wrote:reality is much too complex for any one human to know all relevant facts to many modern topics. therefore, "facts" are effectively as social a phenomenon as anything else humans talk about or value.
I agree with your premise but not the conclusion. Facts matter to me.
I think facts probably matter to Brute too. But how can either of you be sure you are arguing for the correct solution unless you know you have ALL the facts or if the facts are being presented and interpreted correctly? I think what Brute is stating regarding facts being a "social phenomenon", is that most problems are so complex with so many active inputs, it is extremely difficult for a layperson to be sure he is arguing for the correct solution or interpreting the data correctly.
steveo73 wrote:
BRUTE wrote:in addition, facts don't necessarily equal the truth. it's very easy to just list facts and still create a false impression. here's an example.
I sort of disagree with this. The facts are the facts. Some facts may be proven to be false or may give an incorrect impression but to me that is because the facts weren't actually clarified.

Different people can come to different conclusions though when it comes to the facts.
And how would anyone, not being an expert on a complex topic, know which facts to clarify? How do you know there isn't any missing data that could greatly influence the conclusions?
steveo73 wrote:
BRUTE wrote:what seems to really be the case when "those pesky others just don't want to use facts!" is that their mental models or narratives differ. the same fact can lead to very different conclusions when presented to humans with differing world views.
I just covered this. I'll state my position in a bit more detail. Good quality facts like good quality data can allow different conclusions to be drawn. That is good quality facts and data. Poor quality facts and data should probably be thrown out with the bathwater.
And how would a non-expert know what a poor quality fact looks like if they aren't experts on the complex item being discussed?
steveo73 wrote:
BRUTE wrote:in fact, facts are often very useless to solve questions or problems.
This is something that I completely disagree with. I think that possibly this is in some way how we differ in our assessment of the world. I tend to try and get the facts and then use the facts to draw a conclusion. I accept people can have different conclusions. What I don't understand is how the facts are irrelevant.

Thanks for the response. I don't agree with a lot of what you've stated but I enjoyed reading your perspective.


I will agree with Brute but with a slight change to his conclusion: facts are often very useless to solve questions or problems about complex models when people fall into logical fallacies such as confirmation bias, etc.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Dec 14, 2016 6:20 am

BRUTE said: reality is much too complex for any one human to know all relevant facts to many modern topics. therefore, "facts" are effectively as social a phenomenon as anything else humans talk about or value.
Until you trip over a fact on your way to take a piss in the middle of the night ;) Damn global climate change knocked me straight horizontal on a patch of ice yesterday.

OTOH, due to the fact that there are too many female coffee-drinking lawyers in my family, I don't really grok the objection some people have to the art of arguing full-speed forward from false premise. Imagine what the internet would be like if people only communicated by stating facts known to themselves by first principle, otherwise only inserting a non-committal-grunt emoticon. I spent two years at an engineering college located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so I have some idea what that might be like :cry:

Maybe this? http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/after-post ... 826478924/

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by jennypenny » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:21 am

I agree with others that both extremes are problematic. The goal of society shouldn't be strict factual correctness (look at where zealous political correctness got us). Being 'right' isn't always what makes us happy. OTOH, basing all decisions on agreed-upon narratives or beliefs isn't going to work either. It might make us happier, but we'll end up singing kumbaya together as the ship goes down. Balance is needed -- not necessarily 50/50 -- to protect society from ignorance while allowing some breathing room for enough 'belief' to keep people feeling happy and connected.

IMO a big part of the problem right now isn't ignorance but a sense of mistrust towards government and by extension, others who resemble that kind of authority. Some of that comes from the government and certain authorities being too slow to admit when they've been wrong about facts in the past. You only have to look at the FDA and the influence lobbyists have had on the food pyramid to see how misinformation has been systematically doled out to the public, but there are lots of other examples.

The other problem is what was stated up-thread -- that setting up the argument as belief v. fact is never going to resolve the issue because it implies that belief is 'incorrect' and one must give up their beliefs in order to agree with the facts. If factual reality was presented more as an evolution of knowledge and belief through the discovery of new information instead of as a replacement of belief with fact, it might not be met with such resistance. I think Pope Francis's recent comments about 'ecological conversion' are a good example of the kind of approach I think would work best. Belief isn't only religious in nature, but I think the approach works with any belief system.

I'm not condoning the dismissal of information because it contradicts firmly held beliefs, but I'm also not condoning the establishment of policy based solely on factual information without some consideration given to the social impacts that would result. And the smugness of both sides is wrong, regardless of whether it's directed at those considered immoral or ignorant.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by Spartan_Warrior » Wed Dec 14, 2016 9:10 am

I don't know if it's a question of whether people now value facts any less (or more) than they ever did. I think most people still value objective reality and truth. It's more a two-fold problem that 1) they are ill-equipped (both educationally and perhaps as a species, e.g. confirmation bias) to actually distinguish what is factual (see the "firehood of falsehood" report linked in the OP for an idea of how easy it is to "fool" the average human's truth-detection faculty) and 2) the sources and institutions that they have been conditioned to rely on for truth and facts are not actually incentivized to relay objective truth and facts; indeed, they are often incentivized to deliberately misinform, either for first-order profit (people are more willing to listen to and pay for "facts" that confirm their existing beliefs) or second-order profit (control of thought for political purposes).

Same thing you have with food. Most people want to eat real food. Problem is they can't tell what real food is, and the industry doesn't want them to know, because then they'd know they're not getting real food.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by Papers of Indenture » Wed Dec 14, 2016 9:24 am

Good post Brute. It's pretty damning that I saw what you describe play out time and time again in rationalist communities like Less Wrong. Almost enough to drive one to nihilisim ;)

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by Spartan_Warrior » Wed Dec 14, 2016 9:25 am

If there has been a sociological shift in perspective on the actual value of truth, I wonder if it's due in any way to epistemological movements that emphasize our separation from objective reality by our senses and thoughts, and therefore our inability to really "know" reality. (Think Descartes' "mind in a vat" problem). Perhaps such concerns are serving as premises to derive incorrect conclusions that "since the truth is impossible to know for sure, why bother trying", in much the same way IMO that acknowledgement of physical determinism can be "misused" to reach fatalistic conclusions that "nothing I do can change anything". Maybe philosophers should just keep this stuff to ourselves.

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by Chad » Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:19 am

jennypenny wrote:Being 'right' isn't always what makes us happy.
Speak for yourself! :lol:

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by jennypenny » Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:08 am

Ha! I should have said 'being correct isn't always what makes us happy' which is different from 'right' in the righteous sense. That makes us feel, well ... righteous. :D

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Re: Post-factualism: Goodbye Enlightenment--Hello Idiocracy?

Post by jacob » Wed Dec 14, 2016 1:21 pm

I think it boils down to an epistemological difference. How do we know that a statement is true.

If you go to the links in the OP, you will see that
The researchers at Stanford's Graduate School of Education have spent more than a year evaluating how well students across the country can evaluate online sources of information.

...

The students displayed a "stunning and dismaying consistency" in their responses, the researchers wrote, getting duped again and again. They weren't looking for high-level analysis of data but just a "reasonable bar" of, for instance, telling fake accounts from real ones, activist groups from neutral sources and ads from articles.
Bingo!

And before we get too excited about thruthiness-based methods, let's remind ourselves that this idiotic approach failed in 80% of the cases! :(

What's lacking here for many of these students is a contextual framework for evaluating input. These students have insufficient data/understanding about the world and are therefore unable to tell whether what they're reading has been made up by Macedonian teenagers or whether it's been vetted and confirmed from multiple sources and is consistent with other data. Their decision making process therefore default to something like "Is the website logo well-designed and official looking?" or "Is the article internally consistent?"

Whereas someone who is more informed about politics and the world situation would be able to look at an article and detect that "something is off/weird" here so I better go dig a bit more. Such a decision making process may be anything from say 10 points deep for the interested layman to more than 1000 points for political experts.

Or take brute's example with jacob/ERE.

What brute listed were a bunch of positive-looking facts and a bunch of negative-looking facts.

An noncontextual/uninformed/noob reader would make their decision based on which of those jacob-facts they liked. How do they relate those facts to their own situation? To which degree are those facts in accordance with their personal feelings, etc. Equally important, does the ERE blog have a good logo? Does the website have a good design? Lets look at jacob's "voice" ... does he sound like he has his shit together (almost all INTJs agree) or does he sound like a condescending jerk (everybody else thinks so).

However, an contextual/expert would dig deeper and compare ERE to the framework they already know. Does it fit with an operating understanding of financial planning? For example, if they input the numbers into savings rate calculations (like ERE book chap 7), they would see that the numbers check out. I know two CFPs whose mind were blown (I paraphrase their enthusiastic sentiments) when they did that. Both told me that they couldn't believe that it had never occurred to them to input savings rates higher than 20% in their all-familiar equations. In other words, do these jacob-facts fit into an existing contextual framework and do they make sense in that framework. This goes ways beyond the gut-feeling approach of the uninformed person.

Another way of seeing the difference in the decision process is form (the former) vs function (the latter).

When I'm talking post-factualism, I really mean that "form" (does it look true based on initial and final impressions?) is gaining in importance over "function" (is it consistent with a validated framework?). Since the average person increasingly lack such a framework, they're increasingly unable to tell the difference between a sciency-looking graph on a blog and an actual scientific argument in Nature.

I think school teachers and students everywhere know the familiar "show your work" exhortation. "Showing your work" demonstrates that your statement is based on a contextual framework and not just made up bullshit. In the classroom or at an examination table, it's easy to catch a bullshit artist, because they can't worm themselves out of it when the spotlight is on and they can't leave until the exam is over. However, on the internet, they can just ignore the request to explain themselves and pop out of the discussion for a day and then reenter a day or a year later repeating the bs again hoping that nobody will catch onto their scam.

As has been noted elsewhere (FBeyer?), if 90% of people were able to detect BS, then BS wouldn't be a problem. Anyone making up graphs or news etc would just be laughed out of the room for acting like a noob. Unfortunately, painstakingly refuting BS takes much more time than making shit up on the fly.

PT Barnum observed that you can fool all of the people some of the time and all of the people some of the time.

I think specialization in expertise can add some nuance to that. For example, you can probably convince a few random people that kinking an electric wire will stop electricity from flowing, but if you try that argument in a room full of electricians, they'd all think you're an idiot. The silly old fallback that "Electric wiring is too complex to understand, so nobody really knows" is not going to fly with them either.

But anything slightly more complex will work with the average person these days. And so here we are ...

What I find funny ... and what's really happening all over ... is that experts in a given field will readily acknowledge this effect in their own specialist field. For example, network security specialists will lament how Trump or boomers don't understand computers and how it's good that at least some experts are in charge ... but then they will flip around and do the "This subject is too complex so nobody really knows" for any other field than their own.

IOW, while specialists can easily see the large range in terms of knowledge when it comes to their own expertise, most seem unable to acknowledge the same dynamics in fields when they aren't experts themselves and seem surprised by how much experts in other fields know after all if they take the time to look into it. Of course few people bother...

It's also getting clear ... see agnotology ... how this comes about. Do a sustained campaign spreading uncertainty about "function" (as per above). For example, this was successfully done with tobacco and climate science and the effort has been well documented. Spread some doubt that experts and hint they not much smarter than you ... maybe use a good logo or some random graphs to increase the noise/signal ratio. Once that's done, it increases the virality of BS. Spreading the idea that the media is biased (it's really not anyone biased than congress, IOW the media falls within the viewpoints presented by congress, not outside it) and it opens the door for Macedonian teenagers to make a quick buck or politicians to lie at will.

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