Failure is the System
Here’s another short edition of the David Siegel random newsletter …
I recently read an excellent article on how scientists unknowingly game the system. It’s because the system is set up poorly:
The Inevitable Evolution of Bad Science
A simulation shows how the incentives of modern academia naturally select for weaker and less reliable results.
You may have trained yourself to skip over links like that, but please read that one.
If you read that, we can explore the world of politics by looking through the lens of Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, who has correctly predicted the rise of Trump for over a year now, and who predicts Trump will win the presidency. His thought process is about the nature of reality and perception (vs polling). Please read his short list of how humans delude themselves and how easy it is to hijack their thought processes:
Adams’s short piece leads to this conversation with Donald Hoffman, whose thesis is that we didn’t evolve to understand the world, we evolved mostly to reproduce:
The common theme here is that we all think we’re at the center of the rational universe precisely because we have evolved to think that, not because it’s true. Here’s Hoffman’s TED Talk, which goes through the argument in 18 minutes.
To go all the way down the rabbit hole is to follow Hoffman’s search for the fundamental building blocks (or particles? or wave equations?) of consciousness:
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I’m not sure I’m with Hoffman all the way here, but he has answers to the easy questions, so I will leave it as an open area of research that I believe is worthy of inquiry. After all, if physicists have learned one thing by looking closely at the world, it’s that weird shit happens, and it’s not the shit that’s weird, it’s our mental frameworks that need to be hammered into submission by evidence before people tend to change their minds.
The Gap Between Perception and Reality
This is difficult material, but it’s what you get after you read Thinking Fast and Slow, by Danny Kahneman, and you begin to see how biased we all are, even me, even you. You could easily drive a Mac truck made of antimatter through the gap between perception and reality. Another book I’m reading is called Rationality, from AI to Zombies, by Eliezer Yudkowsky. This little book will take about a year to read and exposes only a tiny fraction of Yudkowsky’s canon (it explains, for example, why uncertainty should be measured in decibels — be prepared to do the math).
Remember that big hole in the ozone layer? We managed to patch up by getting rid of CFC molecules and changing our hair spray and refrigerators at a cost of billions of dollars. Over about ten years, the ozone hole went away — earth saved. Whew. Crisis averted. What? It’s back again, you say? It probably had nothing to do with CFCs and is just natural variance. Another of the millions of examples of reverse causality in our everyday lives. Science is more broken than most people think. Variance and randomness are more fundamental than we want them to be.
The Uncertainty of Presidential Politics
Will we see the reality of a president Trump? I hope not, but then again I think the fact that Americans are choosing between two almost-senile candidates is a sign that voters are easily manipulated and that the system is designed for failure. No matter what happens, I would call the 2016 presidential elections a complete failure, a total hijacking of reality in favor of political and group identity. I hope what comes next is more productive. After all, we survived eight years of Bush and Cheney, and now those dark days are largely behind us. Since the US economy tends to grow faster under Democrats than Republicans, and since Donald Trump gets his world view from his own mind, I hope Clinton wins, but I’m not happy about it. As a friend of mine said, “If you hold a gun to my head and force me to choose between a Clinton presidency and a Trump presidency, I’d take the bullet.”
Leaders do matter. But people don’t vote on the issues, they vote on identity. It could be that presidential races from here on out will be simply determined by the Nielsen ratings of the reality TV show that is politics. I hope blockchain technology and the new decentralized world we are creating will provide a counterbalance to all these forces.
Let us be clear: no one can tell who will win this election, just as no one could predict the outcome of the Brexit vote. After the election, those who correctly forecast the result will claim they and their fundamental analysis were right all along. This is horse shit. Let any man who knows who will win this election come up now and wager 50 percent of his net worth on the strength of his convictions. How many on the podium do we see now? Anyone?
If you feel like dedicating the next several years of your life to exploring the gap between perception and reality, my book list and my blog are good starting points. I’ve only been awake and learning for about five years now — if you see relevant articles out there, please send them to me.
My name is David Siegel. I do business agility coaching and workshops. I give talks and lead bootcamps on blockchain and decentralization. I believe decentralization is the fundamental shift of this century. Please connect to me on LinkedIn, and please contact me if you’d like to leave your organization to work with me or bring me into your organization to help it thrive in the 21st century, or if you want me to put you on my random mailing list. If you like this, please like and share. Thank you.