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Escape the echo chamber (aeon.co)
83 points by kawera 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments





Look at the many stories of people leaving cults and echo chambers. Take, for example, the story of Derek Black in Florida – raised by a neo-Nazi father, and groomed from childhood to be a neo-Nazi leader. Black left the movement by, basically, performing a social reboot. He completely abandoned everything he’d believed in, and spent years building a new belief system from scratch. He immersed himself broadly and open-mindedly in everything he’d missed – pop culture, Arabic literature, the mainstream media, rap – all with an overall attitude of generosity and trust. It was the project of years and a major act of self-reconstruction

This makes it sound like Black undertook this "reboot" on his own, just by reading and listening. That's not how Black himself tells the story:

In 2010, I moved across the state and started college at this little liberal arts college in Florida, which was about three and a half hours from home

Okay, this was one step he did take on his own: he changed his environment. But eventually he started talking to his fellow students.

And I would say, “This is what I believe about I.Q. differences, I have 12 different studies that have been published over the years, here’s the journal that’s put this stuff together, I believe that this is true, that race predicts I.Q. and that there were I.Q. differences in races.” And they would come back with 150 more recent, more well researched studies and explain to me how statistics works and we would go back and forth until I would come to the end of that argument and I’d say, Yes that makes sense, that does not hold together and I’ll remove that from my ideological toolbox but everything else is still there. And we did that over a year or two on one thing after another until I got to a point where I didn’t believe it anymore.

The whole thing (it's a podcast transcript) is worth reading: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/22/podcasts/the-daily-transc...


> And they would come back with 150 more recent, more well researched studies and explain to me how statistics works

Has anyone actually put this data together in a presentable way? I've only seen things that say the opposite and it would be good to actually have a read of something well-formed that sets the modern progressive case for dealing with this research, beyond simply ignoring it altogether.


Tell them that it is completely impossible to set up rigorous controls in a study of ethnicity and intelligence anyway.

The bigger question is why do some people care so much and why are they so focused on ethnicity among many other data points that could be predictive of intelligence. I typically ask these people if some connection between race and intelligence actually existed, is it your intention to change how society is organized or governed somehow? If it is, then there are historical examples of that going badly, and if not, then why is the answer important?


It matters for the pursuit of truth in the same way people like to accept scientific claims over religious ones. Sure, you can believe something and carry on with life but for many, that's not satisfying.

Practically, you have people trying to reduce race differences in academic and economic success by reducing racism. If it's not caused by racism, those efforts would be ineffective.

Another reason is predicting future economies of countries. Will Nigeria's rapid growth turn it into another South Korea or Japan? Can America really compete with China in high tech markets in the long term?


There is often a discussion about ethnicity (and gender) in relation to athletic events; when you have the position put to you, by observation or another, that despite the general adversity faced by certain ethnicities they dominate the medal tables - you are forced to seriously consider the position that not all ethnicities are equal. This will quickly spawn the question of the relationship between ethnicity and intelligence as it is perceived as an orthogonal measure of superiority.

Of course, as you say, it is incredibly hard to control ethnicity and intelligence - due to them largely being perceptions as opposed to metrics. However I am saying the discussion of intelligence in relation to ethnicity comes to most through perfectly normal observations of concrete metrics.


Well, the brain is so much more complex than a bunch of muscles; whatever impact genes have on it’s higher functions the phase space is so huge that hardly enough humans have ever lived to explore a significant amount of it.

If IQ is closely related to genetics and IQ is important for your society (two bold assumptions) you could argue for some eugenics and advantage high IQ people for reproduction.

But as you say it could go really bad really fast. Especially if some of those high IQ genes are linked to some illness.

For your question about why some people are focused on ethnicity? As usual: people's appearance are easier to discriminate upon so it makes it easy to make different people an out-group. But it's not just some supremacists doing it: the hardcore NA "diversity is good" groups focus on skin color. I'd argue they seem to be worse because it feels like for them all blacks are the same (African American) while the recent history of Africa should tell them how wrong it is.


It does not have to be genetics to show correlation. Sadly research in this area is sparse but we can establish that there will be some correlation;

1) Lack of proper nutrition is linked to lower IQ. This can be fairly easily explained in that the lack of resources will lead to less development in the brain, one of the most resource intensive organs in the body.

2) Certain ethnicity types are disproportionately poor (in the US). Lack of income generally also means that nutritional situation is less ideal.

From 1 and 2 you can easily conclude there is very likely some correlation.

Does that mean we should immediately deploy eugenics? Most likely not. As you mention, high IQ "genes" could be linked to something bad. IIRC they are linked to mental conditions like depression. (Which might lead to an interesting question: if we fix poverty, will people become more miserable on average because the average IQ goes up? It seems likely total misery will go down though)

I also agree with your later statements, a lot of people tend to put all people with black skin into a single pot but there are some many fascinating different cultures and a fascinating history once you go beyond colonialism.

I think a lot of people tend to forget that diversity isn't only skin color. Diversity goes deeper than skin and body.


>argue for some eugenics and advantage high IQ people for reproduction

See .. I find this line of thinking heinous. Why do you not instantly trip up when you type this?


You should have a reason for that. Just feeling terrible might mean you're inside an echo chamber.

Most people support eugenics in the form of outlawing incest because it can lead to faulty offspring. We also think treating neurodegenerative diseases is a good thing. Most parents also hope their kids will be smart. Or at least they don't hope for the opposite. Women don't like to have kids past 40 partly because of higher risk of Down's syndrome. And there's a test for that which can help them decide to abort the baby. All these things are us trying to make future humans smarter, mostly by eugenic techniques.

Maybe you're thinking of actually killing people? That's not quite the same as selective breeding.


Those are all perfectly appealing reasons to step one iota closer to the reality described, which is that we should promote the DNA-privileged forward on the sexual reproduction stack.

Which is something, I think, a little different to all the nice, shiny new things we're getting from CRISPR, et al., sure. Its the dangerous, vile things I care about: opening the door for selective breeding and clones, racial purism, etc.

The technology is one thing; the ethics another tube entirely. Somethings things go boom, othertimes BOOM.

lopmotr 12 days ago [flagged]

What's wrong with racial purism? We do it with dog breeding. What are the ethical problems?

Race-war flamebait is off-topic here and we ban accounts that post like this. Please keep it elsewhere from now on.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Purebred dogs suffer a host of genetic diseases resulting in considerable suffering.

[flagged]


>Racial Purity

>Impose Interbreeding

Sorry, too extreme for me. I do not subscribe to your reasoning that any form of racism is acceptable - "because scientific purity".

If you can't see what it is with 'racial cleanliness', I suggest you go have a look at the places its been happening for, say .. the last 300 years. You'll see plenty of reasons why there should not be any kind of racial policies, enabled by science, that allow "cleansing of so-called undesirables".

I mean this sincerely, humans cannot be trusted with their own race.

lopmotr 10 days ago [flagged]

You mean racial mixing should be chosen by cultural preferences/technology/wealth, which what's always been happening, rather than scientific reasons aimed at improving anything? I can't see how arbitrary human culture is any better than more purposeful breeding. Culture selects for racial purity in some cases, and for mixing in others, but it often depends on political history - Koreans don't want to mix with Japanese because politics, not because they're too far away from each other. Is politics really a better decider than science?

Use race for eugenics though is a very coarse metric and I wouldn't advocate for it unless we somehow lacked any better measures. I think a better program would measure performance in whatever criteria people think are desirable and go for those regardless of race. It might turn out that the tallest people are black, and you end up with a lot of black genes if you like tallness. So it might look racist, and it might shrink the populations of some races relative to others. But again, that's what already happens through arbitrary reasons anyway. We're already breeding more blacks and less whites simply because blacks are generally poorer than whites and poor people tend to have more children. I don't see how you can be happy with that (selecting for poverty!) but not with people putting the quality of their children ahead of their own personal desire to spread their genes.


Would you please stop using HN for generic ideological arguments? They lead to nothing new, only generic ideological flamewars, the thing we need least here.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


It's not ideological. I'm trying to understand some apparent contradictions in popular beliefs.

It is. But if you close your mind enough you can't even think about those kind of argument and follow the kind of thinking some people do, how can you mount a valid argument against it?

It's heinous! Eugenics bad! Are not good arguments. You have to try and follow thoughts along ways you (and most people you know) don't or you end-up creating your own echo chamber. Try playing devil's advocate sometimes you may learn a lot about how you think and why.


At this point, I get the impression that for most (by numbers) of those who believe in a race-$trait correlation, the important thing is not to persuade those who are indifferent but to prove those who strongly assert that there is no such correlation wrong. More often than not, for each desirable trait there is cold hard real-world data that suggests strong correlations between race and particular desirable outcomes that appear related to the trait in question. (Say, in the case of IQ, lifetime income, job prestige etc.) If you believe that this difference in outcomes can be traced to a genetic difference in causative traits, to a first approximation the data does not suggest doing anything (with future technology, maybe, it would suggest a large-scale programme of gene therapy). If you believe that there are no such genetic differences, on the other hand, the data implies that there is a great and particularly morally repugnant defect to society, and justifies extraordinary, often outright punitive (e.g. racial quotas) corrective measures.

Currently, as far as policymaking in western societies is concerned, the faction that follows the "no genetic differences => (data => extreme measures are warranted)" reasoning is clearly in charge, if you consider e.g. the recent altercations about racial quotas in school discipline (article for: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/18/us/politics/school-discip... / against: https://www.city-journal.org/html/no-thug-left-behind-14951....). If you read the "against" article, that should make it pretty clear why those who believe in the existence of group differences consider the answer important, if "it's important to not do an unwarranted extreme thing" is not already implied by the term "extreme". In the light of this, it does not seem fair to imply that the only significant societal changes a belief in genetic group differences would imply are ones that are so terrible that anyone would be embarrassed to admit advocating them to you or even themselves.


Why care? That seems pretty obvious: because ethnicity is already used to justify policies of affirmative action, used as a measure of prosperity and equality. The common reasoning is that until the conditional probabilities by demographic are flat, there must be systemic oppression which must be rectified by applying concerted pressure in the other direction. This is an a priori assumption that there are no relevant confounding factors that could acceptably create this outcome, and this assumption ought to be unwarranted for anyone who is interested in the truth. It is only appropriate that you examine whether the policies stand a chance of actually reaching the yardstick they are aiming for, or whether that's treating symptoms that really aren't symptoms at all.

Furthermore, there are some indicators that this is indeed going badly. For instance, by lowering the admissions criteria for an ethnicity, it creates a (correct!) stereotype that those students are on average less skilled, both among others and also among themselves. In an attempt to address an ill-defined form of supposedly systemic oppression, this policy creates a very concrete and actually systemic mechanism to cause the very thing it claims to oppose, and which has knock-on effects.

You see the exact same thing in STEM: anything but a 50/50 representation of gender is an indicator of discrimination. The 'cure' is to roll out the red carpet with biased programs, so that you actually get lower qualified and less interested people working side by side with others who receive no special provisions and worked hard to get there. It's associated with a moral panic that very noticeably makes the relations between the genders worse.

The question of 'why are you so interested in race?' reads to me as a form of denial and projection. The policies already treat groups as monolithic entities. White students, or men in tech, are treated as if they are somehow collectively conspiring to benefit each other at the expense of other groups, even though the individuals compete against each other. Anyone who disagrees, even a member of the 'oppressed group', is dismissed out of hand as having internalized their oppression or denying their privilege. This is ironically exactly the kind of bourgeois talking-down we're all supposed to be fixing, and betrays a moral and value judgement that is the exact opposite of "don't treat people differently by race and gender" and "different ability doesn't means you're less of a person".

"Why is the answer important?" is the wrong question. It's "why are you turning a mundane question about group averages into a moral judgement on individuals, and blaming others for it?" This is a real problem that is happening today, and it's dismissed out of hand in favor of LARPing against the ghosts of christmas past, because facing the present makes the activists uncomfortable whose policies we've already been following for decades.


> You see the exact same thing in STEM: anything but a 50/50 representation of gender is an indicator of discrimination. The 'cure' is to roll out the red carpet with biased programs, so that you actually get lower qualified and less interested people working side by side with others who receive no special provisions and worked hard to get there. It's associated with a moral panic that very noticeably makes the relations between the genders worse.

Just staying with races: the fact Ivy league schools discriminate against people of Asian origins by having quotas against them for decades is fucked-up.


Absolutely. Even worse though, is the fact that ivy league colleges aren't growing much bigger. If they're so good at educating people, and have so much donation money, why not expand? I think they intentionally limit their size to maintain their elite status, which shows they're more of a zero-sum selection filter than simply good at educating.

> Even worse though, is the fact that ivy league colleges aren't growing much bigger. If they're so good at educating people, and have so much donation money, why not expand?

Maybe what makes them good isn't scale independent.

Functional features of human organizations generally aren't, after all.


How is MIT's Open Courseware and the many programs like it not exactly such an expansion in line with the mission to educate?

The idea that success == expansion is a capitalist (or even more narrowly, Wall Street) ideal and Universities should not be run like businesses.


That's certainly good but you can't get an MIT degree with Open Courseware, so it's not providing the same value that being a proper student does. I don't see how having more of the best is a capitalist thing and not generally good no matter how you look at economics. It's not about MIT gaining market share, but about them giving better education to more people so the overall good to the students is higher.

Perhaps there's a practical reason - maybe they can't find enough professors of the quality they want to teach any more students, but last I heard, professors weren't in short supply, especially not when you have $15 billion like MIT does.


People are becoming more and more educated over the world, not just because of population increase, but also because the world in general is becoming more prosperous. [1] It therefore makes sense for universities (like all other levels of education) to expand to meet the increased demand. More education can be argued for from a capitalist perspective, a communist perspective, a humanist perspective, etc.

[1] e.g. https://ourworldindata.org/tertiary-education


>success == expansion is a capitalist

Well, is it capitalist really, or is it something that capitalists are guilty of propagating as a means of control?

I mean, it could be said that 'success == expansion' is more of a natural law, which can be applied to any 'ism and used, either to contract agency, or .. grow it.


Yes, exactly. All selection policies (hiring, admissions, contracting, etc.) that say that choosing the best needs to result in proportional representation or it is cheating (not really choosing the best but choosing the "privileged") are based on the ridiculous assumption that all groups have the same mean "goodness" despite variation in "goodness" among individuals.

Many of these policies become laws with significant punishment specified for violators.

In fact, if there is individual variation, and the groups are clustered based on something more significant than random partition, such as genetic similarity, the groups themselves are frequently going to exhibit differing statistical tendencies in any heritable characteristic because of that genetic similarity.

Whether these statistical tendencies differ or not is an empirical question, not a question of political preferences.

For law, and coercive power of punishment, to be based on reality rather than political favoritism, the question of whether the group differences are real or not matters. If the group differences are real, punishing people for making choices (again, hiring, admissions, etc.) based on reality instead of on political theory is the real injustice.

So the actual, measured average IQ differences between groups matters if you are going to use any assumption about it as a basis for policy decisions.


> The bigger question is why do some people care so much and why are they so focused on ethnicity among many other data points that could be predictive of intelligence.

This is well said. I don't hear any impassioned calls for making everybody's lead exposure test results public so employers can avoid hiring stupid people.


It's an empirical matter, but my hunch is that most of the people who focus on correlations between intelligence and ethnic groups or phenotypical perceived "race" are racists. Many people aren't aware that you can be a racist without knowing it. (In a broader sense we're all racists, as practically everybody overgeneralizes based on stereotypes.)

It's important to stress that the differences between members of the perceived groups ("ethnicities", "country of origin", "mother tongue", "a certain look") are much larger within that group than any measurable differences between averages of those groups. That is not to say that some research in these areas cannot make sense for e.g. policy making. For example, people who have suffered severe malnutrition in their childhood can have lower IQ on average, and the same is the case for many other environmental and social factors, of course.

The reason why people like to focus on intelligence is that unlike other human characteristics like strength, intelligence is almost universally used as a kind of honorific. If you tell someone that he or she is intelligent, this will make them proud. If you tell someone he or she is not very intelligent, this will be taken as a grave insult. Additionally, everybody overestimates his own intelligence.

All of this is kind of ironic, because intelligence is highly overrated. Intelligence doesn't count much, it's what you make of it. Moreover, whether you like it or not, society does not have a need for more highly intelligent people. There are not enough jobs for them.

Last but not least, people who think of themselves as being very intelligent usually haven't tried to solve hard enough problems.


There is a lot I am tempted to call out in this post, but just for a particularly glaring example,

> It's important to stress that the differences between members of the perceived groups ("ethnicities", "country of origin", "mother tongue", "a certain look") are much larger within that group than any measurable differences between averages of those groups.

Surely the differences in income, the binary variable of being-in-STEM, recruiter favourability shown towards CVs etc. between members of the perceived groups ("skin colour", "gender", "mother tongue", ...) are much larger within that group than any measurable differences between averages of those groups too. Does that mean you are arguing that the gender pay gap, representation in STEM fields and unfair hiring practices are all irrelevant?

(For what it's worth, there's only a few examples where differences between groups actually dwarf differences within groups, all of which seem very famous, e.g. grip strength vs. gender.)


No, I didn't, as I made very clear in the post. (keyword: "policy making")

I also hope that you don't believe that intelligence and salary are in any way on a par. Intelligence is at least partly genetically inherited (notwithstanding other factors). Salary is not.

To make your analogy correct, consider someone who claims that women are less intelligent than men. That person is most likely a sexist, even though I do not deny that from time to time there may be people who actually believe to have data to back up the claim. Even if there is data, the comparison makes almost no sense except for certain cases of policy making, since the variation of intelligence amongst the group of women and man is so much higher than the difference between the averages of the groups.


> Intelligence is at least partly genetically inherited (notwithstanding other factors). Salary is not.

Studies show that salary is, in fact, quite heritable.

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/about/news-room/press-releases/2...


You seem to be defining racism as being interested in differences between races. I don't think that's a common definition.

Personally, I'm interested in it because there are so many people interested in blaming one race for the problems of another or in assuming that a large group of people of one race will behave the same as another in the same situation. People wonder why African countries are so poor and look everywhere for possible reasons except at the people themselves. People think the Chinese "should have" a religion because they're quite rude and inconsiderate but don't consider that they might be so genetically different that they don't need or can't sustain the fantasy of a religion the way white people can. I just made up that last one, but I'm certainly open to its possibility.


The point is that there are no races in the sense people talk about them colloquially. Phenotypical 'race' doesn't match genetic makeup well enough to serve as a reliable indicator of anything.

Nationalities like Chinese have even less to do with genetic makeup, and Africa is a whole continent, so talking about African countries as a whole is pretty much nonsense unless you're referring to their geographical location on the same continent.


There really are lots of strong correlations between race and measurable qualities. That alone means it's a real concept - it has predictive power. Simple examples are hair color and eye coolor.

The Atlantic has a pretty good piece about it: https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/www.theatlantic.com/amp/arti...

It addresses one specific study, but the arguments are the same.


I've looked into it a little before and couldn't find anything except research supporting a race-IQ correlation. I've heard rumors of cultural bias in tests but didn't find actual research. There does seem to be an economy factor though because countries with racially similar people tend to have different IQs in relation to their economic performance. I think this is the biggest and most widespread misunderstanding the moderate left (ie not communists) has about the world.

My theory is that people are afraid the general public doesn't have the education or self-discipline necessary to know this information (even if it's wrong!) without turning into violent racists. Black slavery used to be justified by "they're inferior so it's OK to treat them badly", and the left countered the first part of that but not the second. It's entirely possible that they are, on average, inferior intellectually but that doesn't justify abusing them. How can you let that genie out of the bottle though without people making blanket judgments of entire races?

Just in case anyone thinks I'm a white supremacist, it's not whites at the top, it's Asians and Ashkenazi Jews.


Much of published research in all fields is wrong and you shouldn’t trust science to tell you what you should know in your heart and from your own experience. And definitely don’t listen to people like Sam Harris!

I think in terms of the context of the article, it is true though:

> the member should temporarily suspend all her beliefs – in particular whom and what she trusts – and start over again from scratch

That most important one -whom and what to trust- was "rebooted", which allowed Black to be open to those 150 more recent, more well-researched studies, rather than dismissing them as the echo chamber would tell him to do.

(I'm mentioning this because I noticed by myself that I almost dismissed the article due to first encountering this comment, and ended up enjoying it - which is an interesting observation in the context of this article by itself.)


Do we really need 150 pro and opposing studies to understand?

For instance if a society import a minority white population, enslave and oppress them for hundreds of years and then conduct IQ tests to declare they are somehow deficient. How would the rest of the world look at that? Would they simply look at the IQ test results, or have deeper questions?

First people are enslaved and segregated for hundreds of years and just when the courts start enforcing hard fought equality laws in society, economic discrimination takes over via 'free markets' that as an 'outcome' limits access to housing, education, employment, financial services to people who have not had an opportunity to build wealth over generations like the rest. And then resurrect quasi eugenics and go out of the way to try to prove with IQ tests they are somehow deficient.

There is something extremely malicious and insidious about this obsession which fails to recognize others as fully functioning human beings and simply ignores the entirety of history, actions and consequences. And the only reason this can continue uninterrupted for hundreds of years is because in any other context the World would have intervened to stop this kind of sustained assault.

We do not understand fully how the brain works or the dimensions of human intelligence yet many are so confident to build truths and definitive conclusions on top of it.

Even if we for arguments sake accept IQ as some sort of indicator it is dishonest to diminish the impact of environment in the same indicator. As if a seed will thrive whatever the environment. This seems to be a transparently ideological position.

The idea that a rich or middle class upbringing with access to excellent education and resources will somehow produce the same outcomes as a poor family that cannot provide a stable home, proper nutrition, nurturing environment, educational resources and good schools is not logical and cannot be made in good faith.

Yet people with seemingly high IQs continuously make this claim. Suggesting perhaps that IQ is not everything. And maybe we should include tests for prejudice and bigotry in IQ tests that seem to reduce intelligence and promote a irrational mindset.


Slavery causes IQ differences? That's a popular but incredibly unsupported claim. White people really have been enslaved and oppressed and bounced back pretty fast. See Jews for instance, or Irish in America, or Slavs, who gave us the word "slave".

In fact, I challenge you to produce any evidence at all for the slavery->IQ hypothesis. It's so ridiculous that young black people have reduced ability to work because their ancestors 5-10 generations ago were forced to work. It's even more ridiculous that the Chinese who were just as oppressed in even more recent past are doing perfectly well now. Maybe oppression only lasts multiple generations when the victims blame another race for it? In that case, we should be working to stop black people from blaming white people. We should be stamping out the idea of "white guilt" because that would be making the problem worse!


To try and escape both pitfalls I attempt to follow Altucher's advice to have less opinions.

https://jamesaltucher.com/2012/12/ten-reasons-i-dont-have-op...


Which is a nice thought, but he’s outsourcing his opinions to someone else and betting on them to make the right call. Most people who did that in Syria are now dead or fleeing.

If you’re wealthy this is no problem of course. The wealthier you are, the less opinions you should share or fight for. You can afford this because you can always put your fortune (and yourself) into an available free society with property rights.

If you’re poor however, it only works as long as reason and democracty triumphs in your society. Because nobody will want you if you ever have to flee.


Rich-shaming for that post was already weird, but pulling the Syrian war is downright bizarre.

Are you saying the Syrians caused the war, and did that by not having enough opinions?


I know I'm not supposed to just say "+1" here, but that was and awesome read. Perfect timing for me, especially J.

I'm probably not supposed to say "Me too" either, but it is good timing for me too.

His proper title is "Crypto Genius James Altucher"

Maybe the best article I’ve read on the topic. Too often people use terms like filter bubble or echo chamber and mean different things. Generally, the lack of access to contrarian viewpoints. But that’s rarely the actual problem. If the author is correct, it’s the lack of trust.

This is especially great: “Here’s a basic check: does a community’s belief system actively undermine the trustworthiness of any outsiders who don’t subscribe to its central dogmas? Then it’s probably an echo chamber.”


I work in the arena of echo chambers [1] and wrote a piece on the different usage of the terms "filter bubble" and "echo chamber" [2]. Interesting that the author chose "echo chamber", even though "filter bubble" tends to be used more often in academic settings.

1: http://www.readacrosstheaisle.com

2: https://medium.com/@nicklum/the-surprising-difference-betwee...


> A social network composed entirely of incredibly smart, obsessive opera fans would deliver all the information I could want about the opera scene, but it would fail to clue me in to the fact that, say, my country had been infested by a rising tide of neo-Nazis.

Except it would. I know no-one that talks about opera (or anything) all of the time, and it's hard to think that a rising tide of neo-Nazis would escape the notice of a group of reasonably educated, establishment liberals.

Much of filter bubble theory as it applies to social media seems to treat humans as unthinking demographic blobs defined entirely by their status and political beliefs, and the bubble as something impenetrable, through which new information about the world cannot pass.

Sure, within groups there is groupthink, and I get the appeal of techno-dystopianism, but I can't accept the idea that this is in any way a new phenomenon, or that we are not more connected to new ideas now than we have ever been.


> it's hard to think that a rising tide of neo-Nazis would escape the notice of a group of reasonably educated, establishment liberals

It's more likely that a bubble of "reasonably educated, establishment liberals" would not understand the grievances of another group of people, and perceive them through the lens of "a rising tide of neo-Nazis", othering them and directly creating conflict, rather than understanding them.

This is how the filter bubble actually works. It's not that the information doesn't come through; it's that it comes through a glass darkly, at high risk of alienation from people holding out-group views.

If, for example, you think that people who don't like change in the social composition of their community are morally wrong for feeling uncomfortable, you're going to push for cultural movements that demonize them. And that makes the problem worse; it amplifies conflict and widens the cracks in society.

There are multiple self-coherent but mutually incoherent views on how society should be structured. As I get older, I find myself feeling less strongly about one view versus another. I am most suspicious of those who believe they have found the one true view; their zeal for change isn't tempered by doubt. No matter which coherent perspective you have, you won't succeed in moving people with other perspectives if you don't acknowledge that their perspectives are also coherent. Your best bet for achieving change is reframing that change within the perspective of those you're trying to convince. Saying that the people you're trying to convince are evil because their view is wrong won't end well.


While it's perhaps also true that it's easier now than ever to just remain in a bubble of like-minded people, I sometimes wonder if that maybe misses the point.

Perhaps the problem is not so much lack of access or exposure to new information, but rather that it's information, or 'self marketing' social interaction instead of real, sustained, connection/relation.

Kind of a 'medium is the message' type deal: technology enables/encourages us to relate in ways that involve promotion, lack of day-to-day interaction, increased compartmentalization of our social lives, etc.

For example, one argument against the 'bubble' theory is that a hugely popular site like reddit makes it easier than ever to be exposed to wildly different viewpoints. Not just through the 'all' section, but also by subscribing to various subreddits with a simple click.

But the fact that none of these pieces of text represent people that I know, that I grew up with, that are part of my daily life, that I talk to about my person non-partisan troubles, that I experienced things with, or touched/saw/heard, they're rather abstract.

In fact, they're so abstract that it's even difficult to 'link' their particular messages to each other and form a picture of a person who is more than the contents of that one message + the subreddit we're in.

I definitely feel that both online, and in 'real life', it's not so much the lack of information that is a problem, but rather the lack of real, ongoing relationships with others.

I've seen so many examples of people changing their minds on things simply because of their partner, or close friends, etc. I've seen far right individuals change their views after they sort of accidentally became friends with an immigrant. I've seen extremely conservative Christians change their views on, say, homosexuality because they had a wonderful colleague who was gay. And so on. I've seen much fewer examples of people who 'engaged' with information (books, articles, study, whatever) and made similar changes in their views.

Furthermore, I think we actively hide the effect of relationships on our views, because we want to think that our convictions are reasonable, and well-considered. So if our beliefs change through relationship (and of course information too), we are likely to de-emphasize that. Because it's not exactly 'rational'.

The documentary "Accidental Courtesy" highlights this well, I think. Some of Louis Theroux's stuff also shows this dynamic.


>> A social network composed entirely of incredibly smart, obsessive opera fans would deliver all the information I could want about the opera scene, but it would fail to clue me in to the fact that, say, my country had been infested by a rising tide of neo-Nazis.

> Except it would.

I dunno. There are a lot of people on this site who think we shouldn't talk about politics, at all, ever.

I guess the fact that we do talk about it is a point in your favor. But it isn't at all inconceivable that there might exist a HN-like site where only strictly "on-topic" conversations are allowed.


I believe that there are even cases of echo chambers for systems software out there. For example, the database community is pretty tight with a center of gravity around Stonebraker (Postgres, Vertica for columnar stores, voltdb for NewSQL dbs). Well, there's a DB out there for OLTP workloads called NDB (MySQL Cluster) and not only is it the fastest in the world (200m transactions/sec on commodity hardware), but it is also GPL-v2 licensed. But, it's completely unknown in the valley. And when evidence is presented about it it, the evidence is ignored and conflated "in echo chambers, other voices are actively undermined"

Reference: http://mikaelronstrom.blogspot.se/2015/03/200m-reads-per-sec...


> Notice that the logic of the echo chamber depends on the order in which we encounter the evidence.

That proves it is in fact bad logic; the victims of the echo chamber are not rational to the point of behaving in a logically sound way.

In actual logic, the order among a set of prepositions makes no difference and they can be evaluated in parallel also to the extent that they are independent; there are no side-effects.

If two propositions A and B contradict each other, that one of them you heard first isn't necessarily the true one.

If everyone is working in good faith (mistakes are acknowledged and fixed) then rather chronologically later propositions should be more trustworthy. People who are not willing to replace old propositions with new ones that contradict them are making themselves impervious to the good-faith improvement in understanding.


>we get much of our news from Facebook feeds and similar sorts of social media.

I disagree with the premise already. Anyone got data? How many people actually get their news from FB?

And no hn, reddit and other content aggregators are not just as bad. Following topics != following people.


Not sure why, but that font Academica Book Pro vibrates on my screen and is difficult to read. Maybe it's too thin? It is a serif font and looks optimized for print. Firefox and Chrome on Mac.

  Maybe political allegiance has replaced 
  basic reasoning skills.
Not for one second, do I buy into that idea. Not for one second, do I imagine, that because of one election result, that suddenly people have somehow been transformed into anything vastly different throughout the world.

We have phases, where aggregate priciples of interaction change, not unlike shifts in musical taste. Cycles of class and intellectualism, and cycles of low-brow simplicity. Each pole has its own facets and degrees of appeal and attraction. The cycles are an expression of the prevailing winds for the dominant age group.

For the most part, a lot of people clearly thought their vote didn't matter, didn't really care who got elected, developed an opinion that the presidency doesn't matter, and cast the vote that seemed to be biggest joke.

Two other, much smaller, groups of people exist: those that genuinely believe a tiny, weak, incompetant and ineffectual government is a good thing (because substitute teachers aren't as demanding), and those that genuinely want to help, improve the world, and make a difference in benefitting the lives of as many people as possible, starting with those that have the least going for them.

The goof offs, though, voted the most and won. That's it. That's the only thing that happened, and it's not a disaster yet. Let's see if we can keep it that way, and stay on track.

There's some violence and sabotage in the picture too, and all of it stems from an unnecessary war in Iraq that should have never happened. Some of the very real political destabilization on the fringes is essentially blowback and revenge for that debacle. Take a step back, and note the coincidence in timing for each. I'm not sure this stuff will difuse itself. It may simmer on in the background for some time, and might not have any solution, as retaliation tends to fuel a continuity of grudges.


Your page has loads of problems! Like: Who are you? Why would I trust you? What's your business model? What's your privacy policy? Code of Ethics? Security? How does it work?

I would not install the app, nor fill in your website forms before anything like that is clear!

Maybe you should interact with The Center for Humane Technology (humanetech.com), because the subject matter is really interesting, and the problem and ways to avoid it need more attention.


I am getting downvoted, but this is honest feedback. Points for improvement.

Are you sure you've posted on the right thread? You've probably been downvoted because those questions are either easily answerable or simply don't make sense (what app?).

Wow, thanks for pointing that out. This is my mistake! I was commenting on gnicholas above, and this link:

http://www.readacrosstheaisle.com/

My bad, everyone :(




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