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Intellectual Denial of Service Attacks (techiavellian.com)
197 points by beepp 21 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments



I think the worst kind of intellectual DOS attacks are those with high compression rate. Those that sound vaguely plausible at first ("Just do away with ALL the taxes, people will sort it out and enterprise will skyrocket") but require many more words to refute. When the politician in question is also a fast talker, and has a master's degree in Philosophy, he can appear to be smarter because no one can keep up with him and it's by definition impossible to refute all compressed arguments in the same amount of time. A Polish politician I have in mind goes by initials JKM.

My point: an intelligent, educated person can cross over to the dark side and it makes it all the way worse. Some people praise Dan Brown for his intelligence. So what, he doesn't write books for intelligent people.

In the past, centralized media kinda kept those guys in check because it had higher respect for formal education. The "compressed argument" still worked very well for populists in space-constrained media like TV debates (time) and print (word limit). Now, the Pandora's box is open.

To succeed in social media, you don't need to construct good arguments. Some charisma and a way with words will go a looong way. Ordinary people no longer seem to respect education, logic and wisdom. This is a problem because no one can be an expert at everything. In the end, we trust some people. What if a lot of people put trust not into expertise and experience, but into charismatic, cheeky figures? What if they prefer appeals to nationality, bloodline (son of a heroic activist)?

Is there a strategy that works against populism and isn't intellectually dishonest?


Some of the misunderstandings I see in this comment -

1. Winning a debate has something to do with political success.

Not true. Connecting with people does. There are many ways (good and bad) to connect with people that have nothing to do with pandering to them. To get understand that deeper take a social psychology 101 course.

2. Centralized media produces better politicians/political debate. No it does not. Chomsky's classic "Manufacturing Constent" will give you a good model to think about the media. Or here's a modern iteration by Matt Taibbi - https://taibbi.substack.com/p/introduction-the-fairway They will also show that winning a debate is not the point of the story.

3. Modern Populism created via social media/news media programmed to chase likes+views, and politicians pandering to their fan clubs is unbeatable and can't be intellectually honest.

This is half true in the sense there is a modern dimension. Namely the Internet. Thanks to which Information(good and bad) is flowing at unprecedented and uncontrollable rates through the population. Everyone assumed this would be good thing but the last 10-15 years have shown the negative consequences. The good news is there are many lessons in how society handled such events in the past. History is full of these transition moments. They also show how populism was beaten or broke down. Decent coverage of the subject here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSacH_1BtVA


Honestly, its hard to see this comment as actually addressing anything the OP your replied to said.


The Gish Gallop is one named rhetorical tactic of this kind, which describes a subset of edgar you describe:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gish_gallop


The best mental DOS attacks all center around the exact same thing: fear. Press the fear button and even generally well educated and intelligent people will start to act like complete morons.


This doesn't really explain anything, does it? Fear is such a universal emotion that it can be present in any are of life, and more importantly not going anywhere any time soon. It can also be easily adjusted to any topic, because every topic can be viewed from the two perspectives - if something is good, we can strive towards it or be fearful of it's lack, and vice versa. The more important the topic, the more chances of being fearful about it.


Fear of the other has been one of the most powerful agents in terms of getting people to do things that they really should not (genocide, for one example).

There is no flip side to that where fear of something else would counteract that. Many of those things that are influenced by a powerful emotion such as fear are like that, they only work one way or at best are very asymmetrical when you try to imagine the opposite.

So it definitely explains something. Just look to history for some pretty good examples of the end results.


> There is no flip side to that where fear of something else would counteract that.

This is so obviously untrue that I find it difficult to believe it would take you long to come up with counterexamples yourself if you tried.


I'm not seeing any counterexamples in your comment either.


Are you saying you tried to come up with a counterexample but couldn't or are you saying that I shouldn't make this claim without one?


You refuted his point but without anything supporting your claim.

What is your counterexample?


People rightly fear being labelled as X-phobic for various values of X because it can easily ruin their careers or lives.

This fear likely constitutes a more effective mechanism for turning large numbers of people away from genocidal hatred of various forms of "otherness" than rewarding positive behavior or making a reasoned case because it scales better. So the claim that fear of otherness can't be counteracted by other fears seems implausible to me.


> Fear of the other has been one of the most powerful agents in terms of getting people to do things that they really should not (genocide, for one example).

This is true, but it is also true, increasingly so, that [accusations of "fear of the other" as being the underlying motive behind those who simply have genuine concerns] is being used as an incredibly effective rhetorical technique to shape people's thinking.


Why should people respect formal education?

Even in many "scientific" fields, standards are so low that most published research is wrong. The non-scientific parts of academia are dominated by in-group politics and shallow status seeking. And in much of academia, evidence is less important than ideology: research and researchers are banned not because they are wrong, but because their ideas are unacceptable.

If academia wants respect, it should work on improving itself instead of trying to find a "strategy that works against populism".

Edit: Citations

> Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/jo...

> Scientists Replicated 100 Psychology Studies, and Fewer Than Half Got the Same Results

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/scientists-rep...

> 1,500 scientists lift the lid on reproducibility

https://www.nature.com/news/1-500-scientists-lift-the-lid-on...

> Four studies found that the proportion of professors in the humanities who are Republicans ranges between 6 and 11 percent, and in the social sciences between 7 and 9 percent.

> Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are Republicans (although a large share are independents).

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/opinion/sunday/a-confessi...

> In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists said that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues. The more liberal respondents were, the more they said they would discriminate.

http://yoelinbar.net/papers/political_diversity.pdf

> When Inbar and Lammers contacted [social psychologists] ... they found that ... the climate in social psychology was harsh for conservative thinkers. ... Participants were asked about the environment in the field: How hostile did they think it was? Did they feel free to express their political ideas? As the degree of conservatism rose, so, too, did the hostility that people experienced. Conservatives really were significantly more afraid to speak out.

> Over all, close to nineteen per cent [of social psychologists surveyed] reported that they would have a bias against a conservative-leaning paper...and thirty-seven and a half per cent, against choosing a conservative as a future colleague.

https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/social-psy...


"Why Most Published Research Findings Are False", and those other similar papers, is based on using scientific methodologies and standards of correctness to evaluate published peer-reviewed research.

If you use those same standards and methods, you will surely find that _even more_ "non-expert" arguments on the internet that are not scientific-research-based at all are false.

If you accept the scientific approach to knowledge, then that same approach can be used to critique science as actually practiced, which is what's going on there. But if you accept that approach that is hardly an argument for the alternative of paying no attention to scientific expertise or practices and just opening it up to amateurs with Ideas. And if you don't accept the scientific approach, you ought not to be citing articles using that approach to critique scientific practice.

Science as actually practiced isn't perfect, and deserves critique, and improvement. But the alternative is way worse, and "seems right to me" and "arguing on the internet" aren't science either, or more likely to produce more accurate knowledge. Neither is "I've been tinkering in my garage and even though all the actual scientists think I'm a quack, I swear they're wrong and I'm right."

That science as actually practiced has a lot of problems is not itself a valid argument for some other form of practice, such as "scientific-seeming claims by people who are not recognized as experts by science but have managed to convince a bunch of other non-scientists on the internet of their weird theories." That's not gonna do better at finding accurate reproducible objective knowledge.


Sure, our academic institutions have issues. We can argue about the exact severity, but that isn't terribly interesting. We can make efforts to improve this. We can try to learn more about where we go wrong.

I don't think it's useful or wise to just throw our hands in the air and claim we should no longer give these institutions any respect or credence. Humanity has made real, amazing gains in knowledge, understanding, and culture, and these imperfect institutions have played an important role. It is easy to forget that sometimes.


> I don't think it's useful or wise to just throw our hands in the air and claim we should no longer give these institutions any respect or credence. Humanity has made real, amazing gains in knowledge, understanding, and culture, and these imperfect institutions have played an important role. It is easy to forget that sometimes.

This is a deep fallacy, and why the "halo effect" works.

The institutions which made those gains no longer exist, and over the last decade or two have had their name stolen by shallow ideologues. Their downfall was much longer, but it's clear that in many cases, adherence to "politically correct" dogma has replaced genuine inquiry and the standards to which these institutions used to adhere.

Some of which, while we're on the topic of Russian political interference (as a society), was originally sponsored disruption by the USSR now spawning child political movements in the US.


I'm not advocating blind trust or the ignorance of any problems. In my first paragraph I made that quite clear by saying we should continually work to find where we can do better. For example, it is clear that new problems are arising as our scientific efforts scale up and become larger and more formalized.

> The institutions which made those gains no longer exist, and over the last decade or two have had their name stolen by shallow ideologues.

This is a dramatic claim -- literally all of academia is utterly ruined?

It seems to me that things are not so apocalyptic. Do you have anything to back this up?


> The institutions which made those gains no longer exist, and over the last decade or two have had their name stolen by shallow ideologues. Their downfall was much longer, but it's clear that in many cases, adherence to "politically correct" dogma has replaced genuine inquiry and the standards to which these institutions used to adhere.

This is wildly overstated. Things were never “good” and the institutions of which you speak were never pure. Most of the world think Joseph McCarthy was a madman sniffing at ghosts when he was right, the US government was riddled with Soviet spies from top to bottom.

The US and the West more generally are still well ahead of any conceivable competition in scientific and technical fields. China is doing well and will improve even more but they’ve passed peak Chinese workforce and demographic momentum means that absent artificial wombs there will be fewer Chinese in 2060 than there are now.


It would also be unwise to blindly trust these institutions, or to grant them respect or credence as a whole without considering the problems and biases of specific fields.

And it should be remembered that the amazing gains in knowledge humanity has made have often been opposed by academia, as Max Planck observed: science advances one funeral at at time.


If you trust it blindly, it’s not science, it’s a cult of title and rank.

Unfortunately, trusting it blindly is also necessary when you’re not active in the field. Even worse, nobody can spend enough time to be active in all fields.

I don’t know how best to balance Mr (formerly Dr) Andrew Wakefield versus Dr Ignaz Semmelweis.


> If you trust it blindly, it’s not science, it’s a cult of title and rank.

A true but slightly inflammatory first line for something that everyone does. There aren't enough hours in a 70 year lifetime to make every decision using critical thinking - everyone uses title, rank and social proof for shortcuts.

My experience is that there are many people who claim to be arguing from scientific evidence when they are in fact not - and I think it is because they don't realise that (a) being smart is no defense whatsoever against using cognitive shortcuts and (b) thinking non-critically is actually likely to be a better personal strategy for most decisions.


> Unfortunately, trusting it blindly is also necessary when you’re not active in the field.

This is technically not true. It might be a good idea in the aggregate, but it's not necessary in the aggregate, or necessarily a good idea in more specific scenarios.


But blind trust is what this article is suggesting by comparing demands for evidence to "denial of service attacks":

> Quickly, the 80% can overwhelm the 20% with demands for explanations and evidence. ... Every minute spent refuting X takes away energy that could be spent refining Y.

Sorry, but providing explanations and evidence to the 80% is necessary. The fact that academia doesn't reward this behavior is a problem with academia, not with the people demanding explanations and evidence.


I agree, blind trust is a dangerous thing. Healthy skepticism is important. However, we also have to choose which battles are worth fighting, and carefully evaluate when and where our skepticism can be most usefully and proportionately focused.


Edit: Oops this was meant for your parent post not for you!

Even if your claims are true m, which is definitly debatable, I’d argue that the lies of a populist and the peer review crisis in particular fields are part of the same problem (lies pay off).

These problems are not inherently problems you would get rid of if we stopped giving people a formal education.

On the other hand a lot of problem humanity has at the moment are impossible to solve without rational scientific solutions that also kerp side effects in mind.

There is definitly a need for many fields of science to rethink their checking processes and their incentives and they should start with it now.

But we have more pressing issues: politicians that paint up a idealized nostalghic dreamland of yesterday as a fiction people can kling to. At the same time they drain more money out of the people and blame it on something that interferes with that nostalghia (migrants, environmentalists, leftists, ...)

We know from any focal extreme movement that for a radicalized base it doesn’t matter if there is proof.

My respect for academia is magnitudes higher than for any poplist. The problem is not academia the problem is a whole society which wants easy answers to be true — because they want to integrate the whole world into their world view and if the thing you say is complex and nuanced it is hard to integrate.

Academia sees this every day: some extremely shortened claim gets pushed through the world by journalists and gets a huge echo. Their nuanced points get butcherd if they even ever get any publicity. That means as a scientist if you want public attention you have to give good simple answers and ask good simple questions. If you manage to stay true and relevant — good. If not, who cares, journalists will print everything if it is simple and spectacular.

This means to solve the problem with science we need more formal education and not less. This doesn’t mean that everybody without a formal education can’t understand complex ideas or everybody with a formal education honours them. But raising the level in a communication is always good.

A dumb belief oriented population doesn’t care about your argument, it cares about how you sell it. A clever evil populist is the same.


This might be my raw unfiltered bitterness talking, but as someone who's a few weeks off from getting their associates I'm 100% in for the peacocks tail theory of education.

>This doesn’t mean that everybody without a formal education can’t understand complex ideas or everybody with a formal education honours them. But raising the level in a communication is always good.

https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidie...

"And to paraphrase Dirkson, $200,000 here, $200,000 there, and pretty soon it adds up to real money. 20,000 doctors graduate in the United States each year; that means the total yearly cost of requiring doctors to have undergraduate degrees is $4 billion. That’s most of the amount of money you’d need to house every homeless person in the country ($10,000 to house one homeless x 600,000 homeless).

...

This is why, despite my reservations about libertarianism, it’s not-libertarianism that really scares me. Whenever some people without skin in the game are allowed to make decisions for other people, you end up with a bunch of elderly doctors getting together, think “Yeah, things do seem a little classier around here if we make people who are not us pay $200,000, make it so,” and then there goes the money that should have housed all the homeless people in the country."

Look, the problem here is that people feel (and probably are) economically disenfranchised, so they're angry. Then on top of that the level of trust in our institutions is so low that people would rather trust some shady crank website on vaccines than the CDC. When you combine the two with a bizarre tendency to just believe whatever nonsense is put in front of them, and zero-marginal-cost global telecommunications; people believe and do stupid things. 'More formal education' doesn't solve this, I'm not sure anything solves this. In Clarke County it took an actual measles outbreak to convince people to vaccinate their kids, suggesting the only remedy we have right now for widespread stupidity is the gods of the copybook headings.

http://deadstate.org/vaccinations-increase-500-in-anti-vaxxe...

EDIT: Having had a few minutes to think it over some more, I think part of what might have happened here is that trust in 'large institutions' as a category has fallen faster than peoples trust in their fellow man. There's a tragic optimism to the situation then: people are skeptical of even the most basic ideas coming from governments, non profits, corporations, etc, but will throw common sense out the window over a well written appeal from an ordinary person. I'm not sure how you'd test this hypothesis, but I'd really like to see the results if someone did.


And yet, of the two countries mentioned (US vs Ireland), the US is the more "libertarian"? Ireland is an only-recently-dismantled theocracy whose two biggest political parties are both centre-right and distinguish each other by what side they were on in the civil war.


All published scientific research is wrong in some way.

That is a good example of knowledge that is so well understood by people with formal education in science that it’s taken for granted.

It can seem revelatory to people without that education. But science is only what people make it to be. If you have an idea for how to make scientific knowledge better, by all means go for it.

But if your idea is just that scientific knowledge could be better, well, join the club. Every scientist on Earth agrees with you.


That's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about fields where one study includes 40 tests each of which has a 1 in 20 chance of being statistically significant by random chance, and the 2 results that happen to pass that laughably low bar are published.


I agree that non-STEM fields are less credible, but the "X% of field X are conservatives" argument seems totally pointless to me. Your political leanings shouldn't matter, otherwise it's not truth-seeking. And most of these fields don't seem truth-seeking to me, but that's a consequence of them being harder to do test-and-iteration that's the core of finding out truth about stuff, and also they're not valued in society so they don't get the cream of the crop.

So political distribution is 1. Not that cause of the problem, 2. Probably not even a symptom, it's more to do with the fact that most science is state-funded and right wing ideology broadly seeks to diminish the state. The right are also anti-science in broader ways (religious, climate change etc etc). It's a trend across science, not just in bs subjects: http://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/section-4-scientists-...

I just think whenever you're having this discussion, which is important, throwing political distributions in muddies the water and polarizes it for no upside.


You're making a lot of wild claims.

>Even in many "scientific" fields, standards are so low that most published research is wrong.

Citation needed.

>And in much of academia, evidence is less important than ideology

Citation needed.

>research and researchers are banned not because they are wrong, but because their ideas are unacceptable.

Citation needed. Maybe it has happened to a couple of people at a few screwed up universities, but you're implying this is common.

EDIT: I predict you're going to use the exact methods described in the article to "win" the argument.


[flagged]


By “do your own research”, do you mean “repeat a statistically significant number of the various studies to find out how repeatable the results are”, or do you mean “read a book which convinced me”?


There's a third option - "do a meta-analysis of representative studies to determine true effect size".


I counted that as “repeat”, given that’s part of how this problem was first discovered.

On reflection though, that only works when you know roughly how many negative results get published: part of the problem with unreproducable results is that negatives have been difficult to publish, biasing publications so that entirely competent and honest mistakes are much more common than one would expect from just the p-value.


I have done some research, and it sounded like you're overstating or making false claims, so I'll called you on it. "Do your own research" is just another easy way to dismiss criticism. I can't prove that no researcher has ever been banned on ideological grounds. You made the claim that this is the norm, I don't think it is, so I simply asked for a reference.

Thanks for providing the above citations though.

I've indexed the statements I have a problem with, because you seemed to have missed the last and most egregious one.

1. Even in many "scientific" fields, standards are so low that most published research is wrong.

This claim seems to be supported by evidence. I think it's important to add that while we should encourage higher standards and alternatives to p-values, replication is a critical part of the scientific process. Biases will inevitably creep into study design and analysis. This implies that even with extremely high standards, a significant portion of studies (hopefully not the majority) will still fail replication, because it was conducted by humans.

Psychology studies are notorious for this. I don't think they represent the majority though. I could point to particle physics that have a convention of five-sigma (99.99994% confidence). Let's not resort to cherry-picking.

2. And in much of academia, evidence is less important than ideology

3. research and researchers are banned not because they are wrong, but because their ideas are unacceptable.

I didn't see any citations backing these claims.

In your added citations you point to a correlation between conservatism and academia. Implying that the difference is because conservatives are forced out of academia is jumping the gun. I have an alternatives theory: people that think science is important don't want to associate themselves with group that are considered anti-scientific (public perception is key here).

There is no place for _any_ ideology in science anyway.

> In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists said that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues. The more liberal respondents were, the more they said they would discriminate.

http://yoelinbar.net/papers/political_diversity.pdf

This is flawed, they did give participants the option to abstain from picking a side. "Moderate" is also a position.

Many of these references focus on social sciences. Do you that is representative of all the sciences?


The alternative is often worse.

"The mainstream media misled me about Iraq, therefore I'm going to get my information from Facebook articles posted by Russian intelligence!"

"There was once a batch of contaminated vaccines, so now I'm going to risk the lives of my and other children by not vaccinating them"

"The banks were unfairly bailed out, so I'm going to keep my money in Quadriga"


That’s a false dilemma; as long as I’m not resigned to hopeless infotainment addiction, I don’t have to believe the “least bad” reporting about events that don’t concern me.


I am absolutely 100% confident that the success rate of individuals with no training doing their own research is way way way lower than the success rate of the academic community consensus.


That’s not what I’m arguing against. I’m not claiming to be a better truth-seeker than the academic community.

I am claiming that a lot of this truth has no meaning to me, and I’m comfortable with not seeking it. If that sounds horrible, consider a special case like celebrity gossip. Am I better than the magazines at getting to the bottom of it? Probably not. Does that fact implore me to seek their “knowledge”?

I distrust many media accounts of events. I don’t believe their opposites either. And I don’t “do my own research”. I just embrace ignorance of things that don’t matter to me.


In the aggregate, or in all cases?


It may not matter what you believe, but it matters what the aggregate total of your fellow voters believe.


Is your point that most voters are hopeless infotainment addicts?


>The mainstream media misled me about Iraq, therefore I'm going to get my information from Facebook articles posted by Russian intelligence!

There's the middle ground of simply not believing anything coming from either the mass media or the independent media.


That does require recusing yourself from politics, though. Not unreasonable but if everyone does it the field is abandoned to cranks and exploiters.


I assume you mean acknowledging the different credibility of different sources, instead of just not believing anything at all. It's just as with the academia thing. I don't think the solution is to dismiss formal research and consider it unscientific, but to acknowledge it's weaknesses, specially in specific fields.


To tell you the truth I don't have time, energy or knowledge to find the sources of all news and research I see and investigate and assess the credibility of them, so I simply don't believe anything.

This problem has existed since forever, and back in the day I believed something like reddit would work because real humans would do the curation for me and call out bad news/research/etc, but we all know how that turned out.


>To tell you the truth I don't have time, energy or knowledge to find the sources of all news and research I see and investigate and assess the credibility of them, so I simply don't believe anything.

So you don't even believe Donald Trump is the President of the United States, because you refuse to believe the media when it covered the campaign and election?

I'm going to guess you either don't actually hold this point of view, otherwise you could barely function in society.


I think you're taking it too literally. What I mean is that, as an example, if they say $POLITICAL_FIGURE has said this or that, I will suspect they're taking the words out of context, but I am not going to find and watch the entire video, because I don't have the necessary time and energy to do that.


I think this is what is called hyperbole.


> "The mainstream media misled me about Iraq, therefore I'm going to get my information from Facebook articles posted by Russian intelligence!"

Have you genuinely experienced people expressing exactly this sentiment, or are you perhaps relying on a complex heuristic within your mind?

Do you believe it's possible some people think more along the lines of "The mainstream media misled me about Iraq, therefore I'm going to be more skeptical next time there seems to be coordinated promotion of an idea that seems to rely upon fear."

Speaking of Russians on Facebook and Twitter, I've yet to see any convincing evidence that this is a real thing. I don't deny someone is engaging in such behavior, but nothing I've seen gives me confidence that it is safe to conclude it is Russia.

> "There was once a batch of contaminated vaccines, so now I'm going to risk the lives of my and other children by not vaccinating them"

Same thing, but I won't beleaguer the point.


And even worse, "traditional media" is going downhill and promoting those same cheap arguments


See also the Gish Gallop - a debating technique named after the creationist Duane Gish, which involves making as many specious arguments as quickly as possible. An unprepared opponent is likely to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of points they need to refute.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gish_gallop

A variant of this technique is now standard in competitive debating, creating a truly absurd spectacle; most teams speak as quickly as humanly possible to fit the greatest number of arguments into a fixed time limit, creating a barely-intelligible blur of words.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FPsEwWT6K0

https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2017/09/26/corr...


> A variant of this technique is now standard in competitive debating

Not outside the US it isn’t. Policy debating is a special US abomination, with unfortunate extensions into the cultural colony to the north. Everywhere else does parliamentary debating.


It's more than just what the arguments are about. Anywhere else in the world someone making points so quickly as in the videos would sound desperate and instantly "lose" the debate. Nobody is expect to refute point by point a nonsensical diatribe.


Recently I saw on the local Australian politics debate show someone asking a question rattled off about 5 questions with opinions shared in between each one and the responder said something like "That was a political statement, could you please rephrase that as an actual question?"


Even in the US everyone but the participants and judges thinks these nonsensical diatribes are absurd. No one is convinced, the players are just scoring points in some arbitrary game that happens to be called "debate".


I find it mind boggling that people have such strong opinions about policy debate when they have no idea of the work and skill required to be competitive in it. Policy debate is literally teaching you how to deal with "intellectual DOS attacks". It explicitly trains you how to deal with large amounts of arguments being thrown at you and how to parse out important refutations with limited time.

Being fast is a side effect of optimization.


Being competitive at policy debate is genuinely impressive, just as getting really good at the racing on pogo sticks is impressive. It takes a lot of hard work and skill. But if you want to learn to persuade people outside your little subculture do parliamentary debate. Real debate is rhetoric, it engages in pathos and ethos as well as logos. Given its size and education levels the US should be crushingly dominant in debate, not competitive. Policy debaters don’t persuade people.


Marketing techniques, propaganda and low-level politics (promote your guys, blow up the other guys) are obviously vastly more efficient than old school rhetoric.


The things you mention are rhetoric, and are as “old-school” as anything else. Your comment smacks of a bizarre attitude that seems popular among programmers, that “marketing” is at once all-powerful, impossible to understand, and completely without merit.


I dunno, if you read, say, "Merchants of Attention" or some other history of marketing, you'd not find any mention of Aristotle, but a whole bunch of snake oil salesmen and cousins of Freud. Maybe "programmers" know something you don't.


> A variant of this technique is now standard in competitive debating

I think the reason for this is that there's a rule (possibly unwritten?) that if you drop an argument you automatically concede it. So it's in your best interest to belt out as many points as you possibly can and hope your opponent can't respond to all of them.


Sounds like an Alex Jones rant.


Jonathan Swift in 1710:

"Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead."


> Wasting intellectual horsepower by refuting bad arguments, experts have less and less time for more productive endeavors

I disagree that it's a waste of effort. It may be considered a waste of effort from the experts perspective, but from everyone else perspective, it is a guard against experts keeping the truth for themselves.

Experts together are a "black box" to non-experts. If we let them continue refining their ideas, they might forget to think about the common good. Even if they are good intended, at some point the knowledge has to flow between people, but experts often use their own domain language to communicate, and no one but them can argue anymore about their ideas.

What people defending X are asking to the experts is that the latters should make their finding understandable by everyone, or some people will be exploited. If a piece of knowledge is true, but not useful to people problems, it doesn't matter to them.

To me, people defending X are asking experts how does Y (or even X) is relevant to their lives, and it actually show that neither X or Y matter to them.

From there, experts have to admit their are not HELPING people anymore, because they don't solve real world problems, in humanitarian term.

Why would you care about the shape of the earth when you are dying because you have no water or food to live ? That's the life of some people on Earth. Why aren't experts thinking about giving them food and water rather than arguing that they are wrong about the shape of the earth ?


Just wanted to second this. Experts should be constantly trying to work themselves out of a job.

The most annoying thing I've come across is instances where I'm sort of backed into an intellectual as "the guy who knows X", where people fully capable of understanding X to act as repeaters refuse to do so.

However, I understand the compunction at the same time. So I can't really blame them.


>Once we have publicly attached our name to an idea, the path of least resistance is to continue believing it.

This reminds of Paul Graham's essay titled "Keep your identity small": http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html


Just wait till bots/ai gets good enough to spout bullshit. Just fill forums with thousands of argue-bots and you might be able to make the noise ratio so bad the internet is unusable.


This is an interesting plot point in Vernor Vinge's Zones of Thought science fiction series. The "net of a million lies" has been astroturfed and boobytrapped by living beings and AIs for generations. Programmer archaeologists sometimes try to extract useful information at great risk to their entire societies.


"Humans who are not concentrating are not general intelligences": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19251755


That's already the case, I think.


I think it is probably happening on places like twitter now and I know for a fact that its quite common for people to control about 20 accounts so they can make an opinion seem like a common agreement.


Persona management and state level trolling has been happening for a while now. Go back to the long, long ago past of 2011 and revel in US weaponisation of social networks:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-op...

"It is unclear whether a persona management programme would contravene UK law. Legal experts say it could fall foul of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, which states that "a person is guilty of forgery if he makes a false instrument, with the intention that he or another shall use it to induce somebody to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act to his own or any other person's prejudice". However, this would apply only if a website or social network could be shown to have suffered "prejudice" as a result.

• This article was amended on 18 March 2011 to remove references to Facebook and Twitter, introduced during the editing process, and to add a comment from Centcom, received after publication, that it is not targeting those sites."


I wonder if the US 3 letter agencies have any motivation, and are sophisticated enough, to create the appearance of an organization controlled by a third party that is operating online to shape the thinking of American citizens.

Not that this would ever happen of course, just wondering if it is possible.


Decent article. If you want more along these lines try Cryptome: https://cryptome.org/2012/07/gent-forum-spies.htm

The strategies of information are fundamentally the same as for other forms of warfare, but the operational calculus is very different.


Thanks for the great link. I'm saving to read the whole thing later, but wanted to point out that a variation of forum sliding (or possibly another tactic, haven't read it all) appears to be in use on Reddit.

The amount of noise from what are in many cases fairly obvious troll accounts introduced in important and high information density threads on /r/politics is staggering.

I can only surmise the intent has been to leverage Reddit's thread compression and comment ranking system to push down informative posts with lots of "active conversation" that really is just tossing low information, low quality chatter back and forth to reduce the signal to noise ratio of the comment section an bank on people getting to annoyed with the poor comment quality to bother scrolling for the good stuff that has been pushed down.

I'm also curious if tools like Masstagger are compromised yet and what the tooling of attackers may look like by comparison.

I'm sure there is much more going on that is harder to directly observe, but Reddit really is a great data source for any researchers on this topic.


Sorry for not replying earlier. Thanks for the reference to Masstagger which I wasn't aware of as I'm not a regular reddit user. Every platform has its own quirks, but the brigading techniques are easily adapted from platform to platform much like skills learned in one FPS are fairly transferable to any other FPS etc.

If you're interested in this topic and/or have any expertise in directed graphs and network mapping please drop me a line, same username at gmail.


Excellent link. This is what people whose job is to protect fair and safe elections should be reading.


And exactly what those who don't want fair and safe elections would prefer the general public does not read.

I often wonder, if the government is so genuinely concerned about fake news, why do we see zero effort to educate people on general techniques to detect it, but see only substantial effort to attack specific instances of it?


Thank you for this link! I knew others must have covered this ground more systematically than I could.


Related: I don't recall it was djb or Bruce Schneier, but I remember, after Snowden's revelations, one of them criticized the NSA/NIST was using a "denial-of-service" technique to push flawed standards. That is, it's relatively easy to draft a protocol but hard to analyze them. You would publish a dozen of ciphers and protocols at once, then the cryptographers would busy working on some of them. Eventually, flawed standards went through without being noticed...


A compilation of related concepts and references, with some overlap to this article:

https://old.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/28ge14/on_nons...


So true and a great way to think of it.

I moved to weighing the benefits of proving someone wrong vs. ignoring and nodding. Will help to reduce the number of arguments you get into and make room for the important ones.


I realised a while ago that I was spending way too much time and energy getting into pointless online arguments about social justice issues. I now have a pretty low threshold of disagreement above which I'll immediately (and politely) disengage, and if it escalates at all from there, just block the person. I no longer care if someone is wrong on the internet, it's not my job to re-educate them, and the less energy I waste on them the better.


You might find this interesting: The Ego and its Own, by Max Stirner https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ego_and_Its_Own


I wholeheartedly agree with this article, and I firmly believe that if no one paid attention to flat earthers, for example, it wouldn't have become such a big matter.

It's mind-boggling to me that there's people on YT/social media going out of their way to prove to flat earthers that the earth is not flat. We have 600 years of science proving that, and they don't believe that, do you think that your little experiment will change their mind? Also, what's the point? It's not like if there's enough people that think the earth is flat, NASA will shut down or anything.

It's commendable trying to educate people but in these cases it's definitely not worth the hassle, and I really hope people start realising that and stop entertaining all the crazy ideas that random strangers have around the world.


The hyperpartisan politics in the U.S. has been fostered since long before the internet. On the right, "rage radio" has been big since the early 90s. After listening to conservative outrage, it's hard to then listen to the other side of an argument and think "they may have a point."

Similarly, left wing comedy-news shows make fun of the other side. When you see the other side as ripe for ridicule, its hard to then say, "but they may have a point."

Source: I've known many people on both sides, and it always saddens me that discussions don't boil down to "let's both look at the arguments from both sides." Instead, there's an emotional "the other side is nuts" response that blocks all attempts at even discussing things fairly.


Just like behind many dumb bots doing a distributed denial of service, there can be one mastermind controller/hacker, It is quite possible that behind these non-experts doing the intellectual denial of service, there is an expert mastermind.


That quote on the slide is the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit#Bullshit_asymmetry_...


There’s a very similar saying in my native language (Romanian) that roughly translates into English like this:

> One fool person throws a rock into a lake and ten smart persons then try their best to get it out


Thank you! Will add the source.


Let’s say the internet denial of service is controlled by a hacker who owns bots, and is the mastermind. It is possible that in an intellectual denial of service by non-experts there is an expert mastermind.


Perhaps the most pernicious Intellectual Denial of Service Attack is the "need" to censor opinions that we don't agree with.


I think the tldr here is that questions/challenges require significantly less energy than answers for many types of questions; and this is more true the more expertise the answers require.

I think one problem is that expertise have been a bludgeon for a long time and intellectuals have done an awful job of not over reaching their expertise and at sticking to their levels of confidence.

I also think that the once important role of “public intellectuals” and philosophers as critics of everything was an essential role to keeping participants honest. We don’t have this any more.


I would argue that this is the tactic used by most multi-national marketing agencies.


Let’s say the internet denial of service is controlled by a hacker who owns bots, and is the mastermind. It is possible that in an intellectual denial of service by non-experts there is an expert mastermind.


I would have expected the article to say something about election meddling via social media. Citizens are denied access to true information by drowning it in fake news.


They aren't denied access to it, they just have to pay attention and be discerning if they want to filter all that information for the truth. The problem today is, there are fewer and fewer people who are trying to inform instead of persuade.


Brilliant! The denial of service analogy is so true. There will be probably be an uneducated group that will refute the existance of DOS attacks!


techiavellian.com

1. BLOCKING SSL access to web TLSv1.2 browsers with ciphers that use AES128/SHA256 (AES256/SHA384 ciphers only).

2. NO http access.

Intellectual denial of service attack: SUCCEEDED.

I cannot view your website!




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