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The 480 (wikipedia.org)
148 points by Hooke 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 70 comments

Burdock was also one of the authors of “The Ugly American”.

Unlike popular usage of that phrase, the “Ugly American” was the hero, out working with people in the field, not getting dressed up, or showered, and not hanging out in the diplomatic circuit.

It was a strong condemnation of the kind of out of touch foreign policy and operations that lead to the viet Nam war and countless foreign policy disasters that have followed since.

Written in 1958, discussed widely, and yet made zero impact.

Another critique of the same war from a more famous author, Graham Greene, with a similar title, published three years earlier than Burdock, The Quiet American , set the narrative for future generations of political analysts and pundits for years to come.

Greene, himself a former member of the intel community, penned this to explain that no matter how "in touch" your politicians are, if your intel services are secretly sowing discord and playing dirty tricks preying on the politics of a client nation, they can make war seem inevitable.

In hindsight the Bay of Tonkin Incident seems the flimsiest casus belli there ever was for Viet Nam. At the time we seemed primed for a fight that never was what we thought it was. We were manipulated then. We were manipulated on Iraq under Bush, too.

The only difference this time was the weapon is turned on Americans (and increasingly many other nations) to serve a foreign power.

Burdick also wrote Fail-Safe, which was essentially the no-nonsense complement to Strangelove. Decent book if you have nothing else to read and you're willing to trust a stranger's opinion on the internet.

Dr Strangelove was originally planned as a serious film until Kubrick realized that there was comedic potential in the subject and he brought in writer Terry Southern.

Kubrick was concerned that Fail-Safe, in production as a film at the same time as Dr Strangelove, could hurt ticket sales for his film and encouraged a lawsuit against Burdick and the producers of the film alleging that Fail-Safe was plagiarized from Red Alert, the source novel for Dr Strangelove.

Incidentally, in addition to the Sidney Lumet–directed version of Fail-Safe, there was a live TV version of Fail-Safe directed by Stephen Frears and starring George Clooney. The two filmed versions of the novel have different endings.

Whoa. I ran across that in a library in junior high, when I was 12-15, and I still remember the plot and various incidents. It is a very affecting book.

Decent movie adaptation too.

There's a lot of parallels here to Neal Stephenson's Interface, which also features a computer assigning potential voters a sub-group to which they belong: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interface_(novel)

Wow! You commented just as I did.

I'd echo what others have said about it-- Interface is an under-appreciated book. I am going to be really interested read The 480 having really enjoyed Interface.

I absolutely loved the microstereotypes invented for people in it. I cackled every time I ran across one.

A novel on gamification of politics. Very interesting.

Sidenote: makes me think that the populist game precedes computing by a long run, but the introduction of computing democratized access to consciousness manipulation. Peer to peer influence got atomized and scaled.

For a very literary novel on a dubious populist politician, read All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren.

Ironic use of the term "democratized" there!

For those who have expertise in this area, how difficult would it be to actually model different political interests and their interplay? Also, would this eventually end up being a level 2 chaotic system where calculating the predictions affects the real world inputs, making the whole thing akin to the stock market? Or would it be slow moving enough that you could actually extract something useful out of this?

Interface, co-authored by Neal Stephenson, is also in this vein.

So during JFK times the candidates would shape their campaign around the voter's beliefs. These days they shape the voters beliefs around themselves. Reality is more dystopian than fiction.

> ...during JFK times...

Not "during JFK times", but in the JFK campaign. Not so much shaping campaigns around beliefs, but assessing who matters to your campaign as a pure technical pursuit.

As for your jab, if you think that the President has somehow foisted his campaign on the electorate, rather than the other way around, that is the sort of profound misapprehension that doomed his opponent.

The fact that voters can be convinced to agree or disagree with the candidate is more or less orthogonal. Do you think that JFK never influenced a voter by speaking?

I read somewhere that the percentage of conservatives who believe that Covid is a threat dropped from 70% in Feb to like 30% now. Not sure if that's true, but if it is, it would indicate their beliefs are vastly more dependent on his words, than his words on their beliefs.

Are you sure those numbers aren't reversed? I'm in a red state and while most people I know were in denial a month ago most now at least have moderate concern. It's pretty hard to deny that COVID-19 is a threat when our hospitals are full and the empty shelves in our grocery stores are a signal that people are panicking.

There seems to be some whiplash effect. Also the geographic sorting of voters leads to a not insignificant number of people deciding that it's an urban/blue state problem.

Yeah, I'd say adapting your political agenda to what the people want, is vastly preferable to changing what the people want to fit your political agenda. Yet that's the reality of the US political system of today. Especially with the influence of media outlets like Fox and others.

I had a "discussion" with a Trump supporter who attacked Hillary Clinton because she used to be anti-gay-marriage, then "conveniently" changed her tune when it became popular, thus revealing her true nature as a flip-flopper, while at the same time defending Trump for his current anti-gay-marriage stance, which was simply excusable political expediency to appeal to Republicans, because he actually has a history of being pro-gay (if having an unhealthy obsession with Elton John (and Roy Cohen!) can be considered being pro-gay), and his true nature was pro-gay but he was just pretending to be anti-gay for convenience, to get the Republican nomination, and now to stay in power by bribing Republican Senators with red meat for their bigoted constituencies. As if his "actual beliefs" were what mattered (and he knew what they were for sure), and that superseded his actual behavior and its effect on the lives of actual gays. That was all just horse trading, you understand.



It didn't matter to him that Hillary used to be "bad" then went "good" ("evolved"), while Trump use to be "good" then went "bad" ("devolved"). For him, it was both of their original positions that mattered, not their trajectory or where they ended up, or even the effects of their words and deeds.

He wouldn't give her the room to improve, because improving was only "politics", but he gave him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't really mean the anti-gay things he said and did, or actually agree with the anti-gay people he chose as vice president, supreme court judges, cabinet members, etc, because selling out his actual beliefs to the right wing in exchange for power was only "politics".

People know very their politicians are lying to them and everyone else, but they pick and choose which lies to believe and which not to believe, because they think the politicians are nodding and winking at them personally, because they're in on the game, and it's justifiable to lie for power because the ends justify the means, at least for their team. That's why dog whistles work so well.

Yeah, I would argue exactly the opposite of that person. It's better to do good you don't truly believe in than to do evil that you don't truly believe in.

Of course it's best if someone believes in doing good and then does it, but ultimately, results you're getting matter more than intentions you're betraying.

Never more than now do I feel we are in an actual dystopia with Trump.

Can we please stop it with these mystery meat titles?

The first sentence of the article should have been adapted into a descriptive title:

"The 480: a political fiction novel by Eugene Burdick (1964)"

I prefer it. It encourages reading the article as opposed to just reading the title and assuming the articles content.

It encourages skipping everything. Life's too short.

And, what, break HN's well known rules that differentiate us from other websites? Hogwash!

Dumb rules are dumb.

Good tip - added to my Goodreads list.

> The novel criticizes the socio-political effects on society at large from the use of computers to run massive simulations, which predict the public reaction to certain (proposed) political moves before implementing them. Such simulations make it easy to manipulate the public consciousness.

This last sentence seems flawed. Is it not describing the ability of a computer to predict the future with high accuracy, and if so it isn't the public consciousness that's being manipulated, but rather the course of history? Which is still bad of course, and somewhat similar, but is a distinctly different situation. Directly acting upon the public consciousness itself would require different actions different than making predictions about the future, it would require actions in the present, right?

One such action is propaganda (fake news, etc) - this one has been around forever, we all know about it.

Another one that's been making the news a lot lately are the infamous "Russian" (I don't buy the story personally, but that's a different discussion) trolls.

Let me tell you about something very weird that I've been noticing for quite some time now. I am a huge political junkie. And for this upcoming election, here's my current ranking of the candidates: 1. Sanders 2. Trump 3. Biden (well, more like 999. Biden).

I don't think it's too hard for us here to accept mine as a valid political stance. Perhaps it seems weird, but it's not crazy.

Simultaneously, we have this situation where Bernie supporters have two battles to win: first they must beat the (corrupt) DNC organization, before moving on to the big boss, DJT. So, of course, we do indeed see them attacking both Trump (and his racist/hyper-capitalist/misc-other-stereotype supporters) and the DNC/Biden. Nothing strange yet.

But here's the weird thing: being a political junkie, I have been interacting (primarily on Reddit) with Democrats supporters now and then over the last several weeks/months. In near every single conversation, there is this unmistakable, uncanny pattern in the discussions, where it seems like these people are so blinded by rage, that they literally can't fathom the idea that a person could hold my stance. Or even that a single Trump supporter could hold any belief that does not perfectly line up with the stereotypes of what a Trump supporter "is". Like, it's not like you have a back and forth with them and then they decide "you know what, I think you're lying", but they just cannot believe, as if they have lost control of their conscious mind and free will, like there is some sort of a cognitive malfunction. Essentially, a real world actual manifestation of the NPC meme.


> NPC, derived from Non-Player Character in video games, is an meme to express the idea that individuals of the political left do not think for themselves; it is also known as NPC Wojak. The NPC meme, which graphically is based on the Wojak meme, was created in July 2016 by an anonymous author and first published on the image-hosting website 4chan, where also the idea and inspiration behind the meme were introduced. The NPC meme has gained widespread attention and been featured in numerous news outlets, including The New York Times,[4] The Verge,[3] BBC,[7] and Breitbart News Network. Media coverage of the NPC meme has been politically biased according to the news watchdogs Accuracy In Media[8] and Media Research Center.[9]

Now, the average person is not very good at rational thinking. So, one should expect a fair amount of this behavior, especially under the stress of modern day politics. No problemo. But my issue is that firstly, this scenario isn't really all that complicated (is it?), and more importantly, this behavior seems to occur in at least 90% of my interactions. I can understand a lot of people being dumb, but almost all of them? (I should also note: I'm not taking only my personal conversations into account here, much of my confidence level derives from observing similar behavior in the conversations of others).

Which leads me to my question: what are the odds that there is some entity out there that happens to posses "AI chat" technology that is way beyond what is considered to be the current state of the art (like how the NSA is reputed to be <x> years ahead), and that this technology is now in the wild? It seems like an outlandish theory, but on a technical basis, is it really that far out there?

I suppose I should note two other explanations that come to mind:

- rather than bots, these entities could just be paid trolls (with the sums of money thrown around in an election, this could be done at very significant scale)

- if a given ~environment can invoke ~insanity in one person, it may also be able to invoke the same thing in millions of people simultaneously; but the problem with this is, could it reach 90% levels? Although, Redditors are not a representative sample, so it would only have to make that subset crazy, which seems much more plausible.

Anyways, this question has been on my mind for a while so thought I'd just throw it out there and see what others think.

EDIT: Thinking a bit more about it: "90% of Redditors are literally incapable of high-skilled rational thought" actually feels about right, so maybe nothing nefarious is afoot. Although, I'm not sure which of these is the scarier scenario. And if it's both (which it actually kinda is, with respect to fake news), God help us all. So perhaps I've answered my own question, but would really like to hear what others think. The degradation in the quality of thinking and discourse in the Western world is beyond out of control in my opinion, and I am legit worried that if some sensible special interest groups outside the formal political process don't set aside their differences and unify to set us back on the right path, I actually think tyranny (the serious kind) may be inevitable. One year ago I would have dismissed such claims as hyperbolic, but considering planet earth is currently on a near total lockdown due to a literal global pandemic, that could have easily (at least relatively speaking) been prevented/managed, I think erring on the side of extreme caution is warranted. The next event could end industrialized human civilization, and I almost feel like I am the only person that seems concerned about the mass psychology aspect of it. Everyone's focusing on "the Russians", when they should be focusing on the mental health of people who are exposed to a historically unprecedented stream of incoming information, much of it sophisticated propaganda.

> ...here's my current ranking of the candidates: 1. Sanders 2. Trump 3. Biden (well, more like 999. Biden)...

> ...literally can't fathom the idea that a person could hold my stance...

I'm not blinded by rage, but these two top choices really do seem incompatible. Is your political goal mostly to shake up the status quo?

If one's main value is 'workers in the US', I can see this breakdown. Also, if the main evil you see is 'DNC corruption'.

If one’s actual goal is to make oddball statements that lead into mazes of self-conscious, hyper-rational explication of minutia, then the ranking served its purpose.

Kind of like if you don't want to think too hard in case you might break a sweat. If you don't understand something, assume it's the other person's failing.

Murica 2020

The DNC corruption one, granted. "Workers in the US" doesn't really cash out - Biden has very strong working class support.

I think you understood that I wasn't describing my opinion, nor my perception of reality, but a hypothetical opinion combined with a hypothetical perception of reality, so thanks for that. Biden does have wide support in the working class, and there are also some who think he is worse than either Trump or Bernie. The people that I know who consider themselves pro-worker are anti-Biden, which I present not as anectdata but just to explain why my original example came to mind.

> "Workers in the US" doesn't really cash out - Biden has very strong working class support.

I don't understand this phrase, and the significance of it, in the context of this conversation.

Also, just to clarify: is your above statement a fact, or an opinion? (You have used the verb "does", which to me implies you are asserting it as a fact.)

Originally, I thought he meant "caring about workers in the US is not a valid reason for preferring both Trump and Bernie over Biden." But his intention is probably more nuanced, since that would be an argument from popularity.

Ya, who knows. Would be nice to know though.

Silly me. Of course, it's always better to remain in the dark, what was I ever thinking!

Ok, excellent, I believe we may have accidentally invoked an instance of the very problem I am talking about. Well, a milder version of it anyways, assuming you are willing to actually participate in a conversation. That is where things usually (I see I've managed to get a downvote already, an example of another fundamental problem imho) go off the rails, in that in my experience it seems, based on the literal words that people write, that they truly believe they are objectively and confidently correct, and I am objectively incorrect. But if so, why am I unable to ever meet someone who is willing to explain to me why they are correct, and how they know with certainty that they are correct.

If I observe two people in a disagreement, both of whom believe they are correct, and one of the people will not defend their position, but rather simply refuses to discuss the matter, then my intuition would suggest that person is the incorrect one (and there's a good chance that they know/feel it).

So, we shall see what happens this time...

> I'm not blinded by rage, but these two top choices really do seem incompatible.

This seems reasonable, but what does "seems" mean, in my sentence, and in yours?

seem: "give the impression or sensation of being something or having a particular quality."

To me, it seems completely logical on its face that my (type of) stance will always "seem" unusual, because it is unusual.

But unusual isn't the word you used. You used "incompatible".

incompatible: (of two things) so opposed in character as to be incapable of existing together.

Excellent, here we have a non-ambiguous word to work with: incapable

incapable: "unable to do or achieve (something)."

Or in other words: ~"literally not possible"

Ok, I think that should suffice for defining our terms and removing ambiguity. I hope I have set the stage successfully (and in a manner acceptable to you - if not, let me know) for a clear discussion.

(META: Look how much work I had to put in here to ~ensure a high quality conversation. I believe this is absolutely necessary, and some day very soon I would love to have a HUGE discussion, with anyone who is interested, on whether this is necessary, and why, and if I made any mistakes, and if there are further improvements or techniques I could use, and if I'm the only one that believes that human communication in all its forms is sub-optimal (cuz it sure seems like I am, based on voting), and so forth and so on.)


So my question to you is: Why do you ~believe it is "literally not possible" for a person to hold my political stance (in a logically coherent manner)?

Note: that sentence sounds like I am putting words in your mouth, doesn't it? But how do we propose to have high quality, productive conversations, particularly when stuck in an impasse (seems like a fair description of modern day America to me), if we do not explicitly define what the precise point of contention is?

If you'd like to restate what you actually believe, feel free, but then are we not kind of right back to where we started?

If you would like to make any modifications to the staged context I've set, or whatever, I'm in. I am willing to participate. I want to figure out what in the fuck is going on with respect to human communication? Why in God's name are what seem like such trivial things, to me, seemingly utterly incomprehensible to other people, even in high intelligence forums like HN? I am obsessed with this question, and I can't find anyone who seems to even find it interesting, let alone be willing to discuss it.

And in the background the whole time during this conversation, there is literally a global pandemic underway, largely exacerbated by the fact that numerous highly industrialized first world countries, one of which landed a man on the friggin moon 51 years ago, now seem to struggle with a task as simple as stockpiling boxes of cheap paper masks in medical facilities. But I digress.

So, if you're cool with the setup and can answer the question, excellent. If you'd like to tune it up a bit before answering, ok by me (providing the amended result continues to facilitate a high quality conversation).

> Is your political goal mostly to shake up the status quo?

Not quite. I would describe it more as: I would like to maximize happiness for all humans beings on earth.

Furthermore, I would like to see that the system we find that can make that actually happen, is somehow made "sticky", so rogue politicians in the future are not able to dismantle it, even if they try. I also happen to personally believe that to finally start moving towards such a goal, the pre-requisite first step is for everyone to calm down and stop yelling at imaginary strawman avatars (transparently created by our subconscious mind) that they have mistaken for an actual real person. And once we've achieved a calm state of mind, finally start working together, to discover and enumerate that which we all agree upon, and that which we do not. And then, what we agree on: do it. And simultaneously, start working on figuring out precisely(!) why we disagree. And I mean, the true nature of the disagreements, not our assumptions of what they are (this is what we do now).

To me, this seems like an obvious improvement over our current approach. And yet, my impression is that people who read this will believe I am mentally ill. Based on the nature of my interactions on HN, I literally believe that. It is not hyperbole. I look at the world, and I simply cannot believe my eyes. It is so far beyond absurd, it's hard to even wrap one's head around it. And yet beyond pointing fingers at their political opponents, it seems to that most people kind of think the situation sucks, but isn't terribly unreasonable. "It's just the way it is, don't dwell on it!"

"God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

- Ancient proverb

"Fuck that. That mindset is dumb. Full stop. Is that what got humanity to where we are today? Is that how our ancestors behaved? Is that how our parents raised us to be? Is that how you're raising your children? What in the hell has gone wrong with people? What is going on? Jesus H Christ. Someone has to do something, and the time to start was 30 years ago. We are behind schedule, so quit fucking whining like a bunch of babies and fighting among yourselves about trivialities, and get your ass in gear cleaning up this fucking disaster we have turned this planet into. Everyone, including me, should be fucking ashamed of themselves."

- Me

Do you see my conundrum? Should I just get it over with and check into a mental hospital? I mean, there's no doubt in my mind that my mental state is is in fact....highly abnormal. But then, in a world gone mad (have you watched TV today?), should abnormal not be a goal worth pursuing? Yes, many instances of abnormal could be even worse, but when "normal" is what I see on TV, I am legitimately willing to (and am) risk my mental health to at least try and do something about it, to hell with all the defeatist status-quo defenders (who know not what they do).

I am not who you replied to, but since you seem to sincerely want an answer, let me help you out by adding the missing words I see when I read the original poster statement:

> ... but these two top choices really do seem incompatible. Is your political goal mostly to shake up the status quo?

I read as:

> ... these two top choices really do seem incompatible (in standard political frameworks since in standard political frameworks individuals are ranked based on their proposed actions and they frequently propose actions that are fundamental opposites in certain dimensions (e.g. raise vs lower taxes on rich are clearly opposites in at least one important sense)). (Given that you propose that ordering, you must be using a non-standard framework. I can think of one framework off the top of my head which may result in that ordering, so let me ask you if that is the case.) Is your political goal mostly to shake up the status quo? (If that is not the case, can you explain what you are optimizing for and the step-by-step reason for why their stated goals/actions will help in achieving that even though the proposed actions are opposites in the normally considered dimensions. You will probably need to make an argument for why that dimension is irrelevant, less important than a different dimension where they are the same, or that the dimension has the same properties at both extremes.)

(Please pardon tyos and bad grammar, I ran out of time)

Thank you, I sincerely appreciate your reply.

Yours seems like a very reasonable interpretation.

> ...let me help you out by adding the [missing words] [I see] when I read the original poster statement

An issue I see, at least the way I view the world, is this: we have gone from 26 words to up to 186. Now, let's not obsess too much over these specific values, and their relative size to each other, particularly in this extremely simple (but not entirely risk free) example.

You have personally interpreted what was meant by another person. Now, your interpretation is probably correct (especially in this simple case), but are we sure?

Just a few ideas that come to mind of how communication can go wrong:

- what if the scenario one is dealing with is more complex &/or nuanced than the example

- what if neither of the two participants happen to have particularly strong skills in logic or communication (say, if the conversation is happening in a less technical forum)?

- maybe one or both of the participants have seriously flawed ideas within their personal axioms (at this point, I'd say this can almost be assumed to be universal in most cases, due to people living in information bubbles as well as interpreting information in a biased manner)

- what if the person doing the interpreting is not acting in a good faith matter to the same high degree you are (due to a lack of intent (up to and including outright lying), or a lack of ability)?

- maybe they do have all the necessary skills, and the proper intent, but they accidentally misread or misinterpret the writers words, and they arrive at an interpretation that is significantly different than than the one intended, and then perhaps the conversation continues with neither party realizing that the model (of a person) they are arguing with is fundamentally flawed to the degree that it is not even remotely representative of the meatspace version of the person.

- what if the conversation "doesn't go so well" (tempers flare, etc.), and maybe even gets into a downward spiral of sorts, such that the already sub-optimal communication skills are degraded even further (spite, revenge, etc)

- I could go on and on

I could also go on and write write an even longer list of all the different consequences that might result from an interaction, particularly when the pitfalls above are blended into various unique combinations.

And then when the interaction is done, each party leaves with a slightly modified internal model of what members of <Tribe X> "are", or "believe", or what the "facts" are about a particular topic. And finally, these two people eventually wrap it up and go out into the world, carrying in their mind even more flawed models of reality than they started with, and repeat the process over and over.

Meanwhile, there are often spectators involved in these conversations, who are in turn having their internal models of the participant's respective "tribes" modified by the events of the conversation. Let's take a scenario: say a Conservative and a Liberal are arguing, and let's say one of the participants is a bit of an asshole (take me for example) - now, in addition to the above pitfalls, all observers minds have been "infected" by the events they witness in this conversation, in particular in this case that the Conservative fellow was "a bit of a jerk". Can you then blame them for letting the idea form in their mind that Conservatives are jerks? After all, they just finished watching one in action! And it's likely not the first time time they've seen that sort of thing.

I could easily fill several pages with enumerations of all the different other dimensions of reality (some of which are at least as important as what I've written here) that get layered on top to eventually construct this complex, multi-dimensional "thing" that we refer to as "reality" / "the world", "life" - but I imagine you et the gist of what I'm saying.

So, that's a short summary of my take on that.

One last minor complaint before I wrap up. I seem to notice a pattern of lots of people behaving as if they are extremely unhappy about the general state of affairs, but when it comes around to discussing ideas about how this situation can be improved, the general consensus recommendation that is shared almost universally across all tribes, is that the underlying problem is: the other tribe. If "they" would "just" do <x>, or stop doing <y>, we'd have this whole thing strightened out by late next week.

I lied - one more complaint. HN is full of very smart people, who are generally very logical, right minded, and fair. I am not the cream of the crop around these parts, of that I have no doubt. And yet, what I am endeavoring to do, is to try to find a way to stop so many people from fighting, put down their weapons, and come together around the table with the sincere intent to start having some serious, productive discussions about where we go from here, and whether we can find a way to achieve the vision of the world that we all(!) share in our hearts.

All people are good. This is not to say that all people are equally good, and sometimes that goodness is buried under so much emotional scar tissue and anger that it seems impossible to believe that anything of worth lies inside. But it is there, and it can be found if you look hard enough. But first, you have to be willing to look. How many people are willing to look I wonder. Oh sure, everyone sincerely believes they are willing, but I think we both know how rare it is to find a person whose theoretical morals perfectly align with their behavior.

I know what I believe, and I believe it is good. I do my best to put these ideas on paper, in hope that I might one day find even one person who believes the same things I do, and then perhaps instead of one person trying to make the world a better place, then we have two. A team, of sorts. Maybe there are others out there who think like this, doing the same thing I am, but in their own unique way. But sometimes a battle is too big for one person, or even ten. Maybe the problem is so large that it needs lots of people. And then maybe sometimes you have special problem, one that is so big that even lots of people isn't enough. No, for those problems, the only solution is everyone. Everyone, all on the same team (more or less), all pushing the ball in the same direction. Instead of tearing each other down, build each other up. I'm not a student of history, but as far as I know I don't think this approach has ever been tried before. In fact, one might argue that what we've tried so far largely consists of the polar opposite of that. So if we all agree that things are less than perfect, and nothing we've tried so far seems to work terribly well, what's the harm in trying something new? Or at least even try discussing the idea?

Oh right, my complaint. I am trying my hardest to do what seems (after several years of pondering the situation we find ourselves in) right. I am trying to suggest some new-ish ideas that might have some utility. But then when I come back to the page, hoping to finally find someone who may see the world through a similar lens to mine, it is not uncommon to find several downvotes instead, and it kind of hurts a bit to be honest. Not all that long ago, my reaction would be anger, and thoughts of "revenge". But that was then, and this is now. I still have a long ways to go, but that's fine. "All things come to those who wait" as they say. But in the meantime, it would be real nice if some day I could get even a small sign from one person, that the path I'm on is not wrong. But if not, so be it, I will contiinue down this path until I come up with a better idea on my own.

Sorry for talking your ear off, it is one of my many bad character traits. Consider yourself lucky that you only had to sit through the Coles Notes version.

Before I sign sign off, I would like to leave links to two articles that I found influential. The first I suspect you will have seen before, and then second is a one hour lecture by Ram Dass, one of the greatest men to ever walk among us, imho.



In the Face of Chaos - Ram Dass Full Lecture 1994


(2020 - 1994 = 26 years ago - how time flies. I wonder if things would look different around here if more people aspired to be like him, rather than our current popular role models. It might be a lot of fun to find out for ourselves, if we'd be willing to try.)

>and it kind of hurts a bit to be honest

Does it kind of hurt to be honest and answer my simple questions, please?


Because to be honest, it kind of hurts to be on the receiving end of all his abuse that you inexplicably tolerate, that Trump constantly dishes out against women, minorities, foreigners, immigrants, gay and lesbian people, trans people, Democrats, scientists, doctors, public health officials, the press, athletes, Gold Star families, poor people, elderly people, overweight people, people who need health care, people with pre-existing conditions, and all the innocent vulnerable people that his election-driven Easter timetable and lies and denials about Coronavirus are killing.

To be honest, it's pretty difficult to feel sorry for you that your feelings are hurt if you support him, unless you're in one or more of those groups on the receiving end of all of his abuse and bigotry. Is pity what you really want? Then why do you tolerate his abuse of so many other people, and have no sympathy for anyone but yourself?

Please explain why you give him a pass on all those things, and what exactly Biden did that is worse than all of that?

Consider brevity.

Consider staying with the matter at hand.

You have diverted the question to “maximizing happiness for all humans”. This is substituting the original bounded problem (“which of these finite candidates do I support in 2020 and why”) with something much less bounded.

Signing off.

Thank you for the advice, I will take it into consideration.

> You have diverted the question to “maximizing happiness for all humans”. This is substituting the original bounded problem (“which of these finite candidates do I support in 2020 and why”) with something much less bounded.

I'm not quite sure I understand this part, I was answering your question:

> Is your political goal mostly to shake up the status quo?

I answered with what I see as my political goal.

To my way of thinking, your characterization of my sincere answer to your question as a "diversion" to be yet another example of what I see as a problematic characteristic of early 21st century Western culture: blind, unthinking allegiance to an ideology, with little interest in or concern for nuance or differing opinions. When I encounter this, it feels like authoritarianism to me. I may be wrong about this, I may be right. Do you know the answers to such questions? I make no presumption to know such things, I merely do my best at estimating them under the current conditions of the time.

All the best.

So please explain why you're giving Trump (or why you would give ANYONE) a pass on the pathological lies, the sexism and misogyny, the xenophobia, the racism, the nepotism and greed, the systematic dismantling of the Constitution, the mental instability and childish behavior, and the sheer incompetence, and you don't totally disqualify him or at least rate him at #998 instead of #2?

Do you imagine that Biden has any of those character flaws at anywhere near Trump's magnitide? Or does Biden have some other super-horrible character flaw that outweighs all of Trump's (like using tabs instead of spaces)? Or do you not believe that any of those character flaws are disqualifying? Then what would be disqualifying, if not all that? Or do you deny that Trump has any of those character flaws? Or do you actually embrace and celebrate those character flaws, like so many other Trump supporters do?

Pardon for the delay in replying to your question, I was tending to dinner and family matters.

> So please explain why you're giving Trump (or why you would give ANYONE) a pass on

Another pitfall/risk I see in the world is the mismatch between meaning and language, combined with not just widespread unawareness of this phenomenon, but refusal to even consider ideas of this nature.

For example, "giving Trump a pass for..."

I did a quick google to see what came back, and by chance, the first hit was this:


That's a pretty apt example of one of the pitfalls I mentioned in my long rant. Everyone is free to deny whatever parts of reality they choose, but when a movie is making jokes about a phenomenon and people still deny it exists....well, I'm not sure what to say. "It's unfortunate" will have to do for now.

But I digress.

I will choose an interpretation: "Why do you continue to pledge your vote to a person who....<does many nasty things>"?

To me, the answer is very simple, and I proclaim that I behave no differently than anyone else. I prefer a certain path for the world (well, an infinite number are acceptable to me, but let's try to keep it simple), based on an extremely complex analysis of thousands of variables (much of which takes place in my subconscious, which passes data up to the conscious mind in various forms), and when an election is approaching, I compare my goals against all available candidates (their platform, my intuition of the likelihood they are actually telling the truth, etc) and the end result is a chosen candidate, accompanied by various other metrics such as "% consistency with your goals", "how pleased I am with this decision", etc

I would have preferred Tulsi Gabbard or Bernie Sanders to be pitted against Trump (either of them could have won handily), but Tulsi was taken care of, and Bernie will soon suffer the same fate. Joe Biden will win the DNC nomination. The "will of the voters" is to pit Joe Biden against Donald Trump. Joe Biden is the single most preferred person. This what is qualifies as a "fact" in early 21st century America. Or so we are told (which seems to have become the de facto definition of a fact, at least according to popular opinion).

So for the Trump vs Biden election, my algorithm outputs Donald Trump as my choice, with a "how pleased I am with this decision" factor somewhere in the neighborhood of zero.

I suspect your algorithm consists of both variables and implementation that are different than mine, so will produce a different output. This has always been the case, and always will be. It's not pretty, but until others are willing to get their egos (in the Buddhist sense of the word) under control and start working together to change the obviously broken political system, I think this is what we're stuck with.

Prior to the covid-19 event, my prediction was that Trump would utterly crush Biden. Covid-19 changes the game significantly, but Donald's base is extremely strong, and constantly bolstered by self-destructive behavior of the media and individuals. I think there can be great utility in examining situations through various metaphorical lenses. In this example, I kind of envision Trump's base as a monster, or a machine. Hate, insults, attacks, normally we would expect to invoke shame in a person. But not all situations are the same, and if you choose to deal with anomalies in a normal way, it can sometimes produce unexpected negative results. The last election was one example of this phenomenon, and from where I sit all signs are that the exact same strategy that failed last time is being tried again. Time will tell if it works, but I'm not optimistic.

> Do you imagine that Biden has any of those character flaws at anywhere near Trump's magnitide?

No, not even close, but I don't weight such things very heavily when it comes to politics.

> Or does Biden have some other super-horrible character flaw that outweighs all of Trump's (like using tabs instead of spaces)?

I see Biden as a standard globalist, and when I see globalism, I see risk (ex: covid-19).

I lean conservative. Risk, stability, security, these sorts of silly (to some) notions are not just high priorities, but pre-requisistes. Now, this isn't to say I don't see Trump as risky, the truth of the matter is quite the opposite. But to me, he's a known risk, plus a side order of randomness that you get with any political candidate. I personally assess the risks to be much higher with Joe Biden, so my vote goes to Trump.

As an aside, while "like using tabs instead of spaces" is funny, I tend to lack a sense of humor when it comes to certain topics. Take this global pandemic. To me, this is an extremely big deal. As serious as a heart attack. I'm all for fun and games, but there's a time to be serious too. And that's probably something else that is very different between you and me: our personal interpretation, or implementation of "serious". When I say serious, I am not joking around. At all. My interpretation of the magnitude of your seriousness is that you still seem to think this is some kind of a game to be won. We are literally in a global pandemic, and still the discourse consists of name calling, dishonest framing of "facts", refusal to let guards down and truly communicate. I get this weird vibe where it kind of seems like people think we should take this situation really, really seriously", but if a person does* take it really, really seriously, and maybe starts asking questions about whether some of the fundamental ways we run our societies should maybe be reviewed, the mood kinda changes to something more along the lines of "whoa there buddy, let's not get too excited now....it's a very big deal, but let's not lose our heads and start thinking too much. Casual thinking is what got us this far, and if it ain't broke, why fix it?" Actually, I have to confess I'm over-dramatizing it a bit. Usually you'll just get a downvote and silence. When you encounter kinds of thinking that are so obviously wrong, they don't even deserve a response.

To me, this event was literally an existential threat (not to mankind entirely, but to our high-tech industrialized world), and it's time to get serious for a change. But all I see anywhere I look (and yes, this applies to "my team" too), is cultural immaturity. Children playing recklessly with incredibly powerful toys, with not the slightest concern for whether they possess the wisdom to wield them responsibly.

To me, this situation is unforgivable. Over and over we were told that any concerns about globalization, offshoring of manufacturing, etc were foolish, old-fashioned, ignorant, uninformed, "not with the times", actually not genuine concerns but just made up excuses motivated by a "fear of brown people".

It seems that when members of your team assess me, they see racism, unintelligence, etc. I know this because I have been called all these names many times. Not for anything I've said, but because I identity as a conservative and as a Trump supporter, and I do not hide it. But that's fine. It's a free country, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But let's not forget the advice your "side" so often likes to scold mine with: "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts." Clever sounding platitudes like this are incredibly effective rhetoric, but they also have the downside working in both directions.

I doubt you have any clue what I see when I look at your "side", mainly because I suspect you're not interested in the slightest. But I'll tell you anyways because I don't sense any sign of good will on your behalf, and I get a nice, confident "keeping it real" vibe from you. I like this personality type, so we may be brothers in that regard at least.

When I look at "your team", here are some of the things I see: hypocrisy, deceit, foolishness, arrogance, recklessness, lust for power and money, authoritarianism, utter lack of humility (the very notion seems to now be considered quaint), delusion, wilful ignorance, the list goes on. How accurate is my "sight"? How might one know such things? (Note: to be clear, this is a generalized list of attributes that can be commonly found within the group - any randomly selected person from that group should not be expected to share all or even any of these attributes. And of course, these are my personal opinions and should not be accepted blindly as fact. A responsible adult should always confirm any claims before accepting them as true.)

But what I do know is that when I look at the window, I don't see any cars or people on the street, and when I turn on the TV, I hear stories of hundreds of people dying, in most unpleasant ways. And for what? What is it that we pursue that makes us behave this way? I think that's a pretty interesting question, and well worth some serious consideration.

Of course, "my team" shares most of the negative attributes I listed as well, and is typically a far worse offender. But I'd also say that they do a much better job of "owning" them. Trump supporters know he lies all the time, it almost seems like a source of pride for them. As far as I can tell (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong), you guys generally seem to think your leaders are telling the truth.

I do not trust the judgement of anyone who believes that the political systems of the United States and most of the Western world are not mostly fraudulent, and in collusion with corporations and the media for the benefit of the rich and powerful. If you watch the theater that is the "debates", and 3 minute long "in-depth, hard hitting" interviews of candidates by "journalists" throwing them softball questions, and believe that this is a legitimate system, populated by politicians whose actions match their words, I am afraid we will have to respectfully disagree.

But as always: I may be right, I may be wrong. The answers to such questions are not knowable, regardless of one's opinion.

So to summarize, you acknowledge that Trump is a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, pathological liar, etc, but for you, that doesn't disqualify him in your mind.

Yet you strongly disqualify Biden and hate him much worse than Trump, but even when directly asked, you can't specifically name anything in particular about him that's worse than or even anywhere approaching the magnitude and mendacity of Trump's flaws.

Are you at all conscious and self-aware of that glaring internal contradiction of yours, or do you just vaguely sense that something is off about your believe system that you just can't quite put your finger on?

If say your goal in life is "I would like to maximize happiness for all humans beings on earth", yet you don't consider sexism, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, pathological lying, science denial, white supremacy, etc, totally unacceptable and absolutely disqualifying, then you don't really mean what you say. That's a perfectly valid and justifiable reason for decent people to be angry with you.

You can't sealion your way out of that contradiction.


I think you should stop "pursuing people with persistent requests for evidence or repeated questions, while maintaining a pretense of civility and sincerity" (the very definition of sealioning) while projecting your own problems onto them, and look deeply inwards to figure out why you condone and support someone with all of those undeniable and fatal character flaws (literally fatal to millions of other people who his words and deeds and science denial and narcissism are making miserable and killing) -- and face the fact that by supporting him, you're partly responsible for enabling and attempting to justify his systematic abuse, and all the misery and death he is causing. Is it because you lack any form of empathy for your fellow human beings, just like he does? Or do you just enjoy seeing all the people he hates punished, like so many other people in his base?


>“He’s not hurting the people he needs to be”: a Trump voter says the quiet part out loud. A Trump voter hurt by the shutdown reveals the real reason the president attracts hardcore supporters.

>“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” Minton told Mazzei. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

>He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.

>Think about that line for a second. Roll it over in your head. In essence, Minton is declaring that one aim of the Trump administration is to hurt people — the right people. Making America great again, in her mind, involves inflicting pain.

Morning....just wanted to drop you a quick note that I will be replying to eventually but it will likely be several hours from now at least, have some work to get finished first, and then also I imagine I'll respond in my standard excessively long manner.

As an aside, I don't know how you think about such things, but I believe conversations like this are, or perhaps more accurately could be, very fruitful. Without diversity of speech & ideas and the inevitable passionate disagreement that comes with it, how is mankind to find the best path forward? I think it is via this process that we can discover new ideas, or bring attention to rare and underappreciated ideas. If some of these ideas were pondered more deeply, perhaps we could start to get a clearer picture of what is really going on here. It seems to me that something like 90% of people, on both sides of all divides, currently hold the stance that their ideology is right, that their roadmap for the future is The Right One. I suspect this style of thinking is not only majorly flawed in a logical sense, but also very dangerous. I believe this style of thinking is a major root cause of this pandemic, and many other of the issues we have in this world.

Back soon-ish.

I've only just quickly skimmed, but there is some extremely interesting discussion shaping up in this thread:

Ask HN: Is HN a ‘healthy online community’? I’m doing a case study for a class


It reminds me of this phenomenon I've been thinking about, but don't know if there's a formal name for it. The general idea is that the ~visibility of some things to the human mind seems to change, depending upon the topic of conversation. If a topic of discussion is directly about something in particular, typically an abstract idea of some kind (in this case the "healthiness" of the HN community), the mind has the capacity for reasonably accurate self-reflection and self-analysis. "Looking at ourselves (at least at the collective level - criticizing one's tribe seems to come easier than criticizing oneself, go figure) in the mirror" so to speak.

But now switch to a different topic (say, politics, or any culture war topic), and is this same capacity for self-reflection visible? I suspect not, and I'm not the only one - this behavioral phenomenon is the reason culture war topics are outright forbidden in some communities, https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex being one example.

Your time will be much better spend studying the definition of "sealioning" that I referred you to, and reflecting about how that word exactly describes your behavior, that writing two more walls of text and asides and digressions about how you will get around to answering my questions later, and pontificating about other unrelated discussions you've only quickly skimmed.




If you were capable of self reflection and actually interested in legitimate discussion, you would have addressed my point about the glaring contradictions in your belief systems that I pointed out, that you're purposefully ignoring and trying to divert attention away from by talking about everything but what I wrote. And you would have told me exactly what it was that Biden did that offended you so much more than all that Trump's done, which I have asked you about several times, but to which you've repeatedly failed to respond. So I can only assume you have no answer to that question, because I gave you so many chances to respond.

The fact that you're not responding to or acknowledging what I wrote further supports the theory that you're just sealioning and wasting everyone's time on purpose. Because your stated goal in life to "maximize happiness" directly contradicts your unjustifiable tolerance and support of a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, incompetent, pathological liar.

If you can't see that huge glaring obvious important contradiction, then you're simply not capable of or interested in self reflection or self improvement or meaningful discussion, and you're just purposefully wasting everyone's time, which is the very definition of "sealioning", a form of trolling, which is rightfully and justifiably prohibited here. Banning trolls who do things like that is something makes this such a wonderful, healthy, supportive community. And that's yet another perfectly valid and justifiable reason for decent people to be angry with you.

One more time:

If you say your goal in life is "I would like to maximize happiness for all humans beings on earth", yet you don't consider sexism, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, pathological lying, science denial, white supremacy, etc, totally unacceptable and absolutely disqualifying, then you don't really mean what you say. That's a perfectly valid and justifiable reason for decent people to be angry with you.

Please don't bother responding by continuing to sealion. It will only serve to prove my point and embarrass yourself and continue to make people angry with you, and might even get you banned.

> So I can only assume...

Maybe you have some work to do on yourself then. The inability to restrain your mind from compulsively assuming things (or waiting patiently, or speaking respectfully) is part of my complaint about modern day Western arrogance and lack of discipline, or even appreciation for the principle.

Maybe if you actually read what I wrote earlier, and put some thought into it, all the while keeping a disciplined eye on your mind injecting ideas of its own, you wouldn't be left with this impression that I haven't answered your questions. Your dissatisfaction with my answers does not constitute a proof that I haven't answered them. This is your mind playing tricks on you. I have a feeling you don't have a deep background in this realm. I don't know if my background qualifies as "deep", but I am well knowledgeable about the subject. This is because I have invested significant time into learning.

When racists assume things about other people, you condemn them. What is the differentiating factor here?

This behavior matches one of the adjectives I used earlier, can you guess which one?

I am busy working today, I will reply on my timeline, not yours. You are not my master. Your imagination about what I am doing at the moment, or why, is not reality. Learning to distinguish the difference is a skill that must be learned. Humility is also a valuable skill, I recommend you revisit the topic.

I'm well familiar with your cartoon, I have seen it and dealt with it many times, I wouldn't get too excited about the idea that you've checkmated me somehow.

Also: please try harder to speak truthfully.

Once again, you systematically avoid answering or even addressing my questions, and go off on another sealion meta-rant, proving my point.

No you certainly haven't answered my questions. Your dissatisfaction with my questions and inability to answer them demonstrates exactly why I asked them in the first place.

You've again failed to state what Biden has ever done that's worse than what Trump does all the time.

And you've again failed to justify the reason you support and condone and vote for racism, sexism, and all of Trump's many other terrible well documented indisputable character flaws.

And you certainly weren't speaking truthfully when you claimed that "I would like to maximize happiness for all humans beings on earth", because the racism and sexism and homophobia and xenophobia that you support and rationalize and vote for flies in the face of your supposed goal.

Trump's lies and science denial literally and brutally kills people, because of his desperate selfish desire to prematurely open the country back up and expose millions of people to Coronavirus on Easter just to save his dwindling election chances, and every other way his incompetence and lies and dismantling Obama's crisis management teams and preparations have made the Coronavirus pandemic much much worse.

Is spreading a deadly disease all across America to score a few political points for Trump really the best way to celebrate the resurrection of Christ?

The blood and pain and suffering of all the victims of Trump's lies is on your hands, because you support and defend him. Think of that as you watch the death tolls from Coronavirus roll in, then as you and your family catch it yourselves. Happy Easter, sealion!


>Analyzing the Patterns in Trump’s Falsehoods About Coronavirus

>For months, the president has downplayed the severity of the pandemic, overstated the impact of his policies and potential treatments, blamed others and tried to rewrite the history of his response.

>Playing down the severity of the pandemic

>Overstating potential treatments and policies

>Blaming others

>Rewriting history

-------- 1 of 2 --------

(Once again, this may not be the email full of answers that you were looking for, although I did make a decent attempt, via a new approach, to get my intended point across. And once again I have gotten carried away, but please bear with me.)

Firstly, I would like to apologize for the tone of my prior email. I was stressed out from bugs at work, and I reacted emotionally, and then foolishly proceeded to action. Sorry for that, I will try to be more disciplined going forward. However, please keep in mind that some "tension" is often inevitable in communication, due to things like topic, differing personality types and communication styles, and so on. I promise to do my best, but my best will be far from perfect. (As an example, when I first started out writing this one, once again the tone started off "not very nicely". I also realized this in my last email, but I happened to be in the bad mood at the time so I let 'er rip).

> Once again, you systematically avoid answering or even addressing my questions, and go off on another sealion meta-rant, proving my point.

Again, sorry, and we continue to have a misunderstanding. My prior comment was not my "big" reply to your questions, I've simply been too busy with work. But please hear this: I give you my word that I will not only answer your questions (likely to your initial dissatisfaction), but I promise I will continue to engage with you, answering as many followup questions as you like, until we finally reach a point (and we will) where you finally understand where I am coming from. I'm not going to predict that you will agree with me about the utility of my approach, but I'm confident you should be able to understand the reasoning behind it, however flawed you may consider it.

You know what, I'll even go further. If you would like, if we can find a way to have an anonymous voice call (so that we can utilize the 1000x++ bandwidth advantage), I would be happy to let you grill me for as long as we both have time. To me, this is another one of those incredibly interesting & quirky things about society: so many people arguing past(!) each other, both parties believing they understand the other person completely...but don't we both know how easily such misunderstandings can occur? Communication is hard, hence the hundreds of books on the topic. See: https://www.google.com/search?q=%22crucial+conversations%22+...

I will attempt to quickly restate the approach I described earlier that I take to political thinking, but in a bit of a different way. If this still doesn't cut it, let me know and I'll try again. Let's proceed...

> If you say your goal in life is "I would like to maximize happiness for all humans beings on earth", yet you don't consider sexism, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, pathological lying, science denial, white supremacy, etc, totally unacceptable and absolutely disqualifying, then you don't really mean what you say. That's a perfectly valid and justifiable reason for decent people to be angry with you.

I will lay out a mental experiment to see if explaining it that way works better.

Imagine a simple alien world, where an election is upcoming involving two candidates. Since this world is so simple, people happen to have only three distinguishing characteristics (all others are identical). To make it even simpler, I will use a technique I call "exaggerated envisioning", for lack of a better term (surely there must be a name for this, considering how incredibly useful it is, but I've never encountered it).


The three distinguishing characteristics of politicians in this world are: hair color, gender, and proposed economic system.

Candidate 1: Brunette, Female, Capitalism

Candidate 2: Blonde, Male, Communism

So now we run my algorithm, including the scores and weighting that I personally assign to each characteristic:

The formula is of the form: SUM(characteristic_score * characteristic_weight), for all characteristics. (mathematical notation is not my strong suit)

Candidate 1: (75 x 0%) + (100 x 50%) + (100 x 100%) = 150

Candidate 2: (50 x 0%) + (50 x 50%) + (25 x 100%) = 50

- I have a mild preference for brunettes over blondes, but it has no bearing on my vote.

- I have a significant preference for females over males (because I believe females tend to be more collaborative and risk averse, and "the boys" have kind of been up to no good for quite some time now), but I only weight it at 50%.

- I have a major preference for capitalism, and this is my #1 concern, by a very wide margin. <-----------

Therefore, my algorithm instructs me to vote for Candidate 1.

-------- 2 of 2 --------

Assuming you see the reasoning in this deliberately & comically simplified scenario above, now you just have to scale it up to an infinite number of characteristics. And that is how I arrive at Sanders > Trump > Biden. The difficult-to-fathom details within my version of this "scaling up" will likely still still leave you scratching your head, but if you can now see my methodology, at least we can productively move on to discussing those next (the "what Biden has ever done that's worse than what Trump does all the time" type of questions).

Now, I can easily presume a number of flaws you may want to point out in this methodology, but trust me, I am already aware - not of all that you would list of course, but well enough to know that there is no shortage of opportunities for miscalculations. I'll list just two:

1. All of my scores are based on my opinion, and my opinion could be 100% wrong.

2. I may completely lack knowledge of the existence of, or importance of, numerous characteristics.

However, if you think about it, while these complaints are both objectively true and perfectly valid, they are also somewhat orthogonal to our conversation (in a sense - TBD). While my specific, unique methodology (the set of characteristics and scores I use in my personal model) may in fact be incredibly flawed, this is the hand nature has dealt us. So, we can choose to address this problem head on (play the hand your dealt), or we can pretend that it doesn't exist (fold, and just hope everything works out).

I hope this description has helped move the ball forward, if only a little. Like, you may still not understand where I'm coming from exactly, but you should now have a half-decent idea about the vehicle I'm traveling in. What fuel the vehicle runs on remains a mystery (your outstanding questions), but if this attempt at describing my thinking works, those should resolve fairly quickly.

That's all I have time for now (still have work to do today unfortunately), but I would also like to leave a few YouTube videos (totally optional, but indispensable if you want to understand in detail). The intended purpose is to help deepen your understanding, as well as check if we have similar backgrounds in a domain that I consider to be incredibly important. But first I would also like to make a prediction: based on your impression that my true motive in this conversation is trolling you, or arguing in bad faith, due to my apparent sea-lioning behavior (to be fair, it does fit the description quite nicely), I predict there is a decent chance your spider senses will now pick up on another nefarious behavior, similar to sea-lioning: gaslighting. I point this out proactively in hopes that it lowers your suspicion that I'm a complete moron, and also that I may be arguing in good faith after all. To be clear, I'm not saying you're somehow not allowed to continue suspecting me of gaslighting, or sea-lioning, but I want to kind of "explicitly set that notion on the table so we are both explicitly aware of it" while we talk, which from an (ideal) implementation perspective, means something like: I should strive to be ever mindful of trying my very hardest to choose my words with utmost care, and in turn you should steelman my words to the best of your ability. (This last one I believe is actually in the HN guidelines I think?)

I may have added some of these already elsewhere, maybe even in a prior comment to you, I'm too lazy to check right now. I encourage you to watch them because there are some important ideas contained within, the kind of ideas that are sorely lacking in the world imho. The Ram Dass video in particular I think you will find highly consistent with your stance on the world and politics. I have included indications of the length of each video so you know what kind of a time investment is required for each.


The Best Version of Michael Moore's 'The Biggest F-You In Human History" Speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLfvXjKMwtI (4:13)

I imagine you've seen this video before, or some form of it. I wonder, what goes through your mind when you watch that video? Is it similar to what goes through mine? Also note that whoever posted this video has added some dramatic background music. I'm not sure how you react to music, but let's take the example of watching a movie, does a well done soundtrack help immerse you into the movie? It sure does with me. Regardless of that, his insight into the mind's of Trump supporters is bang on. I've never been a big Michael Moore fan, but I've listened to lots of interview with him over the last few years, and I'd say his intuition on the state of affairs inside the mind of a Trump supporter is better than any other person on the left, at least that I've encountered anyways. Him and Jonathan Haidt.

In the Face of Chaos - Ram Dass Full Lecture 1994: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8NR6AM5oKk (1:02:05)

I'm a huge Ram Dass (Richard Alpert - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Dass) fan. All of his talks are great, I just happened to listen to this one the other day and the content is perfect for this conversation.

And while we're at it, might as well get the topic of psychedelics out of the closet....

Jonathan Haidt - Gratitude to Psychedelics: Why are Psychedelics Beneficial to the User: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stgjkn1kbfu (5:32)

How Psychedelics Reveal How Little We Know About Anything - Jordan Peterson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uay0h9dboka (4:39)

If you don't have much background knowledge on the topic, this is probably one of the better talks to listen to.

Making Sense with Sam Harris #177 - Psychedelic Science - A Conversation with Roland Griffiths: https://www.bullhorn.fm/makingsensewithsamharris-subsc/posts... (2:03:25) full version, 20:00 excerpted portion (see below)

If you have no background in this realm and don't have time to listen to the whole thing, but are curious about what psychedelics actually "do", fast forward to 1:43:20 (the slider is at the BOTTOM of the screen, and is quite difficult to see) - from that point on it is 20 minutes, where Sam does an amazing job of putting an example of an experience into layman terms. Note that in this case Sam took an extremely high (heroic) dose, something I personally have neither the balls nor the desire to try. Different intentions call for different dosages, I spend most of my time around the 20%-30% zone (opens the mind/heart, gets the juices flowing), but not open so far that your brain falls out. So if it sounds too extreme, keep in mind that Sam is playing the game on maximum difficulty, because he was seeking something different than I.

And then one last one, a scene from one of my favorite movies, Contact (1997). This one is just to put a bug in your ear. :)


Enough weirdness for one? If it helps it go down any better, I almost certainly suffer from what would typically be considered schizophrenia of some kind. I tell you this because it seems to me like a perfectly reasonable alternative to what would normally be considered cognitive dissonance on my part (how I appear from your current perspective?).

PS: If after reading this you can now appreciate my methodological approach, if you drop me a quick reply saying so today, and include a few short "ok then Buster, how do you explain this..." type of questions (short ones are fine, I'm happy to steelman them up before answering), I would be able to write quick explanations today, and if some of those don't make sense, we can follow up later if you are still game. Up to you, I'll accommodate you as well as I can with my current workload.

Huh. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This is one hard nut to crack, it's almost if a 3rd party of some kind has extremely broad reach.

Oh well, worth a try, and back to the drawing board we go.

Some evidence of the reddit case here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22691540

I agree information is driving mass neurosis

I watched that video.

I am of the opinion that it is only partially correct, and that the "Russian trolls on Reddit" meme is actually an example of the very psychological manipulation that the video claims to be exposing.

I also believe I am correct about this, because I am willing and able to have an evidence-based discussion about it, and no one else is (unless they get to define premises that ensure victory of the argument before it even begins).


>Rhetorically, sealioning fuses persistent questioning—often about basic information, information easily found elsewhere, or unrelated or tangential points—with a loudly-insisted-upon commitment to reasonable debate. It disguises itself as a sincere attempt to learn and communicate. Sealioning thus works both to exhaust a target's patience, attention, and communicative effort, and to portray the target as unreasonable. While the questions of the "sea lion" may seem innocent, they're intended maliciously and have harmful consequences.

>— Amy Johnson, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (May 2019)

Perspectives on Harmful Speech Online: a collection of essays. August 2017. The Multiple Harms of Sea Lions, by Amy Johnson. p. 13-15


>Sealioning is an intentional, combative performance of cluelessness.

>Even when sealioning is recognized, responding suitably can be difficult. There are no clear norms for handling it—advice tends to simply suggest "Don’t feed the troll." While this may allow an individual to navigate the moment, it doesn’t address broader effects on trust and learning.

>In many ways, sealioning resembles the Gish gallop, a rhetorical strategy that creationists deployed when debating evolutionists in the late twentieth century. The Gish gallop — named for Duane Gish, a biochemist who became a famed creationist debater — careens through topics, rattling through half-truth after half-truth. It aims both to overwhelm opponents’ ability to respond and to introduce doubt into the minds of audiences. As a result, Eugenie C. Scott, anthropologist and former executive director for the National Center for Science Education, advised evolutionists to avoid free-form debates. If debates simply had to be undertaken, Scott said, formal televised debates offered better spaces for argument — the focused structure reined in the Gish gallop.


>The Gish gallop is a technique used during debating that focuses on overwhelming an opponent with as many arguments as possible, without regard for accuracy or strength of the arguments. The term was coined by Eugenie Scott and named after the creationist Duane Gish, who used the technique frequently against proponents of evolution.

>Technique and counter measures

>During a Gish gallop, a debater confronts an opponent with a rapid series of many specious arguments, half-truths, and misrepresentations in a short space of time, which makes it impossible for the opponent to refute all of them within the format of a formal debate. In practice, each point raised by the "Gish galloper" takes considerably more time to refute or fact-check than it did to state in the first place. The technique wastes an opponent's time and may cast doubt on the opponent's debating ability for an audience unfamiliar with the technique, especially if no independent fact-checking is involved or if the audience has limited knowledge of the topics.

>Generally, it is more difficult to use the Gish gallop in a structured debate than in a free-form one. If a debater is familiar with an opponent who is known to use the Gish gallop, the technique may be countered by pre-empting and refuting the opponent's commonly used arguments first, before the opponent has an opportunity to launch into a Gish gallop.

>See also:

>Bullshit § Bullshit asymmetry principle


>Chewbacca defense – Nonsensical legal defense strategy


>Filibuster – Parliamentary procedure where debate over a proposed piece of legislation is extended, allowing one or more members to delay or entirely prevent a vote on the proposal


>Firehose of falsehood


>Proof by intimidation – A method of convincing someone by using jargons or claiming it as clear


>Sealioning – Type of trolling or harassment


>Spreading (debate)


I hadn't seen this comment before, sorry for not replying earlier.

This is all both legitimate and important. It is also things I already know.

I bet there are all sorts of other things you know that I do not though. How might we facilitate a transfer of this knowledge from your mind into mine?

Yeah, no, I voted Trump in 2016 thinking he couldn't help but be an improvement on Hillary/Biden-style neoliberalism, and I was wrong about that.

Props to you for coming out and admitting that. Also: you are co-responsible for this mess, what are you going to do about that?

Aside from voting for whoever wins the Democratic primary this time around? Get over COVID-19 as fast as I can so I'm able to volunteer to make PPE, donate plasma for serum antibodies if that ever becomes a thing where I am, and whatever else I can find that might help. Granted, I'd be doing that no matter who I voted for in 2016, but if there's some extent to which it qualifies as atonement for prior foolishness, then I'll do it for that too, I suppose. If you've got any other ideas, I'd be interested to hear them.

That's the spirit. Thank you, I'm really impressed with this. I hope there are lots of people like you. It's easy enough to be frustrated and to wish for radical change in politics, hopefully for the better. But disruption for disruptions' sake is ignoring a lot of lessons from history.

One thing you might want to do is to do a write-up of how you were thinking before, what specifically made you change your mind and to promote that as wide as you can. You just might convince a couple of fence sitters.

I have no dog in the race, but since the rest of the world suffers when America is weak I'd much rather have them strong and stable than leaving a power vacuum. And that's taking into account that the democratic party is far from perfect.

Never say we didn't warn you.

Indeed. Heeding the warnings of people with different perspectives on a situation is sound advice.

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