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Trump and the Secretary of State “Brand” Decision

The most important job opening that Trump has to fill – at least from a “brand” perspective – is Secretary of State. You can get away with hiring loyal supporters for less-visible cabinet positions, but you need to get the Secretary of State job right because it directly reflects on the brand of the presidency. And Trump knows branding.

If you look at the Secretary of State from a Master Persuader perspective, it’s hard to know who would do the best job among the candidates under discussion. They’re all highly-capable people. And their opinions are not so different, otherwise they wouldn’t be in the final consideration. The big differentiator is how the country will view Trump’s choice, and how that changes their impression of Trump’s brand as president. Let’s take a look at the candidates through that filter.

Giuliani probably has some foreign business interests that could be problematic once the mainstream media sinks their teeth into him. That doesn’t help Trump’s brand because Trump has the same type of foreign conflict-of-interest issues. You don’t want to add to the problem you already have.

Huntsman has good experience and he presents himself well. But he’s too handsome for the job. Brand-wise, Trump is better off surrounding himself with highly-capable people who don’t suck too much attention out of a room. You might think that isn’t important, but it is from a persuasion standpoint. I liked Trump’s pick of Pence because Pence is the boring, monochromatic version of Trump that makes Trump look like a star when they stand together. You need the same contrast for Secretary of State. 

Obama got the branding right with both Hillary Clinton and now John Kerry as Secretaries of State. Both Secretaries were respected players that have less rock star appeal than Obama himself. That is good branding. Obama got the contrast right, which you expect from a Master Persuader. Trump needs to do the same.

Romney has the same contrast problem as Huntsman. Romney is too tall and handsome. But I think ego will prevent Romney from accepting Trump as his boss. If Trump and Romney both wanted Romney as Secretary of State, it would already be done.

Petraeus had some legal problems in the past because he disclosed government secrets to his girlfriend. Although the crime itself is forgivable, and he paid the price, the topic would remind the public of Hillary Clinton’s email issues and be a stain on Trump’s brand.

Bolton would be the biggest brand mistake for Trump. Bolton is highly capable, but he gives off a scary vibe, and that is the worst branding mistake Trump could make. Half of the United States is already living under an illusion that Hitler just got elected President of the United States. If you add a war-loving white guy with a strange mustache to the illusion, you’re just making things worse. Trump’s biggest problem, brand-wise, is that so many people think he’s a crazy dictator who can’t be trusted with the nuclear codes. Bolton is the only candidate who makes that illusion worse. I don’t see Master Persuader Trump making a mistake of that size.

Rohrabacher would be an interesting choice. He fits Trump’s brand the best because he’s a pragmatic, straight-talking Republican. And if you see him standing next to Trump, you know which one of them is the president. The visual element matters more than you think, given that all the candidates are qualified.

I’m leaving out some candidates, but only because they didn’t seem interesting enough to help or hurt Trump’s brand. 

The Master Persuader filter can’t predict who Trump will pick as Secretary of State because there are lots of variables we can’t observe. For example, the vetting process might kick up scandals we don’t know about, and there’s the issue of how well the candidates can get along with Trump. So this isn’t a prediction blog today. I’m just showing you how the persuasion element matters to the decision.

You might like my book because of all the words in it.

— WhenHub App —

I’m getting great feedback on my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot? It’s like the Uber app without the Uber car. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

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The Non-Expert Problem and Climate Change Science

Before I start, let me say as clearly as possible that I agree with the scientific consensus on climate change. If science says something is true – according to most scientists, and consistent with the scientific method – I accept their verdict. 

I realize that science can change its mind, of course. Saying something is “true” in a scientific sense always leaves open the option of later reassessing that view if new evidence comes to light. Something can be “true” according to science while simultaneously being completely wrong. Science allows that odd situation to exist, at least temporarily, while we crawl toward truth.

So when I say I agree with the scientific consensus on climate change, I’m endorsing the scientific consensus for the same reason I endorsed Hillary Clinton for the first part of the election – as a strategy to protect myself. I endorse the scientific consensus on climate change to protect my career and reputation. To do otherwise would be dumb, at least in my situation.

As regular readers of this blog already know, human brains did not evolve to understand reality in any deep way. If some of us survive and procreate, that’s good enough for evolution. It doesn’t matter that you live in a movie that says you will reincarnate after you die, while I live in a movie that says reality is a software simulation, and perhaps our mutual friend lives in a movie in which his prophet flew to heaven on a winged horse. Those are very different realities, but it doesn’t stop any of us from procreating.  This lesson about the subjective nature of reality is one we learned from watching Trump’s march to the election. As the world looked on, everything they thought they understood about Trump’s chances dissolved in front of them. And yet the world still worked fine.

This perceptual change in humanity is happening as I predicted it would a year before Trump won. I told you he would change more than politics. I said he would open a crack in reality so you could view it through a new filter. That transformation is well underway. I’ll widen the crack a bit more today.

If you have been involved in any climate change debates online or in person, you know they always take the following trajectory: Climate science believers state that all the evidence, and 98% of scientists, are on the same side. Then skeptics provide links to credible-sounding articles that say the science is bunk, and why. How the heck can you – a non-expert – judge who is right?

You probably are not a scientist, and that means you can’t independently evaluate any of the climate science claims. You didn’t do the data collection or the experiments yourself. You could try to assess the credibility of the scientists using your common sense and experience, but let’s face it – you aren’t good at that. So what do you do?

You probably default to trusting whatever the majority of scientists tell you. And the majority says climate science is real and we need to do something about it. But how reliable are experts, even when they are mostly on the same side?

Ask the majority of polling experts who said Trump had only a 2% chance of becoming president. Ask the experts who said the government’s historical “food pyramid” was good science. Ask the experts who used to say marijuana was a gateway drug. Ask the experts who used to say sexual orientation is just a choice. Ask the experts who said alcoholism is a moral failure and not a matter of genetics.

There are plenty of examples where the majority of experts were wrong. What you really want to know is whether climate change looks more like the sort of thing that turns out to be right or the sort of thing that turns out to be wrong. Let’s dig into that question.

It seems to me that a majority of experts could be wrong whenever you have a pattern that looks like this:

1. A theory has been “adjusted” in the past to maintain the conclusion even though the data has changed. For example, “Global warming” evolved to “climate change” because the models didn’t show universal warming.

2. Prediction models are complicated. When things are complicated you have more room for error. Climate science models are complicated.

3. The models require human judgement to decide how variables should be treated. This allows humans to “tune” the output to a desired end. This is the case with climate science models.

4. There is a severe social or economic penalty for having the “wrong” opinion in the field. As I already said, I agree with the consensus of climate scientists because saying otherwise in public would be social and career suicide for me even as a cartoonist. Imagine how much worse the pressure would be if science was my career. 

5. There are so many variables that can be measured – and so many that can be ignored – that you can produce any result you want by choosing what to measure and what to ignore. Our measurement sensors do not cover all locations on earth, from the upper atmosphere to the bottom of the ocean, so we have the option to use the measurements that fit our predictions while discounting the rest.

6. The argument from the other side looks disturbingly credible.

One of the things that always fascinated me about jury trials is that attorneys from both sides can sound so convincing even though the evidence points in only one direction. A defendant is either guilty or innocent, but good lawyers can make you see it either way. Climate science is similar. I’ve seen airtight arguments that say climate science is solid and true, and I’ve seen equally credible-looking arguments that say it is bunk. From my non-scientist perspective, I can’t tell the difference. Both sides look convincing to me.

As I have described in this blog before, I’m a trained hypnotist and I have studied the methods of persuasion for years. That gives me a bit of context that is different from the norm. In my experience, and based on my training, it is normal and routine for the “majority of experts” to be completely wrong about important stuff. But in the two-dimensional world where persuasion isn’t much of a thing, it probably looks to most of you that experts are usually right, especially when they are overwhelmingly on the same side and there is a mountain of confirming evidence.

We like to think we arrived at our decisions about climate science by using our common sense and good judgement to evaluate the credibility of experts. Some of you think you have superior sources of information as well. But both sides are wrong. No one is using reason, facts, or common sense to arrive at a decision about climate science. Here’s what you are using to arrive at your decision:

1. Fear

2. Unwarranted trust in experts

3. Pattern recognition

On the question of fear, if you believe that experts are good at predicting future doom, you are probably scared to death by climate change. But in my experience, any danger we humans see coming far in the future we always find a way to fix. We didn’t run out of food because of population growth. We didn’t run out of oil as predicted. We didn’t have a problem with the Year 2000 bug, and so on. I refer to this phenomenon as the Adams Law of Slow-Moving Disasters. When we see a disaster coming – as we do with climate science – we have an unbroken track record of avoiding doom. In the case of climate change danger, there are a number of technologies under development that can directly scrub the atmosphere if needed.

On the question of trusting experts, my frame of reference is the field of influence and persuasion. From my point of view – and given the examples of mass delusion that I have personally witnessed (including Trump’s election), I see experts as far less credible than most people assume.

And when it comes to pattern recognition, I see the climate science skeptics within the scientific community as being similar to Shy Trump Supporters. The fact that a majority of scientists agree with climate science either means the evidence is one-sided or the social/economic pressures are high. And as we can plainly see, the cost of disagreeing with climate science is unreasonably high if you are a scientist.

While it is true that a scientist can become famous and make a big difference by bucking conventional wisdom and proving a new theory, anything short of total certainty would make that a suicide mission. And climate science doesn’t provide the option of total certainty.

To put it another way, it would be easy for a physicist to buck the majority by showing that her math worked. Math is math. But if your science depends on human judgement to decide which measurements to include and which ones to “tune,” you don’t have that option. Being a rebel theoretical physicist is relatively easy if your numbers add up. But being a rebel climate scientist is just plain stupid. So don’t expect to see many of the latter. Scientists can often be wrong, but rarely are they stupid.

To strengthen my point today, and in celebration of my reopening of the blog commenting section, please provide your links to pro and con arguments about climate science. This might be the only place in the world you will see links to both sided. If you want to be amazed, see how persuasive BOTH sides of this debate are.

As I said above, I accept the consensus of climate science experts when they say that climate science is real and accurate. But I do that to protect my reputation and my income. I have no way to evaluate the work of scientists.

If you ask me how scared I am of climate changes ruining the planet, I have to say it is near the bottom of my worries. If science is right, and the danger is real, we’ll find ways to scrub the atmosphere as needed. We always find ways to avoid slow-moving dangers. And if the risk of climate change isn’t real, I will say I knew it all along because climate science matches all of the criteria for a mass hallucination by experts. 

You might like reading my book because experts agree it is amazing.

— WhenHub App —

I’m getting great feedback on my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot? It’s like the Uber app without the Uber car. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

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A New Solution for the Hearing-Impaired

I’ve been observing and helping the UC Berkeley start-up ecosystem for the past year, and I’ve made several angel investments in that space. Berkeley has perhaps the largest start-up environment in the world, but it gets less attention than it deserves. I’ll try to fix that by spotlighting some of the more interesting start-ups that could potentially have a big impact on the quality of people’s lives. Today’s spotlight is on &AVA, a start-up that makes a life-changing product for the hearing impaired.

The product is a mobile app that works with a subscription service for real-time computer translation. If you go to dinner in a noisy restaurant, or a business meeting, for example, each attendee would have a copy of the app and keep their phone in front of them, in listening mode. When anyone speaks, the nearest phone translates and sends the text to each phone at the table. The hearing impaired person at the table can follow the conversation in the form of a live transcript on their own phone. This is life-altering for the hard-of-hearing. 

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I’ve seen the product work in demos and it is impressive. All the company needs at this point is more customers and more funding. If they can get to profitability it would mean an enormous improvement in the quality of life for millions of hearing-impaired people.

If you know any hearing impaired people, please share this post and the link to their website here. (Disclosure: I do not have any investment or other interest in this company but I haven’t ruled out investing in it later.)

You might also be interested in a new UC Berkeley website that points to all the important start ups and related resources in the UC Berkeley ecosystem. It’s called Berkeley Startup Network. The site is still beta, so expect the content to grow exponentially. I funded the prototype for this site to help UC Berkeley entrepreneurs find advice, education, and funding. The potential gains from this type of networking efficiency are enormous. The &AVA offering is just one of many examples of life-changing products coming out of Berkeley. I’m trying to help the Berkeley start-up ecosystem become more efficient for the benefit of civilization.

To put all of this in perspective, one Berkeley start-up has an inexpensive portable testing device for AIDS that could virtually eliminate transmission in some situations. Another startup would reduce the number of diabetes amputations by thousands. Another would eliminate one of the most common sources of hospital infections. And so on. So you can see how important these start-ups are to our future quality of life. I’ve decided to help in a variety of ways, including some blog posts about the most interesting start-ups.

I’ll also be telling you more about my own start-up, WhenHub, in the coming months.

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Trump and the Taiwan Call

By now you know that President Elect Trump took a call from the President of Taiwan and simultaneously lit on fire the underpants of the mainstream media and maybe the leadership of China too. 

Apparently taking a phone call from the president of Taiwan is a major diplomatic change from the so-called “One China Policy” that imagines Taiwan as a rogue province of China, not its own country. Reports are saying this call was planned, not a mistake on the Trump team’s side.

Was this a mistake by Trump?

If you look at this call through the filter of normal politics it is clearly a mistake. It provokes the Chinese leadership and gains nothing obvious in return. The media is reporting this event as exactly the sort of thing that leads to nuclear annihilation. This is the same mainstream media that got everything wrong about Trump for the past year.

But if you look at this situation through the filter of a Master Persuader, it makes perfect sense. Trump is “setting the table” for future negotiations with China. He just subtracted something from China’s brand that they value, and later he will negotiate with them to maybe give it back in some fashion. Probably in return for some trade concessions.

But what about the risk? Does it ever make sense to poke a nuclear power? In this case, probably yes. As I have said in this blog before, China’s leadership is both mature and competent. Many of them have engineering degrees. They understand what Trump is doing, and none of it is a path to war because neither side has any interest in war. None. Zero. 

I can imagine some scenarios in which China and the U.S. might dangerously escalate toward war, but one friendly call to a major trading partner isn’t one of the scenarios.

But why take that call now? Shouldn’t Trump have cleared this with Obama, or waited until he was President?

No. Because the Obama administration would have advised him not to do it. And waiting until January is the way old politics is done. This sort of bold, rapid action is evidently what Trump wants you to think is his brand as president. The Taiwan call is consistent with the New CEO Play that I described in this post. He’s setting the tone as bold, effective, and not waiting for red tape to slow him down.

Don’t worry about China going to war over a phone call. They understand Trump, in part because they read my blog too. And look at the brilliance of China’s diplomatic response. Their Foreign Minister labelled the phone call, “a shenanigan by the Taiwan side.“ That is exquisite diplomatic framing, Master Persuader-style. You can see why China and Trump respect each other; they both earned it.

Mutual respect is a safe place to be. Relax. Adults are in charge.

You might like reading my book because I won’t take a call from the President of Taiwan no matter how often she asks.

— WhenHub App —

Have you seen my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot? It’s like the Uber app without the Uber car. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

The perfect gift for a reader of this blog is the Dilbert calendar, the #1 Best Seller on Amazon. Get it here:

image

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D*ck Pics Explained

One of the more puzzling questions in the modern world is why so many guys send pictures of their junk to innocent women who have asked for nothing of the sort. It’s rude, vulgar, and worst of all – it doesn’t work.

You would think that 100% of men would know that sending d*ck pictures to women – especially strangers – is a bad idea. I’ll untangle this ball of string for you using the Moist Robot Hypothesis.

The Moist Robot Hypothesis (from my book) says – among other things – that our bodies control our thoughts as much – or more – than our thoughts control our bodies. For example, science knows that being happy can make you smile, but we also know that forcing a smile can cause your brain to generate happiness chemistry. The body-mind connection is a two-way street. When you understand this idea, the world changes for you.

The Moist Robot Hypothesis also assumes that most, if not all, of our “decisions” are little more than rationalizations for our instinct to procreate in the most productive way. And by that I mean mating with people who have genetic advantages that would make the offspring successful. That’s why people are attracted to beauty, because it is a visual proxy for good health and good genes. For the same reason, women are naturally attracted to successful men that have talent, money, or some other sort of advantage. (Obviously these are generalizations and don’t apply to all.)

You see the reproductive instinct in just about everything we do. We pick cars that signal our success. We pick clothing and hairstyles that present us as suitable for mating. And so on.

But dick pics?

As you have learned by reading this blog for the past year, people can only be rational in limited situations in which there is no emotional content. Our sex drive is so strong that it largely eliminates the option for rational behavior. And as you know, the hornier you get, the stupider you are. Once a guy reaches a critical level of horniness, his rational brain shuts off and he becomes primal. And when he’s primal, he sometimes signals his availability for mating in the most basic way possible: He displays his junk in full preparedness. 

If you think the men doing this behavior are extra-dumb, or extra-rude, that might be true. But it is just as likely that such men are extra-horny. That gets you to the same decision no matter your IQ because the rational brain is shut down during maximum arousal.

It is also true – as far as I can tell from discussions with women over the years – that sometimes a dick pic actually results in dating and sex. I realize how hard that is to believe. But sometimes (maybe one time in 500) it actually works. You would think those odds would be enough to discourage even a man with a temporarily suspended intellect, but that view ignores the basic nature of men: We’re risk takers when it comes to reproduction.

Men are low value for reproduction because you only need one man to impregnate many. And so it seems that evolution has created men who will pursue super-longshot odds in the pursuit of sex. Dick pics fit that model.

If you’re a judgemental type of person, you see dick picks as the height of rudeness and inappropriate behavior. You think those men are pigs. From a legal and political perspective you might even see dick pics as a form of sexual assault. But if you start to see the world through the Moist Robot filter, what you see is normal men whose brains turned primal during arousal and they did the most primal thing that came naturally – they displayed their suitability for reproduction.

I’m not defending it. I’m just putting a different filter on it.

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The New CEO’s First Moves (and Trump)

One of the things I will enjoy about the Trump presidency is watching non-business writers try to explain his methods. Case in point, the recent stories about Ford and Carrier keeping some parts of their manufacturing in the United States because Trump negotiated/bullied them into staying. If you tell that story through a political filter – which is all I have seen so far – you focus on the facts. In this case, the political story is that both the Ford and Carrier situations are exaggerated claims of success

The political filter misses the story completely. As usual.

Here’s the real story. You need a business filter to see it clearly. In my corporate life I watched lots of new leaders replace old leaders. And there is one trick the good leaders do that bad leaders don’t: They make some IMMEDIATE improvement that everyone can see. It has to be visible, relatively simple, and fast.

Why?

Because humans are not rational. Our first impressions rule our emotions forever. Trump has a second chance to make a first impression because his performance as President is fresh ground. Trump is attacking the job like a seasoned CEO, not like a politician. He knows that his entire four-year term will be judged by what happens before it even starts. What he does today will determine how much support and political capital he has for his entire term.

So what does a Master Persuader do when he needs to create a good first impression to last for years? He looks around for any opportunity that is visible, memorable, newsworthy, true to his brand, and easy to change.

Enter Ford.

Enter Carrier.

Trump and Pence recognized these openings and took them. Political writers will interpret this situation as routine credit-grabbing and exaggerated claims. But business writers will recognize Trump’s strategy as what I will call the “new CEO Move.” Smart CEOs try to create visible victories within days of taking the job, to set the tone. It’s all about the psychology.

If you are looking at Trump’s claims of success with Ford and Carrier in terms of technical accuracy and impact on the economy, you will be underwhelmed. But if you view it through a business filter and understand that psychology is the point of the exercise, you’re seeing one of the best new CEO moves you will ever see.

I’ll say this again because it’s important. We’re all watching closely to see if President Elect Trump has the skill to be president. And while you watch, Trump and Pence are pulling off one of the most skillfully executed new CEO plays you will ever see. Remember what I taught you in the past year: Facts don’t matter. What matters is how you feel. And when you watch Trump and Pence fight and scratch to keep jobs in this country, it changes how you will feel about them for their entire term. This is a big win for Trump/Pence disguised as a small win.

The political press will dismiss Ford and Carrier with fact-checking. But the stock market will be smarter. Experienced business people recognize the “new CEO” move and they know how powerful and important it is.

If you are worried about Trump’s talent for leadership, this should help set your mind at ease. He hasn’t even started the job and he’s already performing better than any past president in the same phase. 

In related news, my girlfriend Kristina Basham lost her blue verification badge on Instagram yesterday without explanation. She has 2.2 million followers and there are dozens of fake accounts using her name and photos, so she is exactly the type of user who needs the account verification badge. We’re left wondering if this sudden change is related to my writing about Trump. 

You should be disturbed that there is no official way for me to know if this happened for technical reasons or because of some internal Instagram policy. This is a frightening lack of transparency for a social media company (Facebook/Instagram) that is so vital to business success that one could argue it should be regulated as a public utility. 

The context here is that I’m already shadowbanned on Twitter for writing about Trump, and trolls have one-starred my book on Amazon.com for political reasons. I’ll keep you informed as I learn anything. But I probably won’t.

You might like reading my book because the non-troll reviews of it are exceptional.

— WhenHub App —

Have you seen my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot? It’s like the Uber app without the Uber car. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

Read More →
The Idea You are Least Likely to Believe

When Trump started his historic run for the White House last year, I blogged that he would change more than politics. I said he would forever change how we view reality. And so he has. 

The mainstream media and the public now accept the idea that Trump ignored facts, science, and even common decency… and still got elected. I have been telling readers of this blog for a year that facts don’t matter. Policies don’t matter. The only thing that matters is persuasion. And Trump has plenty of persuasion.

To be perfectly clear, when I say facts don’t matter, I mean that in the limited sense of decision-making. If you make the wrong decision, the facts can kill you. That’s not in debate. I’m talking about the process or arriving at a decision – whether it is a good decision or not. The decision-making process is largely divorced from facts and reason. We live under a consistent illusion that facts and logic guide our decisions. They don’t.

The exception to this rule is when there is no emotional dimension to a decision. For example, if a mechanic says it will cost you $1,000 to fix your car, and you can see no other option that makes sense, one could say that facts and logic guided your decision to approve the repairs. But emotion-free decisions are unusual. You rarely see emotion-free decisions when it comes to politics, relationships, or even your career. 

And this brings us to the question of President Elect Trump’s seeming disregard for facts as he plowed through the competition to reach the presidency. The common view from his critics is that Trump is an idiot. The common view from his supporters is that his facts are not so wrong, or at least they are directionally accurate. I don’t subscribe to either interpretation. I find the Master Persuader filter is a better way to understand this strange situation.

A Master Persuader – and anyone trained in hypnosis or persuasion in general – knows that humans don’t use facts and reason to make important decisions. Most persuaders prefer sticking to the facts when possible, but that is mostly to avoid looking like idiots. They know that sticking to facts will not persuade.

Trump just takes things one step further. He doesn’t pretend the facts matter when they don’t. To put this in more practical terms, Trump does the things that matter and ignores the things that don’t. He just has a better idea than the public and the media about what matters. For example…

The public thinks facts matter for decisions. They don’t.

The public thinks being “presidential” matters for getting elected. It didn’t.

The public thinks Trump should have studied the issues more deeply. And he will, as needed. But he didn’t need detailed policy knowledge to get elected (evidently).

The experts said Trump needed more ground game. He didn’t.

I could go on, but I hope you see the pattern already. Trump ignores the things that don’t matter – even to the point of looking the fool – and pays deep attention to what DOES matter. That’s what made him our next president.

When Trump was running for election, facts and reasons and policy details didn’t matter to the outcome. He knew that. I knew that. Every trained persuader knew it. But the general public did not, and that is the realization that is beginning to dawn on the world. 

Once in office, facts and reason do matter more. Trump is moving from the job of talking about issues to the job of doing something about them. In his new role, he will pay attention to details and facts and reason as much as humanly possible, with the help of advisors. You already see this transformation happening as Trump moderates his positions on waterboarding, prosecuting Clinton, and even climate change. 

If you have not studied persuasion it makes perfect sense to be in a panic about a Trump presidency. You see a pattern of irrational-looking behavior from Trump during the election and you assume the trend will continue into the presidency. But if you understand the tools of persuasion you see a Master Persuader ignoring what doesn’t matter and paying close attention to what does, for the benefit of the country. That is literally the safest situation I can imagine.

As president, facts do matter. Reason matters. Logic matters. But persuasion does too – and it is still hugely important to the job of being president. Don’t expect Trump to embrace any facts that are not important to “making America great again.” But I do think you can expect facts to influence Trump when they do matter.

If you are worried how a President Trump will address climate change, here’s what to expect. You can expect him to dissect the topic in terms of the facts that matter and the ones that don’t. You can expect him to eventually agree with scientists who say human activity is contributing to climate change. But when it comes to the prediction models, and America’s ability to fix the problem at a reasonable cost, expect him to be more skeptical than the general public. 

That isn’t crazy. Complicated models that try to predict the future rarely succeed.

I realize that the stakes are high if I’m wrong. But keep in mind that a year ago I was giving Trump a 98% chance of winning the presidency when experts were at 2%. And my prediction was based on the persuasion filter.

I don’t believe human brains evolved to understand reality at an objective level. The best we can do is pick filters that do a good job of predicting what’s ahead. The Persuasion Filter predicted Trump’s win when most other models did not. Now I use the same filter to predict that Trump will turn from totally ignoring facts (because facts don’t matter to elections) to embracing the facts that do matter to the country. 

You can still expect Trump to ignore any facts that don’t matter, such as the exact number of non-citizens that voted for Clinton. In that case he was making the press think past the sale (that non-citizens voted) and forcing them to spend time talking about the exact number until our brains uncritically accept his central premise that lots of non-citizens voted for Clinton. That is pure persuasion. He won’t change the methods that work. Watch and learn.

You might like reading my book because I am persuasive.

— WhenHub App —

People tell me they  love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

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About #Pizzagate

If you aren’t following the dark corners of social media you might not know of something called Pizzagate. Snopes.com calls it a “detailed conspiracy theory.”

The basic idea is that a pizza parlor in Washington DC is alleged to be the center of a major child sex ring that involves top Democrats close to Hillary Clinton. I have labelled this story “not credible,” and that opinion is confusing people because there is a mountain of evidence supporting the allegations.

So let me tell you what a mountain of evidence is worth.

Mountain of Evidence Value = zero.

In the normal two-dimensional world in which we imagine we live, a mountain of evidence usually means something is true. So why am I looking at the same mountain of evidence as the believers in pizzagate and coming to an opposite conclusion?

The difference is that I understand what confirmation bias is and how powerful it can be. If you don’t have the same level of appreciation for the power of confirmation bias, a mountain of evidence looks like proof. 

Here’s what I know that most of you do not: Confirmation bias looks EXACTLY LIKE a mountain of real evidence. And let me be super-clear here. When I say it looks exactly the same, I am not exaggerating. I mean there is no way to tell the difference.

That sounds crazy, right?

Suppose dozens of children started coming forth and detailing sex crimes in this particular pizza parlor. Would that prove it happened, or would I call that more confirmation bias?

I would call that more confirmation bias. In fact, the situation would be identical to the famous McMartin Preschool case in the eighties in which lots of kids made similar and untrue claims of abuse. We don’t have to wonder if a “mountain of evidence” including dozens of first-hand accounts can be false because we know it already happened. Moreover, cognitive scientists can tell you that this sort of massive mistake is more normal than you can imagine.

I want to be totally clear here that I’m not saying Pizzagate is false. I see the mountain of evidence too. And collectively it feels totally persuasive to me. It might even be true. I’m not debating the underlying truth of it. That part I don’t know. My point is that what you see as a mountain of evidence that can’t be wrong, I see as something that is far more likely to be confirmation bias. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say perhaps a 20-1 odds the Pizzagate story is false.

Let me put this in a more familiar context. Most of the Pizzagate believers are also Trump supporters it seems. And Trump supporters have watched first-hand as half the residents of the United States concluded that Trump was the next Hitler. Why do tens-of-millions of people believe such a preposterous thing?

It’s because there is a mountain of evidence to support the allegation. Case in point, just yesterday Trump suggested that perhaps flag burners should be punished. That’s clearly dictator talk! (Except that Hillary Clinton proposed that actual law in 2005.)

The argument for Trump being the next Hitler is built on the same type of confirmation bias as Pizzagate. Both allegations are supported by a mountain of evidence. But if you look at each piece of evidence in isolation, none are individually persuasive.

Let me summarize my point by saying that if you were not aware of the McMartin Preschool case you were also not intellectually equipped to judge the credibility of either Pizzagate or the Trump-is-Hitler idea.

People have asked me whether or not an understanding of how persuasion works can protect against unwanted influence. The quick answer is no. Persuasion typically works just as well when you see it coming and you know how it works. But in some specific cases a superior knowledge of cognitive phenomenon can help. This is one of those cases. If you know about the McMartin Preschool case, and you understand the real power of confirmation bias, you might have the tools to avoid believing in either Pizzagate or the likelihood of Trump turning into the next Hitler.

And now you have those tools.

As I told you last year, when a Master Persuader becomes president it will change more than your view of politics. It will change how you view reality itself.

You might like reading my book because this blog has text.

— WhenHub App —

People tell me they  love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

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The Trump Talent Stack

As I explained in my book, there are two ways to make yourself valuable. The first way is to become the best at some specific skill, the way Tiger Woods dominated golf. But not many of us can be Tiger Woods. So that path is unavailable to 99% of the world.

I recommend a different approach. Most people can – with practice – develop a variety of skills that work well together. I call this idea the Talent Stack.

For example, I’m a famous syndicated cartoonist who doesn’t have much artistic talent, and I’ve never taken a college-level writing class. But few people are good at both drawing and writing. When you add in my ordinary business skills, my strong work ethic, my risk tolerance, and my reasonably good sense of humor, I’m fairly unique. And in this case that uniqueness has commercial value. 

Now consider president-elect Trump. He doesn’t have one talent that is best-in-the-world, but he does have one of the best talent stacks I have ever seen. Consider all the ways in which Trump is better than average, but not best-in-the-world. I’ll list the obvious ones.

Public Speaking: Trump is an engaging speaker, and he knows how to entertain a crowd. But no one would say he’s one of the best speakers in the world. 

Humor: Trump is funny. But he isn’t Seinfeld funny. He’s just funnier than most people. That’s all he needs.

Intelligence: Trump is smart. He probably wouldn’t beat Hillary Clinton on a standardized IQ test, but he’s smarter than 90% of the world, and probably far more. That’s good enough for a talent stack.

Knowledge of Politics: Compared to career politicians and political pundits, Trump looks under-informed. But he probably knows more about politics than 95% of the public. And that seems to be enough. Advisors will fill in the knowledge gap. 

Branding: Trump is a world-class marketer and brander. He probably isn’t the best in the world at those things. But he’s very, very good.

Hiring and Firing: One of the most important skills a president needs is the ability to hire good advisors and – equally important – fire the mistakes. Trump has plenty of experience doing both. He probably isn’t the best in the world at hiring and firing, but I’ll bet he’s in the top 10% just from practice.

Strategy: Trump won the presidency in large part because his non-standard strategy worked great. He focused on free media, big rallies, and the key swing states. That was good enough to win. Trump probably isn’t the best strategist in the world, but he’s very good.

Social Media: Trump understands social media in a way that people of his generation usually don’t. Trump might not be the most Internet-savvy politician of all time, but he’s definitely in the top 10%. 

Persuasion: Trump might be the most persuasive person I have ever observed in the act of persuading. But keep in mind that persuasion requires a talent stack too. Trump is persuasive because he combines a bunch of minor skills into one big persuasive toolbox. For example, Trump is good at reading people, good at being provocative to attract energy, and good at sales technique. He probably isn’t the best in the world at any of those minor skills, but when you add them together, along with lots of other subsidiary persuasion skills, and now the Office of the President – Trump might be the most persuasive person on Earth.

Risk management: Trump understands risk. We see it in his business dealings as he isolates different lines of business in their own corporate structures so they can fail without bringing down the rest. We also know that Trump enters businesses that have an unlimited upside potential with limited risk. And he prefers gambling with other people’s money. Trump probably understands risk management better than 90% of the public. 

Trump’s critics have a hard time understanding Trump’s success because he lacks any best-in-the-world talents. They mock his simple speaking style, his lack of policy knowledge, his provocative Tweets and more. But as they criticize the trees they lose sight of the forest. Trump has no trees in his forest that are the best trees in the world. But his forest is one of the best forests in the world.

The takeaway here is that anyone can develop a more valuable talent stack. Just figure out which talents go well together. If in doubt, add public speaking to your stack first. Learn a second language if you can – but only a useful language. And persuasion makes you more effective at nearly everything you do. Those are just examples. You’re the best judge of which skills you need. 

President-elect Trump might not be a good role model in terms of his personal life. And you might not care for his policies. But when it comes to a role model for success, you will never see better. Trump’s talent stack is outstanding. 

On a related note, Kanye West is another good example of a talent stack. He isn’t the best in the world at singing, dancing, writing, or any other skill you would assume is necessary for his job. But you won’t see many people with Kanye’s combination of talents, including his business acumen, his drive, and his knack for self-promotion. Kanye has been building his talent stack for years. And now he’s adding politics. You probably think Kanye has no chance to be president because of his current mental/emotional health hospitalization. But you’d be wrong. Hillary Clinton proved that health concerns are not disqualifying.

I’m not going to predict a future Kanye West presidency. But if you think it is unlikely, you don’t understand the power of talent stacks. It is possible that Kanye is doing nothing in the hospital but recovering. But I like to think he is using that time to learn Spanish. That’s how Master Persuaders roll.

You can read more about talent stacks and the value of systems over goals in my book.

If you are meeting with family and friends for the holidays, you might find a lot of value in my start-up’s free app, WhenHub. It’s like the Uber app, but for any group of two or more people who want to geostream their locations on a map as they approach a meeting place. No more wondering where everyone is and how long you have to wait. The app is free, and works across iPhone and Android platforms:

WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

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A Lesson in Cognitive Dissonance

Imagine you are one of the anti-Trump folks who believe we just elected a racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic, science-denying dictator. Let’s say that’s the movie playing in your mind. That’s some scary stuff.

Now imagine watching the news as Trump reveals in slow-motion that he’s flexible and pragmatic on just about everything. Thomas Friedman at the New York Times just reported that Trump is – as of yesterday anyway – open-minded about climate-change science, and Trump is no longer in favor of waterboarding terror suspects. 

You also watched Trump move to the middle on his immigration policies. And you watched as Trump said he plans to keep the good parts of Obamacare instead of jettisoning it whole.

The areas in which Trump hasn’t budged in his opinion seem to be where states’ rights are involved. Trump would leave it to the courts and to the states to decide on abortion, legal marijuana, and gay marriage. You might not like the fact that Trump wants the federal government to stay out of those decisions, but it isn’t very dictator-like to leave big decisions to the states.

As Trump continues to demonstrate that he was never the incompetent monster his critics believed him to be, the critics will face an identity crisis. They either have to accept that they understand almost nothing about how the world works – because they got everything wrong about Trump – or they need to double-down on their current hallucination. Most of his critics will double-down. That’s how normal brains work.

And that brings us to our current situation. As Trump continues to defy all predictions from his critics, the critics need to maintain their self-images as the smart ones who saw this new Hitler coming. And that means you will see hallucinations like you have never seen. It will be epic.

The reason this will be so fun to watch is that we rarely get to see a situation in which the facts so vigorously violate a hallucination. Before Trump won the presidency everyone was free to imagine the future they expected. But as Trump continues to do one reasonable thing after another, his critics have a tough choice. They can either…

1. Reinterpret their self-images from wise to clueless.

or…

2. Generate an even stronger hallucination. (Cognitive dissonance.)

If Trump’s critics take the second option – and most of them will – it means you will see a lot of pretzel-logic of the type that is necessary hold onto the illusion that Trump is still a monster despite continuing evidence to the contrary. 

Prediction: Expect the anti-Trump press to continue asking Trump surrogates this question: “Why do you think the KKK and white nationalists support Trump?”

The question makes sense if you don’t think about it for too long. But once you realize that Trump has repeatedly and publicly disavowed those groups, you have to hallucinate extra-hard to make the racist narrative work. That’s where the “top-secret-racist-dog-whistle” comes in. You need a theory to explain why the supposed Racist-in-Chief keeps disavowing racists. How does that make any sense?

This is where cognitive dissonance comes in. In order to explain Trump’s disavowal of White Nationalists and the KKK while holding onto the hallucination that Trump is a dangerous monster, you have to hallucinate that he is playing a clever game of pretending to be against racists while secretly planning to purge the earth of all non-orange people. 

That feels unlikely to me. I think Trump just wants to do a good job for the country, thereby bringing money and glory to his family name. And he won’t get any of that by being a racist monster. He only gets that happy ending by being pragmatic and flexible, exactly as we observe him now to be.

I think the total number of KKK members is a few thousand people sprinkled across the country. But what matters more than the absolute number is the trend. The group once numbered over a million. Now they are a few thousand. Did Trump’s election cause a spike in recruitment that will have a lasting impact on the long term trend toward zero membership? I doubt it. But in any case, you have to wonder why the press isn’t reporting KKK membership trends. Every other part of the story is meaningless without that one piece of data. 

Anyway, enjoy the show. And enjoy Thanksgiving too.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, if you are meeting with family and friends for the holidays, you might find a lot of value in my start-up’s free app, WhenHub. It’s like the Uber app, but for any group of two or more people who want to geostream their locations on a map as they approach a meeting place. No more wondering where everyone is and how long you have to wait. The app is free, and works across iPhone and Android platforms:

WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

The app is the first part of a much larger vision that I’ll be explaining here in the next month. I think you’ll find our start-up quite interesting because it is formed around a “systems” business model instead of a goal-pivot-pivot model. Much more on that later.

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Persuasion Versus Populism

I’m hearing lots of after-the-fact explanations for why Trump won the election. The most common interpretation of events is that many citizens had a view of the country that pundits, pollsters, and the Clinton campaign missed. But somehow Trump accurately identified the mood of the people – especially in the Great Lakes region – and crafted a message to fit their emotions.

That explanation of events fits the observed data. Trump’s priorities do seem to match what polls tell us people are thinking and feeling. Or at least enough people feel that way to give Trump the Electoral College win. In this view of the world, Trump is a populist who has good instincts about what people want to hear.

But as I have been teaching you for the past year, people can be living in different movies while physically inhabiting the same spacetime. In your movie, Trump might be a populist as the experts are saying. But in my movie, Trump is a Master Persuader. And the script for my movie fits the observed facts just as well as yours. Maybe better.

The Master Persuader filter says Trump didn’t identify and match the preferences of the people so much as cause them to think the way they are thinking. My filter on the election says that Trump’s skill for persuasion could have given him the victory with DIFFERENT policies than the ones he championed – such as Bernie Sanders policies. And Trump would look like a populist in that case too.

Keep in mind that most voters are handcuffed to their party’s candidate. That guarantees that most elections will be close, no matter who runs. The winner is the candidate who can move perhaps 5% of voters from column A to B. And the Master Persuader had a year-long election cycle and total media exposure to get that minor task accomplished. This is why I predicted Trump’s win a year before it happened. 

I don’t believe reality is something the human brain can understand. We didn’t evolve with the ability to see reality for what it is. Evolution only cares if we survive and procreate. In this case, people who think Trump is a populist can have babies, and so can the people who think we elected Hitler, and so can the people who think Trump is a well-meaning Master Persuader. That’s three different movies. Evolution doesn’t care which worldview is right, if any. It only cares that we can make more babies. And we can.

Still, it might matter who has the most “useful” movie among us. The Master Persuader movie did a good job in predicting Trump’s success. It also predicts Trump moving to the middle, persuading Pence to be more LGBTQ-friendly, and good relations with other countries. That’s the movie plot I see coming.

But some of you are in a movie that is dark and dangerous. Perhaps you see a world in which the next Hitler just came to power. Some of you see a clown with no skill coming to power because his populist message was effective. Those are scary movies compared to my feel-good film. If you could switch to my movie, and lose nothing but your anxiety for the future, wouldn’t you want to do it? In my movie, we have lots of Trump success ahead and none of the dark possibilities will come to pass.

So how can you tell whether or not you are in the wrong movie? I’ll give you a few clues.

Consider…

If Trump didn’t win because of his persuasion skills, which other Republican candidate can you imagine beating Clinton?

You might be thinking that Clinton’s email problems and the Comey announcements made her an unusually weak candidate, and that means any sane Republican could have beaten her. But you’d be wrong. The reason that the emails, the Comey decisions, and Wikileaks were so effective is that Trump had been labelling Clinton “Crooked Hillary” for months. That created the confirmation bias trap that made everything Clinton ever did sound suspicious. None of the other candidates would have crafted such a perfect persuasion trap.

I also have a hard time imagining any other candidate going after Bill Clinton so hard that it took him out of the game. Was Jeb going to do that?

If you believe Trump’s skill for persuasion wasn’t the key variable in his win, you have to imagine some other candidate beating Clinton with the same set of policies as Trump. Personally, I can’t imagine it.

If you think Trump is the next Hitler, or a clown who got lucky with his populist message, you have to ask yourself why the stock market and the dollar are both up following the election. The smartest money-managers in the world have already abandoned their old movies and jumped over to movies they see as more useful for making money, apparently.

If you think Trump is the next Hitler, you have to ask yourself why every major world power has already said they think they can work with him, no problem.

If you think Trump is a lucky incompetent who inherited money from his father, you have to explain why he has succeeded in real estate, reality TV, and now politics. Can incompetent people win that bigly in three different arenas while everyone is watching?

If you think Trump has anti-semite advisors, you have to wonder why his son-in-law Jared Kushner hasn’t noticed any of that and is working hard for Trump.

If you think Trump is a racist, you have to wonder how he learned to act so well that he could be in this picture looking as non-racist as a person can look.

And if you think Trump is any or all of the things you heard from the mainstream media, you have to wonder why they were so thoroughly wrong about the one thing that can be measured objectively – the election results.

You might also wonder why the anti-Trump protests are petering out. If a real Hitler came to power, would people get tired of walking around outside to protest? 

The biggest demographic group opposing Trump – including the ones on the street – are young people. Objectively speaking, young people are the dumbest people within every demographic group. I was dumber when I was younger. So were you. So is everyone else. Ask yourself if it is a coincidence that the dumbest people within every demographic group lean in the same direction.

The Master Persuader filter says that young people have not yet experienced multiple situations in which the media scares the public over nothing. To them, the fear of Trump is real because the Internet and the media says it is real. To people my age, we have seen one fake media scare after another. We don’t believe in fake scares the same way that that young people do because we’ve been through it so many times.

As the election season fog begins to clear, most people will start to see Trump as an unconventional president whose policies conform to the preferences of the governed. But that simple movie is boring. I invite you to join my movie, in which each of us has a small role in making America Great Again. You just have to find your part.

It’s a good movie. I think you’ll like it.

You might like reading my book because evolution.

— WhenHub App —

And you might love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

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Generating Cognitive Dissonance for Fun

One of my favorite debate techniques involves the use of questions instead of statements. I’ve never seen this method change anyone’s mind, but it can generate an unusually clear form of cognitive dissonance. And that’s good entertainment for you. 

Let me give you an example with this true story. This one is designed to induce cognitive dissonance in someone who believes President Elect Trump is a dangerous racist.

— Start —

Today I heard a woman refer to her own grandmother as “Italian.” I was offended just listening to her spew this hate. I happen to know that her grandmother was born in this country. It was her grandmother’s parents that immigrated here from Italy. It would be proper to say her grandmother is an American citizen with Italian cultural heritage. But why even bring up her ethnicity at all? Calling her grandmother “Italian” for no good reason is a racist dog whistle to my ears. 

Wouldn’t you agree?

— End —

That’s the question that will trigger cognitive dissonance. But not right away. There are two more steps. 

1. Your subject will disagree, explaining that people often say “Italian” as a shorthand to mean someone has family roots in Italy. It isn’t the least-bit racist.

2. Point out that this is just like the time President Elect Trump referred to Judge Curiel  as “Mexican.” That was racist, so this must be too.

Now sit back and watch the fun.

Your subject will quickly jump from the idea that the mere use of the word “Mexican” is racist to the related argument that Trump used it in the context of saying the judge wasn’t qualified.

Respond with this high-ground argument: In a legal context, everyone understands that judges and jurors can be biased by their major associations and life experiences. That’s why judges routinely recuse themselves from specific cases, and why lawyers reject certain jurors. All people are biased. The best you can do is find people who are not biased on a specific topic. 

In the case of Judge Curiel, we can reasonably assume he associated with family members and friends who shared his Mexican cultural heritage. We also know that specific demographic group is overwhelmingly anti-Trump because of immigration issues. How do you think judge Curiel would feel at his next family gathering if he were to acquit Trump on all charges?

The credibility of the legal system requires that we avoid the appearance of bias and the potential for bias when we can. Any defendant in a court case should have the right to question bias. That’s what Trump did. In a legal context it is appropriate and routine to question bias by association. It only looked shocking because he used the word “Mexican” as a shorthand, the way normal people speak, and he was in a political context at the same time as a legal context.

Aaaand you’re done.

Now watch your subject squirm and change the subject to some other thing Trump did. This method is guaranteed to NOT change anyone’s mind. This is only for entertainment and so you see cognitive dissonance as it forms. It’s freaky.

Update: And if that didn’t get you the cognitive dissonance you wanted, send this article to your subject’s phone and ask the person to read it in front of you. That should do it.

Here’s another one that is shorter. Ask an anti-Trumper this question:

“I wonder why Jared Kushner doesn’t realize Trump and his key advisors are huge anti-semites. Why do you think he hasn’t noticed?”

Then just watch the show.

You might like reading my book because systems are better than goals.

— WhenHub App —

And you might love my startup’s new app for geostreaming your location to a friend as you approach your meeting spot. Here are links:

WhenHub app for Apple: http://apple.co/2eLL3Oh

WhenHub app for Android: http://bit.ly/2fIb6L7

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Reprogram an Anti-Trumper with This Article

It would take me too long to explain why this article about Trump, by Scott Alexander, is so important to you and to the country. Stop whatever you are doing and give it ten minutes. 

Seriously. Stop what you are doing. Give this ten minutes. It’s more important that almost anything you were going to do today.

Then save the link for later sharing. Show it to all of your friends who think Trump is a racist monster. This ends it.

The only people who will think Trump is a racist going forward are people who haven’t read this article. If you find someone like that, send them the link. This piece is a brilliant service to the country. Breathtaking.

Here’s the short link for easy sharing: http://bit.ly/2f3iTxB

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