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Your Body is Your Brain Too

We humans like to organize our perceptions into categories. It makes it easier for us to communicate and to keep track of things. But sometimes the impulse to organize our thoughts into buckets is a problem. I’ll give you the best example of that today.

Most of us believe that our brains are special because they are the center of our consciousness. Some people also believe brains are where your free will and your soul lives. We also believe brains are somewhat of a closed system when it comes to our thoughts. It feels as if your brain produces some random thoughts, wrestles with those thoughts, and turns them into bodily actions. That makes the brain a special little organ that is doing its own thing in isolation and letting the rest of the body know about it later. In other words, we put our brains in the “brain” bucket. All by itself. Doing its thing.

That’s a huge mistake.

Today I’ll tell you how the brains-is-special framework for looking at life is one of our biggest sources of unhappiness. In my worldview, also known as the Moist Robot Hypothesis (from my book on that topic), humans are wet robots that respond to programming. If you aren’t intentionally programming yourself, the environment and other people are doing it for you. Luckily you have a user interface to your brain. And that interface is your body. Your body is collecting inputs from all over and feeding them to your brain to reprogram it.

What kind of results would you get from your laptop computer if the user interface responded only to random inputs from the environment, such as wind, temperature, and other unplanned events? Your computer would be useless. The inputs would be virtually random and the outputs would be garbage. That’s why we consider the user interface to be part of the computer.

Your brain is a computer too. But we mistakenly believe it is also its own user interface. In other words, we see the brain as some sort of closed system that is stimulating its own thoughts, wrestling with those thoughts, and producing an output that it sends to your body. This way of viewing yourself works fine in the sense that humans have done a good job of staying alive and reproducing. And that’s all evolution asks of us. If we reproduce, we have done all we needed. Evolution doesn’t feel the need to improve our awareness of reality beyond that point. 

But allow me to suggest another framework for viewing your brain. My claim is that this new framework will give you the means to program your brain with intention instead of letting the environment do it randomly. All you need to do is reframe your body to be part of your brain. Let me give you some examples to see how powerful this reframing is.

In your old worldview, where the brain is its own user interface, you often found yourself feeling sad, grumpy, tired, angry, and other negative emotions. And you probably felt a bit helpless to stop it. Your brain was determining your mood – seemingly on its own – and the rest of your body simply responded to it like a puppet on a string. That’s the most common worldview, and I watch how debilitating it is to people. They go through life in continuous mental anguish, feeling helpless to do anything about it.

Contrast that worldview with what I call the Moist Robot Hypothesis that says your body is the user interface of your brain system. Give your body the right inputs and you can reprogram your brain.

For example, you know from experience that being hungry can make you cranky. But unless you are conscious of that body-mind connection – and often we are not – it is easy to assume the brain is operating on its own to make you cranky. 

The Moist Robot Hypothesis says that all you needed was some food to reprogram your brain to more positive thoughts. In this case your digestive system was the user interface to your brain.

I am sure you have noticed that your mental state is deeply influenced by diet, exercise, sleep, sex, stress, and lots more. And I’m sure you make some effort to do those things the right way when you can. But if you think those actions are influencing only how you feel, and not your actual thoughts, you don’t understand the basic nature of human beings. And this is the key takeaway:

The source of your thoughts is your body, not your brain.

When I am not feeling good, I don’t ask my brain to fix things on its own. I manipulate my environment until my thoughts change. That’s because I see my body as the user interface to my brain. I don’t let my brain think whatever it randomly wants to think. I constrain it to productive thoughts by manipulating my environment.

For example, any time I feel tense, I go exercise as soon as I can. It’s good for my health in general, but I do it specifically to program my thoughts from negative to positive. I do the same with sleep, diet, sex, stress, and even my choices of entertainment. I don’t let negative inputs into my brain via my body (the user interface) and my brain responds by not producing negative thoughts.

I take this concept so far that I will leave a room when the topic goes negative and I don’t want my user interface to send those impulses to my brain. I never apologize for doing this. I just say I don’t want this conversation in my brain and leave.

The old me believed that my brain was special, and that it was going to think whatever it was going to think. Unfortunately, what it usually thought all through my twenties and thirties was severely traumatic memories that put me in a state of continuous suicidal urges. Today my thoughts are almost entirely positive and optimistic. The difference is that I learned to crowd out the negative thoughts by manipulating my environment. I tune my body with a healthy lifestyle so it feels good, and that encourages positive thoughts. And I flood my mind with fascinating mental puzzles and challenges – usually work-related – so there is no space for negative thoughts. The brain likes to focus on one thing at a time. So I make sure it is focusing where I want it. I never let my mind wander to bad territory. When I feel it happening I either change what I am doing or I flood my brain with stronger thoughts that have more emotional firepower.

My old traumatic memories are still in my brain, but I atrophied them to the point of being inert. They hold no power over me now.

I realize that the concept I’m explaining is both obvious and radical at the same time. On one hand, you know from experience that your thoughts are directly influenced by what your body is experiencing. But because you also believe your brain is the special vessel of your free will, consciousness, and soul, you might believe the brain can also make its own independent decisions. It can’t. It is a computer that responds to inputs. Give it the right inputs and you’ll get the right outputs. And your body is the user interface.

To convince yourself that my framework is valid, take an inventory of the people in your life who are unhappy. Ask some questions about what they are doing about their unhappiness. Rarely will the person say they are working on their body to fix their minds. 

Now take an inventory of your more well-adjusted friends. Watch the degree to which they manipulate their bodies to manage their minds. Once you see the pattern, you will start to see it everywhere.

I just changed your life. You won’t know how much until later.

California passed a new law that says you can’t use your mobile phone in your hand while driving. It was already illegal to text, but now it is also illegal to use other apps with your phone in hand. I recommend getting a dashboard mount, as shown, and using my startup’s free app, WhenHub, to reduce the need to text on the way to meeting people.

In the picture below you can see me about to leave the garage. Several friends already “joined the approach” as we say, so we can watch each other approach our meeting spot on a common map. All approaches time-out after the trip so you aren’t accidentally tracking anyone. No need to text on the way to the meeting because you already know where everyone is at.

By the way, I told you in other blogs that one of my motivation tricks involves working on projects that have huge potential. This one will literally save lives by reducing texting-and-driving. That’s the sort of thing that makes it a joy for me to wake up every day. Look for something like that in your life. It will have a huge impact on your thoughts and energy.

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The Master Persuader Filter and Bernie’s Ad

Back in January of 2016 I said this about Bernie Sanders’ new campaign ad:

Posted January 21st, 2016 @ 12:01pm in #Trump #bernie2016

As I have taught you, persuasion can be ranked like this:

1. Identity (best)

2. Analogy (okay)

3. Reason (useless)

Bernie Sanders had been operating in the lower two categories along with Hillary Clinton. But his new ad, set to a Simon and Garfunkel tune, is pure identity (America!) and pure gold.

Today an article in The Hill discusses a Vanderbilt University study that says this ad ranked at the top of all campaign ads for making people “happy and hopeful” according to the New York Times.

There were a lot of campaign ads in that election. The Persuasion Filter spotted this one as special. Apparently it was.

When you learn to recognize the tools of persuasion it is like acquiring a superpower. I’ll be blogging and live-streaming on this topic in 2017. We’re going to have a lot of fun. 

Welcome to a new year. This one won’t be like any before. 

A new law in California says you can’t hold your phone in your hand while driving, even if you are not texting. It doesn’t matter which app you are using. 

I recommend getting a phone holder for your dashboard and installing the WhenHub app so you can see the people you are meeting on a map as you approach. (It’s like the Uber app but without the Uber car. Anyone can show their location temporarily on the way to a get-together.) That way you skip all of the texting back and forth that happens as you try to find each other in the last mile.

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

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

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Best Arguments For and Against Climate Model Credibility

Below are competing links on the credibility of climate change models. One makes the case that the models do a good job. The other makes a case that the models are not credible. See which one you find more persuasive.

As I have been saying all along, I can’t tell which argument is right. I’m not smart enough to evaluate this sort of topic. But if we are looking at the persuasion dimension alone, one of these is far stronger persuasion than the other.

Argument in favor of climate models being credible (video)

Argument against climate models being credible (article)

By the way, I’m being attacked on Twitter for being an alleged “climate denier.” For the record, I side with the consensus of climate scientists for the sake of my career and reputation. My blogging is about the persuasiveness of the claims, not the underlying facts.

Persuasion-wise, and based on what I have seen, the folks who say the climate models are not credible are far more persuasive than the people who believe the models are reliable. But persuasion is not always connected to truth. The truth of climate change isn’t fully available to me, given my lack of knowledge and training in the relevant fields. For now I’m siding with the consensus view of scientists, which puts me on the weak side of the persuasion game in this debate. My side really needs help.

One way to help the climate is to drive less. The WhenHub app (my startup) might help with that. It’s like the Uber app without the Uber car. Watch your friends or business associates approach on a common map so no one gets lost on the way to meeting. People are loving it.

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

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

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The Illusion of Knowledge

Yesterday I kicked the hornet’s nest by suggesting that no scientist really believes that complicated models with lots of variables can reliably predict the future. This is a subset of my larger point that no non-scientist can evaluate the claims of climate science because BOTH sides look 100% convincing to the under-informed. 

So how did the public respond to my claim that BOTH sides of the debate look convincing? They berated me for not sufficiently researching materials from ONE side of the debate that happens to be their side. Many people suggested that I could simply do some homework, on my own, and get to the bottom of climate science.

That is a massive public illusion.

For starters, when I say BOTH sides of the debate look 100% convincing to a non-scientist such as myself, it does not advance the debate to call me insulting names and direct me to a link supporting ONE side of the debate. I promise I have seen convincing arguments on your side no matter which side you are on. The problem is that both sides are just as convincing to a non-scientist. 

You can’t change my mind by telling me exactly what I just told YOU. We both agree with you that your argument is 100% convincing. Just like the argument that says you are totally wrong. Both excellent.

And so we have an odd situation in which both sides of the debate are in deep illusion, even if one side is right and the other is wrong. The illusion is that one side is obviously correct – and the belief that you could see that too, if only you would spend a little energy looking into it on your own. If you hold that belief, no matter which side you are on, you can be sure you are experiencing an illusion.

Non-scientists don’t have the tools to form a useful opinion on climate science. What we usually do instead is look at one side of the debate, ignore the other side, and use confirmation bias to harden our illusion of certainty. That’s how normal brains work. So if you are both normal and you have a strong opinion about climate science, I can say with confidence that you are hallucinating about your certainty.

I don’t know the underlying truth of climate science. But I do know a lot about persuasion. And I can say with complete confidence that if you are a non-scientist, and you have certainty about your opinion on climate science, you are hallucinating about the capacity of your own brain.

You’re wondering how I can know that other people are hallucinating and not me. That’s where it comes in handy to study persuasion and hypnosis. Delusional people leave tells.

One of the tells in this case is an ad hominem attack on whoever disagrees with you on climate science. You can see that happening on my Twitter feed today as the pro-climate-science types are coming after me in numbers. When you see an oversized reaction to what should be nothing but competing scientific claims, that’s usually a tell that someone slipped into cognitive dissonance.

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What is the trigger in this case? The trigger is that someone smart (me) pointed out the weakness in their argument. If you believe you are smart, and a smart person disagrees with you with a solid argument, it forces you to either change your mind (which humans don’t like to do) or to enter an hallucination that explains away the new argument as total nonsense.

Another tell involves sending me links to one side of the argument to debate my point that both sides are good. That makes no sense at all.

Another tell is an emotional argument against some related point I did not make and would not make. 

Another tell involves claiming non-scientists can dig into the science and figure out how credible it is on their own. If that were true we wouldn’t need highly trained scientists. We could all just wing it using our common sense and whatnot. We can’t. Non-scientists can understand a simple argument from scientists but we don’t have enough context to know what is MISSING from the scientist’s argument. Without that bit of context there can be no credibility.

For example, if you did not have a deep understanding of the science of persuasion you would have no basis to judge the credibility of climate scientists. You might mistakenly believe it is deeply unlikely for so many professionals to be wrong, and your misunderstanding would bias you toward agreeing with the majority. But trained persuaders who understand economics, incentives, and confirmation bias would put less credibility in the majority opinion because we know how often the majority has hallucinated in ways that look a lot like the climate science situation.

Now suppose one side shows me ten solid pieces of evidence in support of their side. Should I be convinced by that? Well, not if the other side has fifty pieces of evidence that is just as convincing but I don’t know any of it exists. As a non-scientist, I don’t know what I don’t know. You’re probably in the same boat. Until about a minute ago you didn’t think the science of persuasion was important to your opinion on climate science. But it is. 

Based on my knowledge of persuasion, I’m probably NOT hallucinating in this particular case because I see both sides as equals. And I have explored both sides of the argument at least as far as my non-scientist brain can take me – and that isn’t far. My assessment is that a bright, well-informed non-scientist has no realistic chance of reaching an independent opinion on climate change that is better than a guess. 

If I were the one experiencing confirmation bias in this situation, my perception would be that one side of the debate was solid and the other was rubbish, no matter what facts I observed. And I would also be under the illusion that my non-scientist brain can use its “common sense” to evaluate the credibility of experts in the field. Your brain doesn’t have that feature. What you do have is an illusion that makes you think your brain has that feature.

For further context, keep in mind that I was a lonely voice in 2015 saying the political experts and the polls were wrong, and that Trump would win the presidency. I used what I call the Persuasion Filter to make that prediction. I’m using the same filter for my claim that any non-scientist with a strong opinion on climate science is experiencing an illusion of certainty supported by lots of confirmation bias. 

I could be wrong about everything I’ve said about climate science and credibility. But would you feel confident betting against me?

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Are you are driving to meeting someone today, you might want to try my startup’s app called WhenHub. People are loving it.

WhenHub works like the Uber app but without the Uber car. You can see one or more people approaching a meeting on the map, so there is no need to text back and forth. WhenHub automatically times-out so you have no ongoing privacy worries after you use it.

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

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

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The Climate Science Challenge

I keep hearing people say that 97% of climate scientists are on the same side of the issue. Critics point out that the number is inflated, but we don’t know by how much. Persuasion-wise, the “first offer” of 97% is so close to 100% that our minds assume the real number is very high even if not exactly 97%.

That’s good persuasion. Trump uses this method all the time. The 97% anchor is so strong that it is hard to hear anything else after that. Even the people who think the number is bogus probably think the real figure is north of 90%.

But is it? I have no idea.

So today’s challenge is to find a working scientist or PhD in some climate-related field who will agree with the idea that the climate science models do a good job of predicting the future.

Notice I am avoiding the question of the measurements. That’s a separate question. For this challenge, don’t let your scientist conflate the measurements or the basic science of CO2 with the projections. Just ask the scientist to offer an opinion on the credibility of the models only.

Remind your scientist that as far as you know there has never been a multi-year, multi-variable, complicated model of any type that predicted anything with useful accuracy. Case in point: The experts and their models said Trump had no realistic chance of winning.

Your scientist will fight like a cornered animal to conflate the credibility of the measurements and the basic science of CO2 with the credibility of the projection models. Don’t let that happen. Make your scientist tell you that complicated multi-variable projections models that span years are credible. Or not.

Then report back to me in the comments here or on Twitter at @ScottAdamsSays.

This question is a subset of the more interesting question of how non-scientists can judge the credibility of scientists or their critics. My best guess is that professional scientists will say that complicated prediction models with lots of variables are not credible. Ever. So my prediction is that the number of scientists who ***fully*** buy into climate science predictions is closer to zero than 97%.

But I’m willing to be proved wrong. I kind of like it when that happens. So prove me wrong.

Would you like to prevent your loved ones from texting while driving? Try my startup’s free app, WhenHub. It eliminates the need for all of those “Where are you?” text messages when you are trying to meet up. WhenHub works like the Uber app but without the Uber car. You can see one or more people approaching a meeting on the map, so there is no need to text back and forth. WhenHub automatically times-out so you have no ongoing privacy worries after you use it.

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

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

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The Kristina Talent Stack

Over the past eighteen months or so my girlfriend Kristina Basham grew her Instagram following from zero to 2.5 million followers. She adds about 10,000 new followers per day.

That’s ten thousand new followers per day.

You might think this kind of accomplishment is easy for her because of her extraordinary attractiveness. Sure, that helps. But there are lots of attractive women on Instagram – most of them showing more skin than Kristina – and almost none of them are adding followers at Kristina’s rate. There’s a reason for that. I call it the Talent Stack.

The idea of a talent stack is that you can combine ordinary skills until you have enough of the right kind to be extraordinary. You don’t have to be the best in the world at any one thing. All you need to succeed is to be good at a number of skills that fit well together.

For example, I’m not much of an artist, not much of a business expert, and my writing skills are mostly self-taught. I’m funny, but not the funniest person in my town. The reason I can succeed without any world-class skills is that my talent stack is so well-designed. (That’s intentional, by the way.)

President Trump also has a powerful talent stack. He isn’t the best communicator in the world, but he is very good. He doesn’t know as much about politics as career politicians do, but apparently he knows enough. He isn’t the smartest person who ever ran for office, but he’s very smart. He might not be the best business strategist in the world, but he certainly knows his stuff. I could go on for pages about how Trump has good-but-not-world-class skills in a variety of areas. And when you put all of those talents together it makes him the most persuasive human I have ever observed. Trump’s talent stack was powerful enough to make him president. And I don’t think it was an accident that he developed a talent stack so powerful. It looks intentional to me.

But back to Kristina. Her talent stack is amazing. She has a degree from UC Berkeley, so she’s far smarter than the average person, but she’s not the smartest person in the entire world. She has modeled since she was a teen, so she knows all the model tricks for posing, and that makes a big difference. Having worked with lots of professional photographers over the years she also picked up a lot of skills with composition, lighting, and equipment. She is also an expert on makeup and all the other tricks that models do to improve their appearance. 

And that’s just the starter package. Kristina also knows all the tools of social media and how to promote online. She knows a lot about SEO and she developed a range of “hacks” for boosting her Instagram posts. The hacks that work today will stop working by tomorrow, so that is an ongoing process.

More recently Kristina started doing what might be called A/B testing to see which elements of a photo predict the most likes and engagement. For example, although her Instagram photos are G-rated, any hint of side boob adds at least 10% to her engagement. There are several other variables with the same amount of power, and most are not as obvious as “show more skin.” She isolates and tests those elements on a regular basis. It is fascinating to watch.

Kristina also developed a system for picking the best photos to post. Before posting she usually asks several trusted advisors, including her dad and me, to weigh in on which photo out of a group of candidates looks best. This system allows her to see past her own biases about her appearance.

Sometimes Kristina publishes four photos on her Twitter account and asks for feedback on which one people like the most. Her Twitter following is small compared to Instagram and works great as a test bed. Her Twitter follower often pick a photo that she would not have chosen on her own, and those picks seem to perform great on Instagram.

You might wonder why anyone wants to have millions of Instagram followers. It’s a lot of work to post high-quality photos twice a day, and Instagram doesn’t pay for content. But Kristina is what I call a systems thinker, not a goals person. Systems thinkers create situations in which there are lots of potential ways to win, not just one. As Kristina’s Instagram audience grows, she attracts more and better business offers from all over the world. She built a web page to capture them. On a typical day she turns down offers to be on reality TV shows, to travel to exotic places for modeling, and to promote products on her Instagram page. The quality of those offers increases with her number of followers, so patience is the right strategy for now. It’s a great system and she has lots of options for cashing in when the time is right.

Recently Kristina agreed to bring her talent stack to my start-up, WhenHub, to help us get attention. Something tells me this is one of my better ideas.

In a coming blog post I will explain how WhenHub was designed as a start-up with the risk profile of an incubator. You’ll like that one.

If this discussion of systems versus goals interests you, and you want more, see my book.

Do you have your Dilbert calendar yet? There is still time. See here.

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The Trump Economic Bump

True story: Yesterday I was talking to a friend who invested in Gilead stock right before Hillary Clinton started giving speeches about forcing companies in that space to lower their prices. The stock dropped and my friend lost money. He blames Clinton.

Over the summer this same fellow sold off his entire stock portfolio to avoid the risk of a Trump win followed by what he assumed would be a catastrophic market downturn. If Clinton won, he figured he could buy back in at about the same prices. But Trump won, stocks zoomed higher, and my friend lost out on the rally. Hillary Clinton cost him money for the second time this year.

But don’t feel bad for my friend. He reports that since the election his phone has been ringing off the hook with new job offers. He’s a residential contractor. Apparently the country got optimistic right after the election. Normally this would be his slow period. He’s swamped with work.

I love a happy ending.

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Can the Government Deduce Your Religion Without Asking?

I’m hearing a lot of chatter about President Trump potentially creating a “Muslim registry,” which, as it turns out, already exists. The current system only registers non-residents from certain countries. But how hard would it be for the government to figure out all of our religious beliefs – citizens and non-citizens alike — without asking?

My guess is that the government already uses Big Data to determine our religious beliefs and more. Consider all the information they have.

1. Your cell phone leaves a trail in the cloud of where you have been. If you have been to a Mosque, the government can know that.

2. Your banking and credit card records would tell the government if you buy any products associated with Islamic culture or beliefs. That could include food, clothing, and more.

3. The government can search all of your social media, text messages, and other digital communication for keywords and other clues about your beliefs.

4. The government knows who you associate with on social media and what websites you visit.

5. Census information.

6. Non-governmental forms you might have filled out with your religious preferences or ethnic background.

7. Health records might have clues too. For example, a hospital record might specify a halal diet.

I know the government doesn’t have explicit legal authority to snoop into all of the information sources I listed, but I’d be surprised if they aren’t doing it anyway in the name of national security. We wouldn’t know if they had backdoors into the major corporate networks. I assume they do.

So don’t worry too much about a Muslim “registry.” We’ve probably had one for years. And the rest of us are probably on lists of some sort too. So far, all it has done is reduce terror attacks (I presume).

I agree that society needs to keep an eye on this sort of “registry” to prevent abuse. It is frightening to even read the language about it. But once you see it in context, it probably isn’t much change from the current situation.

On another topic…

Are You Divorced with Joint Custody?

If you are a divorced parent with joint custody you know how frustrating it is to manage the hand-offs of the kids once or twice a week. One parent is always waiting for the other, and getting angrier each minute because of lateness that seems intentional (because exes are like that). You don’t want to text your ex, especially when the ex is driving with your kids in the car. So how do you solve this annoying child exchange tension that you have EVERY week?

Try my startup’s new app, WhenHub. It allows any group of two or more people to TEMPORARILY geostream their locations on a map as they head to a meeting spot. (Like the Uber app without the Uber car.) That way you know your ex is on the way without talking to them. And if your ex is not cooperative, you can put the app on your kids’ phones because they will be in the same vehicle.

No more frustrating texts back and forth asking “Where are you???” The geostreaming in the app is always temporary and times-out whenever you specify, so your ex can’t track you.

If you try it once, you’ll never go back to the old way.

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

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

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The Mustache Prediction

Prior to President Elect Trump filling the Secretary of State job, I blogged here that Bolton’s mustache would be a problem.

Today I see this:

Trump rejects John Bolton not because he’s deranged but because he has a mustache. You can’t make this up. https://t.co/nimhTU60U4 pic.twitter.com/hjQHsu0Q4m

— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) December 22, 2016

Have you seen WhenHub yet? It does so many things I can’t even describe it.

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How to Be Unpersuasive

I’ve been teaching you how to be persuasive for the past year. But I should also tell you what doesn’t work for changing people’s minds.

Analogies: Analogies are good tools for explaining a concept to someone for the first time. But because analogies are imperfect they are the worst way to persuade. All discussions that involve analogies devolve into arguments about the quality of the analogy, not the underlying situation.

Hypocrisy: Pundits like to point out that politicians often criticize others for the very things they have done. That sort of observation is good entertainment but it is an intellectual exercise with no emotional power. You need emotion to persuade. And hypocrisy is such a universal human quality that it’s hard to get worked up about it when you see it.

What if the situation were reversed? Lately it has become common to address any criticism about your team by speculating that the situation would be viewed differently if the other team were being accused of the same misdeeds. While this might be true in some cases, it is an intellectual point in the same way as hypocrisy, and thus it has minimal persuasive power. The only power it might have is embarrassing the media toward a more even-handed approach in the future. But it won’t change anyone’s opinion about the current topic.

What about this irrelevant data? Even relevant data has limited persuasion power unless it is substantially new information. People tend to only believe data that fits their existing opinion. Irrelevant data (such as the fact that Clinton won the popular vote) is even less persuasive than relevant stuff.

Appeal to Experts: As long as there is at least one expert on the other side of a topic, the experts as a whole are not persuasive. To be clear, if you are introducing yourself to an unfamiliar topic, the number of experts on each side might matter. But for familiar topics such as climate change, it only matters that some experts are on the other side. And there are always experts on the other side of controversial topics. For example, here are a handful of climate skeptics: http://read.bi/2i0uKz2. That’s all you need.

You can identify the pundits that know nothing about persuasion because they use all of the approaches above and none of the ones that work. I’m excluding the hosts of mainstream media and Internet opinion shows because they are more about entertainment than persuasion. The hosts might understand persuasion but that won’t necessarily translate into using it unless it is also entertaining.

The “So” Tell: When you see an argument on the Internet that begins with the word “So…” you can be sure that what follows is a mischaracterization of the other side’s point followed by sarcasm and derision over the mischaracterization (but not the actual point). The sarcasm and derision are good persuasion because they act as an emotional penalty for maintaining the opinion that is under fire. But generally the “so…” structure of an argument causes both parties to debate the characterization versus debating the actual point.

Word-Thinking: I have never heard of anyone winning an argument by adjusting the definition of a word. But that doesn’t stop people from trying. We argue over whether a fetus is “living” at any particular point. We argue over the definition of a true “conservative.” We argue about whether or not Trump won in a “landslide.” We argue about Trump being a “fascist.” I doubt any of this word-thinking changed minds. 

I’m working on a new book about persuasion, using the election as a teaching tool to support the point. That’s due out in October.

You might enjoy my current book on the topic of systems versus goals because it is cold outside.

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Have you downloaded my startup’s app called WhenHub yet? It’s a must-have for holiday get-togethers. No more frustrating texts back and forth asking “Where are you???” (The geostreaming in the app is always temporary so you can’t later be tracked.)

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

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

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How Many Trump Votes Did I Cause?

I asked on Periscope today how many people used the persuasion I taught them in my blog to convert people to Trump voters. I was shocked that so many people had converted not just one friend but sometimes several or more. So I did a quick Twitter poll to ask this same question. Obviously this is not a scientific poll, but do me a favor in the comments and make your own estimate of how many voters this might extrapolate to.

For readers of my blog only, how many people did you convert to Trump voters because of something I taught you? #Trump

— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) December 20, 2016

You might enjoy my book because hyperbole is persuasive even when it isn’t true and people like my book more than they like sex.

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Have you downloaded my startup’s app called WhenHub yet? It’s a must-have for holiday get-togethers. No more frustrating texts back and forth asking “Where are you???” (The geostreaming in the app is always temporary so you can’t later be tracked.)

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

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

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The Wikileaks Persuasion You Missed

Do you remember when Wikileaks first started releasing the hacked emails from the DNC? Julian Assange told us the good stuff was coming later. Then some more emails were released, but still no good stuff. Just stuff. 

But the really, really good stuff was coming, Assange assured us. Not this next release perhaps, but soon. Just wait.

And then it never came. There was no good stuff in those emails. There was plenty of little stuff. But nothing that moves elections.

Time passes. Memories fade.

If you were to ask the average voter whether the Wikileaks made a big difference to the outcome, many would say yes. But that’s probably a false memory triggered by Assange assuring us that big stuff was coming. We remember him telling us that. So it must have happened, right?

You can test for this false memory on your own. Ask a coworker or family member if they think the Wikileaks email releases made a difference to the election. If they say yes, ask which email topic in particular was the bad one. Then enjoy the magical sound of crickets.

The most likely outcome of that conversation is that your subject will try to conflate the Wikileaks emails with Clinton’s unsecured server issue. Let me know if that happens when you try it.

You have to give Assange credit for this persuasion. He made the public remember something that didn’t happen.

You might recall that i predicted that the emails released by Wikileaks would be a big nothing. But what I missed is that Assange turned that nothing into a something in our memories by making us remember that something big was coming. Even though it didn’t. That’s good persuasion.

You might like my book because New Year’s Day falls on January 1st this year.

Have you downloaded my startup’s app called WhenHub yet? It’s a must-have for holiday get-togethers. No more frustrating texts back and forth asking “Where are you???” (The geostreaming in the app is always temporary so you can’t later be tracked.)

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

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

#Wikileaks #Clinton #Trump

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Watching the Climate Science Bubbles from the Outside

I often hear from people who are on one side or the other on the topic of climate change. And I think I spotted a new cognitive phenomenon that might not have a name.* I’ll call it cognitive blindness, defined as the inability to see the strong form of the other side of a debate. 

The setup for cognitive blindness looks like this:

1. An issue has the public divided into two sides.

2. You read an article that agrees with your side and provides solid evidence to support it. That article mentions the argument on the other side in summary form but dismisses it as unworthy of consideration.

3. You remember (falsely) having seen both sides of the argument. What you really saw was one side of the argument plus a misleading summary of the other side.

4. When someone sends you links to better arguments on the other side you skip them because you think you already know what they will say, and you assume it must be nonsense. For all practical purposes you are blind to the other argument. It isn’t that you disagree with the strong form of the argument on the other side so much as you don’t know it exists no matter how many times it is put right in front of you.

I noticed this phenomenon when I started blogging about climate change. The citizens who side with the majority of scientists in saying climate change is influenced by humans and the prediction models about doom are accurate have – as far as I can tell – never seen the strong versions of the argument on the other side. (I know because I ask about it.) They have only seen the weak versions presented by their own side. And the weak version of the argument goes like this: “The other side are science deniers and quacks.”

My bottom-line belief about climate science is that non-scientists such as myself have no reliable way to evaluate any of this stuff. Our brains and experience are not up to the task. When I apply my tiny brain to sniffing out the truth about climate science I see rock-solid arguments on both sides of the debate. 

Trained scientists might be able to sort out the truth from the B.S. in climate change science, although I’m skeptical about that too. But non-scientists have no chance whatsoever to discern which side is right. I consider myself to be bright and well-educated, and from my perspective both sides of the debate are 100% persuasive if you look at them in isolation. And apparently that’s what most citizens do. 

The best way to know if a non-scientist is under-informed is to ask if they have a firm opinion on climate change. If that firm opinion is anything but “I don’t know” it probably means they are experiencing cognitive blindness about the existence of a strong argument on the other side.

Some people deal with the uncertainty around the climate prediction models by saying that even if there is only a tiny risk of global catastrophe, we still need to do all we can to avoid it. But that isn’t as wise as it first sounds. Your life is full of worst-case scenarios that you ignore because you have to. You can’t live a life that manages to the worst-case scenario or else you would never have sex, apply for a job, or drive your car. The worst-case scenario for you EVERY SINGLE DAY involves you getting zika, AIDS, and bird flu right before the brakes on your car fail and you plunge into a ravine.

Does the worst-case scenario on climate change sound catastrophic to me? Absolutely. But so does the worst-case scenario for EVERYTHING. You can’t manage your life to the worst-case scenario. That would be no life at all.

The same applies to governments. Nearly everything a government does has a catastrophic risk in one way or another. Would it make sense to put full effort into avoiding all the imagined worst cases? If we did, we’d be wearing gas masks and protective bubble wrap instead of clothing.

But what if the worst-case scenario is really, really likely, as in the case of climate change disaster? In that case, shouldn’t you manage to the worst case? Well, yes, but only if you are sure the risk is as high as you think. And I don’t see any way a non-scientist could be exposed to both sides of the argument and assign a risk to it.

Given the wildly different assessments of climate change risks within the non-scientist community, perhaps we need some sort of insurance/betting market. That would allow the climate science alarmists to buy “insurance” from the climate science skeptics. That way if the climate goes bad at least the alarmists will have extra cash to build their underground homes. And that cash will come out of the pockets of the science-deniers. Sweet!

But if the deniers are right, and they want to be rewarded by the alarmists for their rightness, the insurance/betting market would make that possible.

It would also be fascinating to see where the public put the betting odds for climate science. Would people expose themselves to both sides of the debate before betting?

*It probably does have a name. It’s a mix of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias at the least, but a special case in my opinion.

You might like my book because Christmas is on December 25th.

Have you downloaded my startup’s app called WhenHub yet? It’s a must-have for holiday get-togethers. No more frustrating texts back and forth asking “Where are you???” (The geostreaming in the app is always temporary so you can’t later be tracked.)

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

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

Read More →