Alucidate Blog

Alucidate-Blog 2 2017-05-30T13:57:43+00:00

Alucidate Blog

“Likes” defeat better decision-making

Facebook is making many  people miserable, and that tells us a lot.  The Atlantic asked “Have Smartphones destroyed a Generation?” a few weeks ago.  One way to see the problem is social media is making people much more anxious to fit in with the herd, because peripheral status is so much more visible.  Pursuit of “Likes” substitute short-term immediate social popularity for developing your own path in any depth. That usually requires an ability to defer immediate gratification, gumption and often an ability to resist conventional expectations – the exact opposite of ephermal triumphs on social media.

That means it’s all very well to think about cognitive bias and Bayesian probability models and expected utility, as conventional policymaking does. But most people most of the time mainly care about how they fit in with other people, which is why a billion people are on Facebook and very few study statistics […]

Faction as the “the mortal disease” of Democracy

The media, as usual, are missing the point. Like a set of nested Russian dolls, it’s still not clear how far the Russia scandal afflicting the Trump administration will go. But regardless of eventual outcome, it is dominating media and political attention to the exclusion of almost everything else in Washington.

If you’re a Trump supporter, of course the Russia allegations are a witch hunt and an outrage. If you’re a Democrat, they are a courageous attempt to stop the integrity of democracy itself being undermined by hostile foreign powers. But Democrats also saw the Clinton e-mail scandal as a ridiculous witch-hunt. Republicans saw it as a fundamental issue of character and fitness for leadership.

It doesn’t mean scandals shouldn’t be investigated. The real issue is how much attention the media obsession with political scandal drains from other issues. As Walter Russell Mead argues,

For both the Left and the Right, the ever-Trumpers […]

Abstract Principles Lead to Failure

Fixation on universal timeless principles necessarily has a tendency to produce catastrophe, because people become desensitized to exceptions, problems, flaws and change.

Take the current plight of the left in the US, for example, full of outrage against alleged Russian ties to Trump – but out of power. Conor Friedersdorf  recalled Richard Rorty’s 1998 book on what was wrong with the left in the Atlantic the other day: According to Rorty (who himself was a very leftish postmodern philosopher, of course,)

The contemporary academic Left seems to think that the higher your level of abstraction, the more subversive of the established order you can be. The more sweeping and novel your conceptual apparatus, the more radical your critique…

Recent attempts to subvert social institutions by problematizing concepts have produced a few very good books. They have also produced many thousands of books which represent scholastic philosophizing at its worst. The authors of these […]