My BMW X5 SUV is in the shop for its third leak-related problem this year. While it was there, and by coincidence, the dealership’s used car manager called and offered to buy it because there is demand for that model in the used market. I told him it was already at the dealership and he could take a look at it.
The used car manager called me later to tell me my car only has “salvage value.” It turns out that the last two times I took it to Big O for tire repairs they wrote down my mileage incorrectly. One time they recorded it as 30,000 miles. Another time they said 80,000 miles. The actual mileage is around 50,000.
Now here’s the interesting part. That double-paperwork-error by the tire shop made its way to the Internet and the CarFax service that dealers use to know whether cars have had accidents or other issues. The mileage discrepancy automatically puts my car in the “probably turned-back the odometer” category. And that means it has no resale value to dealers or anyone else who checked online.
Apparently I can fix this problem by providing documentation of my correct mileage. I probably don’t have that documentation because the only other people who ever checked my mileage were the dealership that is telling me my car is now officially garbage.
You’ll tell me they just want to buy the car from me for cheap. But they didn’t even offer to buy it. The used car manager just seemed embarrassed by the whole thing. Apparently this isn’t a trick. My car is actually “salvage value” now.
Thanks, Big O Tires. Don’t expect me to come back.
I think we can all agree that there has been plenty of fake news coming from both sides. Fake news is usually intentional, although in some cases it is the result of honest mistakes. But lately we are seeing an entirely new type of untrue news. I call it Imaginary News. Here’s a good example from the Huffington Post.
I watched President Trump’s press conference with the alleged “meltdown,” and all I saw was Trump talking the way he normally talks. The Huffington Post watched and apparently saw some other set of circumstances. That means we have three possibilities to consider:
1. Huffington Post saw the situation accurately while I was hallucinating.
2. My version of events is accurate and Huffington Post hallucinated.
3. Both the Huffington Post and I were hallucinating.
When I was younger, I would have automatically assumed that I was right and the Huffington Post was either intentionally lying or deluded. My more mature understanding of the world is that most people are hallucinating most of the time. We live in our own personal movies. This is a perfect example. Millions of Americans looked at the same press conference and half of us came away thinking we saw an entirely different movie than the other half. Many of us saw Trump talking the way he normally does, and saying the things he normally says. Other people saw a raving lunatic, melting down.
Those are not the same movies.
So how can we know who is hallucinating in this case? The best way to tell is by looking for the trigger for cognitive dissonance. In this case, the trigger is clear. Trump’s unexpected win forced the Huffington Post to rewrite their mental movies from one in which they were extra-clever writers to one in which they were the dumbest political observers in the entire solar system.
You might recall that the Huffington Post made a big deal of refusing to cover Trump on their political pages when he first announced his candidacy. They only carried him on their entertainment pages because they were so smart they knew he could not win.
Then he won.
When reality violates your ego that rudely, you either have to rewrite the movie in your head to recast yourself as an idiot, or you rewrite the movie to make yourself the hero who could see what others missed. Apparently the Huffington Post chose to rewrite their movie so Trump is a deranged monster, just like they warned us. That’s what they see. This isn’t an example of so-called “fake” news as we generally understand it. This is literally imaginary news. I believe the Huffington Post’s description of the press conference is literally what they saw. If you gave them lie detector tests, they would swear they saw a meltdown, and the lie detector would say they were telling the truth.
There are two clues that the Huffington Post is hallucinating and I’m not. The first clue is that they have a trigger and I don’t. Reality violated their egos, whereas I was predicting a Trump win all along. My world has been consistent with my ego. No trigger. All I have is a warm feeling of rightness.
The second clue is that the Huffington Post is seeing something that half the country doesn’t see. As a general rule, the person who sees the elephant in the room is the one hallucinating, not the one who can’t see the elephant. The Huffington Post is literally seeing something that is invisible to me and other observers. We see a President Trump talking the way he normally talks. They see a 77-minute meltdown.
I’m writing more on this topic in my upcoming book.
You might want to read my existing book because the new one will be out in October and you’ll want to read that one second.
Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Richard Branson. What do they all have in common, aside from wealth?
They all succeeded without the right kind of prior experience. Apparently they knew how to figure out what they needed once they started. I’ll bet they are all systems-thinkers, not goal-thinkers.
If you see the world in terms of goals, you might think President Trump has failed at every important goal so far. He didn’t get what he wanted on immigration. He hasn’t gotten his Supreme Court nomination confirmed. He hasn’t replaced Obamacare. He hasn’t defeated ISIS. He hasn’t done a lot of things he said he would do. He even had to fire General Flynn. President Trump is a big ol’ failure when it comes to goals.
Maybe that’s because Trump just started on the job. Success generally comes after you start. If you think success comes before you start, the world probably looks confusing to you.
But in any case, as I often say, goals are for losers. Systems are better. As I describe in my book, a good system is something you do every day that leads you to better outcomes, not specific objectives. For example, going to college is a good system even if you don’t know what job you might later want. Any time you learn something valuable, that’s a system. Networking with important people is a system. And so on.
Trump seems to be a systems thinker. I doubt he knew he would jump from real estate developer, to author, to reality TV star, to president. At least not in that order. Instead, he systematically accumulated money, persuasion skills, and personal connections until he had lots of options. Being president was one of them.
Now the world watches as an entrepreneurial systems-thinker with no government experience takes over the White House and tries to learn on the job. How did you expect that to go?
I expected some broken dishes, some firings, some chaos, and some rookie mistakes. We got all of that. But I also expect a systems-thinker to tame the chaos over time as he learns on the job. For example, the leaks will stop as soon as Trump fires the right people. He’ll figure out which meetings he can skip. He’ll know who to trust. He’ll learn where all the buttons and levers are. It’s a process.
If you are comparing the incoming Trump administration to the smooth transfer of power that defines our modern history, that’s an irrational comparison. If the country wanted a smooth ride it would have elected Hillary Clinton. Instead, voters opted to “drain the swamp.“ And you can’t drain the swamp without angering the alligators and getting some swamp water on your pants. That’s what we’re watching now.
My liberal friends are gleefully scouring the semi-fake news and sending me articles that show Trump is “incompetent.” That’s the new narrative on the left. The Hitler illusion is starting to fade because Trump refuses to build concentration camps as his critics hallucinated he would. And Israel likes Trump, which is making the Hitler illusion harder to maintain. So the critics are evolving their main line of attack from Hitler to “incompetent,” with a dash of “chaos.” You’ll see those two words all over the Opposition Media’s coverage. It isn’t a coincidence.
Persuasion-wise, focusing on incompetence and chaos is a strong play by the anti-Trumpers. One would expect the new Trump administration to have lots of growing pains. That means the Opposition Media will have plenty of fodder that they can frame as incompetence and chaos. Confirmation bias will make it all seem to fit the narrative. This is the same persuasion play that Trump used when he assigned to his opponents nicknames such as Lyin’ Ted and Crooked Hillary. He depended on future news cycles to serve up lots of confirmation bias to make his labels more credible over time. Trump’s opposition is running the same persuasion play on him. Now everything he does will be seen through their frame of “incompetence” and “chaos.” Even if it isn’t. That is strong persuasion.
If you step out of the Opposition Media’s framing of Trump, another frame that fits the data is that he’s learning on the job, just like he learned every other field that he entered and eventually mastered. I don’t know what you expected when Trump went to Washington, but it isn’t too different from what I imagined. I assumed there would be broken dishes. And I assumed it would take him months to get his systems in place.
When I worked in corporate America, I was usually involved in setting goals for the department. When we didn’t meet those goals, I always pointed out that the problem could be on either end. Either the goals were unrealistic or the performance was bad. Both explanations fits the data. Likewise, Trump’s first few weeks do look exactly like “incompetence” and “chaos” if you are primed to see it that way. But they also look like a systems-thinker simultaneously draining the swamp and learning on the job.
An interesting article in The Atlantic talks about studies showing that liberals think in terms of fairness while conservatives think in terms of morality. So if you want to persuade someone on the other team, you need to speak in their language. We almost never do that. That’s why you rarely see people change their opinions.
As I often say, fairness is a concept invented so children and idiots can participate in debates. Fairness is a subjective illusion. It isn’t a rule of physics, and it isn’t an objective quality of the universe. We just think it is.
On the conservative side, morality is usually seen as coming from God. I’m not a believer, so I see morality as a set of rationalizations for our biological impulses. Luckily, we evolved with some instincts for taking care of each other.
The Persuasion Filter says that both fairness and morality are different forms of magical thinking. And according to that filter on reality, you can’t change the mind of a liberal or a conservative with your logic and your reason. Magical thinking is immune to both.
If your aim is to persuade, you have to speak the language of the other. Talking about fairness to a conservative, or morality to a liberal, fails at the starting gate. The other side just can’t hear what you are saying.
Let me run through some examples. These haven’t been A/B tested, so don’t assume they are persuasive. But they do follow proper form.
Bad argument from a conservative to a liberal:
Abortion is wrong because it takes a human life. (morality)
Good argument from a conservative to a liberal:
Is it fair that you got to grow from a fetus to a full life while so many others do not? Who gets to choose who lives and who dies? (fairness)
I’m not saying the “good” argument would necessarily work. I’m just saying it follows form.
Flipping it around…
Bad argument from a liberal to a conservative:
Climate change is enriching the energy companies at the expense of everyone else. (fairness)
Good argument from a liberal to a conservative:
God created this world and asked us to look after it. We will be judged in the afterlife if we accidentally ruin it for the sake of temporary profit. (morality)
I realize my examples are not strong, but they help explain the concept. The only way you can judge the power of the arguments is by testing them.
Logic, morality, and fairness are three different approaches to persuasion. But there is a fourth way to persuade that involves ignoring both fairness and morality without giving up logic. You can take most debates out of the weeds of fairness and morality to what I call the High Ground, where everyone already agrees.
For example, on the topic of abortion rights there is no way to reach agreement if we are squabbling about morality and fairness. But we might agree that the Federal government should stay out of the abortion business – both pro or con – and leave those types of decisions to the individual and the states.
In the olden days of Roe Vs. Wade, states could ban abortion and get away with it. In 2017 it would be economic suicide. Big employers would stay away because it would be hard to attract talent. Tourists would stay away in protest. Social media would turn the state into a wasteland. No governor can survive a drop in employment that is both state-specific and caused by government action.
Liberals can argue that it is only fair for women to have control over their own bodies. Conservatives can argue that morality means protecting every “life” as they define it. There is no room for compromise with that framing. But both sides might agree on three High Ground concepts:
1. The Federal government (and their Supreme Court puppets) should get out of the business of deciding on women’s reproductive rights. It is neither fair nor moral for them to be involved.
2. It would be economic suicide for a state to ban abortion in 2017.
3. The question of who pays for what is a separate issue.
For new readers of this blog, my view on abortion is that the most credible laws in that area are the ones that have the support of the most women. I choose to delegate my opinion on this topic to women because they have the most skin in the game and I have no special insight to improve the quality of the decisions. I also respect the principle that the people who contribute the most should get some extra rights. (The question of who pays for what is separate.)
If you are waiting for your kids to be dropped off by the school bus, you might love using the WhenHub app that my startup makes because you’ll know exactly where they are. That is both fair and moral. And logical.
Next, a link to an article that gives you a preview of how machines are learning to chemically program humans. The machines are learning how to adjust our rewards to maximize addiction. There is no logical end to this. Once machines learn hypnosis (and they can), we work for them.
Here’s a fresh example (today) of how Twitter throttles back my free speech when it doesn’t fit their political views. This only happens for Trump-related content, as far as I can tell. I haven’t seen an exception yet. Notice the referenced tweet shows as “unavailable” but it actually is available when users click the link. Twitter does this trick so my followers will think the link is gone and they won’t bother to click. This Twitter censorship method is well-documented by others.
The clever thing about Twitter’s approach is that they randomize it so everyone sees my content sometimes, but no one sees the good stuff all of the time. That creates the illusion that it might be a fluke, a temporary bug, or just a perceptual thing. Best of all, it makes people like me look like conspiracy nuts. This is brilliant technique for mind control. It took me about a year to see this as a real thing. I thought everyone that was yapping about it was in deep conspiracy theory mode too. Most of you reading this post will think the same about me.
And you might be right, which is even cooler. As you know, the only person who can’t see the cognitive dissonance is the one in it. So I can never rule out the possibility that the problem is on my end.
I won’t ask you to believe me about Twitter’s backdoor assault on the First Amendment. That would be a waste of energy. Just file it away in your brain and remember that I warned you. Twitter’s business is about to fall apart and I expect that you’ll see this story emerge from whistleblowers.
I’m trying to get my channel on YouTube running smoothly for after Twitter’s collapse. I’m still having massive and unpredictable hardware/software issues. You’ll see my A/B testing over at this link. Keep it handy in case I suddenly disappear from Twitter.
I have been saying since Trump’s election that the world has split into two realities – or as I prefer to say, two movies on one screen – and most of us don’t realize it. We’re all looking at the same events and interpreting them wildly differently. That’s how cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias work. They work together to create a spontaneous hallucination that gets reinforced over time. That hallucination becomes your reality until something changes.
This phenomenon has nothing to do with natural intelligence. We like to think that the people on the other side of the political debate are dumb, under-informed, or just plain evil. That’s not the case. We’re actually experiencing different realities. I mean that literally.
I know, I know. When you read something like that, you probably shake your head and think I’m either being new-agey or speaking metaphorically. I am being neither. This is well-understood cognitive science.
And here comes the fun part.
I’m about to show you some mind-blowing evidence of the two-movie effect. Figuratively speaking, I’ll hold an apple in my hand and show it to the audience. Half of you will see an apple. The other half will see a gun. That’s how dramatic this two-movie illusion is. I can be watching a comedy movie while you’re in the same theater, sitting next to me, watching a drama. On the same screen. At the same time.
Here’s a screenshot from a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. The bullet points purport to show the “crazy” things President Trump said this past week. Focus on the first bullet point, just to keep things simple. The point I’ll make applies to all of them, but we can simplify by looking at the first one. It says, “So-called judge.”
The bullet point refers to the recent court reversal of Trump’s executive order to ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
If you are a Trump supporter, all you see is an example of Trump talking the way Trump always does. He bluntly criticizes everything he doesn’t like. That’s one of the things his supporters like about him. Mmm, that’s a delicious apple.
Oh, and Trump is also directionally accurate in his criticism. Even Alan Dershowitz, who is no fan of the president, says Trump would probably win in the Supreme Court on the narrow question of whether the President has the right to order the seven-country immigration ban.
And Trump is sticking to the law and preparing a legal response to the court’s action. All normal stuff. Nothing here but some normal (for him) Trump words.
But if you are an anti-Trumper, and his unexpected election sent you into cognitive dissonance, you see “So-called judge” as exactly what Hitler might say before he lined them all up and shot them. Where his supporters see a delicious apple in Trump’s hand, his critics see a gun.
But here’s the freaky part: Both of our movies are intact. In my movie, Trump took a bite out of a juicy apple. In your movie, he cocked his gun and is ready to fire. But none of these movie scenes touches either one of us, at least not yet. We are observers. I can still drink my coffee and you can still brush your teeth. At this very moment, it makes no difference to our lives that I see an apple and you see a gun – except that you live in terror and I’m having a good laugh (literally) while watching my movie.
In order for our two-movie situation to merge back into a single movie, one of us needs to see our expectations violated in ways that even cognitive dissonance can’t explain away. As long as the movie with the apple and the movie with the gun both “work” in terms of their scripts, they will keep playing at the same time. You might see confirmation bias that tells you it really was a gun. I might see confirmation bias that it was a delicious apple.
Let me give you an example of how the two-movie reality could fold back into one. It will take a lot of time plus a lot of observations like this one:
Try the line below on anti-Trumpers and watch them pivot to “But…he is also incompetent.” Then mention the rise in stock prices. Fun! https://t.co/2oyPc4Gx3R
One of the most famous statistics in the world of politics is the claim that 97% of climate scientists agree with the idea that humans activity is boosting CO2 to dangerous levels.
Critics say the 97% is misleading, because the critics like to include in their own list the scientists that are working for energy companies. The industry-paid scientists and engineers have less credibility, say the critics of the climate science critics.
Recently I retweeted a link to a climate science whistleblower. I don’t have any way to evaluate his claims. But his story did a good job of illustrating the flow of data from the measuring devices all the way to the published papers and then to your brain. And what I got out of that was that very few people have direct access to the measuring devices and the original data. Let’s say 1% of climate scientists are actually involved in generating the temperature data and deciding what to include, what to smooth, what to replace, and so on. Apparently you can measure Earth’s temperature a number of ways, from ice core samples, to satellites, to ocean buoys, to land thermometers. I might be missing a few. Oh, and each of those methods probably change a bit over time, so you have some apples-to-oranges comparisons if you look at history.
In other words, even the 1% involved in direct measurements might not be involved in all the different forms of it.
What follows next is pure speculation, based on my years of experience in corporate America and my understanding of human nature. But it seems to me that 99% of the 97% are relying on the accuracy and honesty of the 1% who actually produce the temperature measurements. Sure, the other scientists read the papers, and see whatever “adjustments” were made by the authors. But that seems like opening the hood of the car, looking at the outside of the engine, and determining that it’s all good on the inside.
Speaking of my corporate experience, this reminds me of a situation when I worked for the phone company. 100% of the employees believed that one of the Executive Directors in our group was a PhD in some sort of technology field. After all, he said he was, and the Human Resources group does background checks before hiring. So he had to be a PhD, right?
But it turns out he was a con man. He had no PHd. The Human Resources group was two years behind in their background checks. When they caught up with him, he was fired immediately.
I’m open to correction on my assumption that the 97% of climate scientists depend on the accuracy and honesty of the handful of people with direct access to the data. Let me know if I got that wrong. If I’m wrong, that supports my point that non-scientists such as myself can’t be expected to have useful opinions on science topics.
You just witnessed a little trick I learned from President Trump. I gave myself two ways to win and no way to lose. You should try it. It works every time.
Have you tried my startup, WhenHub, to create an amazing-looking training schedule or curriculum that you can share on social media, and people can add to their calendars? Create it once and just move any date in the range to adjust all the rest of the dates relatively. That’s just a tiny sample of what it can do.
The left has done a stellar job of demonizing Trump supporters and Republicans in general. Their excellent persuasion involves conflating the bad apples with the entire group. Both sides do it. The right calls everyone on the left selfish snowflakes, and the left calls everyone on the right racists. They do it because it works. The brain likes to conflate things. And if the shiniest object in our view involves headlines about racists, or lefty rioters, those images stick in our minds and taint our impressions of the entire group.
So let’s try this thought experiment.
Let’s say there is a group of Trump-supporting racists – the violent kind that I have never met – that starts terrorizing an African-American neighbor of yours. And let’s say it turns into a violent confrontation between the racists and the victim family. The neighborhood hears some commotion and pours into the streets. The racists have weapons and they are about to kill the family that was just minding its own business. The police are on the way, but not in time. Violence is about to happen.
Suddenly a shot rings out. A bullet goes through the back of the scariest racist’s head and hollows out his skull. He drops like a rock. The other racists drop their weapons and flee.
Who fired the shot that saved the African-American family? Was it a Republican or a Democrat?
One of the most underrated qualities of Republicans is that they police their own ranks. If you have a problem with a violent Republican racist, call some Republicans. They’ll solve it for you.
But don’t call a Republican if you are simply offended by another person’s opinion. In that situation you want to call some Democrats to ridicule and physically attack the person with the objectionable opinion.
By the way, I’m not a Republican. This is just an observation. I’ve been watching Democrats not police their own ranks – after the Berkeley violence for example – and it occurred to me that you don’t see that on the Republican side. Republicans generally appreciate free speech, but if someone attacks your family, your country, or your freedom in some physical form, keep some Republicans on speed dial.
Try it. You’ll be surprised how well it works.
Are you bothered by the fact that I am making sweeping and unsupported generalizations about Democrats and Republicans? If so, call a Democrat. I await your combined ridicule and physical violence.