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Brian Sheller

I enjoyed her bit about the 'anticipation' of the rise of alternative facts as though the truth of a matter relating to political power has ever seen daylight; as though political theatre produced for the peasantry has ever aligned usefully with realpolitik conducted by the powerful. What planet is she living on?

A lifetime of intense, driven filtering would have to take place for someone living in the United States for several decades now to write, let alone believe that 'alternative facts' have lately risen.

At the end of her article, I'd say indeed the country has been given over to a vastly illuminating psychological experiment, but that pernicious signal has been broadcast into homes and later headphones starting long before Steve Bannon was born.

Her whole article seems to be written in order to ultimately address and disparage the 'phenomenon' of the Trump administration as though anything has truly changed in the imperial capital. Should we really sit here thinking to ourselves that Hopey-Changey, Orange-y, and even the Two Shrubs are distinguishable from one another in any meaningful category?

'These days...', she says. Elizabeth seems given to the illusion of progress as a straight line driving ever forward rather than subsequent clicks of a rolling hamster wheel, but so does every human.

Flatland futility and politics makes us stupid, indeed.


A few thoughts after reading the Kolbert article:

I wonder how many New Yorker readers saw it and thought, "Nah, that can't be right."

I'm glad the article went into the importance of the social aspect, but it didn't mention the effect of cultural order and confirmation bias. A "strong" culture rigorously supports confirmation bias with all its members, whereas a "weaker" one has multiples factions questioning each other constantly, with infighting and a decay in social cohesion. Sad, but true. One would think clear-headed reason would strengthen a society, but I don't think history shows that. It's why authoritarian regimes crack down on dissent and opposing views. Everyone has to be on the same page, or else the society doesn't function well.

Surely we humans evolved in small and large societies where reason consistently took second place to social order, and so we developed confirmation bias as a means of protecting ourselves with this conflict?

This would prevent reason triumphing over our own biases on the social scale in many cases. We can go with reason when it doesn't threaten our social stability or personal identities, but when it does threaten these things, look out.

I got a chuckle out of the "new discoveries" part of the Kolbert subtitle. It's funny, too, how these experiments are so modest in scale and sporadic in testing, too. It's almost as if we don't want to know this stuff, and what, it only took us 10K+ years of civilization to get a hint of it? Go figure.

Finally, I couldn't help but notice how the Kolbert article is #4 on the "most popular" list. The current #1 is: "DeVos Says Trump’s Forty-Per-Cent Approval Rating Means More Than Half of Country Supports Him".



Owning a gun doesn't make one safer, but it makes the flatlander feel safer. Mouth breathers all the same.

Alexander Ač

Hello Jim,

I wonder how many New Yorker readers saw it and thought, "Nah, that can't be right." - which of course is proving, that it IS right.

I think the other group of people is thinking ("thinking"?), "nah, does not apply to me, I am rational." - which is again just proving flatland.

From the article: "Appealing to their emotions may work better" - This is what f***g Trump and other populists (socialists?) are doing - so they should be termed progressive 8-:. Since our emotional part of brain is sooo evolutionary younger than our cognitive parts of brain - progress!

OT, Dr Bartlett did NOT discover flatland, just observed the inevitable result of it (and he is not applying this observation to basically all global problems):

"There's actually nothing we can do about it," Dr Barrett said.

Tasmanian kelp forests dying as water warms, dive operator Mick Baron says





Finally, I couldn't help but notice how the Kolbert article is #4 on the "most popular" list. The current #1 is: "DeVos Says Trump’s Forty-Per-Cent Approval Rating Means More Than Half of Country Supports Him".

And that from our Secretary of Education. ;-)

And Jesus wept...


I liked this bit of her article:

This borderlessness, or, if you prefer, confusion, is also crucial to what we consider progress. As people invented new tools for new ways of living, they simultaneously created new realms of ignorance; if everyone had insisted on, say, mastering the principles of metalworking before picking up a knife, the Bronze Age wouldn’t have amounted to much. When it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering.

"...confusion...is also crucial to what we consider progress." Have truer words ever been spoken? And the phrase, "new realms of ignorance" is truly awesome. Seriously, there is much truth here. It stems from our amazing cleverness, combined with our stunning lack of wisdom. We can figure a way to throw technology at almost anything and rationalize doing so, without even bothering to consider any potential downside risks. Remember, this is a feature, not a bug.

All of the examples given run into the same basic problem... human nature. Perhaps the biggest problem demonstrated by these examples might best be described by the following observations:

It's easy to convince a human being that another human being is a clueless fool.

It's damn near impossible to convince the first human being that he is also a clueless fool.

Unfortunately, absent the ability to recognize our own limitations and accurately assess our own capabilities (or lack thereof), it gets pretty darned hard to actually get us big-brained apes to change what we do.

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