February 7, 2018

Some things I think about politics

When one tries to think comprehensively about politics these days, it quickly gets overwhelming. But I think I’ve got some pieces of the puzzle figured out. Here they are in extremely summarized form. I’ll flesh them out later as seems to make sense.

1. Most of what people are saying about modern tribalism is correct. But partisanship is not as absolute as some fear. In particular:

2. The threat from Trump and his Republican enablers is indeed as bad as people fear. He’s a major danger to do terrible, irreversible harm to the US and the rest of the world. To date the irreversible damage hasn’t been all that terrible, but if Trump and his enablers are given enough time, the oldest modern democracy will be no more.

All common interests notwithstanding, beating Trump’s supporters at the polls is of paramount importance.

3. I agree with those who claim that many of our problems stem from the shredding of trust. But few people seem to realize just how many different aspects of “trust” there are, nor how many degrees there can be of trustworthiness. It’s not just a binary choice between “honest servant of the people” and “lying, cheating crook”.

These observations have strong analogies in IT. What does it mean for a system to be “reliable” or to produce “accurate” results? There are many possible answers, each reasonable in different contexts.

4. I also agree with the view that much of what’s going on relates to lacks of empathy. But it’s not quite as simple as saying that liberals/Democrats/globalists have more empathy, while conservatives/Republicans/populists/nationalists have less. Populists and white nationalists likely have more empathy than I do for certain segments of the population, and anti-abortion zealots surely outshine me in empathy for fetal tissue.

Some say our troubles are due to a deliberate war on truth and democracy. Some say they’re just consequences of broad, long-running trends. I think both views are partially correct.

5. Much is made these days of people’s penchant for irrationality, which generally takes the forms:

I think that a lot of this irrationality can be explained as people not taking the trouble to gain all the facts, to think things through, etc. Indeed, perfect rationality takes so much effort that it would be … well, that it would be a highly irrational choice. So if we want people to be more rational, perhaps we should make it easier for them to be so.

That challenge has many different facets. I hope to have something useful to say about it later on.

6. Outright changing somebody’s mind is very, very hard. But making them less sure of their opinion? That’s a lot easier. Making them more sure of it? That’s a reasonable goal as well

This too will be spelled out in a future post.

7. Much of the prevailing irrationality can be modeled by describing which contradictions/doublethink people accept, and in which cases they think a contradiction actually proves that something is untrue. And people’s views are sometimes actually influenced by a pull to be more consistent. Real-life examples include:

Comments

One Response to “Some things I think about politics”

  1. Politics can be overwhelming | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on February 7th, 2018 9:05 pm

    […] just posted a very high-level overview of modern political complexities. Please read […]

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