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« Off to Stockholm to discuss the science of science filmmaking (& of course, "post truth") | Main | Is cultural cognition an instance of "bounded rationality"? A ten-yr debate »

Weekend update: Q & A at Nature

Trump victory and QED's addition of "post truth" to its latest edition has result to an "all talking heads on deck" alert.

Read the interview.

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Reader Comments (10)

Dan -

I tried posting a comment twice, only to have it wind up disappearing into the ether. Could you check the spam filter and un-spam filter it if it's there?

December 3, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

@Joshua-- sorry nothing in the spam net, or log of comments posted. Very frustrating for me as well as you. I'm sure an experienced use like you pushed the "create post" and the "preview" button Do you have the comments saved, I hope?

December 5, 2016 | Registered CommenterDan Kahan

Not saved - So I'll just reconstruct, although I'm sure I won't be able to recreate the spontaneous brilliance and paradigm re-defining implications of the first version. :-)

It was mostly just another one of my exploitations of your blog comment section to ramble.

Basically, I'm wondering about the recent election and the implications to the concept of "cultural cognition" and a conceptualization you refer to in the article:

Hierarchical and individualistic people tend to have confidence in markets and industry: those represent human ingenuity and power. People who are egalitarian and communitarian are suspicious of markets and industry. They see them as responsible for social disparity.

And I'm thinking about the Carrier situation and the election and how the crossover between the two speaks to a problem that I have with the taxonomy you refer to that is delineated by "values," or tenets of ideological belief, that, IMO, leaves a lot to be desired (of course, I know that you recognize that such a taxonomy so delineated is not perfect).

My previous favorite example for how "values" may be a problematic attribute for examining how people are differently "motivated," was the transition among many Republicans from viewing a health insurance mandate as a principle of "personal responsibility" to viewing it as a manifestation of Obama's "tyranny." But the Carrier deal is perhaps even better in that it relates in particular to a hypocrisy w/r/t "markets and industry." After the election, as opposed to before, many Republicans look right past concerns about moral hazard or government interference in the economy or crony capitalism or the government "picking winners" or the government propping up un-competitive business practices through providing "incentives," to viewing the Carrier deal, to keep some portion of their jobs in the US, as a positive sign that Trump's government will make American great again. And that, of course, is after months of hypocrisy among many Republicans w/r/t the government interface with "free trade" treaties.

And no doubt, there is a mirror image, at least to some extent, whereby Dems who supported Obama's bailout of the auto industry positively consider Trump's deal-making with a massive defense industry contractor to be an example of an imminent oligarchy.

So anyway, my larger point is that I wonder whether some of what you attribute to differences according to values or tenets of ideology can equally, or perhaps better, be explained by more fundamental tendencies among humans to define an "other" and an "us," and use that as the basic mechanics of how they filter through "facts" and other information when their identity-orientation has been stimulated. A government insurance mandate is OK when we do it and tyranny when they do it, and providing tax incentives to companies is "picking winners" when "they" do it but providing jobs to people who have suffered when we do it, etc.

In this election, the attribution of "other" and "us" "motivation" has been complicated by the relative success of Obama compared Clinton in some areas where high proportions of white, less-educated voters live. That tends to weaken the notion, often promoted, that the designation of "other" is typically based on race, or on economic status, or other clearly visible group-markers. Is it true that many less-educated whites switched from voting from Obama to voting for Trump? If so, then it's hard to say that the explanation is "racism." And while there was a switch, to some degree, in how the association between economic status and voting preference played out in this election as compared to others, there is still the complicating factor that while more, lower-income whites voted for Trump compared to Romney, there are still a whole lot of lower-income minorities who largely rejected Trump. And then again, we don't actually know to what extent it was the same voters who switched from Obama to Trump, or to what extent the results reflect that some voters who voted for Obama didn't turn out in this election and some voters who hadn't voted in other recent elections turned out to vote for Trump (an explanation that might help to explain the polling errors, if the reason for the errors was the failure of "likely voter" screening). And, in this election, it's interesting to see that how the demographic characteristic of education level has a strong and largely different association with this particular election outcome. And, of course, the differences, while the magnitude of their implications are large in that we have Trump as a president elect, only reflect a relatively small change to the previous two elections - as all-in-all, the electorate is closely divided (with a slight edge towards voters who vote Democratic).

Anyway, often your work is criticized for not accounting for outliers - the criticism being that not everyone is driven by a fear of being ostracized from their group. My reaction to that is that it is entirely possible to be different from one's group more generally in terms of stated belief about Carrier or climate change, as long as one maintains a more general alignment in the identification of an "other." Palin can criticize Trump on Carrier because she has rock-solid credentials in hating Obama and liberals. But perhaps even more importantly, she can remain loyal to her own sense of her identity. IMO, the need to remain loyal to one's own sense of identity is usually aligned with how one maintains solidarity with one's group, but that at times there can be a misalignment - in which situations the need to remain consistent with one's own sense of identity predominates.

There, now aren't you glad that you asked if I had the comments saved? :-)

December 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

In my opinion, ordinary folks do get a fundamental truth that seems to be escaping the elites. The world really is getting increasingly rigged against them. This includes a combination of automation, information technology, the phasing out of fossil fuel energy in favor of renewables, declines in many other natural resources, such as available water, arable soils, and some metals. Combining this with the effects of anthropogenic climate change leads to quite a disruption. This is not a simple matter of "identity" but rather an end, for many people of jobs and lifestyles as we currently know them. We live in a time of disruptive change, more severe, IMHO, than that of the first Industrial Revolution. There is considerable historical and anthropological evidence for the manner in which people who feel left behind tend to lash out in ways that can be taken advantage of by demagogues.

Just before the election, I was at an energy conference at which it was noted that the decline of coal would leave many "stranded assets". Older coal fired power plants, still with bonds to be paid off, about to be shut down. A burden on communities the least able to pay for it. The state of West Virginia, parts of eastern Kentucky, cities such as Gillette, Wyoming or Colstrip Montana. Places where people not only have jobs but also own homes, have just voted for school bonds, or invested in small businesses. Places with no future without coal. Many rural areas are highly dependent on fossil fuels for transportation and livelyhood. Urban areas are too, but in ways that are less transparent. Who thinks much about the energy consumption of the servers that function as the backbone of the Internet? How many people frown at gas guzzling vehicles but then think nothing of flying off someplace?

Robotics will take out many assembly line workers, automation is taking out call centers and data entry jobs, cloud computing will even limit the need for computer programmers and on site computer systems support. More personally for me: online, in-stream detectors eliminate much of the demand for industrial quality assurance chemists.

We need a revolution regarding how we distribute our societies wealth and how we define work. I think that ignoring these fundamental truths is what is blindsiding the elites with regards to the nature of the socio-economic crisis we face and why people are so upset.

Who is really acting "Post Truth"?

December 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Gaythia -

==> In my opinion, ordinary folks do get a fundamental truth that seems to be escaping the elites. The world really is getting increasingly rigged against them. ==>

How are you measuring this increase over time? Over shorter time frames, the rate of increase in the average standard of living in this country may have stagnated. But globally, that becomes a more complicated assessment, and I think it's hard to identify that trend even in this country if we go back even a few decades to when millions of people had no voice in our society due to various "identity" factors, when poverty rates were much, much higher, when access to education was largely non-existent to wide swaths of society, when children were routinely exploited for labor, etc.

It certainly seems to me that the demographics of people who think that the world being rigged to their disadvantage my have changed, or perhaps even the # of people who perceived the world as rigged against them may have increased, but how do you measure what is "really" the case in that regard?

==> I think that ignoring these fundamental truths is what is blindsiding the elites with regards to the nature of the socio-economic crisis we face and why people are so upset. ==>

At the risk of exposing a fundamental elitism, I think that there is more to the perception, or the changes in perception, of certain groups believing the system is rigged against them than a direct and proportional translation from a reality that the system is rigged against them. The perception of being a victim can exist for a variety of reasons, and identity-orientation has a time-honored tradition of sometimes leading to dubious conclusions of such.

December 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Gaythia -

Consider the Brexit vote - where voting analysis showed a high rate of "leave" sentiment in areas in which employment was not disproportionately, negatively impacted by immigration, even as the perception was widely shared in those areas that the "rigging" of immigration policies impacted their employment negatively. On the other hand, relatively lower economic status did seem to be associated with Brexit votes in those areas. To what extent can we objectively say that correlated economic changes were the product of "rigging" as opposed to inevitable changes in processes of manufacturing, a growth in wealth among far larger populations in areas of the world were the standard of living was previously much lower in comparison, etc.? Where does multi-factorial societal change leave off and "rigging" begin?

December 5, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

To borrow the title from Jaron Lanier's book on the information society: "Who Owns the Future?". In 2008 and again in 2012, voters were optimistic and hopeful enough about change to elect and re-elect Obama. This year, fear took over. People in places that are not feeling hopeful that they have a future formed the core of the voters that disproportionately favored Trump in this election relative to support for Romney in the previous election: This is a matter of culture, but not just "identity", but rather social roles and economic survival.

Immigration is a more complicated story. There are direct replacements in rural areas. The consolidation of meatpacking into domination by 4 large multinational corporations squeezes cattlemen: The meatpackers union was crushed and those workers replaced, first by Hispanic workers, and now in many cases by Somali refugees. Quite a new cultural influx in rural midwest towns. But directly affecting relatively few jobs. Most rural whites are not competing with immigrants for fruit picking, veggie harvesting, or pig farm barn cleaning jobs. But the manner in which those industries have developed into large scale commodity industries did squeeze out the small more diversified farms that had been the economic mainstay of rural white culture.

It could be argued that immigration more directly affects high tech workers. H1B visas have long been blamed for depressing wages, and allowing corporations to fixate on finding workers with just exactly the right background to fit the currently in favor flavors of software and other needs. Rather than relying on training or advancing existing workers. The visa holders are much less likely to speak up about family needs or other personal conflicts. This contributes to the time intense cultures of many such firms. On the other hand, high tech workers themselves have a strong stake in improvements coming from Joshua's "multifactorial societal change" and see their advancement as linked to it.

As in the first industrial revolution, in the face of disruptive change, our capitalist economic system, fosters the innovations that come with such change, but in a way that often accentuates individual enrichment over the common good. So first we get factories and robber barons and only later do fights for worker safety and environmental health come to the fore. Change is not inevitable. There are societies that manage to go on for centuries largely unchanged. This often involves a culture in which "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down". It can involve greater egalitarianism, or a feudal regime.

The Enlightenment brought us the Western cultural version of science. But the curiosity unleashed by those advances in knowledge not only brought us the Age of Exploration, but the technologies necessary for global domination, colonization and even slavery. My use of the term "rigging" does involve the distribution of wealth and power and how "Scientific Progress" is implemented. Or if it is blocked.

December 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Gaythia -

I'll ask again...

==> My use of the term "rigging" does involve the distribution of wealth and power and how "Scientific Progress" is implemented. ==>

By what metric (over what period) do you see a trend, or more specifically an "increase" in the "rigging" of wealth and power distribution.

You say..

==> There are societies that manage to go on for centuries largely unchanged. This often involves a culture in which "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down". It can involve greater egalitarianism, or a feudal regime. ==>

No place that I've ever traveled was more egalitarian in some ways than the South Pacific islands, where there was a strong influence of communal principles, but I'm not sure how that culture transitioning to a more capitalist culture would relate to predominating trends relevant to the recent election in the US, or changes in the EU... and certainly problems with phenomena like violence against women in the Pacific Island cultures are meaningful when evaluating how egalitarian they are.

December 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua


December 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGaythia Weis

Gaythia -

Thanks for that link. After a 30 second look, it's quite interesting. My immediate reaction is that while the variations are pretty large along a shorter time frame, the trend isn't over the longer time frame. But I need to give it more thought.

December 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

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