👓 Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult | C Thi Nguyen | Aeon Essays

Read Why it’s as hard to escape an echo chamber as it is to flee a cult by C Thi Nguyen (Aeon)

First you don’t hear other views. Then you can’t trust them. Your personal information network entraps you just like a cult

Something has gone wrong with the flow of information. It’s not just that different people are drawing subtly different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems like different intellectual communities no longer share basic foundational beliefs. Maybe nobody cares about the truth anymore, as some have started to worry. Maybe political allegiance has replaced basic reasoning skills. Maybe we’ve all become trapped in echo chambers of our own making – wrapping ourselves in an intellectually impenetrable layer of likeminded friends and web pages and social media feeds.

But there are two very different phenomena at play here, each of which subvert the flow of information in very distinct ways. Let’s call them echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Both are social structures that systematically exclude sources of information. Both exaggerate their members’ confidence in their beliefs. But they work in entirely different ways, and they require very different modes of intervention. An epistemic bubble is when you don’t hear people from the other side. An echo chamber is what happens when you don’t trust people from the other side.

A stunning essay that gives me hope that we’re not in a “post-truth” world. On the other hand, we’re going to need to do a lot of work …

hat tip: Ian O’Byrne

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👓 Everything You Should Know About Karl Marx | Teen Vogue

Read Everything You Should Know About Karl Marx (Teen Vogue)
The anti-capitalist scholar’s ideas are often memed (and probably more prevalent than you think).
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👓 Trump is no longer the worst person in government | Washington Post

Read Trump is no longer the worst person in government by George F. WillGeorge F. Will (Washington Post)
Donald Trump, with his feral cunning, knew. The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure. And Pence, who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor, is augmenting the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing.

George Will writes a searing and blistering take down of Vice President Mike Pence–not that there are nice things to be said about Trump.

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👓 Voting me, voting you: Eurovision | The Economist (Espresso)

Read Voting me, voting you: Eurovision (Economist Espresso)
​The competition, whose finals play out tonight, is as famed for its politics as its cheesy

I often read the Economist’s Espresso daily round up, but don’t explicitly post that I do. I’m making an exception in this case because I find the voting partnerships mentioned here quite interesting. Might be worth delving into some of the underlying voting statistics for potential application to other real life examples. I’m also enamored of the nice visualization they provide. I wonder what the overlap of this data is with other related world politics looks like?

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🎧 Season 2 Episode 6 The King of Tears | Revisionist History

Listened to Season 2 Episode 6 The King of Tears by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

Revisionist History goes to Nashville to talk with Bobby Braddock, who has written more sad songs than almost anyone else. What is it about music that makes us cry? And what sets country music apart?

Why country music makes you cry, and rock and roll doesn't: A musical interpretation of divided America.

The big idea in this episode that there is a bigger divide in America that falls along musical lines more than political ones is quite intriguing and fits in with my general experience living in South Carolina, Georgia, Connecticut, Maryland, Kentucky, and California. Having been raised by a Catholic family with one parent from the city, another from the countryside, and having lived in many blue/red states surrounded by people of various different musical tastes, I do have to wonder if there isn’t a lot of value in this thesis. It could make an interesting information theoretic political-related question for research. This might be the type of thing that could be teased out with some big data sets from Facebook.

Beauty and authenticity can create a mood. They set the stage, but I think the thing that pushes us over the top into tears is details. We cry when melancholy collides with specificity.

Malcolm Gladwell in The King of Tears

He then goes on into a nice example about the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses:

And specificity is not something that every genre does well.

This reminds me of a great quote in Made to Stick from Mother Theresa about specificity.

Mother Teresa once said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

There’s something very interesting about this idea of specificity and its uses in creating both ideas as well as storytelling and creating emotion.

There is one related old country music joke I’m surprised not to have seen mentioned here, possibly for length, tangential appropriateness, or perhaps because it’s so well known most may call it to mind. It plays off of the days of rock and roll when people played records backwards to find hidden (often satanic) messages.

Q: What do you get when you play a country music song backwards?
A: You get your job back, your wife back, your house back, and your dog back.

The episode finally rounds out with:

If you aren’t crying right now I can’t help you…

Thanks Malcolm, I was crying…

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👓 “People Get Subpoenas, Shit Gets Real”: What John Edwards Should Teach the Media About Covering Trump | The Hive

Read “People Get Subpoenas, Shit Gets Real”: What John Edwards Should Teach the Media About Covering Trump (The Hive)
If you were in Las Vegas and could win $1 million by placing a simple prop bet on whether Trump enjoyed some pee play with Russian hookers in Moscow in 2013, would you bet yes or no? You know where you’d put your money. Even Mitch McConnell would take that bet.
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🎧 Episode 06 My Little Hundred Million | Revisionist History

Listened to Episode 06 My Little Hundred Million by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History


In the early ’90s, Hank Rowan gave $100 million to a university in New Jersey, an act of extraordinary generosity that helped launch the greatest explosion in educational philanthropy since the days of Andrew Carnegie and the Rockefellers. But Rowan gave his money to Glassboro State University, a tiny, almost bankrupt school in South Jersey, while almost all of the philanthropists who followed his lead made their donations to elite schools such as Harvard and Yale. Why did no one follow Rowan’s example?

“My Little Hundred Million” is the third part of Revisionist History’s educational miniseries. It looks at the hidden ideologies behind giving and how a strange set of ideas has hijacked educational philanthropy.

The key idea laid out stunningly here is strong links versus weak links.

I’m generally flabbergasted by the general idea proposed here and will have to do some more research in the near future to play around further with the ideas presented. Fortunately, in addition to the education specific idea presented, Gladwell also comes up with an additional few examples in sports by using the differences between soccer and basketball to show the subtle differences.

If he and his lab aren’t aware of the general concept, I would recommend this particular podcast and the concept of strong and weak links to César Hidalgo (t) who might actually have some troves of economics data to use to play around with some general modeling to expand upon these ideas. I’ve been generally enamored of Hidalgo’s general thesis about the overall value of links as expressed in Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies1. I often think of it with relation to political economies and how the current administration seems to be (often quietly) destroying large amounts of value by breaking down a variety of economic, social, and political links within the United States as well as between our country and others.

I wonder if the additional ideas about the differences between strong and weak links might further improve these broader ideas. The general ideas behind statistical mechanics and statistics make me think that Gladwell, like Hidalgo, is certainly onto a strong idea which can be continued to be refined to improve billions of lives. I’ll have to start some literature searches now…

References

1.
Hidalgo C. Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies. New York: Basic Books; 2015.
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👓 How School Shootings Spread | New Yorker

Read How School Shootings Spread by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell (The New Yorker)
An increasingly ritualized form of violence is attracting unexpected perpetrators.

An intriguing article whose theory seems both applicable and timely. It also seems extensible to additional areas, some of which I’ve noted in my annotations.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Most previous explanations had focussed on explaining how someone’s beliefs might be altered in the moment.

Knowing a little of what is coming in advance here, I can’t help but thinking: How can this riot theory potentially be used to influence politics and/or political campaigns? It could be particularly effective to get people “riled up” just before a particular election to create a political riot of sorts and thereby influence the outcome. Facebook has done several social experiments with elections in showing that their friends and family voted and thereby affecting other potential voters. When done in a way that targets people of particular political beliefs to increase turn out, one is given a means of drastically influencing elections. In some sense, this is an example of this “Riot Theory”.


“But group interaction was such that none could admit this without loss of status; in our terms, their threshold for stealing cars is low because daring masculine acts bring status, and reluctance to join, once others have, carries the high cost of being labeled a sissy.” You can’t just look at an individual’s norms and motives. You need to look at the group.

This might also be the same case with fraternity shenanigans and even more deplorable actions like gang rapes. Usually there’s one or more sociopaths that start the movement, and then others reluctantly join in.


If a riot evolves as it spreads, starting with the hotheaded rock thrower and ending with the upstanding citizen, then rioters are a profoundly heterogeneous group.


Granovetter’s model suggests that riots are sometimes more than spontaneous outbursts. If they evolve, it means they have depth and length and a history. Granovetter thought that the threshold hypothesis could be used to describe everything from elections to strikes, and even matters as prosaic as how people decide it’s time to leave a party.


The first seven major shooting cases—Loukaitis, Ramsey, Woodham, Carneal, Johnson and Golden, Wurst, and Kinkel—were disconnected and idiosyncratic.

Seven though? In such a short time period? These must have known about prior ones or else perhaps the theory doesn’t hold as much water. Similarly suicide could be added as a contagion that fits into this riot model as well.


That’s what Paton and Larkin mean: the effect of Harris and Klebold’s example was to make it possible for people with far higher thresholds—boys who would ordinarily never think of firing a weapon at their classmates—to join in the riot.


He disapproved of Adam Lanza, because he shot kindergartners at Sandy Hook instead of people his own age: “That’s just pathetic. Have some dignity, damn it.”

This model of a dialectic suggests that the narrative can be shaped, both by the individual reader and each actor. Can it also be shaped by the media? If these mass-murderers are portrayed as pathetic or deranged would that dissuade others from joining their ranks?
gandalf511 on Oct 13, 2015

gandalf511, I like the idea you’ve elaborated here, and it may work to at least some extent. One other hand, some of these kids are already iconoclasts who are marginalized and may not put much value or faith in a mainstream media representation. The tougher needle to thread is how to strike a middle ground that speaks to potential assailants?

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👓 Don Blankenship, West Virginia Candidate, Lives Near Las Vegas and Mulled Chinese Citizenship | New York Times

Read Don Blankenship, West Virginia Candidate, Lives Near Las Vegas and Mulled Chinese Citizenship by Trip Gabriel and Stephanie Saul (nytimes.com)
The former coal mining executive, a strong supporter of President Trump who is running as an “American competitionist,” has refused to disclose his personal finances as required by law.

Just a scant few years ago, no one would have tolerated someone like this even running. One wonders what it is he thinks he has to gain by doing so? Given his low morals, I’m even more afraid to know the answer.

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👓 Pennsylvania’s special election should have been a cakewalk for the GOP | The Economist

Read Pennsylvania’s special election should have been a cakewalk for the GOP (The Economist)
“MARINE, prosecutor, patriot, Catholic.
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👓 I’m Glad I Got Booed at CPAC | New York Times

Read Opinion | I’m Glad I Got Booed at CPAC by Mona Charen (New York Times)
I spoke the truth for the sake of every conservative disgusted by what has happened to our movement.

I saw this article pop up over the weekend, but didn’t have a chance to read it. I circled back around to it after listening to The Daily episode from this morning which covered it. Ultimately I think the podcast version was more interesting and valuable.

I appreciate more and more of these dyed-in-the-wool conservatives who are sticking to their guns on the message that the emperor has no clothes. It gives me more hope for the future.

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🎧 CPAC in the #MeToo Era | The Daily – New York Times

Listened to ‘The Daily’: CPAC in the #MeToo Era by Michael Barbaro from New York Times
At the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, one thing was clear: President Trump has taken over the conservative movement. His vision dominated, and, as one woman learned, there was little room for alternative views. Guest: Mona Charen, a conservative columnist who was booed while speaking on a panel at the conference.

Phenomenal and interesting interview. I think Mona Charen’s broader philosophy about holding one’s own party to the highest standards is certainly the right position. It’s people like her that will have any chance of reviving what the GOP used to stand for. I hope they’re all the better for it as they come out of the ashes.

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🎧 The Daily: Students Protest Gun Violence | The New York Times

Listened to Listen to ‘The Daily’: Students Protest Gun Violence by Michael Barbaro from nytimes.com
Demands for gun restrictions have followed one mass shooting after another, but little has changed. This time, the students who survived are leading the charge.

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👓 A Democratic Memo Undercuts Key Republican Complaints About the FBI | The Atlantic

Read A Democratic Memo Undercuts Key Republican Complaints About the FBI by Natasha Bertrand (The Atlantic)
The document, drafted by minority members of the House Intelligence Committee, sought to rebut claims that the bureau abused its power during the election.
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👓 Grand jury indicts Missouri governor who admitted affair | AP News

Read Grand jury indicts Missouri governor who admitted affair by Jim Salter (AP News)
A St. Louis grand jury on Thursday indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking a compromising photo of a woman with whom he had an affair in 2015. The Republican governor responded that he made a mistake but committed no crime. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner launched an investigation in January after Greitens admitted to an affair with his St. Louis hairdresser that began in March 2015. He was elected governor in November 2016.
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