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Sunday, July 29, 2018 - 21:10 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

The Importance of Logical Consistency

Me: ...so, we'll need to hedge against a CBOE ETF rejection, though they do have reason to be confident... and what are you doing, hiding in the grass out there, Mr. Ham?

Btw, is lunch ready?
(Original source: r/hamsters)

Mr. Ham: It was horrible, horrible! England almost won the World Cup! I had to flee the country preemptively when it looked like they were actually going to do it - you'd never believe how many bets I managed to lay on them - but more than it, it was a sign of the End of Days.

Me: I see. Welcome back, then. Mr. Robo here has been running the firm of H.L. Ham quite competently in your absence, if I may add; the strategy for the next quarter has just been set.

Mr. Robo: Still enough time left for a chat.

Me: About that. I'd just like to comment about how humans in general appear to love to be told what and how to think by "experts", such as from last week's discussion on trade deficits. To me, this is justified in some areas - maybe pure maths and the technical parts of the sciences - and rather less in the social sciences and humanities.

The really intriguing bit, I gather, is how people reconcile evidence that runs counter to what they would like to believe. Prolonged exposure to contrary narratives tends to be exhausting, since - I do still believe - the mind naturally prefers self-consistent mental models. One possible solution is that taken by religious reasoning, specifically the acceptance of beginning from fantastic axioms.

Say that one agrees that crimes such as theft and murder are wrong, because of a comprehensive theological framework given exclusive suzerainty by a fellow floating into the sky. Once that is conceded, other behaviours such as slavery and child genital mutilation might - and indeed have been - also completely acceptable under the same framework, because frankly, being lighter-than-air does not confer particular moral legitimacy. Here, I'm not saying that submitting to this sort of thought process is not reasonable given practicalities - just that it has its concomitant drawbacks.

Another approach would be to dismiss conflicting evidence out of hand, which is what the ongoing War of Information is all about. Establishment objective is generally as follows: consolidate and confer status upon selected sources (e.g. major newspapers and cable channels), which then publicize topics and "popular" viewpoints favorable to their backers, and ignore those that are detrimental - perhaps only occasionally putting out a dissent to maintain an appearance of impartiality. Note that, by doing this, they can claim to be reporting "the truth", while being nowhere near "the whole truth".

This intellectual sleight-of-hand may sometimes be partly self-inflicted. Consider, for instance, the attraction of various flavours of Progressivism to the young, a phase that yours truly had duly undergone. In this depiction of history, there is a steady movement from the bad to the good, the wrong to the right, the outmoded to the new. In this telling, the first stand tends to be held by the elderly, the provincial, the fuddie-duddies. The second, improved, stand is held by the young, the educated, the future. To oppose progress, then, is evil and moreover futile. In the American context, this has basically been the line sold by the Democratic Party - that Republican-conservatives are dying out, that the youth are on their side, and therefore that their ultimate triumph is inevitable.

In keeping with observations about the War of Information, however, the full picture is quite different:

The victories of progressive-reformists (not quite liberal, which is a hijacked term), then, have been presented under the lens of survivorship bias - changes that have been acknowledged to be broadly beneficial are emphasized, and those that were, on hindsight, hare-brained and harmful quietly unmentioned. The point is that such policies, for instance eugenics and temperance, were too held to be obviously correct and true in their era. As such, it is only reasonable to accept that present-day progressives may also be going down a lot of blind alleys, rather than being on a direct journey from "bad" to "good"... which the young adult millennials are picking up on.

Honestly speaking, I'm uncertain if the bulk of the polarization in American politics can even be placed on Republicans and conservatives, given the latent tribalism displayed by the left - only that they are less apt to openly admit it. Put another way, if the right are held hostage by appeals to the authority of religious and political leaders, the left is no less beholden to the opinions of academics and Hollywood celebrities.

Mr. Ham: Yeah, like the current craze for banning plastic straws, which has also hit Singapore. This is one of those movements that appears unambiguously positive to begin with, but turns out to have questionable impact when the actual numbers come in. Unsurprisingly, progressive bastions such as San Francisco have been lampooned for eagerly criminalizing straws - which possibly carries a prison sentence, mind - while ignoring used syringes and human waste on their streets - which has only solidified their growing reputation for being sensationalist-reactionary, and out of touch with actual problems.

Trust me, he knows *exactly* what he's doing
(Source: entertainment.ie)

Me: Anyway, what I hope to get through here is, that it is important to maintain one's own intellectual integrity. There is always huge pressure to conform, even against one's own judgment, and there's always the threat of having one's capacity for independent thinking, subsumed by the group. Feigning agreement is one way to fit in, of course, but the trouble is that one's internal thought processes may adjust accordingly despite the intent, which is how indoctrination and re-education processes work.

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Next: Summer Cleaning

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