Hypothica: Where Echo Chambers are Outlawed

(This is built on the ideas and questions Drowlord101 raised in his post about echo chambers.)

On the island of Hypothica, the Hypothican government has issued a decree stating that every club, party, or organization that discusses serious or important ideas must hire a “court jester”. A jester is someone whose JOB is to question and disagree with the group’s consensus opinion. For example, the NRA’s court jester is someone who vocally opposes private gun ownership. The law is intended to ensure that “echo chambers” do not arise, and that organizations and political parties do not become removed from consensus reality. It is also intended to improve their society’s discourse, so that people don’t just shout party-approved slogans at each other all the time.

Obviously, there are moral problems with this scenario, which completely ignores freedom of speech and association. The Hypothican government doesn’t care about that, and neither do we. What I wonder is, would this have the intended effect on society as a whole? We had something similar to this with the “fairness doctrine”. As a libertarian, I am opposed to fairness doctrines, but I have to admit that political discussions seem to have become much more polarized as technology has allowed us to build our own echo chambers and remove ourselves from people we disagree with.

So, setting all concerns about freedom of speech and government overreach aside, do a thought experiment and imagine Hypothica 5 years after the law is passed. What does society look like? Was the intended effect achieved? Why or why not?


What Makes an Echo Chamber

Lately, I have heard frequent reference to the dreaded echo chamber. The term seems to be universally pejorative, and the close-minded saps who would inhabit such a place are judged harshly.

I’m wary of an insult that is broadly used, and in what appears to be a one-sided manner. I’d like to feel the boundaries of this one a bit.

I have, on many occasions, participated in what I’ll call a fan club. Here are some of them:

Amiga User’s Group: A meeting of people who own Commadore’s Amiga Personal Computer, and want to share their insights in computing, their reasons for preferring Amiga, share software, play games together, and generally socialize with other Amiga Users. Often, it was a circle jerk about how the Amiga was the best computer and everyone else was ignorant.

Lightwave User’s Group: A meeting of 3D animators who use the NewTek Lightwave software, and want to share insights in 3D modelling, rigging, preferences for modelling tools and methods, and other 3D animation topics. Often, it’s a circle jerk about how Lightwave has hands-down the best modelling tools, and a pretty darn good renderer.

Software Development Group: A meeting of software developers who use the same tools (generally the same language, and Integrated Development Environment) to develop software and like to circle-jerk about their software development tools, share ideas on how software should be made, propose standards and conventions, and show off each other’s work.

Anime Fan Groups: People who love Japanese animation.

Role Playing Groups: People who love Dungeons & Dragons and other role playing games (I was also into GURPS, Car Wars, Cyberpunk, and Paranoia) and often board games.

The “Echo Chamber” insults seem to revolve around Social and Political topics.

My questions to the crowd are these (although you should feel free to share any insights you like):

1. What boundaries separate a permissible echo chamber from an impermissible one?

2. What obligation do people have to avoid being part of an echo chamber?

3. What justification do people have for intervening or breaking up an echo chamber? Is there a moral imperative? Is it spite?

4. Based on 1-3, why are echo chambers seen in a strictly negative light?


Stupid Hollywood Lessons (part 1)

I encourage other Hypothica authors to contribute to this series but try and keep it on target with the lessons Hollywood is teaching us.  The topic of other Hollywood stupidity is far too broad.

Some time ago I watched Toy Story 3.  To avoid spoiling too much I will focus on the parts of the film that are important to this post.  It takes place in a world where toys walk and talk when there aren’t any people around.  The film follows a party of toys that find themselves in a day care center.  The toys in this center are led by a stuffed bear who seperates the toys into a favored group that plays with the older kids and an unfavored group that has to endure the rough treatment of the younger kids.

The film portrays the bear as a villain.  But…how fair is that really?  SOME toys have to wind up in the younger kids group.  And the way the bear handles it (a seniority system) is about as fair as you can get.  The system is portrayed as a kind of prison arrangement but…in that position how would YOU enforce the rules?

When I actually think about it I can’t agree with the lesson Toy Story 3 tries to teach.


More On Gender

I’ve been struggling to write a follow up post on gender identity over the past week, but I haven’t been able to because I’m not seeing a clear baseline for what the term even means. I have my own ideas, but am hesitant to build other points off my own assertions without having that fundamental discussion. So, today’s post we start there:

You meet an alien robot that has recently found its way to Hypothica and the two of you begin to converse. You bring up some recent gender debates with the robot, wrongly thinking that politics makes good small talk. The robot is wholly unfamiliar with the concept and asks you what gender is and what gender identity means. The robot is familiar with related concepts such as mammalian anatomy, sex, sexual dimorphism, and culture.

 

How would you describe what gender is?


A more balanced take on Trump

Folks on Scott Adams blog keep going on about how stupid the HRC campaign must be to not realize how badly they’re screwing up against Trump. But how fair is that really?

First of all, why should they even think they’re screwing up? Their friends in the MSM keep telling them they’re still ahead of Trump.

Second of all they have an excuse for why they’re not doing better against Trump (namely, Sanders).

Third of all…is there anyone on this blog who has seen the various campaign moves and not had Scott explain it to them? Did you agree with Scotts analysis before Scott explained it to you? Im thinking those of us on the SA blog see it differently because Scott has explained it to us, but how fair is that really? Why should the HRC campaign take any notice of Scott?

Which leads me to my fourth point: as of right now we only have Scotts word and track record to tell us that a Trump victory is coming. So far the polls have ranged between Bad News For Trump to Trump Has A Slight Edge. In other words, we still don’t REALLY see signs of an impending Trump victory, do we?


Star Wars Episode 7

For all the praise that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has received, I find myself more and more disappointed with the film as time passes and the initial excitement behind me.

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Many of the complaints have surrounded the fact that the plot is copied and pasted from episode 4, which is true. But enough has been said that I won’t rehash it. Instead I’ll argue the piss-poor quality of the film’s narrative structure, with Starkiller Base as my case study. I won’t even get into how lazy, stupid, and repetitive it was, and how unbelievable it was even for Star Wars (I cannot suspend my disbelief so far as to accept that  planet can swallow and store a star, then shoot it through hyperspace, and then not subsequently freeze over).

Instead l argue that it simply didn’t work as a plot point. It was storytelling at its worst.

 

Read the rest of this entry »


Gender Identity, Protected Classes, and Discrimination

The hot topic of the day in america is all things gender identity and all things bathroom. Why, after a million years of non-issue this has become a crisis ripping society at the seams is an enigma to me.

But I’d like to focus on a small part of the issue rather than question its contrived genesis altogether. That is, what constitutes “wrongful” discrimination?

It’s difficult to qualify “wrongful”, but that’s the task here and to then decide whether the gender identity-bathroom issue falls into the same thresh hold. Now for sake of scope, I’m not specifically discussing whether a particular side on the issue is reasonable or not, a goo idea or not, safe or not, etc. This isn’t about opinion of whether such situations should be accommodated.

This is about how top-down mandating of such accommodations should be understood through the lens of discrimination based on our current social/political context.

Discriminating at is most broad is not wrongful. It is simply making preferential distinctions. You discriminate between candidates when you hire an employee. It’s generally agreed that if your discriminating is limited to skills and relevant qualification for the job, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s simply picking the best candidate. But there is a line where it starts becoming “wrongful” in people’s minds. Different folks might have different ideas about where that line is. If you didn’t hire a skilled and competent candidate because you found them personally annoying, some might find that perfectly acceptable while others might find your point of discriminating unfair.

Usually the line centers around whether the attribute is “relevant” to the situation. Color of skin is reasonably irrelevant to an engineering job, but reasonably relevant to an acting part. In the bathroom issue citing relevance doesn’t help because it is the entire point of debate. It is similar to questioning whether “Boy” is relevant to “Boy scouts”. It’s ultimately as relevant as you believe it to be. So let’s appeal to the current standard instead of personal opinion.

In america we have this idea of “protected classes”, attributes that can’t be the basis of treating on person favorably or unfavorably in certain situations. I have personal issues with the entire concept, but let’s leave that for another post. Instead let’s use that as a basis for understanding what constitutes “wrongful” discrimination. This is the list of what United States classifies as protected classes (from Wikipedia):

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Age (40 and over)
  • Sex
  • Pregnancy
  • Citizenship
  • Familial status
  • Disability status
  • Veteran status
  • Genetic information

Now my question is, what factors make an attribute qualify for this list? And does gender identity meet those qualifications? It seems to me that gender identity would be the only thing on this list that is not particularly empirical. It is by current knowledge, solely a matter of self perception. Nothing else on the list is categorically the same. Religion is a admittedly a bit grey, but it also is not tautologically evidenced and can be qualified with actual attributes. That is, if I say I am of a certain religion, I can articulate to a specific points of belief or practice that I hold that are more than subjectively a part of that belief system.

However, the entire idea that underlines gender identity theory is that no specific attribute or combination of attributes define me as a specific gender. It is solely self-identification. Simply stating that I am Jewish does not make me Jewish and although there is debate about the line, the argument is where that line is, not whether it exists. Nearly everyone would agree that belonging to the a given faith and enjoying it’s protections requires some sort of ascent to a standard of belief or worship. Gender identity, however, is founded on the rejection of any standard. My knee-jerk perspective is that this makes it qualitatively different.

So I open the question. Is a gender identity empirically measured by more than self-perception? And does an attribute of self-perception fit on this list of “wrongful discrimination”? I’m open to hearing perspectives on this because I don’t know. And I think most people on both sides don’t either, yet want to argue a position without examining any underlying principles.

 


How does the Brexit REALLY Look?

I look at the BBC news website a lot, and one of the big recurring stories on it is an upcoming vote on whether or not Britain should leave the EU.  BBC has been pretty relentless in it’s anti-Brexit coverage.  I took this at face value until I realized something:  the MSM has been doing more or less the same thing to Trump for most of the past year.

That got me wondering;  just how IS the Brexit looking over there?  Is the British public reacting to it more or less the same way we’re reacting to Trump?  Is Brexit heading for a victory in spite of BBC.com?


Which is more important, blood or culture?

The nation of Hypothica was once a colony of the nation of Hardcastle.  It broke away 240 years ago and has since overshadowed Hardcastle in power and influence, largely by taking in so many immigrants over the years that it has about five times the population.  But the culture of Hypothica is still largely based on Hardcastle’s culture

Now a Hardcastle time traveler has gone back 250 years and has changed history so that Hypothica didn’t break away 240 years ago.

When he returns to the present he finds everything much the same as before.  Hypothica is still independent (it broke away much later).  The rest of the world is much the same as before.  The differences are A) Hypothica now has about half the population of Hardcastle and B) Hypothica has a lot more people of Hardcastle ancestry than before.

Our time traveler now comes to you, an important figure in Hardcastle society from 250 years ago, and explains the situation.  He asks you to choose between two possible futures.  He can undo the change he made, in which case the future Hypothica will dominate the world and will do so more or less with Hardcastles culture but very few of Hypothica’s people will be descended from Hardcastle.  Or he can leave the change in place, in which case Hardcastles cultural influence on the world will be much reduced but there will be a lot more people of Hardcastle descent in Hypothica.

Which would you prefer?


We deserve Trump

For years we’ve been hearing about how the economy has been growing but wages have been stagnant.  About people having more and more trouble affording food, transportation and especially rent.  We kept hearing about how we couldn’t let this keep going.

We let it keep going, didn’t we?

More than that, we seem to have it in for the working class.  From shoving trans bathroom rights down their throats to denying them affordable housing we have been sending them the message that We Hate Them.

At least, that’s the message they’re hearing.

We should have known that, if we did that enough, they would, sooner or later, do something to send that message right back to us.  Maybe something stupid.

Well, they’re doing it now, in this election cycle.

We keep trying to tell them that supporting Trump is stupid.  That he’s stupid.  That making Trump president would make America a laughingstock.  And worse.

But the message they hear is: We Hate Trump.  They can get even with us by shoving Trump down our throats.

And as for making America a laughingstock that’s not their problem.  That’s a problem for the globally minded elites that have been kicking them around all this time.  Another reason to vote Trump!

And I can’t say I blame them.  Yes, they’re being foolish, but our so-called ‘smart’ way of doing things hasn’t been working for them.