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Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 319

Well, you are ignoring polysemy here; yes "bullshit" can refer to tall tales like your drinking fifty gallons of beer. However there are other senses of the word, including topics of serious inquiry in the field of epistemics.

I refer you to Professor H.G. Frankfurt's seminal work, On Bullshit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-691-12294-6.) for more information.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 319

I find that Socratic debate usually convinces the other person that you are attacking them and their stated belief fairly quickly even if actually just honestly wanting more information.

Well, you're in good company on that one. As I recall Socrates ruffled his share of feathers.

That said, I'm talking about satisfying yourself. Convincing others necessarily involves making allowances for their muddy thinking.

Comment Re:Trump on Sweden (Score 1) 371

Except I have seen no data from the Swedish government, which publishes extremely comprehensive crime data (something we would do well to copy), to support the Syrian crime wave story. I've gone through Brottsförebyggande rådet data and it's just not there.

What I have seen is a lot of sloppy correlation and overprojection of statistical noise. For example Sweden amended its legal definition of "sexual assault" to be much, much broader, generating a spate of spurious stories about a Swedish rape epidemic.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 319

Again, you're confusing "lying" with "bullshitting". Lying is about establishing belief in a false version of the world, which is best done, as you point out, by omission. That's because lying depends on peoples' regard for the facts; it exploits that. Being caught in a false assertion destroys a lie's effectiveness, so a smart liar sticks to the facts.

Bullshitting is about inculcating the desired feelings and attitudes in the audience. While a bullshitter doesn't hesitate to use facts when they suit his purpose, he doesn't hesitate to make shit up either, because it doesn't matter if he's caught. It doesn't even matter if he asserts two inconsistent things in the course of a single sentence.

Why?

Because bullshitting doesn't aim to establish belief in propositions; propositions are completely disposable. Once it has done its job, a piece of bullshit (unlike a lie) is a nullity. You can show that it is false, but the bullshitter's adherents won't perceive that as inconsistent; not as long as the bullshitter is conveying the same attitude.

That's why fact checking a bullshitter is a waste of time, once you've established that's what he is. It doesn't matter if you prove something he said was wrong, unless you do it in a way that changes his audience's feelings.

Comment Re:PKI? (Score 1) 26

Worse than that; in all likelihood.

While adoption has been patchy; the 'trusted computing'/TPM guys definitely have what it takes to deliver a cryptographically locked bootloader and a variety of other powerful-and-somewhat-creepy capabilities; so anyone who gets onboard with this will presumably move from shipping hardware with shitty firmware that doesn't get patches to shipping hardware with shitty firmware that doesn't get patches and cannot be fixed or replaced even if you have the requisite expertise with that platform. The sort of 'support' that bootloader locked android devices get now. Far too insecure to be remotely safe; far too secure for mere mortals to reflash the firmware with something else without a particularly elegant 'trustzone' compromise or hardware attacks.

I hardly mean to suggest that OpenWRT will save IoT or anything(IoT needs a lot more saving than is probably possible for anyone; and vendors are spitting out unsupported hardware far faster than 3rd parties and mainline kernel support can catch up); but if you think shoddy firmware is bad; it's hard to get excited about shoddy firmware that is effectively impossible to replace even for devices based on well supported hardware.

Comment Re:You almost got it (Score 1) 371

Nate Silver and his "group of hacks" made it clear that there were no guarantees. Perhaps if you had read his analyses, you would understand that. He made it clear right up until the election that Trump's chances were far from non-zero, and even went into detail in some of his blog posts to explain some of the problems with polling in some of the states. If you had actually read anything he wrote, rather than just inventing a "Nate Silver is a hack" narrative to beat him with, then you would understand a great deal of how he weighted the polls, and how uncertain he viewed the projections.

Comment Re:No longer all the news that fits (Score 1) 371

But again, op-ed pieces are all about narrative. They're often a series of stories written by the same columnist. Anyone who takes op-ed pieces that seriously obviously doesn't understand how newspapers function. That's not to say that there aren't informative op-ed pieces, far from it, but they are *opinion*, and inevitably that is where newspapers' ideological leanings will show up, and indeed where they should. By and large, the Guardian's actual journalism is often rather good, and they have one of the best investigative journalism reputations in the English-speaking world. Just don't go to "Comment is Free" to see it.

And that's what bothers me about your whole "narrative" line. In one respect, you're absolutely correct that newspapers and other news media spin narratives. That's what the press has been doing for centuries now. Do you think the press as it existed in the lead up to the American War of Independence didn't have plenty of column spent condemning nasty King George and praising the brave colonies for defying his despotic rule?

As I said, where I will criticize modern media is jumbling up opinion and journalism on the same web page, and CNN is actually worse for that than even Fox News or MSNBC. It almost goes out of its way to confuse readers on what stories are actually news and what pieces are opinion, and I will say that I think there is intent there to trick readers and to push a narrative, but if you open the stories they still make it pretty clear what is opinion and what is actual news reporting. Part of that is simply driven by the need to count clicks, to sell advertising, and the opinion section has been the seller of newspapers for a very long time.

Comment Re:Trump on Sweden (Score 1) 371

Actually the policy conclusion is not correct, however without a sophisticated understanding of statistics it's easy to be misled.

It is true that a higher proportion of immigrants commit crimes in Sweden than natives. However, if you break down immigrants by socioeconomic status and educational attainment you don't see any difference between immigrants and natives. This is because of something called Simpson's Paradox.

What's happening here is that Sweden is a wealthy advanced country with a low birth rate, and it's been importing low-education poor workers to augment it's own dwindling underclass in filling low-paying jobs. Now poor, uneducated people commit many kinds of crimes at a higher rate that affluent, educated people. Whether they are native or immigrant makes no difference. So what the Swedish statistics actually tell us is that uneducated low-wage workers make up a higher proportion of immigrants than they do of natives, which should be no surprise because that's why the largest proportion of immigrants have been admitted.

This also raises another possibility: you can actually reduce crime rates with immigration, if you let in the right people. In fact there is evidence this is happening in Canada, which places a premium on education and language skills when deciding who to admit.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 2) 319

Actually the defining characteristic of conspiracy theories is that they get you to believe things which contradict things common sense tells you are so unlikely they're bound to be false, e.g., that people do things that are against their interests, that mutual enemies act with perfect trust in each other.

It is no conspiracy theory that the Nixon White House covered up Watergate, even though that is a theory about a conspiracy. In fact Watergate shows you the problem with most conspiracy theories: massive cover ups are impossible to maintain for very long. Something as big as the government leaks information constantly.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 5, Interesting) 319

As I get older I realize how big and difficult objective "truth" is. It's easy to get hold of bits of the truth, the challenge is to get hold of enough of the truth and enough kinds of truth to make sound judgments.

That said, detecting bullshit is not intellectually challenging -- in fact I'd argue that's the defining characteristic of bullshit. Bullshit is easy to detect when it's aimed at other people. So why is bullshit so hard to resist when it's aimed at you?

Because bullshit tempts you to believe what is easy, convenient and apparently self-serving. A person with perfect moral courage, who is incorruptibly fair-minded and objective, such a person would be completely impervious to bullshit. But all of us, no matter where we fall on the political spectrum, fall far short of that ideal.

That's why advance-fee scams hoodwink people who manifestly have the intellectual ability to see through them ... when they're directed at other people. But as soon as the opportunity for personal gain enters the picture it becomes a struggle between greed and intellect. Even if your intellect is formidable it's useless to you once your greed is engaged.

That's why I say detecting bullshit is an exercise in moral character.

Comment Re:No longer all the news that fits (Score 1) 371

You are aware the Guardian story you reference is a comment piece. Op-ed pieces are fundamentally different than reporting of stories, and in fact, in general, comment pieces are often inflammatory, even absurd, because, guess what, it's often the op-ed section that sells newspapers, and not the news itself.

Comment Re:No longer all the news that fits (Score 2) 371

And there was a point during the election when a landslide Clinton victory seemed likely. But what of it? Papers having been making wrong calls for as long as there have been elections and newspapers. Remember "Dewey defeats Truman"?

The other thing about all of this that bothers me is that people seem to be confused about what constitutes "reporting" and what constitutes "opinion and analysis". Op-ed pieces are renowned for their bias, and in fact that's the whole point. Now it is true that there is a subtler kind of bias elsewhere in a newspaper, but a lot of what people attack and declare "fake news" is often the op-ed and "analysis" pieces, and if I can criticize newspapers for that, it's that I find they often shove some of the op-ed stories on to the main page of their website. I don't think that's an issue of bias so much as it is deliberate click-bait, in that if you punch up your main web page with stories like "Just how big will the Clinton landslide be?" you'll get a lot more hits than more mundane stories reporting the daily grind of a presidential campaign. The latter, even in this last election, can often be pretty fucking boring "Clinton attended a luncheon of the so-and-sos, and had a rally at such and such a place, and the polls shows she's leading by x% in California."

To my mind that's the real problem here, not a bias specifically, at least not political bias, but a constant need to sex everything up. But come on, that's not even new either. Every edition of a newspaper has to have a headline, whether the underlying story deserves it or not. That's the nature of newspapers for over two hundred years now.

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