Monday, October 24, 2016

Internet Promotes Self-Delusion Via Non-Statistical Validation

I have a hypothesis regarding some of the impetus behind Trump and related hate rhetoric of recent years. It's the internet.

Ok, it's more than the mere existence of the internet. It's an originally unforeseen emergent property of the internet: No matter how wrong or bad the behaviors you exhibit or promote are, it's easy to find a population of people who'll support it. That's the "beauty" of an online network that transcends walls, streets, cities, and states. It's a strength of the internet that you can find those like you, with your same interests.

But that isn't where I'm going, because that's obvious. My hypothesis is that the internet is a great tool for self-delusion. Because here's the thing. You'll find tens, hundreds, or in the case of Trump, thousands of people willing to validate every "Sad," "really terrible," and racist implication you utter. But consider.

Human brains aren't great at statistics. Prime example: sharks kill about 10 people a year, if that, worldwide. Accidentally falling on the stairs kills more than x10 that a year in the US alone. Stairs clearly need far more attention than sharks.

Which leads me back to the internet's role of self-delusion via non-statistical validation: It only takes a relatively small number of likes/loves/+1s/upvotes to make you think that the potentially sketchy thing you just said or posted was actually genius. Consider for a moment that internet validation might not be your best measure of what is actually moral, ethical, and reasonable.

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