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The Value of Not Voting

The Value of Not Voting

    Anderson Cooper of CNN says he probably won’t vote in the coming election. He says voting would bias him when he covers political news. I agree.

    I call it the joiner problem. The minute you take a side, you start acquiring confirmation bias to bolster your sense of rightness. Objectivity is nearly impossible once you commit to a team. 

    The way confirmation bias works is that you can’t see it when you’re in it. Other people might be able to observe the bias in you, but by definition you can’t see it in yourself. The act of voting causes a sort of psychological blindness.

    Readers of this blog have asked whether my writing about Trump biases me toward him. The answer is yes, I assume. But in my case there is a counter-force. If Trump wins the presidency, people will blame me for anything that goes wrong. And stuff does go wrong in every presidency. So a Trump presidency would be bad for me personally and professionally. I don’t expect to be named ambassador to Elbonia, so there’s probably no upside for me in a Trump presidency. Still, one must assume that my blogging puts enough of my ego in the game that I’m biased in ways I can’t see.

    That’s why I try to predict Trump’s success as opposed to interpreting it after the fact. If my predictions are accurate, then whatever bias I am experiencing must be unimportant, unless I am just extraordinarily lucky. So far, my Trump predictions have been – as far as I can tell – the best in the world.

    Our brains are pattern-recognition machines, but not good ones. We see patterns where there are none, and we miss patterns where they exist. I don’t claim to be unbiased. I only claim that Trump’s talent for persuasion is the most important variable in the election.

    You might also wonder why I keep saying the Trump saga will play out like a standard movie script with a third-act “solution” that makes the movie interesting. In this case, the third act problem is Trump’s low favorability ratings. Like any good movie, it seems impossible that Trump could reverse such deep negatives. But I predict that he will.

    There are two plausible explanations for how this might happen. One is that Trump is a Master Persuader with a great instinct for making the “story” interesting. That means you’ll see a big pivot toward presidential behavior, along with some opportunistic displays of love for citizens of all shapes, colors, and sizes. That’s what seems to be happening right now. New Trump is emerging.

    But another explanation is that our reality is a software simulation created by humans who came before. The idea is that humans will someday be able to create software simulations that believe they are alive. And those simulations will create their own software simulations, and so on to infinity. By this way of thinking, the odds are good that we are one of the nearly-infinite software simulations and not the original organic creatures that got it all going.

    Crazy, you say. I know. But here’s what you would expect to see if our world were made of software:

    1. You would expect that parts of the universe do not exist until they are observed. That way the software doesn’t need to create infinite landscapes that no one ever sees. This is the only way you could write such software. And indeed, scientists tell us that a particle doesn’t have a definite state until observed. In this way, reality matches what we would expect from a software world.

    And thanks to the limits of the speed of light, we can never see the borders of our universe. These are limits you would expect to see from a software designer looking to conserve resources. In our software world, nothing exists for sure until someone observes it. That saves a lot of coding. 

    2. If we are made of software, you might expect to see a lot of code reuse. That means you might see patterns in life more often than chance or common sense would imply. One of those patterns you often see is the hero who starts off strong and hits an unsolvable third-act problem before overcoming it. Trump’s story is fitting that pattern so far. Call it code reuse. Call it history repeating itself. Call it what you will. All I know is that Trump’s story is starting to look a lot like a familiar pattern we see in movies.

    This is a good time to remind you that this blog is for entertainment. I’m not smart enough to know who would be the best president. My interests are in Trump’s persuasion skills.

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