The Unbearable Asymmetry of Bullshit | Quillette

Source: The Unbearable Asymmetry of Bullshit | Quillette

the trick is to unleash so many fallacies, misrepresentations of evidence, and other misleading or erroneous statements — at such a pace, and with such little regard for the norms of careful scholarship and/or charitable academic discourse — that your opponents, who do, perhaps, feel bound by such norms, and who have better things to do with their time than to write rebuttals to each of your papers, face a dilemma. Either they can ignore you, or they can put their own research priorities on hold to try to combat the worst of your offenses.

It’s a lose-lose situation. Ignore you, and you win by default. Engage you, and you win like the pig in the proverb who enjoys hanging out in the mud.

As the programmer Alberto Brandolini is reputed to have said: “The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”


Science isn’t the only place this asymmetry exists: see marketing, advertising, politics.

A Tale of Two Water Systems – The Atlantic

California’s population growth enables it to build top-of-the-line infrastructure—something that isn’t possible for Rust Belt cities.

Source: A Tale of Two Water Systems – The Atlantic

the infrastructure that gets that water to homes is expensive, and the cities are increasingly unable to afford it as more people move out and the tax base dwindles and there are fewer customers to bill


Population decline, like financial deflation, poses serious problems to systems not designed to anticipate and manage it.

Pokemon at 20 Years – The Atlantic

The Pokémon Company generates $2 billion a year in revenue. Since its inception 20 years ago today, the franchise has made ¥4.6 trillion, which at the current exchange rate is just over $40 billion—which ranks Pokémon among the most successful franchises, roughly in line with the Star Wars franchise, which has brought in roughly $42 billion since the first movies came out in 1977.

Source: Pokemon at 20 Years – The Atlantic

The Seven Habits of Highly Depolarizing People – The American Interest

If polarization is all around us, familiar as an old coat, what about its opposite? What would depolarization look and sound like? Would we know it if we saw it, in others or in ourselves? Perhaps most importantly, what are the mental habits that encourage it?

Source: The Seven Habits of Highly Depolarizing People – The American Interest

We Americans didn’t necessarily think our way into political polarization, but we’ll likely have to think our way out.

1. Criticize from within.
In other words, criticize the other—whether person, group, or society—on the basis of something you have in common.

2. Look for goods in conflict.
Some conflicts are entirely about good versus evil or right versus wrong, but many (probably most) are more about good versus good or right versus right. Each side, at least in part, is likely to be defending a goal or value that both recognize as worthy.

3. Count higher than two.
Of all the mental habits that encourage polarization, the most dangerous is probably binary thinking—the tendency to divide everything into two mutually antagonistic categories.

4. Doubt.
Doubt—the concern that my views may not be entirely correct—is the true friend of wisdom and (along with empathy, to which it’s related) the greatest enemy of polarization.

5. Specify.
Because generalization is both an ally and a frequent indicator of polarization, highly depolarizing people tend to be connoisseurs of the specific. … persistent skepticism about categories … consider each issue separately and on its own terms … privilege the specific assertion (including the empirically valid generalization) over the general assertion … rely first and foremost on inductive reasoning, which tries to build conclusions from the bottom up by accumulating specific data points, as compared to deductive reasoning, which tries to build conclusions from the top down by exploring the implications of true general premises or statements.

6. Qualify (in most cases).
To qualify something you say is to make it less definitive, less comprehensive, and more nuanced, and thus to acknowledge the possibility that some pieces of the puzzle may still be missing. … To qualify is to demonstrate competence.

7. Keep the conversation going.
Because ending the conversation is tantamount to ending the relationship, and when the relationship ends, everything hardens, polarization reigns, and your opponents turn into your enemies.

How to Take ‘Political Correctness’ Away From Donald Trump – The Atlantic

The Republican front-runner is exploiting popular anger against the policing of ordinary conversation—but also violating norms that protect America’s basic liberties.

Source: How to Take ‘Political Correctness’ Away From Donald Trump – The Atlantic

One gets the sense from our current political class that, for example, torture and unconstrained drone strike assassination isn’t actually morally wrong as long as you adopt a furrowed brow

And it is profoundly ugly when Trump just gleefully says, more or less, I love torture and we’re going to be doing a lot of it. BUT, on the other hand, it’s not so clear at all that his stance on those things would really be any more assertive than people who adopt more pleasant, civil, “serious” rhetoric on these topics.

Every “crazy” Trump quote may be “politically incorrect,” but those labels conflate all categories of controversial rhetoric as if their substance is equally wrong. Neither impoliteness nor tone-deafness nor crude insults are to his credit. But a pol who seeks to gain power by demonizing ethnic-minority groups and threatening their core rights is engaged in a special category of leadership failure.

Too few Americans see that distinction. And Trump benefits from their dearth of discernment.

Apple, Privacy, and iPhone Encryption

– Why Apple’s fight with the FBI could have reverberations in China – LA Times
– Why Apple Is Right to Challenge an Order to Help the F.B.I. – The New York Times

“This completely undermines privacy overseas and if the administration thinks this precedent wouldn’t be used by China, Russia and others then they are in serious error,”

“This particular request to [decrypt an iPhone] is remarkably reasonable, but the precedent it sets is disastrously bad,”

– Nicholas Weaver, a senior researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at UC Berkeley


This legal case has *nothing* to do with actually accessing the information on the device. John McAfee (the founder of antivirus maker and global purveyor of computer security McAfee) offered to decrypt the phone for free. It has everything to do with punishing Apple for standing up for privacy and encryption.

More: “Secret Memo Details U.S.’s Broader Strategy to Crack Phones”, by Michael Riley and Jordan Robertson / Bloomberg News