A Better Way to Look at Most Every Political Issue – The Atlantic

Source: A Better Way to Look at Most Every Political Issue – The Atlantic, by Conor Friedersdorf

We sometimes think of political issues in binary terms. Is someone pro-life or pro-choice? But most individuals hold views that are more complicated than a binary can capture.

An alternative is to describe a given position on a spectrum. On abortion, an outright ban sits at one extreme; at the other is the elimination of all restrictions on the procedure. In between are a staggering array of coherently distinguishable positions.

There’s a different set of frames, though, that are as relevant as binaries and spectrums, though they are less familiar and less discussed: equilibriums and limits.

Most political stances can be understood in terms of an equilibrium. For instance, some people might believe that access to abortion in a conservative state is too restricted under the status quo, and favor relaxing the rules regulating abortion clinics. That is, they might favor shifting the equilibrium in a “pro-choice” direction.

But ask those same voters, “Should there be any limits on legal abortion?” and they might declare that the procedure should be banned in the last trimester of pregnancy unless the mother’s health is threatened. Insofar as the abortion debate is framed around the equilibrium, they will align with the pro-choice movement; but insofar as it is framed around limits, they will align with the pro-life movement.

On abortion and scores of other political issues, there are people who tend to focus on equilibriums, other people who tend to focus on limits, and still others who vary in their focus. A single question put to the public cannot reveal the majority position of the polity on such issues, because there are at least two different majority coalitions: One forms around the position that a majority holds on the best equilibrium; the other forms around the position a majority holds on the appropriate limit.

Conflict Vs. Mistake

Source: Conflict Vs. Mistake

Person A and Person B disagree. Why do they disagree?

Do they want the same thing, but one or both people are making a mistake in reasoning due to a lack of information or understanding?

Do they want different, incompatible things in conflict with one another and at most one of them can get what they want?

Can they even agree on what they disagree about (goal or solution/process), or is one or both of them convinced that the other is being deceitful in their arguments and reasoning?


From the comments:

Mistake theories are best suited to the task of avoiding negative-sum conflicts. Conflict theories are best suited to the task of winning zero-sum conflicts.

having power is more important than convincing people that your ideas are correct

http://ncase.me/trust// (a web game about trust)

How to Design Social Systems (Without Causing Depression and War), by Joe Edelman

Source: How to Design Social Systems (Without Causing Depression and War), by Joe Edelman

meaningful interactions and time well spent are a matter of values. For the user, certain kinds of acts are meaningful, and certain ways of relating. If the software doesn’t support them, there will be a loss of meaning.

These two ingredients — experimentation and reflection — are required to sort out our values. Even the small decisions (for example, deciding how to balance honesty and tact in a conversation) require trying out different values in real situations, and reflecting on what matters most.

Even though this process is often unconscious, intuitive, and nonverbal, it is vital. And badly designed social systems make it impossible, and thus make it hard to feel good about what we do. The following circumstances interfere with experimentation and reflection:

  • High stakes … People need space to make mistakes
  • Low agency
  • Disconnection … When the consequences of our actions are hidden, we can’t sort out what’s important.
  • Distraction and overwork
  • Lack of faith in reflection … An even more extreme version makes it seem like people don’t have values at all, only habits, tastes, and goals.

even when a user knows how they’d ideally approach a situation, the social environment can undermine their plan. Every social system makes some values easier to practice, and other values harder.

Most social platforms are designed in a way that encourages us to act against our values: less humbly, less honestly, less thoughtfully, and so on. Using these platforms while sticking to our values would mean constantly fighting their design.

Wisdom, n. Information about another person’s hard-earned, personal values — what, through experimentation and reflection, they’ve come to believe is important for living.

on internet platforms, wisdom gets drowned out by other forms of discourse

Information that looks like wisdom can make it harder to locate actual, hard-earned wisdom.

Cory Doctorow: Persuasion, Adaptation, and the Arms Race for Your Attention

Source: Cory Doctorow: Persuasion, Adaptation, and the Arms Race for Your Attention

There is a war for your attention, and like all adversarial scenarios, the sides develop new countermeasures and then new tactics to overcome those countermeasures.

The attention wars have real consequences for our daily lives. The entire fake news/Facebook ad/Twitter bot scandal is but a skirmish in the wider attention war, albeit one with global geopolitical (and potentially thermo­nuclear) consequences.

But history is littered with armies of seemingly invincible attention warriors who were out-evolved by their prey, and could not overcome the counter­measures that were begat by repeated exposure to their once-undefeatable tactics.