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#87- Triggered A Conversation with Scott Adams

 
Jeremy Daw
 
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Jeremy Daw
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19 July 2017 14:42
 

That was a difficult listen. The exasperation in Sam’s voice was at first irritating, but then I appreciate that he shows his passion for the truth. He shows that the truth is critical and this is not a game of notching “wins”. This leads me to my point about Trump and many of his supporters. They talk about “winning” as an end in itself, they don’t describe what we’re going to win.

 
Lefty_82
 
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Lefty_82
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19 July 2017 14:43
 

Thank you to Mr. Adams for making an attempt, but the waters aren’t any less murky. I went in with an open mind and some optimism that he’d reveal whatever secret was in the newsletter I missed about Trump, but I just heard excuses and enabling comments. He talked a lot about confirmation bias and then continually confirmed his own bias that we should all be okay with this massive con job.

However, bravo for making an attempt.

[ Edited: 19 July 2017 14:54 by Lefty_82]
 
Igawa
 
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Igawa
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19 July 2017 14:52
 
claybonnyman - 19 July 2017 02:38 PM

Adams is clearly very intelligent, and demonstrably well-spoken. He has an impressive grasp of the information surrounding “persuasive” communication.

All that said, it’s impossible not to see how he takes every criticism of Trump and — talk about “filtering” — defends it in the most charitable possible terms; everything that Trump does or says, in other words, is presented almost as the work of a genius. But the truth is, Adams, no less than Harris (whom he criticizes for exactly this) is pretending that he knows what goes on in Trump’s mind.

I’m very glad I listened to the podcast. I think Adams is well worth listening to. But it’s also worth applying Occam’s Razor here: Isn’t it just possible that the president is not some uber-genius, and in fact is the incompetent, impulsive, know-nothing he appears to be?

If you take the assumption he is an incompetent know-nothing, does that make explaining facts about his life easier or harder?

I’d assume it would be easier to associate his accomplishments with someone, as SA describes, that has a broader talent stack than most people (as many top businessmen do) with exceptional ability in one area (persuasion) that has broad applicability. You don’t need to be an uber-genius to achieve this diversification, but having an above average intelligence helps a lot and is common among people who have similar skill sets. (Elon Musk, Steve Jobs are two recognizable examples)

 

[ Edited: 19 July 2017 14:54 by Igawa]
 
TheoGr
 
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TheoGr
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19 July 2017 15:08
 

Scott Adams argument was essentially the “4D Chess” meme. The basis of this discussion was a meme.

Scott makes a lot of assumptions about Trump’s behavior and presents them as facts. Yet there is no evidence for Scott’s assumption. Trump wants to fuck Russia and move the right to the center? Where is the evidence for these big claims?

I am thankful to Sam for inviting him over so that we could get a fair representation of what Trump supporters believe. It is good to know this.

Finally, am I the only one who finds this way of thinking as hopelessly Postmodern? If Postmodernism exists in politics, then this is it. Scott, like other Trump supporters, creates his own narrative about Trump’s behavior and motivation. Anyone can create his or her own narrative around Trump and his motives. Combine this the idea that “facts don’t matter” which Scott talks about and you can see what I am talking about.

 
JimH
 
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JimH
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19 July 2017 15:09
 

I haven’t read the whole thread yet. But coming here after listening to the podcast, the very first post seemed to agree with my thoughts. At the beginning I found the talk about persuasion interesting. But the further the conversation went the more I found Adams’s reasoning lacking. When discussing climate change, it seemed he started to use variations on the “Could you possibly be wrong?” argument, sounding very similar to some religious apologists who like to use that crazy line. Regarding the meeting with Russia, he argued that informing the FBI would have put the decision of who became President into the hands of James Comey. Well, yeah, then it would have been Comey doing something wrong, not the Trump campaign. That’s no excuse.
I wondered if Adams was just playing devil’s advocate because he thought it was his role for the podcast or whether he really believed what he said.

 
d0rkyd00d
 
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d0rkyd00d
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19 July 2017 15:11
 
TheoGr - 19 July 2017 03:08 PM

Scott Adams argument was essentially the “4D Chess” meme. The basis of this discussion was a meme.

Scott makes a lot of assumptions about Trump’s behavior and presents them as facts. Yet there is no evidence for Scott’s assumption. Trump wants to fuck Russia and move the right to the center? Where is the evidence for these big claims?

I am thankful to Sam for inviting him over so that we could get a fair representation of what Trump supporters believe. It is good to know this.

Finally, am I the only one who finds this way of thinking as hopelessly Postmodern? If Postmodernism exists in politics, then this is it. Scott, like other Trump supporters, creates his own narrative about Trump’s behavior and motivation. Anyone can create his or her own narrative around Trump and his motives. Combine this the idea that “facts don’t matter” which Scott talks about and you can see what I am talking about.

Absolutely!  You aren’t the only one.  I think what I find most startling is this notion that everybody has an equally valid narrative, that there is no way to distinguish which narrative aligns more closely with reality, when in actuality, it is simply that people aren’t educated enough to understand how to use critical thinking to filter the truth out from white noise.

 
GDKOpinionator
 
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GDKOpinionator
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19 July 2017 15:35
 

Scott Adams unabashed “admiration” for the “persuasion” skills of Donald Trump _has_ done something.  It has convinced the unhappy Trump supporters amongst the listeners to “Waking Up” to buy his books…

Mr. Adams is a Remora, feeding on the scraps of the Trumpian Great White Shark.

I know that to use analogies is to admit weakness in an argument, but if Adams could rely upon it, then so can I…

Dr. Harris, it is obvious that you want to engage in discussion with those who disagree with you, but you should more closely examine whether the person is truly interested in a discussion or simply wants to take advantage of your platform for their own ends.  I can find no moment during this discussion when I actually believed anything uttered Mr. Adams was not intended as a means of advertisement for his own products.  This was an hour(s) long infomercial, where the salesman heaped praise on the “chief salesperson”, while carefully evading taking a moral or ethical stand on any issue of substance.  Adams was dog-whistling to a segment of your listeners, Dr. Harris, and you should have cut off this man’s sales pitch for “spray hair” immediately.

[ Edited: 19 July 2017 15:43 by GDKOpinionator]
 
DenisMcD
 
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DenisMcD
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19 July 2017 15:36
 

Scott Adams came across like an armchair philosopher who shares much in common with Donald Trump (does he need to constantly remind us of how he predicted the Trump victory)? He dismisses virtually every criticism of Donald J. Trump as “cognitive dissonance” (it isn’t) and at times comes across as fanboyish. I nearly choked when he claimed Trump’s status as a reality TV star as evidence of Trump’s “master persuader” status. Snooki is a TV reality star—reality TV requires a sideshow, not a persuader.

The riff on analogies was weird. Analogy is a useful rhetorical tool. No, “it doesn’t make a zebra a horse” but that is not the intent.

If Scott Adams had not gotten rich from Dilbert, he would be the weird IT guy at work who writes “manifestos” in his Mom’s basement. I’d hoped to hear a cogent argument to help me understand the support or Trump. Instead, I walked away even more convinced that there is no intellectually honest case to be made for this President.

 
edbarbar
 
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edbarbar
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19 July 2017 15:40
 

Just some food for thought regarding AGW.  You mentioned there are 500,000 solar jobs in California alone, vs. 75,000 coal jobs.  More jobs is one way to think of it.

Another way to think of it is how many solar jobs would it take to “go solar?”  Well, currently the US gets .94% of its energy from solar.  Using your job creating numbers, it would take 50 million workers to get to 100%.  Now, maybe economies of scale, etc., but the fact is, solar is expensive.  And we haven’t even gotten to the really expensive part of it, energy storage, and rewiring the grid.

People use energy at night: where is it going to come from?  There aren’t good solutions to this problem at present.  In any event, I don’t think the economy would be humming along if a third of our economy went to producing electricity.  Also note, we are talking about replacing electric production here, and haven’t even started with electric cars, another huge problem.

Here is a Michael Crichton analogy that may make sense to you:

““Let’s think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horse manure? Horse pollution was bad in 1900; think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?”

Solar isn’t the right technology.  We may or may not have an inkling of what is today.  But we aren’t going to use solar power to get away from fossil fuels.  I think you alluded to the idea of that, and we would be in agreement.

In any event, one of a very many points you seemed to miss in your Scott discussion.

 
Igawa
 
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Igawa
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19 July 2017 15:41
 
d0rkyd00d - 19 July 2017 03:11 PM
TheoGr - 19 July 2017 03:08 PM

Scott Adams argument was essentially the “4D Chess” meme. The basis of this discussion was a meme.

Scott makes a lot of assumptions about Trump’s behavior and presents them as facts. Yet there is no evidence for Scott’s assumption. Trump wants to fuck Russia and move the right to the center? Where is the evidence for these big claims?

I am thankful to Sam for inviting him over so that we could get a fair representation of what Trump supporters believe. It is good to know this.

Finally, am I the only one who finds this way of thinking as hopelessly Postmodern? If Postmodernism exists in politics, then this is it. Scott, like other Trump supporters, creates his own narrative about Trump’s behavior and motivation. Anyone can create his or her own narrative around Trump and his motives. Combine this the idea that “facts don’t matter” which Scott talks about and you can see what I am talking about.

Absolutely!  You aren’t the only one.  I think what I find most startling is this notion that everybody has an equally valid narrative, that there is no way to distinguish which narrative aligns more closely with reality, when in actuality, it is simply that people aren’t educated enough to understand how to use critical thinking to filter the truth out from white noise.

Here’s an uber-fresh example. Today in an Obamacare repeal/replace meeting with R lawmakers he asked a question to the group “Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”. So what the hell was that?

CNN: Trump threatens senator sitting next to him
Me: Trump tries to point out that his constituents would not appreciate him being part of what sunk the repeal/replace effort.

Whose truth is more useful or aligns more closely with reality? Is there a non-subjective way to evaluate this?

 
JYelton
 
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JYelton
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19 July 2017 15:42
 
cbshultz - 19 July 2017 02:19 PM

Sam, its tough to keep up, but its only 4 agencies not 17 on Russia and 97% consensus is bogus.

Electric vehicles…how about the recent study that shows that it takes the equivalent of 8 years of regular combustion engine pollution to make the battery in a Tesla!

You can’t expect to just say “the recent study” and leave it at that. You should back up your claim by at least linking to “the study.” Provide evidence for your claims so others can review it.

I Googled “8 years combustion engine battery tesla” and the very first link is from WattsUpWithThat.com (link). That domain is owned by Anthony Watts. Anthony Watts is a well-known climate science denier, and associated with the Heartland Institute, a conservative/libertarian think tank.

If you follow the links for the study… something you should absolutely do in this day and age of fake news and misinformation, Watts links to the “full story” on a Swedish “New Technology” magazine. They, in turn, provide a link to IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute. Finally, you can get a PDF copy of the study.

Now that we have the name and date of the study, the researchers, and other pertinent information, we can begin to assess its credibility. With some more searching, we can find critiques in Swedish, responses from Elon Musk, an article from Popular Mechanics, and more.

Now, piling a bunch of studies on either side of an issue is of no use if you aren’t personally an versed in all of the disciplines necessary to come to valid conclusions. At some point you must trust organizations or scientists with proven methodologies. I recommend you review Peter Hadfield’s (aka Potholer54) recent video explaining peer review of studies and scientific journals, and how you can better evaluate the their validity and credibility.

In the future, please try to provide evidence and citations for your claims.

 
Igawa
 
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Igawa
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19 July 2017 15:50
 
JYelton - 19 July 2017 03:42 PM
cbshultz - 19 July 2017 02:19 PM

Sam, its tough to keep up, but its only 4 agencies not 17 on Russia and 97% consensus is bogus.

Electric vehicles…how about the recent study that shows that it takes the equivalent of 8 years of regular combustion engine pollution to make the battery in a Tesla!

You can’t expect to just say “the recent study” and leave it at that. You should back up your claim by at least linking to “the study.” Provide evidence for your claims so others can review it.

I Googled “8 years combustion engine battery tesla” and the very first link is from WattsUpWithThat.com (link). That domain is owned by Anthony Watts. Anthony Watts is a well-known climate science denier, and associated with the Heartland Institute, a conservative/libertarian think tank.

If you follow the links for the study… something you should absolutely do in this day and age of fake news and misinformation, Watts links to the “full story” on a Swedish “New Technology” magazine. They, in turn, provide a link to IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute. Finally, you can get a PDF copy of the study.

Now that we have the name and date of the study, the researchers, and other pertinent information, we can begin to assess its credibility. With some more searching, we can find critiques in Swedish, responses from Elon Musk, an article from Popular Mechanics, and more.

Now, piling a bunch of studies on either side of an issue is of no use if you aren’t personally an versed in all of the disciplines necessary to come to valid conclusions. At some point you must trust organizations or scientists with proven methodologies. I recommend you review Peter Hadfield’s (aka Potholer54) recent video explaining peer review of studies and scientific journals, and how you can better evaluate the their validity and credibility.

In the future, please try to provide evidence and citations for your claims.

That’s too much effort! There was no claim provided, only a data point. Means nothing, so no response necessary.

 
RedSeed
 
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RedSeed
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19 July 2017 15:52
 

I’m constantly shocked every time the concept of a fan of both Trump and Sam is brought up. All the things that appeal about Sam are the absolute antithesis of Trump.

 
Quadrewple
 
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Quadrewple
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19 July 2017 15:53
 

I’m posting as I listen here:

@ around 26:00 minute mark - Scott makes an accurate observation about Trump having paced and led the “far-right” to the center.  I am very involved in many pro-Trump circles of the internet and know many Trump supporters in real life.  I haven’t heard anyone complain that he isn’t deporting EVERY illegal immigrant - the feeling seems to be “Would be nice in an ideal world, but I see the practical problems and he has at least reduced illegal border crossings and increased deportation of criminal offenders.”

In fact, those who ARE complaining about Trump not going 100% balls to the wall against illegal immigration are regularly mocked by the mainstream audience - as I said, most people understand why he has chosen to focus particularly on extra-criminal illegals (which are deportations VERY tough for the left to complain about and are obviously the highest priority).  Sam Harris admitted he might be in an echo chamber on this, and I think a lot of people in this forum are also out of touch with the right on opinions about Trump on this - if that’s you, perhaps get out of your comfort and I am fairly sure you will come to the same conclusion I did.

Since Sam Harris admits he is in an echo chamber on this, I think he implicitly conceded this point to Scott.

@33:29 - Sam states Scott’s position that because so many people thought Trump had no practical chance of winning, many of them were susceptible to cognitive dissonance (because if he won, their map of reality was shattered).  As such they were in a state of mental confusion and hysteria directly following Trump’s election.

Sam then goes on to explain that that didn’t happen to HIM. However, Scott’s point is still valid whether or not Sam fell victim to this cognitive dissonance - Sam never explicitly conceded this point but I think him immediately going to his own view of how he was affected by Trump’s election is a noteworthy piece of information.

Sam:  “It’s not the surprise that is worth emphasizing here, it’s the horror at the fact that we have elected someone so obviously wrong for the job.”

A more honest way to say that would be - “I was horrified when I found out that my opinion about Trump’s obvious ineligibility for the job was not shared by tens of millions of other Americans and the electoral college.  I was horrified when I found out that someone I believe to be obviously ineligible for the job actually became my president.”

I realize that Sam was speaking in the context of the “two movies” analogy - but what he seems to miss is that the “two movies” exist BECAUSE of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias (on both sides) and that that means he is probably also suffering from both those forces when it comes to this topic.

At this point, Sam begins to describe his first impressions of Trump - “an odious conman,” at which point Scott interjects with the question:  “When you say he was an odious conman, did you mean that he was GOOD at conning people or BAD at conning people?”

WHY did Scott ask this question?  Because if Sam thought that Trump was BAD at conning people and then Trump is able to con (again, using Sam’s frame) tens of millions of Americans and the electoral college, then that means Sam obviously had an inaccurate view of Trump, an inaccurate view of the American public, or an inaccurate view of the importance of persuasion over facts - which could easily make him susceptible to confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance…...

From this point onward, the discrepancy in expertise in the psychological/persuasion field between Scott and Sam characterizes the entire podcast.  Sam is being honest, and his honest opinions about Trump show an oversimplified image of the man, and a vast underestimation of his abilities.

Sam continues to describe how he views Trump, gets audibly emotionally excited, and says something akin to “Trump seems to have no inner life, is hollowed out” - at which point Scott interjects and points out that imagining you know the inner life of someone else is one of the most classic tells for cognitive dissonance.

For anyone reading this, let me ask you this:  When people attack Sam Harris for being “unemotional” or “overly logical” - is this not exactly what Sam just did with Trump?  Don’t you normally disregard those statements as clearly emotionally motivated?

This is not to pick on Sam specifically - I commend him for being very honest about his inner thoughts about Trump.  But it sure does seem that Trump has created some cognitive dissonance in him!  Sam provided both the trigger and the tell…..and Scott was able to explain both.

@44:30 - The topic on the table has become whether or not Trump’s lies and whether or not he is in fact a master persuader, and Scott brings up 3 categories of untruthfulness which he claims Trump’s untruths can be categorized under:

1.  Things Trump thinks are true, but are not
2.  Untruths which are clearly hyperbole, he knows are not factual, but are persuasive
3.  Untruths which have very little effect on the outcome of whatever is being decided

Scott says that by observing Trump, his interpretation is that Trump clearly understands the difference between all 3 of those categories.  Scott acknowledges that he has seen Trump through the “Master Persuader” filter, and that his filter allowed him to predict Trump’s presidency even before the primaries.

Here’s a question for anyone reading:  Who is viewing the world with the more appropriate filter?  Scott or Sam?  Sam’s filter on Trump had no predictive capacity for the future - Scott’s DID, well ahead of time, against all conventional wisdom, and even predicted the discrepancy by which Trump won (electoral landslide).  Even if you believe Trump is the most dangerous human being to occupy the White House, you cannot deny that Scott’s filter on Trump specifically but perhaps on reality in general is much more accurate than Sam’s - and we can quantify that in part by this massive disparity in predictive capacities about Trump and his ascendance the presidency.

At this point Scott and Sam are debating whether or not Trump’s lies have harmed society and the world or not (which is Sam’s claim).  Sam struggles to give an actual example when asked for one, and his first example is “The fact that all of us are talking about politics.  The fact that politics is so much a part of our lives now is toxic, it is a sign that something is WRONG with our society.  If things were good, we would not be talking about politics…..right?  We’re talking about politics 10x more than we ever have in the lifetime of any person listening to this podcast…..”

Here are the list of implicit truths Sam is operating under:

1.  Talking about politics this much (however that is defined) is a problem.
2.  The amount we were talking about politics before Trump was not a problem.

I could not possibly disagree more with those implicit truths.  Trump forced immigration to become a national topic of conversation - but it only exploded as a topic because the demand was already there (and not being supplied by the very liberal mainstream media).  Trump exposed the deep divisions in America between progressives and conservatives (which again, were muted because we had a very liberal mainstream media and this was before the social media explosion).

In other words, Trump is the messenger with the message that “America is very divided and let me PROVE TO YOU how divided it is by taking a strong stance!”

The genie of actual public opinion was trying to bust out of the bottle of political correctness (or the Overton Window) but had been securely corked for many reasons.  Trump loosened the cork JUST enough so that the genie was able to escape.

The cognitive dissonance for many of Trump’s foes is that they did not previously believe there was a genie, and yet the evidence of that genie continues to be made clear with the cultural swing towards cultural conservatism and away from the left.  For many of his other foes, they believed there was a genie prior to Trump, but that it was much smaller than what is has shown to be OR that the Overton Window in public discourse was calibrated based on the average opinion, and not based on what progressive intellectuals and politicians determined to be acceptable discourse.  That illusion has been shattered as well.

I have a feeling Sam’s cognitive dissonance in part stems from what he admits is his sheltered life, where probably no one has had their wages lowered due to immigration, probably no one has lived in an area with lots of illegal immigrants, etc etc.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

At this point Scott brings up the idea that the people who supported Trump are having the best 2 years of their lives as a positive development - Sam then uses the analogy that there Hitler’s supporters may have had the best 2 years of their lives when Hitler first rose to power.

Why did Sam jump to the most extreme analogy possible?  Can he not see that from a purely morale standpoint, half the country (I’m not going to split hairs here, I realize it’s not half) having the best 2 years of their lives is a good thing?  After all, Obama supporters were on Cloud 9 basically throughout his first term.

Why does Sam retreat to analogy rather than actually address Scott’s claim that this significant morale boost for half the country is positive?  I think it’s because he realizes Scott’s point has at least some validity.  Unfortunately, he never ACTUALLY addressed Scott’s argument, which was pretty disappointing.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Scott then explains that the entire country has learned more during Trump’s recent stint in the public’s eye about cognitive biases, cognitive dissonance, persuasion, the political process, and how the world works than during any other period in history, and this is directly attributable to Trump.

Sam doesn’t even address this point, and says he wants to bookmark this part of the conversation and go back to something else.  Again, disappointing but we’ll see what happens.
____________________________________________________________________________________

Sam then brings up Trump University and how he can’t understand Trump supporters not caring about what he interprets to be fraud and Trump refusing to apologize.

Scott says that apology is seen through the persuasion lens as backing down, and someone who backs down once will back down in the future (this weakens their image more than strengthens it).

Sam:  “But what you’re describing is a totally unethical person!”

Million Dollar Questions for Sam:  “Since when was politics about being an ethical person?  How many specific politicians can you reasonably claim are led by very strong internal ethics?  If Trump’s supporters believe all or almost all politicians to be unethical, then why would Trump’s lack of ethics even ping their radar, as long as he seemed to be on their side?”

Scott proceeds to provide more context - which is that Trump has had a much more public life for much longer than most other politicians, and thus we know his dirt better than we do others.

I would summarize this conversation as a battle between two filters:  One person’s filter accurately predicted the rise and success of Trump, the other person’s filter had no predictive capacity.  Sam is also less willing than Scott is to use his own filter to anticipate Trump’s behavior in the future….....

This podcast was every bit as fascinating as I anticipated it being.  Many thanks to Sam, Scott, and the forum administrators for providing a platform for discussion

 
 
Igawa
 
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Igawa
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19 July 2017 16:00
 

@Quadruple

That post was A+. Love that you pointed out how emotional Sam got when talking about Trump. That emotion is coming from cognitive dissonance! The fact that it can be triggered so easily is evidence of very strong CD too.

About sheltered life: Part of me wonders what Christopher Hitchens would have made of all this. I can’t imagine he would like Trump but I also think he would have been able to have a much less emotional and hyperbolic reaction than Sam’s. Reminds me of something Sam said in a previous podcast, how Hitch was the last person he knew that smoked cigarettes.

[ Edited: 19 July 2017 16:09 by Igawa]
 
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