How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Brexit
With more and more facebook posts on the subject matter I gauge that people are worried. Here’s why I am not worried. And here’s how you could be not worried either.
1) Embrace the fact you live in an echo chamber. 99.9% of the people you choose to engage with with already agree with you: you are not achieving your goal, you are just collecting likes! Your thoughtful and informative arguments will fall on deaf ears. You almost certainly underestimate this effect. The actual maths behind the strength of your echo bubble has been eloquently explained in the quote below:
…What I mean is – well, take creationists. According to Gallup polls, about 46% of Americans are creationists. Not just in the sense of believing God helped guide evolution. I mean they think evolution is a vile atheist lie and God created humans exactly as they exist right now. That’s half the country.
And I don’t have a single one of those people in my social circle. It’s not because I’m deliberately avoiding them; I’m pretty live-and-let-live politically, I wouldn’t ostracize someone just for some weird beliefs. And yet, even though I probably know about a hundred fifty people, I am pretty confident that not one of them is creationist. Odds of this happening by chance? 1/2^150 = 1/10^45 = approximately the chance of picking a particular atom if you are randomly selecting among all the atoms on Earth.
– Scott Alexander, I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup
2) Even if you managed to reach out to a person who doesn’t agree with you - you won’t be able to persuade him/her.
The way we jump to conclusions has very little to do with reasoning. Face it, the remain campaign has always made so much more sense to you - even though you probably didn’t go through a very detailed cost-benefit analysis involving a myriad of numbers and highly speculative scenarios. And even if you did - you shouldn’t have. Because you are not impartial. You would find the remain side more compelling anyway, because that’s what you expect to find:
Rosenthal is well known for his research on experimenter expectancy effects, the influence that a researcher can exert on the outcome of a research investigation. Perhaps the most famous case of an experimenter expectancy effect is the case of Clever Hans (as discussed earlier in class). Rosenthal and Fode (1963) attempted to demonstrate this phenomenon in the context of controlled laboratory research. In one of his early experiments, he tested the effects of experimenter expectancy on maze-running performance. He had two groups of students test rats, wrongly informing them either that the rats were specially bred to be “maze dull” or “maze bright.” In reality, all rats were standard lab rats, and were randomly assigned to the “dull” and “bright” conditions. The results showed that the rats labeled as “bright” learned the mazes more quickly than those labeled as “dull.” Apparently, students had unconsciously influenced the performance of their rats, depending on what they had been told. Rosenthal reasoned that a similar effect might occur with teachers’ expectations of student performance.
3) Down with reasoning! You can persuade by appealing to emotion: by ridiculing the other side, by arguing that your enemies are stupid/racist/chauvinistic and just downright evil (they are not). Oh and don’t forget to mention Putin. Whilst you can, the opposing team will deploy exact same tactics against your side and we’ll be perpetually stuck drowning in vomit of disgusting arguments. See any political debate ever - not only such a form of persuasion has been shown to be to have very temporal effects on the recipients but also leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and ruins your credibility (and your day!).
4) Don’t worry about polls saying the referendum will be a close one: trust odd checkers instead. Media has long been exploiting the fact that articles that cause strong dividing reaction are much more likely to spread. And across various polls conducted in this country - you will only hear about those that show that the referendum will be a close one. Those will get your blood boiling! But the only reason it has reached you is because it got someone else’s blood boiling too. Read more about this phenomena at The Taxoplasma Of Rage.
Bookmakers, however, have skin in the game. They aren’t going to lose money just to stoke up some controversy. And guess what: remain is winning by a large margin. So time to relax and argue about the dragons in game of thrones.
Related: prediction markets
5) Brexit or not - face it, you have very little control over the final decision. It’s counterproductive to get emotionally involved in things you have no control over. See the following excellent quote by Bryan Caplan:
Stop paying attention to things that aggravate you unless (a) they concretely affect your life AND (b) you can realistically do something about them. Start by ceasing to follow national and world news. – Bryan Caplan, Make Your Own Bubble in 10 Easy Steps
I wrote a blog post last year how your vote has very little to contribute, so you don’t have (b).
6) Don’t think that your facebook posts are better than nothing. There are better ways to make a difference. Off the top of my head: reading up on persuasion tactics, donating to an effective campaign, persuading a figure of importance to speak out, talking to relatives… Your facebook posts just have “trying to try” written all over it, a concept explained below:
Want to try to make a million dollars? Buy a lottery ticket. Your odds of winning may not be very good, but you did try, and trying was what you wanted. In fact, you tried your best, since you only had one dollar left after buying lunch. Maximizing the odds of goal achievement using available resources: is this not intelligence?
… if all you want is to “maximize the probability of success using available resources”, then that’s the easiest thing in the world to convince yourself you’ve done. The very first plan you hit upon, will serve quite well as “maximizing”—if necessary, you can generate an inferior alternative to prove its optimality. And any tiny resource that you care to put in, will be what is “available”. Remember to congratulate yourself on putting in 100% of it!
– Eliezer Yudkowski, Trying To Try
If that wasn’t clear, read more here for more unclarity. In other words you are starting to sound like one of those wannabes who went to X-factor and performed a song terribly and later said “I gave my all on stage that day”. Except for… the obvious enrolling on singing lessons a priori.
So yeah - aren’t those dragons pretty cool?