A simple theory of Moore’s Law and social media

1. Moore’s Law plus the internet makes smart people smarter, and stupid people less smart.

2. Manipulable people can be reached with a greater flood of information, so over time as data on them accumulate, they become more manipulable.

3. It is often easier to manipulate smart people than stupid people, because the latter may be oblivious to a greater set of cues and clues.

4. Social media bring smarter people together with the less smart more than used to be the case, Twitter more so than Facebook.  Members of each group are appalled by what they experience.  The smarter people see the lesser smarts of many others.  The less smart people — who often are not entirely so stupid after all — can see how manipulated the smarter people are.  They also see that the smarter people look down on them and attack their motives and intellects.  Both groups go away thinking less of each other.

4b. The smarter people, in reacting this way, in fact are being manipulated by the (stupider) powers that be.

5. “There is a performative dimension that renders both sides more rigid and dishonest.”  From a correspondent.

6. Consider a second distinction, namely between people who are too sensitive to social information, and people who are relatively insensitive to social information.  A quick test of this one is to ask how often a person’s tweets (and thoughts) refer to the motivations, intentions, or status hierarchies held by others.  Get the picture?  (Here is an A+ example.)

7. People who are overly sensitive to social information will be driven to distraction by Twitter.  They will find the world to be intolerably bad.  The status distinctions they value will be violated so, so many times, and in a manner which becomes common knowledge.  And they will perceive what are at times the questionable motives held by others.  Twitter is like negative catnip for them.  In fact, they will find it more and more necessary to focus on negative social information, thereby exacerbating their own tendencies toward oversensitivity.

8. People who are not so sensitive to social information will pursue social media with greater equanimity, and they may find those media productivity-enhancing.  Nevertheless they will become rather visibly introduced to a relatively new category of people for them — those who are overly sensitive to social information.  This group will become so transparent, so in their face, and also somewhat annoying.  Even those extremely insensitive to social information will not be able to help perceiving this alternate approach, and also the sometimes bad motivations that lie behind it.  The overly sensitive ones in turn will notice that another group is under-sensitive to the social considerations they value.  These two groups will think less and less of each other.  The insensitive will have been made sensitive.  It’s like playing “overrated vs. underrated” almost 24/7 on issues you really care about, and which affect your own personal status.

9. The philosophy of Stoicism will return to Silicon Valley.  It will gain adherents but fail, because the rest of the system is stacked against it.

10. The socially sensitive, very smart people will become the most despairing, the most manipulated, and the most angry.  The socially insensitive will either jump ship into the camp of the socially sensitive, or they will cultivate new methods of detachment, with or without Stoicism.  Straussianism will compete with Stoicism.

11. Parts of social media will peel off into smaller, more private groups.  At the end of the day, many will wonder which economies of scale and scope have been lost.  And gained.  Others will be too manipulated to wonder such things.

12. The “finance guy” in me thinks: how can I use all this for intellectual arbitrage?  Which camp does that put me in?

13.  What bounds this process?


'Moore’s Law plus the internet makes smart people smarter, and stupid people less smart.'

Because doubling the number of transistors in a CPU is clearly related to human intelligence. Obviously, twitter doubling the number of characters available (undoubtedly due to the application of Moore's Law) makes smart people smart people smarter, and stupid people less smart.

Oddly, though, neither twitter nor facebook are the Internet, regardless if one is socially sensitive or insensitive..

prior is a data point for the latter part of #1.

Yeah, "smart" and "stupid" here are being used very loosely.

So loosely as to be deeply counterproductive, in fact.

I heard Bryan Caplan talk about this once. His point was that "tall" doesn't really have a precise meaning either, but it's not like "Joe is tall" is a completely nonsensical statement. Joe is tall and Ricardo is short. Joe is smart and Ricardo is stupid. Not precise, maybe, but still meaningful.

Peeling off into social bubbles has existed since blogosphere of Web 1.0. The constraining factor today is instead the industrial concentration of Web 2.0 - pulling users into the same Facebook, Twitter, etc where they all are forced to acknowledge each other's existence so that the platform can squeeze a few cents out of their collective whole

the bound is cumulative KYC regulatory costs, probably over something prosaic like stiffer civil liabilities for disturbing or illegal or pirated user-generated content

I generally agree, but I think that there is often completely valid "social sensitivity" which is linked to policies and attitudes that have an immediate negative impact on some people (health care, immigration, racism). I'm concerned that the legitimate outrage of parents of a child that will no longer receive CHIP or a beneficiary of DACA that may be deported is conflated with people angry about Hillary's emails.

And just to be clear, I think the left has just as much illegitimate and/or performative outrage.

I’m concerned that the legitimate outrage of parents of a child that will no longer receive CHIP or a beneficiary of DACA that may be deported is conflated with people angry about Hillary’s emails.

Let's see, Hillasry broke the law and got off because she was an Insider and the swamp looks after their own. Someone who benefits from DACA is a criminal benefiting from an illegal and unconstitutional executive order. I agree the two should not be conflated but in what sense does a criminal benefiting from an illegal and unconstitutional executive order have a legitimate gripe when the law as is writ is actually enforced?

I suspect that tendency to get outraged is pretty-much independent of what you get outraged about.

There are things that are worth being upset about, and things that are worth trying to take action about. There is also a huge industry of people who farm your outrage, because outraged people click on links and their eyes see ads. I can make my site stickier by keeping you outraged and upset and scared and angry. They profit from *unproductive* outrage--the kind where your blood pressure goes up and you end up no longer speaking to your high school friends, but where your outrage doesn't lead to you doing anything that actually addresses the problem.

This pre-dates the World Wide Web. However, direct mail operations want your outrage to lead to the only action they care about - sending them money.

Indeed. Today we talk about "supporting" causes. Do you "support" gay marriage, or perhaps you "support" the Defense of Marriage Act. In either case "support" ranges from having warm feeling about to clicking links or perhaps retweeting something. We are then given to believe that our "support" is somehow transmuted into material change in the world.

I’m concerned that the legitimate outrage of parents of a child that will no longer receive CHIP or a beneficiary of DACA that may be deported is conflated with people angry about Hillary’s emails.

DACA as far as I can is all about loss aversion and not wanting to see something that one wants to happen outside of their view. Loss aversion is illogical. A large percent of voters who are pro DACA support restrictive immigration laws and seems absurd to have a law that you have no intention of enforcing.

The illegal immigrants who have been here the longest are better off than those who would have wanted to come but did not come because they did not want to come illegally.
The illegal immigrants who have been here the longest are better off because they have had a chance to earn more money than those who haven't lived in the USA.
The illegal immigrants who have been here the longest are better off because they have had a chance to learn some English which might help them get a better job in their country of origin. So suppose we deport illegal immigrants starting with those who have been here the longest and for each one deported let in a person from the queue waiting to get into the USA. Or maybe we let in two people from the queue for each illegal deported. Perhaps we should start a guest worker program.
But that is not what people are calling for. They are calling for letting the children of illegal immigrants who have already benefited from living here and have been educated here to be allowed to stay even while sending the poor bastard who has spent his life savings getting to the boarder back and for moral not practical reasons. Seems a bit absurd to me.


14 - what bounds this process? The prayers of the angels for bad people, the prayers of good people for bad people, the prayers of bad people for bad people. Mostly the third.

#2 & #3 are more true and contradict #1 about smart people -- making smart people more manipulable is NOT making them smarter. #1 (smart get smarter, stupid get even less smart) is almost certainly false about stupid people -- they are more able to make more optimal decisions about more aspects of their lives. Solution videos & on-line help help all get smarter, and reduce the solution ability difference between smart and stupid internet users.

The social problem of stupid people is their making stupid/ irresponsible decisions, choices whose outcomes were costly. Costly to themselves and/or society -- like the Big Banks overly investing in MBS before 2008. Oh wait, that's the problem of really smart people making stupid mistakes. Beyond this post.

Without context examples of how smart people are getting smarter, and stupid less smart, it's actually not clear what is being talked about. Spending more time on FB & twitter and even interactive rage doesn't seem less smart than watching TV (like the stupid used to do), nor much smarter than reading books (like the smart used to do).

The #6 example of NATHAN J. ROBINSON is far less about social sensitivity than about !1 (not 1) - smart people (like Robinson) getting less smart by attacking intentions & motivations more than the arguments. Certainly dismissing Murray "black people are dumb" is a dishonest way to describe his work, but convenient for virtue-signalling. Much of the attack on Shapiro is more intention attack with selecting talking point quotes and claiming they're false with alternative opinions.

#13 bound - is time: 24/7 minus sleep, eating, work (money making), other interests. Similar to bound on responses here.


I think Tyler's first point needs "unpacking". I couldn't see how it led to the rest.

I also glanced at the NATHAN J. ROBINSON article, noticed the snide dismissal of Charles Murray. At one point NATHAN describes himself as "a person who considers himself intellectually serious". Is that really true? I don't think it is. I think he's a person who agrees with himself.

> "Without context examples {proof} of how smart people are getting smarter, and stupid less smart, it’s actually not clear what is being talked about. "

... yeah -- it's a mess of contrived speculation with a silly/false link to Moore's Law. The 13 Points result from minimal consideration & editing -- 4 Points would have been plenty.

Really smart people ignore social media entirely. Always drink upstream of the herd.

Half the population has an IQ below 100 and is overwhelmed with just the basics of everyday life.

Life is a comedy for those who think, but a tragedy for those who feel.

Re: the internet making smart people smarter and dumb people dumber

I think the internet has made it easier for people who are interested in being informed to become well-informed. Blogs and podcasts exist by working researchers in most scientific fields, which means you don't have to read the newspaper's science columnist to find out what's going on with zika virus, you can read something written by an academic virologist who studies flavivirus. Over time, I've accumulated a lot of sources of information that are much higher quality than the default prestige media sources. But this requires being able to exercise some judgment about the quality of those sources. The NYT is sometimes wrong and often has a pretty heavy-handed political agenda, but they also try to maintain a floor on quality of information--random sources on the internet have no floor, and sometimes the guy writing them is an intelligent-sounding nutcase or quack. The NYT/Washington Post/WSJ and the old big-three TV networks also try/tried to put some actual news into their news. But if you're really only interested in celebrity gossip or outrage-of-the-week stories with no fact checking or screeds against your least-favorite outgroup, the internet's full of those, too.

This leads in three different directions:

a. Some people become *way* more informed than they would have been in the past. I think I've done this, though maybe I'm deluding myself.

The reason for this is that there are so many ways to move the middlemen out of the way--you can read comments by the actual researchers in a field instead of a science journalist trying to understand them; you can usually read the actual numbers from some survey instead of an innumerate journalist trying to hammer the numbers into the story he wants to tell. Often, you can read the actual transcript of an interview or debate, and bypass the talking heads telling you what to think about it. You can read specialist sources of information, and also foreign news sources. This all ends up letting you be way better informed, if you care to be. (IMO, you can learn more about the world most days by going to the Pew Center and downloading and reading one of their survey reports, or looking for official reports on statistics from the BJS or CDC, than from reading a newspaper. And you can do that right now if you like, at no cost but an hour of your time!)

b. Some people spiral off into a weird bubble and eventually become convinced that everything that disagrees with their views is somehow a lie.

This gets a lot of press, and it clearly happens. I have no idea how big a problem it really is--the obsessives in their bubbles tend to be more visible than their numbers would suggest.

c. Most people didn't really care much about the meaty kind of news in the first place, since that stuff is both boring and kinda depressing. (It's hard to find a lot of upbeat reporting about the Syrian civil war.) So mostly, when the default news sources (which slipped a little meat and broccoli in alongside the chocolate cake) stopped being watched, people stopped consuming any meat or broccoli and went for an all-cake diet.

The most telling experience like this I ran into: Some years ago, my mom was visiting, and we both sat down next to each other, tablets in hand, to catch up on the news. A little conversation revealed that we had no news stories in common. I was reading about the European debt crisis and a couple other similarly-meaty stories, she was reading about some celebrity scandals and a very high-publicity trial I had never heard of. She was using some fairly mainstream source of news (I think ABC), plus a couple scandal sites; I was reading from El Pais and a couple of economics/foreign policy blogs. My mom is an intelligent, highly-educated woman. But in the midst of swirling questions about whether Greece would leave the Euro, she had barely heard of the story.


Over time, I’ve accumulated a lot of sources of information that are much higher quality than the default prestige media sources. But this requires being able to exercise some judgment about the quality of those sources. The NYT is sometimes wrong and often has a pretty heavy-handed political agenda, but they also try to maintain a floor on quality of information–random sources on the internet have no floor, and sometimes the guy writing them is an intelligent-sounding nutcase or quack.

Maybe that's the part about the internet making people dumber? Some people don't have the innate ability to recognize genuinely intelligent and reliable outsiders, so they get taken in by the InfoWars crowd and wind up shooting up pizzerias because they believed some really weird stories about pedophile rings being run out of the basements? In the past, the gatekeeping function of our mass media would have limited less intelligent folks' exposure to that kind of garbage, but no more. Thus, the dumb people wind up seeming dumber than they used to: because they're acting based on lower quality, less accurate information than in the past? Or at least what seems like less accurate information?

Excellent comment.

you can read something written by an academic virologist who studies flavivirus.

Yes, but often the virologist is foaming at the mouth about the outrage of the day on political twitter. Although, to be fair, so is the science reporter.

Moore’s Law plus the internet makes smart people smarter, and stupid people less smart.

I think you're on firmer ground when you say it makes everybody more manipulable. Which very much includes people with domain-specific expertise like scientists and reporters.

+1. Self aware. Good.

Your mom may be smarter than you think. Even if she were well informed it would not make the situation any better nor would it have any impact on events on the ground in Athens or Brussels. So why bother slogging through all that data and opinion? You won't change your vote for a candidate for senator or president based on their views on this subject so why pretend your superior knowledge will change anything? Mom knows she can't save her favorite celeb's failing marriage by reading about it. She just prefers different forms of entertainment than you do.

I'd argue that the way you - and many others - use 'virtue-signaling' is an attack on "intentions & motivations more than arguments". You might disagree, but my point is more that it's very difficult to cleanly disentangle those two things, and it's not clear that you would want to. Good faith (aka 'intention and motivation') is key to any sort of productive discussion or debate.

To me, it reads like this:

"There are smart people and stupid people. You think you're smart, though, right? No! Smart people are more manipulable. That makes them stupid people. You're actually a stupid person, and that makes you smart. Ignorance is strength. Freedom is slavery. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Oh, yeah, and Orwell is overrated, and you're stupid because you got that reference.

I am very smart."

The men left twitter under their own identities and are either anonymous with frog avatars or on /pol. All they yearn for is honest intellectual discussion. Sadly its this hard to come by.

de Waal et al. found chimpanzees adopt novel behaviors after watching them being executed by high-ranking members. There is a "prestige-biased cultural transmission" in nonhuman primates. In social learning there is a bias to imitate people with prestige badges and material well-being. Many phenomena, ranging from maladaptive fads and fashions to group-functional religious beliefs to symbolically marked boundaries between groups, might result from the properties of prestige bias. But there are groups of people who are overly sensitive to social information and prestige bias. Some people are being overloaded by runaway prestige competition and signaling in social media. Social media easily over-optimizes for that and people are plugged to it like they are plugged to an Experience Machine that makes social prestige stimuli much more salient and constant through smart phones. Displays of social prestige 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in a highly optimized rank algorithm environment. Maybe some subset of people are predisposed to being negatively affected by prestige information overload.

I find that I get drawn into situations where me and another person have mismatched information sets. It isn't that I necessarily believe the other person is stupid. Often, these result in them calling me stupid, directly. My reaction is to condenscend and not attack directly. This happened recently and at the end the person denied calling me stupid. They were finally successful in having me change my mind about something.

YES, attacking someone's motivations suckers me into responding. Is that being manipulated?

" The philosophy of Stoicism will return to Silicon Valley. It will gain adherents but fail, because the rest of the system is stacked against it."
Could you please elaborate a bit (better still, a lot) on this one? To me it seems the world is ripe for a big turn from "hedonism" imbued by "protestant ethics" ("you consume not because you want to, but because it shows and proves that you are worthy") to something more along the stoic lines, more principled and merciless. What is exactly stacked against it, how it will fail and could this faillure be averted if "the rest of the system" also changes?

Well, do you think billionaire owners of rocket companies will stop doing whatever they like, such as launching one of their cars to Mars?

Stoicism will fail as long as a certain class of people are able to indulge any whim at any time they wish. Especially as whimsy and stoicism share very little in common.

(And to be honest - I'm quite mixed about the car launch. On the one hand, apparently a reasonable expectation for the Falcon Heavy launch is failure, so one payload is roughly the same as another viewed that way. On the other hand, what a colossal waste of an opportunity to show how private enterprise can also be used to advance knowledge for everyone's benefit - including, for fun, a chance for Musk to be able to create the first private enterprise node of the next step in the evolution of the Internet - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interplanetary_Internet

Then there is this strange exchange concerning Musk's payload decision https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/1/16726822/spacex-falcon-heavy-tesla-roadster-launch-elon-musk - 'Always willing to up the stakes of an already difficult situation, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said the first flight of his company’s Falcon Heavy rocket will be used to send a Tesla Roadster into space. Musk first tweeted out the idea on Friday evening, and the payload was confirmed on Saturday.

But confirmation followed a bizarre exchange between The Verge and Musk. After Musk tweeted the plan, we asked him to confirm that it was real. Musk replied to us first by email, confirming that it was real. Then, after The Verge published a story about the plan, Musk sent us a response in a direct message on Twitter saying he “totally made it up.” We now know that response was false; a person familiar with the matter told The Verge Saturday evening that the payload is in fact real.)

Mask is an interesting case (although invented before by Iron Man creators), he actually tries to pander to both worlds: to billionaire (yes, we verb nouns) like Shkreli and to be perceived as an idealist with a big Mars mission.

" are able to indulge any whim "
Stoicism is not about inability to undulge (Aurelius is a case in point), it is about choosing not to. Yes, class conventions that require indulging are problematic here, but conventions are malleable, which is exactly the problem.
By the same token it is not about defeat, it is that competitors clearly aren't about it at all. Problem with winning is not that winning makes you soft, it is that stoicism is about having a goal and achieving it leaves a minor crisis (that's also why duty-driven ideologies tend to work better with mostly afterlife prizes).

Has stoicism ever not failed? Stoicism is about dealing with defeat, and though it may help in winning the winning destroys stoicism.

I think this is the best post in the history of MR, but I am a bit confused. I assume we are talking about Stoic ethics, but what does Tyler see as essential to Stoic ethics? Is silicon valley going to start thinking that money, power, prestige, and influence are things indifferent and that virtue/knowledge is the only good? I can see how the system would be stacked against that, but I can't figure what forces would be pushing toward such an ethos in the first place.

The sort of stoicism Tim Ferris (a manifestation of current SV psyche) subscribes to. The main idea is to tone down the bling and the pursuit of unconditional happiness, to stop measuring self-worth exclusively in it (because at those levels of income this rat-race is too evidently absurd). No real human can live up to the expectations that mass culture imposes on them (to a significant degree with make-believe and photosh-p).

A stoic would more likely point out that there is neither defeat nor winning. Merely life and your reaction to it. And since we can control and determine our reactions, concepts like defeat, losing, offense, and the like have no meaning.

I'm somewhat of a Stoic (more dilettante than sage) and believe that the resurgent philosophy will both fail and succeed.

It will fail in the broader culture because (1) it's private, not public, and therefore inherently difficult to evangelize, (2) it cannot be easily commoditized for mass consumption outside of a book here or there, (3) it's damn hard work.

Stoicism will succeed but primarily on an individual basis. Contemplation, delayed gratification, and rugged perseverance will always be limited in appeal. Why eat a hard-boiled egg and dry toast for breakfast when there's a Dunkin Donuts around the corner? Many who employ its practices, however, will be more content, successful, and more fulfilled.

Im surprised the rise of virtue signalling isnt mentioned here. That seems to me the single most important change Moore+social has brought about. It matters: entire industries depend on maintaining their virtue in the eyes of select parts of the population. It is costless to reach millions with an idea, easy to track what a person previously said, cheap to ostracise, and lots of positive feedbacks (viral). Negative feedback is cheap to ignore. Bombastic language is rewarded much more on social media than elsewhere. Language that wins on Twitter would be embarrassing in nearly all other contexts.

Straussianism is an idea that requires a lot of virtue signaling, since its entire premise could be summed up as: virtue signaling is camouflage, and camouflage is necessary for free enquiry.

So that is what Amerjca has become: http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/wait-a-sec

Virtue signaling as an explanation is hugely overrated in some quarters.

An anecdote. I was in a grocery store, two young women were shopping. One pulled a product from the shelf, the other said 'I don't know if that is socially acceptable'. The other said 'what are you talking about'.

A second one. A close friend's daughter was visiting. This was in the last years of Obama, she lived in Washington. Almost every comment was about positioning people or ideas in the proper order. Last year she visited, having moved from Washington DC to a small town in Washington State. She was normal, no more of this nonsense.

There are circles where virtue signalling is all there is. Then there is the rest of the world.

You use the accusation of virtue signaling to signal that you are more virtuous because you are one of those virtuous people who don't virtue signal.

So that is what America has become: a country where the system is stacked against Stoicism and the populace has become stupid, manipulable and despairing.

10. So in this context the word "Straussian" merely means to become a manipulator, however manipulators are easily manipulated (cf. Leo Straus et al). So let us say Straussian means dissembling and politically underhanded as opposed to stoic which I am presuming means to keep ones counsel and stand aloof. Is this correct? Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, but overt manipulation lacks the honesty of hypocrisy. This just means the death of the last liberal values outside of economics, that will come later...

Otherwise I basically agree with 2-10, however 9 and 10 should be flipped.

As to 1, Moore's Law is meaningless once this process has begun. We already have all we need from it, however it may be relevant at the endgame, see my response to 13.

11. is a counterfactual based on a conjecture, and thus irrelevant, but again see my response to 13.

12. It put's you, Tyler, in the "smart" category, but if you mean Straussian vs Stoic it would imply Stoicism, but telling everyone about it says Straussian. Take that as you will... As to profiting see below.

13. Is the interesting question, and the answer is that it will continue until it reaches an external constraint. I will presume that it will be a capital restraint. Without Capital you can't do anything except manipulate, and nobody cares about paupers unless they make themselves useful. This makes it harder to manipulate.

If things continue to fragment their will come a point where producers and consumers will fall out and since everyone is both, they will rejigger alliances and exchanges until a new equilibrium is achieved. There will be losers, since some things are more necessary than others. I am a geologist who lives among farmers and food processors so I would like to point out that Moore's Law gave us a world in which an awful lot of cultural production can now be provided by anyone. As cultural signifiers fragment the value in specializing in "culture" becomes less important. Every group will have its own ritual practitioners and shamans. So pick a faction that includes those who provide fundamental resources and has the means to defend them, culturally, legally, and even physically.

It would be truly Stoic to imply Straussianism, because imlpying Stoic would be too much virtue signalling and true stoic wouldn't do that =)

But stoics are all about virtue signaling, have you never given Seneca a Starussian reading?

Facebook is purile. But our culture is increasingly being pushed that way.

Twitter is just ridiculous - free automated sidewalk chalking.

There is some interesting stuff here, but I'm not sure intelligence is the relevant dimension.

3. I agree. Shapiro is so polished and adept at weaving a message that is full of half-truths. A pied piper of the conservative "intellectual" movement.

5. Of course. Put your best foot forward.

6. I would love to see Shapiro and the crew from Chapo go head on. Amber would bring it.

7. I find the key to the Internet is to be respectful of others, but not to care too deeply about trivial criticism. Conserve your energy for the real world.

13. To infinity and beyond!

Wasn't TC referring to Robinson's response and not shapiro?

Know little-to-nothing about Shapiro but just the set up of that link caused me to stop following Robinson's mag on twitter earlier. I read something well done of his a while back but I came to chalk it up as a blind squirrel/stopped clock situation.

I was not sure which way TC meant that comment either...

Amber is the Liaison with Labor in the absurd Chapo menagerie.

I have friends who are actual members of unions. Real unions, not the governmental variety. The overlap is precisely zero.

IQ is distributed continuously: what about people - most of them - who are nether smart nor stupid?

IQ is not the only mental characteristic that matters: what about personality types?

I rather like "nether smart" - so very today - but actually meant 'neither smart'.

We are all smart and stupid in various ways.

Yep; and with different frequencies.

Tyler's not talking about IQ or g here, he's talking about how *informed* people are.

"Smart" means something very close to "woke" in Tyler's usage.

Thanks. Informed about anything in particular?

Thanks but "woke" leaves me no for'arder.

the dark triad personality traits (narcissism, machiaveliianisn, and sociopathy) matter profoundly and are super amplified on social media to the point where it is possible to be elected president by being especially good at emotionally manipulative speech.

Seriously, we can agree all on the Narcissism, and maybe some Machiavellianism, but I'm not reading much sociopathy off Trump. There's no sense of a deep facade with him.

Compared to Trump, I'd rate Obama lower in Narcissism (though much higher than population means), definitely higher in Machiavellianism, and probably higher in Sociopathy. That man is extraordinarily cool and instrumental in his dealings; every single word and gesture and image calculated to a nicety.

People become more stupid? Maybe he means that some people become misinformed or accept invalid ideas. That wouldn't make them more stupid, as the word is generally defined. Members of a culture rely on second-hand information from others who ostensibly possess greater knowledge of some subjects than themselves, since nobody knows everything. Stupid or smart really isn't the issue.

All good points, but for most people, social media isn't this. It's mostly pictures.
Twitter is the Morning Joe of social media - followed by a much smaller audience, but that audience thinks it's really important. I don't think Twitter will ever find a formula for monetization, regardless of how many characters it allows.
Facebook is the Microsoft of social media. It can do a quick and dirty of version of whatever other people do and crush its enemies due to its size.

"Twitter is the Morning Joe of social media – followed by a much smaller audience, but that audience thinks it’s really important."

+1 for this really good sentence.

One aspect of social media that is most crucial, which Tyler didn't touch upon, is its anonymity. Anonymity breeds extremism and intolerance.

I was a moderate centrist prior to engaging with social media. But social media made me move to the right. And that was because I was engaging with left-wing morons on a very regular basis, and felt obliged to provide a necessary corrective.

"he that is without sin....."

You have a lot of valid points to make but they have a better chance of convincing others when they they are not made with shrillness. But of course when anyone who disagrees with you is a "moron", you really have no choice.

Feedback taken.

but in a way, aren't we all moderate centrists?

I sure hope so.

When I read the comments at MR , I am often reminded of

"I am firm; You are obstinate; He is pig-headed....."
( Bertrand Russell)

White nationalism has ebbed and flowed, but it's always been a part of America, a much larger part than we wish to acknowledge. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/04/books/review/linda-gordon-the-second-coming-of-the-kkk.html But when there's a left-wing, there's going to be a right-wing, the yin and the yang: a natural balance in the universe. What's concerning isn't the yin and the yang, but a consolidation of the two. In politics, that would mean a consolidation of right-wing populism and left-wing populism, which would produce a strong and toxic political force. How could that be, you ask. Well, populists on both sides have some of the same goals and some of the same enemies, they are just too focused on their differences to see the similarities. Trump's populism is a fraud: he is no populist, he just plays the part of one. In time his followers will come to realize it. The danger is that another showman will come along and appeal to populists on both sides, using signals shared by both of them. David Brooks and people like him are forever in search of the middle-ground, the moderates who appeal to both sides of the political spectrum. What Brooks et al. mean by moderate is the opposite of populist: a more sober approach to social and political issues rather than the highly emotional and strident approach of the populists. Critics of Brooks and people like him believe Brooks et al. are compromisers, willing to sell out the cause. No, they just wish to keep the dark side of our makeup at bay.

Trump’s populism is a fraud: he is no populist, he just plays the part of one. In time his followers will come to realize it. The danger is that another showman will come along and appeal to populists on both sides, using signals shared by both of them.

Actually that is just what Obama did. But I don't see Trump's popularism being any more fraudulent than Obama's. After all, I do believe Trump genuinely likes McDonald's. And I genuinely believe Obama likes argula.

Obama's radical Black sensibilities were always fake. From the start. But Trump really does speak to his audience because if it wasn't for his billions he would be trailer park trash.

'if it wasn’t for his billions he would be trailer park trash'

No, he wouldn't be - what a bizarre thing to write.


Trump is only a little closer to trailer-park trash than W.

So that is what America has become: ruled by trash.There was a time America was ruled by Washingtons, Jeffersons, Roosevelts and Eisenhowers

I don't think America was ruled by Ike. He didn't seem to have any idea what shenanigans the CIA was up to.

OK, so not Eisenhower, but all the others I mentioned.

If this list was cryptic commentary on the age of Trump, it has to be about how social media made a stupid man stupider. There is simply no parallel world where this is smart:


And folk who think they are "smart" to ignore it? Meditate on that.

Not sure how 'smart' comes into play here, but it does seem accurate if you take the time to keep informed. Judicial Watch's FOIA requests have exposed many weak links in the FBI.

To give it to you straight, TMC, you are one of the two or three people who are willing to be a "force for stupid" here when no one else will.

What level of non self awareness do have when you say you follow that twitter feed and still post the most idiotic ideas that get posted here? You post one thing that suggests a room level IQ or better and I'm cordial enough to acknowledge it. You follow that up with a more usual sh*tpost. Enough said. Reversion to the (low) mean.

Referring to lower post where you did post something insightful. I assumed you saw that as well.

Trump has said a lot dumber things on Twitter than that. That comment is actually pretty smart, so I wonder why you chose that one in particular. Recency bias?

The obvious goal of the tweet is to create a news/information focus on the FBI agent recently in the news from Mueller's team as well as Comey's ongoing more and more bizarre antics. It's an attempt to shift the discussion on to what Trump would prefer people to talk about. All of that discredits Trump's enemies, without damaging Trump.

What's the argument this tweet isn't smart? That you didn't understand the purpose of it?

When you don't understand someone's motivations/goals/speech who is extremely successful in a particular field while he is working in his field, you might consider that the odds are better that you are simply too ignorant to understand what's really going on and being talked about rather than the leading person in that field is just stupid and lucky.

It's one thing for the left to put out propaganda that George W. Bush was stupid, or that Trump is stupid, but once you start believing you're own propaganda instead of the truth, then you're the one who is stupid.

I say it is never smart for a president to tear down his own FBI, as an organization. You can say that it might appeal to stupid people, but can you really reverse again and say that anyone who doesn't appreciate that is dumb?

A tweet of "its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness." only tears down the FBI if it isn't true. Otherwise, it's a positive commitment to improve it. I doubt the FBI's reputation is currently the worst in history (although there probably wasn't contemporary polling, the point in time J Edgar Hoover died comes to mind), but there does seem to be a good argument that many FBI agents and certainly many voters already believed the FBI's reputation took some really big hits recently.

Either way, I don't think the FBI is the target for Trump's tweets. How many FBI agents are likely to fall into the category of "Follows Trump on Twitter" overlapping with "Disagrees with Trump"? The news media and his base are the obvious targets of his tweets.

The President of the United States putting scare quotes on the "Justice" Department he leads is another amazing low:


How 30% of voters can look themselves in the mirror (or even the social media bubble), I have no idea.

Can you clarify? I kind of like the scare quotes. And of course the president doesn't really "lead" the DOJ in any meaningful sense.

The Executive swears to uphold the Constitution, and leads all Executive Branch departments and agencies, with (we hope) that goal.

We hope the Executive does not expect a more narrow, or political, or personal, loyalty.


"We hope the Executive does not expect a more narrow, or political, or personal, loyalty." Or we at least it has stopped now that a Republican won.

It's hard to lead an organization when you can't really hire/fire/promote/demote/reassign, almost all of the employees, most of whom were there before you arrived and will be there after you leave.

"White nationalism" is a nothing burger.

If you're worried about it, its because you're being MANIPULATED to worry about it.

There are very few Nazis. They keep getting mentioned in heavy-hitter media because they want the public so scared of Nazis that they will vote for the Commies.

Its not very difficult to perceive this, but perhaps you are overly sensitive to social media?

Yes, my use of Commies was a joke.

Distinctions like "smart" and "stupid" seem to be important only to social science academics.

And people who like to tell you they are members of Mensa.

And people selecting a surgeon, or hiring a programmer, or trying to make rockets that fly into the sky instead of blowing up on the pad, or hoping to find a vaccine that prevents some illness, or....

Those examples seem to refer to "capable", "productive", maybe "intelligent". But what do "smart" or "stupid" even mean...besides maybe "us" and "them"?

This an analytic approach that affects what is being analyzed. The more we are trained to view things as status competitions (as opposed to good faith statements of moral, intellectual or aesthetic viewpoints) the less we will be able to engage in real moral, intellectual or aesthetic debates. While it may be descriptive of what is going on in social media, it is not a productive framework for engaging in social media.

I cannot make heads or tails of this post. Other people are commenting on it as if they understand it. Does that make them the smart people or the stupid people?

Thank you! Glad I'm not the only one thinking this.

'Other people are commenting on it as if they understand it.'

No, most comments actually seem to be saying that the post is nonsensical, in whole or part.

Does that make them smarter or stupider than you?

I found myself nodding a lot.

It means you're not socially sensitive.

I know very smart people who after Trump was elected started planning what they would do if Nazis attacked them. (They live in the Bay Area.)

That person was obviously overwhelmed by social / cultural pressures to imagine threats everywhere.

Same for "birtherism" proponents on the other side, or Jade Helm types.

1. World trolls Tyler, Tyler trolls world.

2. Isn't this just what we do before a big-enough common enemy arrives? Of our own making or not....

3. Wave to the nice AI historians who are also trying to make sense of this. ;)

12a. The “finance guy” in me thinks: how can I use all this for intellectual arbitrage?

A. Private groups spawn ideas that can then be exported to the masses in the form of questions on social media. (see #12 & 13 above)
B. Reactions to the questions can help to reformulate them into statements that do not provoke the less smart but entice the smart.
C. Those reformulated statements can be monetized in the form of carefully worded opinion pieces.

12b. Which camp does that put me in?

A. Next level manipulator?

But then again, I shouldn't be attacking motives.

The move to Snapchat where the average user has far fewer friends than say FB, and private loops on Whatsapp is a manifestation of the exact trend you highlight.

I now interact mainly on FB in certain groups and ignore my main feed.

Most of the post and most of the comments are exercises in #6 (or #2, if I want to indulge in #6). I'm reminded of when I was a kid long ago when the world was young, crashing for a few weeks in Halfalax Nova Scotia. I smoked too much weed. There was a pretty young gal who was a friend of the place and was put out by my habits. She played chess with me one night, I think to demonstrate how the weed had diminished my fine intellect. Unfortunately, she left a rook file open and I got to a quick checkmate. She left mad. Ha ha. But she was really kind and pretty and meant the best for me. No doubt we could have had a thang, had I not been self-satisfied and high on weed. Alas. I tweeted her good though.

"The philosophy of Stoicism will return to Silicon Valley. It will gain adherents but fail, because the rest of the system is stacked against it. . . . Straussianism will compete with Stoicism." I'm not sure Stoicism was ever present in Silicon Valley. Sure, some claimed their goals were virtuous (including the founders of Google), but they soon gave in to their baser instincts. As for competition between Straussianism and Stoicism, I assume the common thread is the futility of modernism - social media being perhaps the worst manifestation of modernity. Indeed, social media doesn't help us understand the truth, but very much the opposite. If one assumes that the boy wonders in Silicon Valley are the smarter people, then one can only despair at this development: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/future-wars-may-depend-as-much-on-algorithms-as-on-ammunition-report-says/2017/12/03/4fa51f38-d6b7-11e7-b62d-d9345ced896d_story.html

A very strange list.

I think one of the complexities is that different "kinds of people" have very different "modes of use" under the huge umbrella of "social media."

Some are "looking for" what other people are "reading past." People are counting their day to day "success" completely differently. They are tailoring their experience a billion different ways.

To say whether one group or another is gaining or losing on "social" you have to apply some directionality. But can you? Can you name one metric, or even a few axes, for a billion goals?

I hope to God we never have to apply the directionality:

"Did social media help you figure out, and stop, Donald Trump before he launched an unnecessary war in Korea?"


So are you OK if NK stops development now and can only reach California with a nuke?

More simply: "technology amplifies the soul"

If you're anxious, tech will make you more anxious.
If you're gregarious, tech will help you connect more than ever.
If you're gullible, tech will make you more gullible.
If you're empirical, tech will help you gather more evidence.
If you're set on making the world a better place, tech will help you.
If you're set on destroying the world, tech will help you too.

This made me stupider

I think 4 is both completely wrong, but occupying the same space in the argument as something that is right, and leads to pretty much the same conclusions.

It's not a matter of smart or not smart: It's ultimately a matter of culture. Note I am talking about very fine grained culture: 5+ cultures in white America alone, We are exposed to people of very different cultures, but in an environment where we can't engage them in ways that humans can relate. I think of the first stage of Plato's cave, where all we can see is the shadows of those outside our cave. It's a low communication environment either way. It also hits on how friendship relies on either being extremely alike in the first place, or enough shared exposure that people get to understand each other. Social media is good for column A, and terrible for column B.

Ultimately everyone loses status in the eyes of everyone else anyway, without having to do the silly smart/not smart split, and explaining how the level of balkanization is so high.

"It is often easier to manipulate smart people than stupid people"

Smart people tend wrap their confirmation bias into smart sounding multisyllable latin words. And cherry-picked "scientific" studies. "Dumb" people see the confirmation bias for what it is. It is much easier to manipulate a smart person by feeding them scientific sounding information that confirms their bias. "Dumb" people recognize that there is a heck of a lot we do not actually know, and that reasonable people can disagree. People with PhDs in social science are especially susceptible to this kind of manipulation.

As for social bubbles and groupthink, these have existed since the beginning of human kind. It just more obvious now that everyone is on Twitter.

This post suffers the same as many others by this website's author. It offers IQ as an excuse. Or rather, it offers up a convenient fairy tale to explain the inarguable truth: that America suffers from intense hatred in the form of bigotry/sexism/racism/homophobia/pick your poison. All poisons being an effectively used method of control. One does not have to take responsibility for their support of laws and theories (usually economic in this particular case) that piggy back on the these same poisons. And now we have IQ and social media as another excuse. "Bailing out a failed philosophy" would be a more accurate title.

Twitter is one of the prime examples of where to find Taleb’s “Intellectuals-Yet-Idiots”.

It used to be that you could never really know the idiocies, depravities, or the brilliancy of the people you know in real life without spending uncomfortable amounts of time with them. The paradox for me is that social media seems to have unlocked the gates most people used to govern the revealing of the most the first two of those characteristics. I am mostly still waiting for social media to show me the third one, but am starting believe it mostly doesn’t exist for those who actually take to social media.

12. The “finance guy” in me thinks: how can I use all this for intellectual arbitrage? Which camp does that put me in?

Use mood affiliation to manipulate the smart but socially sensitive.

Use the reactions of the socially sensitive to manipulate the stupid.

The smart, socially insensitive people don't need manipulation.

But i think if you go down this path, you will certainly end up stupider and more socially sensitive.

Or like Brian Ross, trade a month's salary for a 350 point swing in the market.

While some insensitive may become sensitized, most are probably not on social media significantly anyway. I don't know why most waste so much time on it myself. Can't think of anything less interesting.

I think there's way too much confusion about intelligence vs. wisdom. Google has intelligence on everything. It, an advertising company, is pushing "Muslim Singles" and "Watch some feminist 'comedian' show" to me. Google has no wisdom on anything.

You need both intelligence and wisdom. Wisdom has been sorely neglected.

Wisdom is usually experience. Social media is dominated by the young, both as consumers and proprietors.

Straussianism will compete with Stoicism.

Only if you mean East Coast Straussianism.

More specifically, the ascendent Straussianism regards the morality of traditional American communities as the only way that society can withstand the post-truth nihilism of today's "liberals".

Loosely speaking, the Democrats are the "smart and social sensitive" group.

Republicans are "dumb and socially insensitive."

That's a good model.

I agree 100%.
Would "less academic" be a better description than "stupid?
Technology helps academic, ambitious people more than those with less of these two and other success characteristics. Public education is making the success gap between the two wider and wider because
very little is being done for people with average success characteristics. A unique "individualize curriculum" should be developed by each school district to meet the needs of each cohort being served.

"The 'finance guy' in me thinks: how can I use all this for intellectual arbitrage? Which camp does that put me in?"

Judging by your posts here at Marginal Revolution, you'd probably fall into the smart but socially sensitive camp. Your complaints about the discourse and your habit of deleting comments critical of you or your colleagues suggests that you're very, for lack of a better world, touchy.

This distinction in social sensitivity maps pretty well to feminine brain structure. Controlling for race, we'll probably soon be able to guess someone's political leaning based on the density of their mirror neurons.

"3. It is often easier to manipulate smart people than stupid people, because the latter may be oblivious to a greater set of cues and clues."

In college I took a coarse a few horticulture classes like Plant Pathology plus classes on nutrition and food science, ever since I have marveled over less educated people will call organic food and absurd nutrition advice BS, like the professors that I had, while the college educated eat the stuff up.

Perhaps we could agree that smart people are far more dangerous than stupid ones, because when a smart person does something stupid that stupid thing is often done very, very well. Thus producing a spectacularly bad oucome.

Some ideas are just so obviously stupid that one must be very smart indeed to rationalize believing in them (let alone implement them).

Seems like some of these finding should have a place in other work related to things like voting and "qualifications" for voting, e.g., certain educational levels or being properly informed.

"Some ideas are just so obviously stupid that one must be very smart indeed to rationalize believing in them (let alone implement them)." (albigensian)
Makes me think about the old statement about "common sense" not being very common *and* that perhaps we under appreciate the idea of "common" as something of a lowbrow type of meaning that is not necessarily undesirable.

*Everyone* is becoming more manipulable, especially those who think they're not manipulable.

Every magician, priest, spy, and con man inherited a folk wisdom of manipulation. Now it's a field of engineering.

Human cognition is rife with exploits. #patchyourself

PS, perhaps my favorite non-fiction book of the year, relevant to this topic, which didn't make TC's list, was 'The Attention Merchants.' I found the early history of radio & tv especially poignant.

I don't think you are as smart as you think you are.

"11. Parts of social media will peel off into smaller, more private groups...."
As with many things, Life has been tinkering with this type of process for billions of years. The abundance and diversity of life today evolved from unicellular organisms - a single social platform. Then we (Life) learned to compartmentalize and make the borders of those compartments selectively permeable, depending on context and role. It is good that nerve cells are sensitive; it is good that the outer layer of skin is insensitive. The overall process is called differentiation. Division of labor is a similar concept. Etc.
"... At the end of the day, many will wonder which economies of scale and scope have been lost. And gained. Others will be too manipulated to wonder such things."
Scalability is not the only measure of success. Making it to the next round, however, is - as long as you keep leaping from from log to log, Frogger isn't over until it's over. Which, again, is possibly the advantage that Life gained by hedging its bets by turning Life into multiple parallel series of time-limited trials by individuals (literally, a multiplicity of eggs being put into a multiplicity of baskets).

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