Gurwinder

Gurwinder

20-05-2022

18:40

Everyone, a new MEGATHREAD is here! In 40 tweets I'll explain 40 mind-altering concepts. Reading time: ~7 minutes. Value: A lifetime. THREAD:

1. Littlewood's Law: Around once per month, each of us experiences a "miracle" (an event with odds of one in a million). Across the world miracles are literally happening all the time, but because there are so many of them we perceive them as mundane.

2. Hanlon's Razor: The number of genuinely evil people in the world is minuscule compared to the number of idiots, so never blame on malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.

3. Bonhoeffer's Theory of Stupidity: Evil can be guarded against. Stupidity cannot. And the world's few evil people have little power without the help of the world's many stupid people. As a result, stupidity is a far greater threat than evil.

4. Mean World Syndrome: The news exists to get your attention, so it tends to shock. As such, it doesn't reflect reality but precisely that which is uncharacteristic of reality. But since it's all we see, we begin to think the world is crazier than it actually is.

5. Sealioning: When someone pesters an online opponent with endless "innocent" questions to clarify their position. The sealion has no interest in the answers, but by questioning can expend minimal effort while exhausting the opponent until they slip or flip, "losing" the debate.

6. Two-Step Flow Theory: Most people's opinions are copied from their favorite influencers, who in turn copy the opinions of their favored mass media. As such, politics is largely a battle between two armies of puppets being ventriloquized by a handful of actual thinkers.

7. Introspection Illusion: We think we understand the real reasons why we think & act the way we do, but we think other people have little understanding of why they think & act the way they do. We assess others as if they're psychiatric patients and ourselves as if we're gods.

8. Sayre's Law: The lower the stakes, the more vicious the politics. In tense nuclear talks, people act civilized. In Twitter culture wars, people act like Armageddon has come, raging like maniacs, calling for total war, safe in the knowledge none of it matters.

9. Nutpicking: Cherry-picking the most outlandish members of the enemy side and presenting them as indicative in order to make the entire side look crazy. A common tactic on Twitter. Arguably, the entire culture war is just each side sneering at the other side's lunatics.

10. Blind Men & An Elephant: People assume their experiences are a representative sample of the universe, and thus base their assumptions about reality on a few meager impressions. They shrink the world to fit their minds and think they've expanded their minds to grasp the world.

11. The Lesser Minds Problem: We dismiss those we disagree with as stupid, insane or evil because it saves us from having to deal with the complex truth: that people see things differently from us largely because the labyrinth of experience has led them to different conclusions.

12. Rally 'Round The Flag Syndrome: During times of crisis, approval ratings of political leaders go up as people unify against the threat. This incentivizes unpopular leaders to exaggerate, fabricate, or even initiate crises (e.g. by starting wars).

13. Paltering: Journos & politicians deceive you without lying by using cherry-picked truths to create a false picture. E.g. Journo asks a man if he's racist. He says "How dare you!" Journo reports: "He refused to deny he's racist." Fact-check: true, but a shitty thing to do.

14. Principle of Least Effort: Human behavior tends to favor the path that requires least effort. People will accept the first idea that comes to mind, get their info from the first relevant search result, etc. This makes them easy to predict and vulnerable to error.

15. Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap. Doesn't matter if you're talking about books, science papers, tweets, YouTube videos. Due to the Principle of Least Effort, the vast majority of works produced in any medium are low effort garbage, so consume with extreme prejudice.

16. Deep Time: Cleopatra lived closer in time to the creation of Twitter than to the creation of the Great Pyramid. The T-Rex lived closer in time to us than to the Stegosaurus. These facts (and evolution) are counterintuitive because our minds cannot grasp the vastness of time.

17. Moral Luck: Say you drink & drive and get home safely. Now imagine you do the same thing but someone crosses your path and is hit. In both cases you acted exactly the same way, but in one case, through no fault of your own, you're deemed to have committed a far greater crime.

18. Nacirema: Overfamiliarity with a subject can blind one to it. To maintain distance, describe it with unfamiliar language. US anthropologists studying fellow Americans refer to them as the Nacirema and write about them as if about a remote jungle tribe:

19. The Imp Of The Perverse: When you forbid someone from something, it makes them want it even more. A big reason why censorship is often ineffective; banning information only increases its appeal, leading to a Streisand Effect in which the info becomes shared even more widely.

20. Iron Law Of Oligarchy: All organizations of people, no matter how democratic & egalitarian, will eventually be controlled by a dominant few, since if everyone has power then no one has power, and if someone has power, they'll use it to get more power.

21. Ringelmann Effect: We're taught that people achieve more when part of a team, but people in teams actually expend less individual effort than when working alone, and the bigger the team, the less the effort. The reason? More work partners = more people to pass the buck to.

22. Minimal Group Paradigm: Group people by a trivial category, e.g. favorite ice cream flavor, and the groups will become tribal, form rivalries, and discriminate against each other. In the absence of other politics people will wage culture wars over preferred choice of dessert.

23. Noble Cause Corruption: The greatest evils come not from people seeking to do bad, but people seeking to do good and believing the ends justify the means. Ironically, few things legitimize the immoral treatment of others more than the belief that you're more moral than them.

24. Boots Theory: I can't explain this concept better than @TayZonday did:

25. McNamara Fallacy: We tend to evaluate outcomes by the metrics that are easiest to measure. The Vietnam War was a disaster largely because US SoD Robert McNamara gauged success by enemy body count, ignoring less quantifiable but more important metrics like public sentiment.

26. Agenda-Setting Theory: What's important doesn't become the news, the news becomes what's important. The public conversation is based on whatever's reported by the press, giving the impression that this news matters most, when really it's just what was chosen by a few editors.

27. Deadcatting: If a powerful figure is about to be hurt by a news story, they may plant another, bigger story in the news to distract from it. (One way to do this is to have an ally divulge a compelling secret/rumor to the press.) This technique is @BorisJohnson's superpower.

28. Feiler Faster Thesis: The pace of society is based on the rate at which news breaks. As the world becomes increasingly networked, the news cycle accelerates, causing events—national debates, scandals, etc—to move faster and receive ever less consideration.

29. Firehosing: With so many competing narratives in the digital age, disinformation agents can't convince you of any single narrative, so instead they overwhelm you with many contradictory narratives until you start to doubt everything and become confused, demoralized & passive.

30. Compassion Fatigue: The saturation of the web with news of tragedies, which is intended to rouse our empathy, is ironically habituating and desensitizing us to human suffering, making us overall less empathic.

31. Affect Heuristic: Emotions evolved to guide us in a low-data world, so are useful in times of uncertainty, as long as you treat them as advisors not masters, and understand their advice: fear for caution, envy for ambition, regret for wisdom, and hatred for motivation.

32. Paradox Of Fiction: In the movie Vertigo, a former cop becomes infatuated with a persona invented to trick him. Like him, we form emotional attachments to fictional characters, which shows that our feelings can easily be evoked by illusions, and are thus not always valid.

33. Surrogate Activities: The more we eliminate struggles from our lives, the more we create artificial struggles – sports, video games, culture wars – because the mind wants peace, but needs conflict.

34. Intellectual Obesity: We evolved to seek out sugar as it was a scarce source of energy. But when we learned to mass-produce it, our love for it became a liability. The same is true of data. Our curiosity, which once focused us, now distracts us, bloating our minds with junk.

35. 10:10:10 Strategy: If you're fighting an addiction and tempted to have a cigarette/chocolate muffin/Twitter scroll, consider how indulging now will make you feel in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. Escape the lure of immediate gratification by stepping out of the present.

36. The Liking Gap: Multiple studies have found that people consistently underestimate how much a conversation partner likes them and enjoys their company. So don't be shy, you're probably cooler than you think, go make some friends!

37. Beautiful Mess Effect: We tend to view our mistakes & vulnerabilities with shame because we think they make us look unappealing. But research suggests our mistakes & vulnerabilities actually make us more relatable and endearing to other people. So don't be afraid to be human.

38. Backwards Law: The more you pursue happiness, the less likely you are to obtain it, because chasing it will only remind you how much you don't have it. Ironically, the best way to find happiness is to stop worrying about it.

39. End-of-History Illusion: We're all works-in-progress that view our current selves as our final selves. This blinds us to the possibility of our own growth. Realize your potential by remembering you are not set in stone, and you never have to be who you were five minutes ago.

40. The Ruliad How did something come from nothing? Maybe beyond our cosmos the default is not nonexistence but existence; our reality emerged not from a void but from an infinite decision tree exhausting all possibility. Something didn't come from nothing, but from everything.

And that's it! If you found this useful, you can support the creation of new megathreads by subscribing to my Substack, where I'll be covering concepts like these in more detail. Thanks for reading, and may this knowledge intensify your power.



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