New Megathread just dropped. 40 Key Concepts to Improve Your Understanding of the World. Thread:

ANCHORING We make decisions based on arbitrary benchmarks (“anchors”). Someone is more likely to buy a car if a more expensive car (the anchor) is placed beside it. In this case the anchor gives the buyer the impression that the original car is a better deal than it actually is.

MAN IN THE CAR PARADOX You imagine that if you owned a fancy car, people would admire you. But in reality people focus on the car, not on you, and think to themselves “Man, if I owned a car like that, people would admire me…”

BACKWARDS LAW The more you pursue happiness, the less likely you are to obtain it, because the focus on obtaining it reinforces the fact that you don’t have it. Ironically happiness comes easiest to those who don’t actively seek it.

OVERPERCEPTION The tendency to overestimate someone’s sexual interest in you. Much more common in men, making it a chief challenge of being a woman to let men know when they are not desirable without insulting them (an almost impossible task).

SELECTIVE SKEPTICISM We’re more skeptical of beliefs that contradict our worldview than of those that support it. Flat-earthers question whether the earth is really spheroid, but not whether the earth is really flat.

THE POTATO PARADOX Fred has 100kg of potatoes, which are 99% water. He leaves them to dry till they are 98% water. What is their new weight? 50kg. Yes, really. A reminder that the truth is often counterintuitive.

ALGORITHMIC BLINDSPOTS Inspiration often comes by accident while searching for other things (e.g. a chance occurrence while strolling). Algorithms give you exactly what you want, so you never need to search, and you never find what you never knew you needed. h/t: @david_perell

NOMINAL FALLACY Common habit of humans, where we think we can explain something merely by giving it a name. For example, “explaining” someone’s behavior by calling them evil. The word “evil” in this context is a description masquerading as an explanation.

CHRONOSTASIS When you look at the second hand on a ticking clock, it appears to stay still for longer than normal before continuing to tick normally. This suggests we’re living in the Matrix (or at the very least that our perception of the passage of time is a hallucination).

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, since our puny minds cannot grasp the vastness of time.

KAYFABRICATION Politics is pro-wrestling with suits. Opposing parties are actually collaborators in a broader system, who simulate conflict in order to entertain and distract the viewing public from what’s really going on. h/t: @EricRWeinstein

FIREHOSE OF FALSEHOOD Traditional disinformation tries to make you believe lies. Today's more sophisticated disinformation tries to confuse you. This is done by overwhelming you with a cacophony of (often contradictory) disinformation, so you can no longer tell what’s real.

REITERATION EFFECT Joseph Goebbels said* “Repeat a lie enough times and it becomes the truth”, and he was right; repetition can make people believe things they usually wouldn’t. *Goebbels didn’t actually say this, but everyone thinks he did because of the Reiteration Effect.

AMPLIGANDA Propaganda is disinformation transmitted through society from the top down. Ampliganda is disinformation transmitted bottom-up, through repetition & amplification. Since it’s a decentralized form of indoctrination, it’s almost impossible to counter. h/t: @noUpside

THE CHILLING EFFECT Having socially unacceptable opinions can destroy one’s reputation. As a result, people are often afraid to take the risk of uttering their real opinions, and resort to just parroting safe, established opinions. This impedes society’s generation of new ideas.

PROSPECT THEORY We hate losing money about twice as much as we like gaining it. Losing $10 upsets us roughly as much as gaining $20 pleases us. This bias favoring loss aversion over potential gain is the basis for much of our decision-making.

EINSTELLUNG EFFECT Our methods gradually rigidify. People will develop ways of solving problems through experience, and these ways will gradually become hardwired into them, so that they’ll seek to apply them to any problem they can, even if more efficient methods are available.

SHOSHIN The greatest obstacle to learning is what you already know. One way to resolve this is to train yourself to temporarily “unlearn” the assumptions you’ve accumulated, approaching learning opportunities with a beginner’s mind, clear & open. h/t: @JamesClear

HOSTILE MEDIA EFFECT In 1982, pro-Israel & pro-Palestine students were shown news stories. The pro-Israel students thought the stories were pro-Palestine, the pro-Palestine students thought the stories were pro-Israel. People tend to view the news as biased against their side.

UNIVARIATE FALLACY Comparing 2 datasets along 1 variable and using the overlap to claim the 2 sets are the same, even though the overlap vanishes if you consider the proper number of variables. This fallacy is often committed when claiming sex is a spectrum. h/t: @SwipeWright

SORITES PARADOX If you have a heap of grain, and you remove grains from it one by one, at what point is it no longer a heap? At what moment does a fetus become alive? No clear answers to these questions exist because language is too low-resolution to accurately describe reality.

SAYRE’S LAW The lower the stakes, the more vicious the politics. When there's much to gain or lose, people are careful of what they say & do. When there's little to gain or lose, such as in Twitter culture wars, people become savage, safe in the knowledge it won't really matter.

THE SOVEREIGN INDIVIDUAL As societies decentralize and people gain security through tech, governments will lose their function, and have little to offer their subjects. To survive, they'll be forced to compete for our allegiance. They’ll become businesses, and we their customers.

PSEUDONYMOUS ECONOMY System where all business is conducted on blockchains via pseudonymous avatars. Since you’ll never know who you’re doing business with, there can be no discrimination based on race/gender, and no cancellation of those with unorthodox opinions. @h/t: @BalajiS

MINIMAL GROUP PARADIGM If you group people by a trivial category, e.g. favorite ice cream flavor, the groups will become tribal, display in-group favoritism, and discriminate against other groups. So even if you end racism & sexism, people will find other reasons to discriminate.

SCISSOR STATEMENTS Seemingly innocent declarations intended to cause division (e.g “Dear white people...”). These are employed by media outlets to generate controversy (and clicks), and by troll farms to divide enemy populations.

ROGERIAN RHETORIC Enter a discussion not with the intent of proving your position right, but with the intent of stating your interlocutor’s position fairly & accurately, and showing that you understand its strengths. A good way to have productive & non-toxic conversations.

NEURODIVERSITY CASE FOR FREE SPEECH Canceling people for what they say disproportionately hurts those with conditions like autism, as they have the most difficulty following social codes. And by silencing them we deprive ourselves of their unique perspectives. h/t: @PrimalPoly

COMPASSION FADE "The death of one person is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." Paradoxically, our empathy toward victims decreases as the number of victims increases. We’re easily moved by a single death, but feel less when the scale of tragedy is greater.

AGENDA-SETTING THEORY What’s important doesn’t become the news; the news becomes what’s important. The press spark public discussions about certain topics, creating the impression that such topics matter most, when in reality the topics are merely what the press chose to report.

GENDER-EQUALITY PARADOX Sex differences in social outcomes (e.g. occupational choices) are greater in more gender-equal countries, suggesting that such differences cannot be simply blamed on misogyny or patriarchy (as academics and the mainstream media often claim).

NAVAL’S COMPASS If you can’t decide between two choices, take the path that’s more difficult/painful in the short term. This is because the brain tends to exaggerate the impact of short term pain while downplaying that of long term pain. h/t: @naval

KEYNESIAN BEAUTY CONTEST The market incentivizes us to predict others’ behavior. Thus the value of something is often determined not by the value we think it has, or even by the value we think others think it has, but by the value we think others think it has to others.

IRON LAW OF OLIGARCHY All organizations of people, no matter how democratic & egalitarian, will eventually become oligarchies, since if everyone has power, then no one has power, and if someone has more power, then that power will be used to gain more power.

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.

SELF-PERCEPTION THEORY Attitudes don’t determine behavior, behavior determines attitudes. We never truly understand why we do what we do, so our rational mind guesses our motives after we act (in the same way we speculate on others’ motives). We become a story we tell ourselves.

RECIPROCAL RADICALIZATION A big cause of polarization. Hate begets hate, so the excesses of one tribe fuel the excesses of its enemy, causing their rhetoric to escalate in a feedback loop of mutual amplification, like a mise en abyme—two mirrors infinitely reflecting each other.

SHALLOWING HYPOTHESIS Social media is making us dumb. We spend so long staring at shallow information on our screens that we don’t spend much time reflecting on ourselves or the world. The result is that our brains become optimized to do little but read tweets and watch clips.

LOOK-ELSEWHERE EFFECT There is now so much information in the world that almost every possible pattern you can imagine exists somewhere, often due to a purely accidental arrangement. As such, by looking in the right place, you can find evidence for almost anything you desire.

MEDUSA EFFECT We view people as less human when we see them as images on a screen versus in the flesh. And since we are increasingly socializing through image, from profile pics to video chats, we run the risk of losing our sense of decency and compassion toward each other.

BONUS: GURWINDER’S PACEMAKER A partial remedy for the Medusa effect, and something I must periodically remind myself of whenever I find myself without a heart:

And that concludes this megathread. If you found value in this, you may be pleased to know that there will be more to come, including a much deeper exploration of these concepts and others. Stay tuned, and thank you for reading.

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