[ExI] The limitations of Steven Pinker’s optimism

spike at rainier66.com spike at rainier66.com
Mon Feb 19 17:59:51 UTC 2018



From: extropy-chat [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Dan TheBookMan


There is a LOT of progress detailed in this book and everyone should know these things, which very rarely appear on the news, because the news is slanted towards negative stories…  BillW


>…Have you read Julian Simon? Years ago, he was pointing out and even betting on things getting better. I think it’s not just the news that slanted, but that there’s a default pessimistic bias — a built in presumption things are getting worse, especially when looking at history or overall trends. The news simply works off that. (Feel good stories have a low demand, whereas feel bad stories seem to have a very high demand.)…Regards,  Dan



Ja, and this has kicked into high gear as paper news went away.  In the paper news days, the feedback was slow and unreliable.  The personality and outlook of the editor had a great deal of influence on the content of the paper.  But now, since news is delivered via electronic media, the news people get instant and useful feedback on what news stories sell the most advertising.  It tells the outlet what news stories were selected and how long the readers stayed on that page.


This feedback phenomenon caused a shift towards the dominance of freakish and threatening news, which is why we get the illusion that our world recently became freakish and threatening.  The old saying in advertisement, “sex sells” is now “Sex sells, but death sells better.”  If those two can be combined somehow, you know you have a winner in selling ad-space and ad-time.


I have seen something else important: feels-good stories not only don’t sell well, they are widely doubted even if plausible and provable.  The flip side of that is that stories that are threatening to the reader are believed even if clearly absurd.


We should always strive to use that observation as a guide to how we consume news stories.  For those who understand what is really happening in our benighted world, we just know there exists a marvelous path to maximizing profits, bigtime money to be made here, big money.








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