[ Question ]

Which headlines and narratives are mostly clickbait?

by Pontor1 min read25th Oct 20205 comments

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Or: What do superforecasters tend to think of the topics that get tweets and airtime these days? The following questions get put into my attention (consensually and otherwise) and I am genuinely uncertain about the answers.
 

  • Is Trump really gearing up for a fascist takeover? Is fascism truly resurgent?
  • Does the elite left really endorse looting?
  • If Biden doesn't win in a landslide, will this really cause a national crisis?
  • Are we really seeing an incipient purge of non-leftwing thinkers from academia? Just how much of the putative "Great Awokening" is an illusion due to (social) media hype?
  • Have Silicon Valley and the mainstream media really gone to "war"? What will be the course of this war, and how will it end? Will I be much affected if I am not an investor nor a news consumer?
  • Is California really about to be swallowed by leftwing politics and lose all its golden geese to Texas, New Hampshire, or wherever?
  • Are regular Americans being driven into poverty en masse, soon to all be wage slaves to a technocratic elite?
  • Will higher education be drastically affected by the coming era of Work From Home?
  • How ought one view statements from the CDC henceforth? How much did its behavior and credibility in 2020 differ from other years or other administrations?
  • Are we going to see massive migrations out of cities? A world of "red zones and green zones" where large gatherings become a way for societies to flex their public health?
  • Is the general issue of misinformation (including but not limited to conspiracy theories and fake news) really much worse now than in decades past? By what metrics?
  • How much divisive mental malware have entities like the Internet Research Agency really managed to get into our brains? Are countries other than Russia getting in on the action?
  • Is China really running a global surveillance operation by compromising people's smartphones via TikTok? Are they really going to match the US in influence in the next 20 years? Will this require them to ease up on the Uighurs or not?

Sorry, that was a lot to drop all at once, but the cacophony is the point. I know headlines are headlines, clickbait is clickbait, but I frequently hear smart people (including rationalists) giving ample conversational time to any of the above topics. I suspect that with a moderate amount of effort, a smart person could identify and ignore whichever of these topics are pure distraction. What I want to know is if such efforts have already been done systematically and semi-credibly (for example, a collection of rigorous blog posts by a superforecaster). Ultimately, I'm hoping I can get some sense of how to weigh e.g. the resurgence of fascism vs. The Great Awokening vs. silent attacks by foreign states--without having to do tons of my own research. (I already skimmed Metaculus and I remain unsatisfied.)

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On clickbait: 

  • Human beings have a negativity bias. Bad news always resonates more effectively.
  • 'News' is a dopaminergic feedback loop. This is a skinner box.
  • Headlines live on the internet now. Whatever rules and methods that suit the medium rule both the online product and the offline product. The core of this in this context is A/B testing and metrics about view counts.
  • A/B testing and variants thereof can be automated and operate as selective pressure to evolve not only headlines but entire articles at this point. Deliberate spelling errors in articles are an interesting artefact of evolution and could be argued to be an example of convergent evolution with content in email scams.
  • Clickbait is designed to increase profits. Once the profit model is understood, so will the messaging. A dollar from a reader and a dollar from someone paying to disguise their message as news are both of equivalent face value.

I suspect that with a moderate amount of effort, a smart person could identify and ignore whichever of these topics are pure distraction. 

We live safe and comfortable lives in a world of great privilege and things are only getting better by the day. 

You don't even have to ask anyone else about that, just objectively look at your own life 20 years ago compared to today. Not how worried or hysterical you might feel, or how you feel about ideology or people you'll never meet, but your day to day life and your prospects for the future. Your imaginings are not fact, but your real life is.

If you are truly objectively worried about the state of the world then create something of value with your own hands to enrich it. Be an agent of improvement and not one of discord. Be a solution.

All of the topics you raised are distractions from living. That is your answer.

Ultimately, I'm hoping I can get some sense of how to weigh ... without having to do tons of my own research.

We'd all like that but I don't think it is truly possible. 

I think the easiest strategy is to look at those people and groups that are defamed and censored. If you know that establishment gatekeeping doesn't want you looking a particular way then there's bound to be something worth looking at there. 

I think there's also something to be said for having a break from consuming media and seeing the effect that has on your life. You don't truly know how important or otherwise a thing is until it is not there.

I think the easiest strategy is to look at those people and groups that are defamed and censored. If you know that establishment gatekeeping doesn't want you looking a particular way then there's bound to be something worth looking at there

 

That... doesn’t feel super-valuable. For a start, sampling the political opinions of people who regard “the establishment“ as the outgroup is going to disagree very strongly with such ideas as ”We live safe and comfortable lives in a world of great privilege and things are only getting better by the day”. 

Othe... (read more)

5Stuart Anderson3moIf OP was going to commit to effective sampling then OP's desire to not do due diligence wouldn't have created this post in the first place. Having disagreement is a feature and not a bug. My statement is a perfect example of that because no news outlet anywhere, from the most conventional to the most radical, is ever going to tell you that things are good and you probably don't need to worry as much as you are. You can't just believe anyone or anything. OP sounds like a lot of us, fatigued and wanting something they can trust to give them a straight answer. The last thing most people want is uncertainty. Unfortunately what we want and the way things are is frequently at odds. This fundamentally this all comes down to received versus derived knowledge. OP wants a shortcut to derived knowledge. I gave my solution to that, but if I am being honest I don't think there is an answer for what OP wants. --- Replication is one of the most fundamental tenets of science. If something is bullshit (eg. alternative medicine) that is (generally) a testable and falsifiable hypothesis. If you don't or won't do the experiment then you're stuck with other people's results (and by extension their skill and honesty in obtaining them). In principle I don't agree with shunning people over views. I have a perfectly adequate brain that is capable of figuring out what's true on its own, so I have no qualms about interacting with anyone.

I think you're kind of missing the point of the question. Even if I avoid media, other people don't, so I get exposed to some of these topics anyway. Even if they're 95% noise, I think it might be worth asking the right people which 95% it is.

All of the topics you raised are distractions from living. That is your answer.


I'm curious if the most epistemically conscientious agree with you, and if so, whether they've made the case in explicit detail. Would you happen to be a superforecaster?
 

You don't even have to ask anyone else about that, just objectiv

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1Stuart Anderson3moThe longer I'm on this forum the more I'm inclined to believe missing the point is my specialty. The news isn't 95% noise, a significant portion of it is deliberate deception. Having a conversation over bad journalism or wilful propaganda as if that information is true and impartial is its own mistake. By all means, still have the conversation, but understand what it is and the limits of it. Or more succinctly: garbage in, garbage out. I don't know what others think. I'm not a superforecaster, just an opinionated pragmatist (pessimist). Migration/WFH/Academic wokeness/etc. questions are all about employment destabilisation. We've had that before, just not in exactly the same way. Employment destabilisation rarely if ever favours employees. In regards to career advice for kids: 1. You already know the kids that are suited for STEM. Send them overseas to study in a country where woke bullshit isn't tolerated but their qualification will be recognised domestically (or can be made so without too much pain or expense). As a bonus their education won't create a massive debt either, and they'll get more life experience. 2. Everyone else goes to trade school and/or starts a business. Nobody is outsourcing the plumber. Nobody thinks about the plumber until they need him. Nobody can do without him. Forgotten and well paid is an excellent combination. 3. High risk careers are exactly that. Don't go into something that won't work 99% of the time and be surprised that you walk out with nothing. That being said, if you're going to do something dumb then youth is a good time for that. Everyone with the means to have their fingers in your mind is trying it. Respond accordingly by paying attention and thinking for yourself. If the population is driven to civil disorder by manipulation that is out of your hands. Looting, rioting, and civil disorder should be responded to with basic prepping (which is a no harm if wrong measure), and i