“You are here”:
Grandma and Grandpa had an election. Grandpa won. Why did grandpa win?
Whenever the election is over, pundits will find their particular horse in the race and ride it into oblivion. The seemingly deep question to answer is “why did Trump win over Clinton?”, mostly because it was seen as an upset of the established winner. One can only guess at peoples reason to vote for a given candidate. You get results such as:
- Trump voters are stupid and don’t know what are best for themselves.
- Clinton could not be trusted, so hence she ultimately lost the election.
- It’s the economy, stupid!
- Russia did it!
- The political left did this to themselves.
…and so forth. But elections are largely unmeasurable entities. The reason people vote as they do should be found in a complex interaction of many monsters. And not all have the same big monsters, which informs them of their decision. Further, voters rarely vote entirely based on rational thought. A certain amount of emotion is always present in people, and their feelings are also used when casting on the ballot. In short, you may not be able to entirely articulate why a given person votes for a given candidate — the person themselves may not be either.
It is easy to rationalize afterwards, which in turn weakens you against confirmation biases. The thing you so much want to be true becomes true since you are actively searching for material which supports your bias. And once you have found support for your claim, it is relatively easy to generalize from that position.
The discourse is currently dual. On one hand, we have the attempts at rationality. With checked, corroborated, confirmed facts in hand, people are trying to push in a much needed amount of reality into the debate. Yet, people also operate on the emotional scale, and that scale is not controlled by rationality and well-placed arguments. Rather, it is the world of the factually inconsistent, an allusion to the dreamy lure of what could be. When you say something, it isn’t picked up by the conscious, but plays on the unconscious intuition which people posses. We are but descendants of apes, and things we don’t necessarily understand, we can untangle through a complicated system of feelings and emotions.
Any political candidate running for an US election have to understand the appeal to emotion, at least at an intuitive level. Trump is uniquely qualified in that he has had many years of experience in the entertainment business, which he built out of the real estate empire throughout the years. In tech, we often say “try things, fail fast, and learn from the experience”. Hence, the actual success of said businesses doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you learned from the ventures so you can strike gold later. Perhaps by being elected as President of the United States of America.
I claim we don’t live in a post-factual society as much as we are currently living in a feeling-dominated one. There is a reason why different kinds of reality-tv is popular. There is a reason why people cry of sadness when a virtually generated 3d character dies in a Disney movie. And there is a reason why a particular fact is filtered out of our thought pattern when we are angry, sad, and irritated. In some sense, the mechanism is there to protect us. If you have to act fast, you need a basic motor system that doesn’t have to make a computation of several seconds first and then make a choice. Rather, you have to avoid the falling rock now. For example, when you become frightened, your brains amygdala “takes over” and makes sure to put your hippocampus into “record mode”. In turn — if you survive — you have a vivid recollection of the events so you can process that and understand details of what happened.
A common “blind spot” on the political right is that of climate-change denial. Even though rational well-argued climate scientists point to one even after the other in support for climate change, many on the political right ignore the details. Rather, they deny that the climate change is taking place. Since most of the system is statistical in nature, you can find papers and articles which fail to find to support for climate change. Aha! So it is not true! When you confront such people with the facts, you challenge a (large) set of neurons in the brain with contradictions. Wiring that is hard to undo. So the natural response is to “double down” and believe even stronger in your conviction that climate-change is a falsehood.
In practice, there are probably some basic emotions and beliefs in people who vote for the political right which makes them more susceptible to deny climate-change. If, for instance, you value independence and individualism over the collective, then a law imposing restrictions on the emission of green-house gases into the atmosphere infringes directly on your underlying belief. Hence, you have to oppose it on principle.
Likewise, a “blind spot” on the political left is the overwhelming evidence that people are formed by a complex interaction of nature and nurture. Many left-wing people believe that there is hardly any interaction and that most, if not all, of a persons behaviour or traits can be attributed to the environment in which he or she grew up. Also likewise, you can draw a line from the basic belief of collectivism to this blind spot. If, for instance, the “genes” play a role in your ability to write software programs, then there is a limit to which extent education can influence you ending up working in the tech industry. This goes straight against the notion of educating the population out of poverty, which is a collectivist left talking point.
Another pain-point of the political left is that once you accept there is variance influenced by nature, you also have to accept there is variance in genders. For instance, it has been shown with credible evidence that women on average are more agreeable than men. It is a pain-point because once you agree there is gender variation, you indirectly explain why the job choices differ between men and women. And this then explains why men are paid more than women (job choice), or why you find more women in jobs where agreeableness is a positive trait to posses (for instance nursery or child-care).
If you present a left-leaning person with the evidence pointing to a world where not everything is determined by a nurture argument, they often “shut down” much in the same way as a right-leaning climate denier. You are challenging a basic conviction, which must then be rejected by any means. Often by, incorrectly, claiming you are participating in a view where everything is attributable to nature — a rather popular world view of the 1930'es, which science has later rejected as having no support.
The preceding sections key point is that we as human beings are extremely bad at being right. Rather, we have our blind spots which we tend to avoid or we tend to undermine through confirmation bias. We are inconsistent, incoherent messes individually. Over time, we slowly realize something about our very nature which is then an eye-opener for everyone. But this takes years of science, research and support. While this process happens, we have to go by our emotions and feelings in order to get by. Religion is a powerful tool: it gives you a framing in which you can place a truth and it gives you a way to excuse misunderstandings or inconsistencies in your beliefs. The history and age of religion shows human beings have had that need for many years.
When we need to explain a situation, we will often grab at pseudo-religious stories which we then amplify to the point where they become reality to us. Trump winning has many theories and some of them are bound to have had influence on reality — while many others are best to be forgotten in the chest of /dev/null.
- Trump voters are stupid fascists who don’t know what is best for themselves.
- The Russians are able to influence the US election to the point where they can select a fascist and put him into power.
- The reason Clinton did not get elected was due to her dance with the radical political left, which many people oppose. In turn, the political left did this to themselves, but not rejecting identity politics.
- Climate Change has risen the seabed and consumed New Orleans. Now those people are rioting in the streets of New York and painting Swastikas all over Trump Tower.
Much been said about the media and “fake news” in the sense that non-facts are being sent around on social media and it gets traction. This is the Sokal-moment of the internet. When Alan Sokal in 1996 hoaxed a peer reviewed journal with a nonsense publication, it became apparent that there were no substance in the publicatons by the journal. Likewise, people have to learn the rules of information flow on the internet:
- Anyone can post
- Once posted anyone can make a copy
- Once copied, anyone can modify it
- You can falsify information
Unless there is some kind of cryptographic signature, there is no authenticity nor integrity of what flows around. On Twitter I often do tongue-in-cheek posts of the form “X is basically Y” where X and Y are somewhat related things, but the truth is heavily obscured by the fact that X and Y are not always directly related. For example:
The internet is basically 4chan.
There’s no lecturer, teacher, or news outlet who filters the information posted by some sort of correctness filter. No, the reader must understand and make the call themselves. Facebook and Twitter is just a messenger of information, but they are no arbiter of what information is right or wrong. The current discussions in which a site like Facebook “selects” what news you are seeing combined with the fact that they are not liable for sorting that information is chilling. Facebook is in business to optimize engagement of users. Users must stay on the site so they can be shown ads which make facebook money. Put an algorithm in place, and the algorithm will have no moral obligations. It will gladly pick fake news, if that news improves engagement.
Yet, I claim that this is not the problem. People are more than capable of sifting through information, and the occasional falsehood can sway people a little bit. I don’t think people make informed decisions on a single story on Facebook alone. They make the decision through a complex evaluation of the monsters and their current feelings. Trump voters are not stupid. Most people are not stupid. Most people know exactly what they are doing. People are fast learners, and they quickly adapt to what information they can trust, and what information they can’t. If too much fake news float, people will just start regarding Facebook akin to “The Onion”. I see most of this debate as a red herring.
Also, Main Street Media is in a serious bind at the moment. If you draw the dependency graph between politicians and the MSM, it becomes increasingly clear that the notion of “fake news” very much applies to the MSM as well. Through friendship, cronyism, marriage, ex-marriage, sex partners, intrigue, and double binds people forge bonds with each other.
You simply omit certain facts, or you “did not think of it” when you wrote a particular piece. At the same time, you collude with politicians in order to produce a particular narrative. The only distinction is to what extent a false story is presented. You omit the fact that the positive story you write about a person is because you know that person privately in some way or the other. The graph is so dense that most of the people you write about are inherently close to you.
On social media the “brave black belt woman who fought off her attacker” becomes “innocent girl attacked by hateful Trump supporters”. In the news media, a long fact-checked story is written, but it fails to bring in the opposite perspective; biasing itself against truth. And through secret back-channels, the same sentiment is put out simultaneously in all media channels at the same time to underscore a point.
Another source of misinformation is that modern social media doesn’t value the long-form written word, but prefers quick-shot blurbs you can consume quickly. Someone, might post a Venezuelan rally months ago under the caption of “This is what will happen soon in America”, but 3 retweets later, it has become “There is currently a large rally against Trump going on right now”. The original intent might not have been malicious, but it is easy to construe it as such.
The key here is reverse image search and fact-checking; understanding that the internet is 4chan and not a “respectable” news source. The key is not banning fake news. Bans can be gamed, and often are. What you end up with is a discussion of free speech.
The common treatise is that “the 1st amendment doesn’t protect you on Twitter”. That is true, but it is also philosophically chilling. If the majority is allowed a tyranny in which they select what is to be said and what is not, along common communication channels, we have no (philosophical) notion of freedom of speech. I tend to hold the following view: give people the ability to express themselves, always. If their argument is bad, destroy it. And be wary when algorithm or human group decides on what can be said. The internet is best served through communication channels not under the jurisdiction of a single commercially invested company.
Which brings me to “The superfluous.”
The superfluous are the people the elite left behind. The superfluous are those who are not academics and have no chance at getting into academics. The superfluous are often unemployed. They consist of men and women. They have representation of every skin color you could imagine. The superfluous exist in every state in the US, in every European country, in Asia, in Latin America, and in Africa. Since 2000, where automation and globalization really took off, they have largely been forgotten by an elite establishment who has spent most of its time chasing various ghosts of the world.
The superfluous has no politicians on the left — which is the political side historically supporting them. The left has been obsessed with projects of their own, and many of those projects seek to support a middle-class. But the superfluous don’t belong to the middle class. No, their expertise isn’t needed anymore. The welder has been replaced by a robot; the truck driver has been replaced by a self-driving container. The worker has been outsourced to China — the worlds factory. Many jobs have been lost to self-service: it is more efficient to enter the bank on-line in the middle of the night.
When the left-wing implicitly rejected the superfluous — after all they can just educate themselves and become astrophysicists and get a job — they have been seeking for an answer. The tea-party was not it. But Trump managed to unwind the puzzle and get their attention. Trump is not an isolated occurrence. Europe has DF in Denmark, serving the rights of the superflous. They are served by SD in Sweden, UKIP in UK, FN in France, and the Dutch has PVV. All over the western world, the superflous are seeking toward the right, for people who will serve their interests. For people who will bring back decency, and give them a hope in life.
It doesn’t matter if Marine Le Pen wins in France or she just gets a sizeable portion of the votes. She doesn’t have to run a campaign based on gender identity, because it frankly doesn’t matter. The proverbial stake will be driven straight through the proverbial vampire if she wins. This is not about gender identity, and this is not why Clinton lost. Neither is this about racism, facism or nazism. That is the dreamy lullaby created by the elite to explain what is going on.
Denmark has the advantage of a representative democracy where the leading party is often a minority. This means the party has to compromise and get support from other parties to create new law and govern. Not only do we have geographically representative regions (10) from which candidates are elected proportional to the vote. No, we also have “fluid seats” in our single chamber, not bound by geographic region which is used to even out lost votes. Thus the representation is very close to the votes cast in the election and the popular vote is the representation in government.
The reason this is important is that the 15–20% support DF has is probably representative of their true support in Denmark. And the political right are not excempt from trouble due to this. Fact is, the political right serves the corporate interests which is not compatible with the interests of DF. In that sense, the political right is not serving the superflous either.
In the US, this distinction is muddled. There are two parties, and Trump ran for the Republicans. Time will tell if he is the saviour of the superflous. The GOP will attempt to make Trump into a puppet and then run the government as they always did. Trumps cabinet will either follow suit, or it will oppose the legislation — in which case Trump becomes the 3rd party.
There are eggshells all over the place. The superfluous voted trump because that is what gives them hope. If we could just undo the factory in China. If we could just keep Ford operating. If we could just start mining for rare earth metals again. If we could just stop illegal immigration from Mexico. Then perhaps there would be a job for the superflous in the modern economy. Trump has two big monsters facing him: what if his policy has no effect? Think, the effect on the superflous is a globally induced phenomenon, and it is bigger than the president of the US. The other monster is that Trump realizes it has no effect. Then he can’t run the policy and the superflous will get mad.
In all of this, you have the political left running around like headless chickens, not understanding what is happening. They have fully latched onto the idea of immigration policy and claim that the other side are racists. They have fully embraced the idea that the superflous are haters. They hate people of color. They hate women. They hate well-educated people. To the left, the superflous are angry white men with no future. A small blip on the radar, soon to be removed by evolution and the course of reproduction. They don’t realize how close they themselves are to the abyss of the superflous. They don’t realize that one more automated system, and they fall under the bar.
Computer systems are disrupting the way we live. And the way we work. Many workers today are governed by the machine. An Uber-driver carries out work which is mandated by an algorithm, selecting the driver as a courier. Fewer and fewer people operate on the side which writes the algorithms. More and more people are slaves to the machine.
This is my bias, my failure. But I think there is a disruption going on, globally, where technology is disrupting the concept of “work”. The last 2000+ years, we have identified people as “the blacksmith”, “the potters”, “the surgeon”, and so on. Now, all that is gone. There are no blacksmith, and no potters. The surgeon is soon gone too.
We sit in our Ivory Tower^W^WSilicon Valley and we are happy! We just released a new system for running a block chain! And in the process, we created 2 million new superfluous drones which “the cloud” now controls and operates. The typographers were just the first nail in the coffin. We’ve mostly killed news media. We are working on banking, even at the level of stock trading. Microsoft were titans. They killed the secretaries with their office suites. Email was really good. It removed all the post-offices and enslaved millions of superfluous drones.
Trump is a protest against all of this. Trump is the manifestation against all of this. I posit that the election system is relative sensitive to outside factors, such as “Software disruption.” In fact, when “we” build a robot replacing 200 factory workers, “we” end up making people afraid of the future. People demand change. They vote where change may happen. And since the system is sensitive, even small fluctuations in the right swing states puts Trump in power.
We may very well be in for a situation where Luddites will come back. It is only fitting there is a direct line from the Jacquard Loom to computers, except for one very important point: A Turing Machine — or equivalent system — is universal and can be programmed to do different things, as long as those things are computable[*]. The flexibility of the system is what ultimately provides the power. Hence, the destruction of computers is an all-or-nothing gambit: either you let people wield the full power, or they will have no power. There is no middle ground. It will be a full Butlerian Jihad, or it will be none such.
What makes a Luddite situation unstable in a modern society is globalization pressure. You can abolish the H1-B “genius” Visa, wall off the borders, and put trade sanctions on China. This may, short-term, improve the situation for the average American. In the long run, it would be disastrous however. China is not going to stop, nor is Asia, nor is Latin America, and nor is Europe. End Silicon Valley as a magnet of technology. It will have no effect on the golden age. The mantle is simply picked up elsewhere.
To make the dystopia complete, Trump can ensure his reelection if he starts a war against tech by siding with Luddites. He simply has to identify the above scenario and then start making policy against it. No encryption for you, since terrorists may use it. That also means no block chains. Severely restrict internet access and computing devices, since terrorists may use it. Destroy the universal Turing Machine, helped by Apple’s obsession with control over the applications people run in their devices. This also stops innovation locally which is the hand-brake he needs. Of course, the world will eventually overtake even Trump because innovation doesn’t stop. But he definitely has the ability to create a large obstruction.
If the main street media realizes they are also a victim of tech, then the current state of affairs become really dark. Now you have both the press and the state against tech. If we manage to build a free alternative to Facebook as well, you can add Facebook to the list of enemies we will face.
The crux is that Trump uses the internet as a way to appeal to people’s emotions. Yet, the same technology stack which gives Trump his reach, is also the technology stack which can keep him accountable. Once corrupted by power, there is a likelihood power will try to control that accountability. Whistle-blowing is more important than ever, we’ve lost the MSM.
The solution is that we have to engage the superfluous. When we automate the world, we should all benefit and we should not leave anyone behind. The goal of making everyone superflous has been an end-game for human beings since 80000 BC. We are almost there, so tripping now is rather inconvenient. But it requires us to tackle the monster directly. It requires one to recognize that the “white orc”, the straight white male which the left likes to dream up is but a short distance away from middle-class decent human being on the left. And if you keep kicking them out, their gender and color doesn’t matter. They eventually end up straight, white, and male in the narrative. And then, they’ll vote for Trump.
We are leaving an industrial age and entering an information age. In this age, production costs are 0 and prototyping is the game. Solar panels and batteries will likely make fossil fuels obsolete for anything but handling grid spikes. More work will run automated without the need for manual intervention. We will take human work-patterns and store them into large 16bit floating point matrices and use them in “machine learning alorithms”. Where this strategy works, it will finally free human beings of all the boring stuff.
But it will require some serious restructuring of society. It will require we redefine the concept of “work”. It will require we accept that some people won’t have work in the usual sense, but their life on a rural homestead in the middle of America is as valuable and right as someone else. It will require the right removes their stigma of the unemployed as someone you can run over in trampling outrage. It will require that the right understands that if there are no resources in their capitalist soceity, there is no society at all. And that if 1% has all the money, nobody can buy anything from them.
Trump, one way or the other, hopefully becomes the catalyst the world needs.
If not, I’ll make a toast together with Ms. Ardbeg.
 I’ve always found it interesting to figure out where this expression came from. Apparently it is doubling the bid in blackjack.
 The phrasing of genes is usually a marker of wrongness, since the reality is far more complex. It is as if you are trying to make a succinct summary of a book: you are throwing out a lot of interesting information. A given behaviour or trait may not be found on a specific gene which is “it”. Which genes are actually transcribed in a given situation often has far more ramification and there, a single transcription factor can often invoke changes to multiple genes at once. Further, some traits are heritable, as in passed on from parents to offspring, but the information is not stored in the gene itself. It is passed on through outside factors such as the environment. And the interplay is even more complex as the environment can invoke interactions on transcription factors. It is akin to a computer program where an emergent behaviour is present, but not written down in the code itself.
 An aside is that agreeableness in general is associated with voting for the left in elections. This can somewhat explain why the left usually have more women voters than men.
 I don’t think Elon Musk has any plans of stopping :)
[*] There are problems in the world which are not computable. But as we are learning, the set of problems which are is a pretty darn big set.