Dances with lions; the internet can eat us alive

Imagine two creatures a few hundred thousand years ago. One is a human that is casually observing the other, a 750-pound Eurasian cave lion. The beast (the lion, that is) lunges at the human (who is not a beast at all – the cranium of humans at that time was about the same as ours, and the cranium of Neanderthals was bigger). The lion shreds our would-be ancestor like so much pulled pork. 

What happened? Why did this human with as much grey matter as you or I, or more, fail to see this coming?

For the first few million years of our evolution, humans drew conclusions in the same way that other animals did – from their senses. Their database was what they personally saw, heard, smelled, felt and tasted. This was a poor method for gathering data from which to draw conclusions about nuanced matters, because the amount of data gathered was small. It was limited by the lifespan and experiences of the single person gathering it.

Conclusions drawn from small data pools are inherently unreliable because they may be skewed by a few outlying points, whereas in larger data pools the outliers get swamped by the in-liers which, by definition, are more numerous.

Toss a coin. It’s not very unusual to get heads three times – 100% of the time – in three tosses. The odds are one in eight. But it’s exponentially harder to get heads 100% of the time in 10 tosses. The odds of that are about one in a thousand.

Now apply that principle to human affairs. A person hundreds of thousands of years ago who’d never seen a lion attack a human, even though he’d seen lions in proximity to humans several times, might reasonably conclude that lions don’t do that. People witness a specific event, and on that basis they generalize.

Extrapolating from specific anecdotal evidence to the general is natural and is even now a legitimate part of the scientific method. But the reliability of this method is limited.

Computer programmers say “garbage in, garbage out” but that’s not quite the right expression for this statistics principle. I’m not talking about input data that are garbage. To the contrary, the input data can be highly accurate. What I’m talking about is not its quality but its quantity. A better expression to capture this principle is “limited data in, limited reliability out.”

As we developed more sophisticated communication methods through complex language and societies, data gathering improved. A person’s database on which to draw conclusions expanded beyond his own experiences and began to include to some extent the experiences of people he talked with.

This was a good thing for the advancement of humankind. Humans surely became careful around lions even though they’d never seen one attack a human, because they were told by others who had seen such attacks that they do in fact occur.

The advent of inexpensive mass communication improved data collection and dissemination even more. The printing press was followed by newspapers and then electronic communication and today’s internet where virtually all public information is available with a few clicks.

You might think, as many did early in the internet, that the availability of all this data would improve decision-making. In theory it could, and in practice it often does.

But it can also have exactly the opposite effect.

People are still wired to absorb a story rather than process data. People go to the movies – and to the internet – to see a story, not to collect data. Stories are fun, data are boring. People especially like stories that play to their primitive instincts such as violence, sex and conflicts with other tribes.

The presenters of internet content – the media – are of course aware of this. That’s why they present clickbait stories instead of data. They’re in the infotainment business.

People draw their conclusions from this clickbait. That’s a problem because although the clickbait is typically accurate (though sometimes not), it’s limited in scope. Stated another way, the problem is not that clickbait is disinformation; the problem is that it’s outlying data. This internet tool that enables us to gather vast quantities of information also enables us to filter it to suit our preferences and biases.

Back to our noble but naïve and dead savage. If he’d been getting his news from Facebook or Fox News or CNN, he’d have been bombarded daily with every gory detail of every lion attack on the whole flat earth. Look what they do with shark attacks. The internet algorithms worsen his plight by collecting his interest in lion attacks in order to feed him still more lion attacks to generate more clicks which generate more advertising revenue.

From those stories of lion attacks, the reptilian part of his brain would conclude (as would mine, since modern brains are arguably no more dexterous than prehistoric ones) that lions are on the rampage and probably under his pine bough bed right now. He’d immediately go into a lion lockdown in his cave where there’s a high probability he would starve to death. But in the meantime, he’d comfort himself with the knowledge that he avoided the low probability of being eaten to death.

The prehistoric human I introduced at the outset got eaten because he had insufficient data to realize that cavorting with lions was dangerous, while his counterpart on the internet starved to death because he had too much data about that same danger without context showing that the danger is not large enough to justify a lockdown. Both made bad decisions that left them equally dead.

Today’s political junkies are similar to the second human, the one who exaggerates the danger of lions because he’s been fed a steady diet of lion attacks. Political partisans on both sides generalize from accurate but outlying clickbait to draw the conclusion that the other side is evil and stupid. I do it myself sometimes. Its takes real effort not to. It was hard-wired into our brains as they evolved in a time when that was the best data collection and analytical method available.  

So, what should we do?

My advice to readers is to get off Facebook. Get off Twitter. Get off Fox News and CNN. Get your news from a variety of sources, and not just sources that filter and spin it the way you like. RealClearPolitics.com is pretty good at presenting points accompanied by counterpoints (though they often fall into the trap of each being extreme).

My advice to the media is to rescue your industry from the clickbaiters. I realize that clickbait is a good business, but there’s a profession calling out to you. It’s called journalism. Try it. Our species is at stake.

The biggest crooks in Special Counsel Durham’s investigation may be at the FBI

A future ex-lawyer named Michael Sussmann is going to trial next week for his role in feeding the FBI bogus Russian collusion stories.

Those stories are scurrilous and vulgar lies which distracted the nation and the Trump administration for years and for which someone should be held accountable. But Sussmann was not the person who manufactured those lies. He was just the bag man who passed them on to the FBI.

And so those lies are not what Sussmann has been charged with. He’s been charged with a more pedestrian lie – the lie of telling the FBI he was not working for a client when in fact he was. Not just any client, but the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

He’s guilty as hell.

But in a broader sense, this bag man is just a fall guy. The FBI surely knew all along that he, his partner Marc Elias and their firm Perkins Coie, a Seattle law firm with aspirations, were Democrat operatives. Everyone knew that. 

Continue reading

Why do Democrats want to kill all the black babies?

Some 63 million American babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade. Almost 40%  were black even though blacks comprise only about 13% of the population. The black abortion rate is nearly five times the white rate.

Justice Clarence Thomas observed in a Supreme Court case a few years ago that in New York City a black baby is more likely to be aborted than to be born.

Altogether, that amounts to over 20 million dead black babies since Roe v. Wade. To put that number in perspective, the number of unarmed blacks killed by police in that period is a few dozen – amounting to something like 0.0002% of the number aborted.

Over a third of the black population of America has been lost to abortion. If the dead black babies were placed head to toe, they would stretch from coast to coast. If they were buried in a cemetery at standard densities, the cemetery would be about 20,000 acres or 31 square miles.

But of course, they’re not buried in cemeteries. They’re disposed of as medical waste in incinerators or landfills. That’s right, dumps. We often dispose of aborted babies in dumps. Even the murdered Jews at Auschwitz didn’t share a trench with garbage and racoons.

Where’s Black Lives Matter on this genocide? They make an extravagant living pretending to grieve the death of a career criminal, drug addict, wife beater and arrest resister. But if black lives truly matter to them, why don’t they even blink an eye at 20 million dead black babies?

Continue reading

Biden’s nominee for Director of the CIA is an autistic, black, transsexual, cocaine addict

Actual photo of Biden’s appointee to Office of Nuclear Energy (really!)

Not that I have anything against such a person. Some of my best friends are autistic, and most of my readers are. They’re probably also transsexuals or have at least thought about it (it is sort of weirdly interesting from an anthropological perspective, sort of like Neanderthals and dinosaurs). And cocaine can’t be any worse than, say, instant coffee, Australian wine or transsexualism.

As for being black, anyone with half a brain identifies as such. Because these days that will get you admitted to medical school (many college applicants do in fact falsely claim to be black) and appointed to the Supreme Court. It also gets you immunity against prosecution for slapping anyone you damn well please at any time you damn well please, and perhaps shooting them too. Soon, it might also get you some reparations green. 

Continue reading

By summer, Russia’s losses in Ukraine will exceed American losses in the entire Vietnam War

Ukraine reports that it has killed about 26,000 invading Russian soldiers. Ukraine’s reports of Russian losses – unlike Russia’s own reports – have been fairly reliable, say observers, though NATO estimates a somewhat lower number. As for Ukraine’s own dead, they appear to be significantly fewer than Russia’s even after including the civilians that Russia has murdered.

Ukraine’s figures are not inconsistent with a report from the U.K. that over one-fourth of Russia’s 150,000-man army attacking Ukraine, amounting to perhaps 40,000, has been rendered “combat ineffective.” That means they’re dead or wounded badly enough that they can’t fight.

Russian deaths amount to about 400/day. They truck the corpses back to Russia at nighttime to conceal the carnage.

Put that into the context of modern warfare. The United States lost about 2,400 soldiers in 20 years in Afghanistan. We lost about 6,800 soldiers in the war for Iraq over the course of 14 years. The Soviets lost only about 14,000 soldiers in the ten years they fought in Afghanistan – a number they’ve far exceeded in ten weeks in Ukraine.

Continue reading

The left’s leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade is unprecedented

Politically motivated leaks are no big deal in today’s partisan politics. But something happened today that is utterly unprecedented.

A draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked. To my knowledge, this has never happened before. Arguably, it constitutes a crime – a theft of federal property. Even if not, it’s a shocking breach of ethics.

The leak was obviously by one of the three Justices in the liberal wing of the Court, or one of their 10-12 clerks who have access to the internal deliberations of the Court. It was presumably for the purpose of ginning up a public outcry to pressure one or more of the majority justices to change his or her mind.

Continue reading

David Brooks says critics of teaching gender dysphoria to young children are, unlike him, “barbarically lunatic” “cruel” “crazies” who “dehumanize” their opponents

Florida recently passed a law that leftist opponents and their collaborators in the media have branded the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Actually, however, the law does not say “don’t say gay.” Rather, the law says:

“Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Note the classrooms to which this prohibition applies – only kindergarten through third grade. And note the persons to whom it applies – only instructors, not students. And note the subject to which it applies – only sexual identity and sexual orientation, not any other sex issue.  

But using authority figures like teachers to indoctrinate kindergarteners into the wonders of transsexuality is something the left wants. Predictably, they’re PO’d about this law prohibiting it.

Continue reading

Criminals roam free while God is put on trial and His son is branded a border-jumper

On Easter Sunday, I awoke with the thought that I would go to church, something I seldom do. Not just any church but the one where I grew up. Where the pastor of my youth was an intellectual and spiritual giant, and a very nice guy. Where my parents were members and volunteers for half a century. Where they still reside – their ashes dwell in the adjacent glen.

So I looked up the church to find the time of Easter service. Their website was plastered graffiti-like with the phrase, “We are love” in translucent cursive so you could still see the words and pictures of the page. I wasn’t sure of the biblical source of that phrase, or exactly what it means, but it’s not a bad marketing slogan for a church.

On the other hand, it seemed a little cheesy and self-important. It reminded me of the virtue-signalling yard signs that sprouted like weeds a year or two ago, shouting that the inhabitants of the houses where they were planted were very, very good and smart people – much more smart and good than the reader of the sign.

I clicked into a page on the church’s website entitled “What We Believe.” I saw nothing there about Jesus or God. But I did see their boast that “We are extravagantly inclusive.” Of everybody except Jesus and God, apparently. At that point, I abandoned my Easter mission.

Continue reading

ONE MILLION DOLLARS for the leaker of Joe’s cognitive test

Joe Biden is cognitively impaired. He gets confused as to where he is, who he is, and what he is. He forgets the names and circumstances around him. He refuses to keep to his teleprompter script, and refuses to recognize how much he should.

Truculently and combatively, he blames reporters and calls them “stupid” – even friendly ones – for merely asking good questions to which he has no intelligible answers.

If I didn’t despise Biden’s policies, personality, greed, girl-fondling, criminal son, ethics, dishonesty, hair plugs, and ladder-climbing “doctor” wife, I’d feel sorry for him.

But I do, and so I don’t.

The president of the United States gets good medical care. Joe’s weird outbursts point obviously to a medical condition. Any doctor – OK, maybe not an Ed.D. but certainly any real one – would say his condition suggests a decline in cognitive ability consistent with senility, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Continue reading

In punishing Putin’s criminality, we risk turning Russia into the Weimar Republic

World War I was no picnic for the Germans. About two million German soldiers were killed and countless others were crippled. The Austro-Hungarian Empire on the side of the Germans lost another million and a half.

The loss of life on the side of the Allies was similar, with about two million dead amongst France, UK, Italy and Romania, in that order. The American dead were a fraction of that, a little over 100,000.

The Allied country suffering the greatest number of dead was Russia, where life has always been cheap. Two million Russians were killed, matching the combined total of the other Allies. This proved a presage; the Russian dead in the next world war totaled over 20 million.

To the victorious Allies of WWI went the spoils. In the Treaty of Versailles, they confiscated about 10% of German territory and imposed punitive reparations of about $270 billion in today’s dollars. They prohibited the rebuilding of the German military (we know how well that worked over the next two decades) and stripped Germany of its overseas colonies.

Most humiliatingly, the Allies required Germany to acknowledge that the war had been all its fault. If WWI had been a football game, the Allies would have been flagged for end zone taunting.

The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were undoubtedly satisfying to the Allies, and perhaps gave them a measure of comfort that the Huns would not be at their doorstep again for a long, long time.

Continue reading