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Identifying the Smart Voters - Dilbert Blog

Identifying the Smart Voters

What follows is an engineered set-up to induce cognitive dissonance in the reader. Do not read past the break if that sort of thing would be uncomfortable for you.

I do this as part of my series on Trump’s persuasive brilliance. You will have a better understanding of the power of cognitive dissonance when you see it displayed in the comments.

You might find it interesting that I can warn you in advance that the cognitive dissonance is coming and it will not influence the outcome. That’s one of many reasons I developed the Moist Robot hypothesis. I am going to push a button on your user interface and 80% of you will react the way I expect. 

I am going describe you in a way that sounds quite reasonable and yet violates your internal idea of who you are. That will trigger cognitive dissonance, and you will see it spew into the comments over the course of the day.

My follow-up post will describe the “tells” for cognitive dissonance that hypnotists look for. I can’t describe the tells in advance without ruining the experiment. We can agree that no science is happening here. This is just for fun. And maybe we will learn something.

— cognitive dissonance experiment starts here —

According to a poll described in the Washington Post, nearly 60% of Iowa caucus voters say they don’t want to know the details of any presidential candidate’s plans. They just want the candidate to be capable. 

The context of the article is that Trump is the only candidate dialed into the people. He knows the majority don’t want details and would not understand the details if provided. 

Some of you just laughed out loud at the ignorance of the majority. You will lecture me in the comments about how voters should “do their own research” and reach their own conclusions. Just like you do. I hear you. 

But I side with the ignorant majority. 

In this case, the willfully ignorant seem a bit more enlightened about how humans are wired than the people who think we should do our own research and draw our own conclusions about politics.

In my opinion, knowing what you don’t know is a higher level of intelligence than thinking you know more than you do. And believing you can predict the future based on a candidate’s personality, backstory, and promises is the epitome of not knowing what you don’t know.

Here are just a few of the illusions that plague those of you clinging to the fantasy of human intelligence:

1. If you are trying to match a president with a job description, how can you do that without knowing what the future holds? Do we need a war president or a business-oriented deal-maker? Raise your hand if you predicted 9/11. Raise your hand if you knew oil would become cheap. And so on.

2. Candidates lie. A lot.

3. The news you hear is

biased, incomplete, or out of context

by design –  at least until history sorts it all out. Oh, and historians disagree.

4. Many of the big issues are too complicated for even the professionals to understand, much less the voters.

5. Experts disagree. About everything.

6. We believe we were right when we predicted the performance of past presidents, but only because we see what we want to see. Republicans see Obama as an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. (Told you!) Democrats see an improved economy and more people with health insurance. (Nailed it!) 

Conservatives see Reagan as the greatest of our presidents. (Yay!) Liberals see him as a guy with lucky timing and a touch of Alzheimers. (Burn!) This illusion makes each of us believe we will be good at picking the next president since we got it right the last time.

7. Past performance does not predict future performance. If you believe Reagan was a bad actor but a good president, you see my point. Whatever people were doing in the past, it wasn’t much like being president. (Governor is barely a real job.) And people’s capabilities change over time. In stock investing, the smart people understand that the past does not predict the future. In politics, people have not yet learned that lesson.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking you CAN tell the difference between a serous candidate and a total clown with no political talent. And then Trump came along and started playing Whack-a-mole with the “real” candidates and made them look like chimps. You probably did not see that coming.

8. Citizens are not supposed to understand all of the security issues of the country. For example, one assumes the Iran nuclear deal included some side agreements on security, Israel, ISIS, and whatever. If you have an opinion on that deal, it is necessarily based on guessing.

9. We think we are good judges of character. But if that were the case, no one would ever get into a bad relationship or hire a bad employee. Humans can usually tell the difference between Godzilla and a squirrel, but that contest doesn’t come up as often as you would wish.

I’ll stop at nine reasons just because my fingers are tired of typing.

Please describe in the comments how you overcome all of those problems and manage to turn bad data into high-quality decisions by voting day.

That last sentence was the trigger for cognitive dissonance. I listed nine hard-to-refute reasons that you have been acting absurd all of your voting life, but that violates your self-image as a reasonable person. Something has to give. That triggers the cognitive dissonance. And if you have cognitive dissonance, it is by definition the thing others can see in you but you cannot see in yourself.

Tomorrow I will describe the “tells” that hypnotists look for when they induce cognitive dissonance in a subject. When you start to recognize the tells, life will never look the same. 

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Update: I saw this Tweet right after posting, in case you want the smarter version of my point.

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In Top Tech Blog, if you don’t like the idea of a master persuader using linguistic tricks to program a human brain like a computer, how about this new tool that will rewire your actual physical brain? Once we refine our understanding of brain architecture, nothing is stopping us from rewiring a person’s personality directly. We are not there, but probably only ten years away.

And add this mouth guard to your cyborg parts. I’m planning to skip the Age of Cyborgs – as much as I can – and port my personality directly to software as soon as possible. Literally. Probably also 10-20 years away.

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If you would like to see the world through a systems filter instead of a goal-oriented filter, I wrote the book on that. Unless someone else wrote one too. I probably should have checked first.

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