Saturday, April 21, 2018


One of my favorite sci-fi authors and futurists, David Brin, has several times in his blog advocated resolving political disputes, or maybe more accurately, calling Bullshit on conservatives, via wagers - "put your money where your mouth is".

A few months ago, I got a new friend on Facebook. He is an excellent guitarist and vocalist, but also a Libertarian (and actually active in the party), Trumpite, and gunophile. And he posts out the wazoo. I attempt to inject an opposing viewpoint, or actually more often, a "Where the hell do you get this stuff???".

It really hasn't gone too badly. I haven't been called a libtard once, although I have been called "fucking stupid" a few times. I did unfriend 1 of his friends who posted a nice "Obama as chimp" meme. Zero tolerance for racism, I was raised with that shit, I hate that it's in my head.

But, for the record, I unfollowed him a couple of weeks ago. Just way too much stupid shit.

So a couple of months ago, just after the Parkland massacre, he posted something about "follow the money" re how can the high school students afford to be protesting their massacre by assault weapons? I trolled "George Soros". He replied, "I bet that you can trace funding for these students back to 1 of Soros' foundations".

OK, the game is afoot, I come back with "How much do you want to bet?". He comes back with "$20". A good number I thought.

But, as always, the devil in the details. In the time it took to establish this framework, he has moved on to dozens of other posts.

  1. The burden of proof rests on the person who proposed the (conspiracy) theory, in this case him. That just seems like the scientific method to me.
  2. A time limit for providing this proof must be established. I think in general 1-3 months?
  3. How is the result adjudicated? I proposed that any data in support of the theory must be verified by,, or He agrees to trust, but also somewhat - and absolutely 0 from mainstream media. I'm sorry, but, I trust anything I read in the NY Times or the Washington Post, because, when they get it wrong, they are hugely embarrassed and publish retractions. Vs Fox, who never retracts anything.
    Plus, he never trusts anything that comes from a US government agency, which makes it really hard, because they are probably the main source of real data on most things. WTF, he must distrust all weather reports, which come from the NWS, the NOAA, and the NHC. Wow, too bad, SW Florida needs to get those hurricane reports.
  4. If the theorist provides any data in support of their theory, but both parties cannot agree on its validity, then the bet is a push - no one wins.
  5. If the theorist provides no data in support of their theory within the timeout period, then they lose the bet.
Is this workable? Or is Brin's suggestion to engage conservatives in wagers something that sounds good in theory, but cannot be made to work in practice?

If it is workable, it sounds like a great opportunity for a website/app to administer these wagers, given that #3 can be resolved - that is the crux of the matter, can the reality-based mainstream news vs the propaganda machine fake news, or vice versa, be resolved? Or are the 2 realities completely disjoint?

Too bad I'm retired. Any takers?

But, just having read "Enlightenment Now" by Steven Pinker, I doubt the efficacy of the whole concept. Pinker posits that belief in any explanation of political facts is about boosting your esteem, your credibility, in your political tribe, and has nothing to do with objective reality. The more outlandish the "fact" asserted by your tribe, the more esteem you gain by backing it up. So does the "let's bet" thing work at all?

1 comment:

Chris Heinz said...

I discussed this with 2 most excellent web software developers with whom I worked in the past. 1 of them thought that they new someone who had worked on a betting system like this and ran afoul of state gambling regulations ...