And do do note how unpredictable and random these alignments are!

‘knowing that two items were correlated in one world was a poor predictor that this pair would be similarly correlated in another world. … social influence causes substantively unrelated issues to align. However, the alignments were highly idiosyncratic.’

The clusters our tribes form in the high-dimensional phase space of issues are, like so much else about the configuration of our world, stupid. Nonsensical. Random. Improvable.

Again, worth underlining: these twenty questions (see screenshot from paper's supplemental material a few toots up) are not currently divisive—you can argue that the current crop of hyper-divisive issues (guns, brown people's humanity, etc.) are intrinsically different than these twenty.

The suggestion remains that the difference between today's divisive issues and this list of potentially-divisive issues is only a matter of time. Today's divisive issues were as '🤔~?' in the recent past as this

’If partisan alignments reflected differences in intrinsic ideological affinity, we should expect only chance variation from one world to another. That is not what we found. … a Democratic majority endorsed item 17 (on student character) in world 7, while Republicans were opposed. However, in four other worlds, the issue was supported by a Republican majority, while Democrats opposed… On 13 of 20 issues, the party more likely to agree in one world was more likely to disagree in another.‘ (ibid.)

AND the money figure!!!

‘In the influence condition, substantively unrelated issues became linked into party-specific profiles, much like the “culture wars” in our own world. For example, in world 3, partisan majorities took opposite sides on six issues: Republican majorities agreed and Democrats opposed the items on great books (15), obedience (19), and gas engines (20), while Democrats agreed and Republicans opposed items on robot lawyers (3), licensed jurors (7), and group loyalty (13).’

Meaning, these are important questions, and a big chunk of assholes are busy deciding their feelings based on what their cousin Jimbob read on the internet 😭!

‘Conformity was almost at chance among Democrats in the independence condition but not among Republicans, indicating greater intrinsic Republican ideological appeal/aversion. In the influence condition, Republicans remained more likely to conform than were Democrats, especially those with a strong party identity.’ —Macy et al. (ibid.)

Found the 20 questions in supplemental material AND THEY ARE FASCINATING:

10."Athletes should be allowed to use medical procedures to extend the length of their careers." .15

6."The storage of an individual's genetic information collected through bio-identification algorithms should be prohibited." .13

12."Public schools need to place greater emphasis on children’s physical fitness and health, even if it takes away time from academics. " .13

These are important!!!

‘The “” results were unexpected: Previously unfamiliar “Indie” songs that became highly popular in one “world” were, in some cases, among the least popular in another. If megahits like Star Wars or Harry Potter might have easily been flops, could opinion cascades also explain the emergence of partisan divisions that are nonetheless idiosyncratic?’

I love thinking about the class of megahits: Star Wars but also Islam, Harry Potter and also Shakespeare, certainly Beowulf, maybe hiphop?

And we all know where the techbros' alignment was decided—maybe we should color them orange 🍊.

( is unbearably long but very nice summary of red versus blue, and in a surprise twist at the end, versus gray/orange 🥕.)

But I love Macy et al.'s image, of ‘a highly susceptible general public … yet to acquire sufficient information to form independent opinions’—

A valuable trick is to revert to that state of susceptibility, where you suspend your ‘knowledge’ and reevaluate.

‘political elites (e.g., politicians, pundits, and party leaders) can act as game-changing early movers, especially on unfamiliar issues about which a highly susceptible general public has yet to acquire sufficient information to form independent opinions‘

This reminds me of something important: I know all the techbros are scoffing, all "dunno bout YOU but WE evaluate EACH proposition on its OWN merits, regardless of how the sheep feel". But techbros form their OWN tribe, 'gray' vs. red & blue.

‘Once opinions have become hardened and sharply divided, they acquire a mantle of inevitability.’ 👏😧!

It's often a very valuable exercise, questioning the inevitability of the apparently-inevitable. They continue more nerdily:

’However, models of opinion cascades suggest a radically alternative possibility: The partisan alignment of emergent controversies could be highly arbitrary and unpredictable, due to the sensitivity of path-dependent dynamics to chance events in the initial conditions.’

‘emergent positions adopted by Republicans and opposed by Democrats in one experimental “world” had the opposite outcome in other parallel worlds. The unpredictability suggests that what appear to be deep-rooted partisan divisions in our own world may have arisen through a tipping process that might just as easily have tipped the other way. Public awareness of this counter-intuitive possibility has the potential to encourage greater tolerance for opposing opinions.’

Macy et al., abstract


It's time to brag about my favorite work perk: the onsite no-bag gym.

No-bag meaning, they provide pants, shirts, socks, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair dryer, cotton swabs, hair ties, overnight lockers & day lockers.

I roll in carrying literally nothing (well… I carry some personal toiletries because turns out I'm super-vain but I COULD carry nothing), go hard, get fresh, and go back to work.

Their survey asked "if you didn't have a gym at work, would you exercise?" Answer: BIG FAT NO.

<break from our regular programming>

The nerds at Stack Overflow are picayuning about interesting/fun questions to ask on the 2020 annual developer survey:

and something that caught my eye: asks about commute methods and it's been upvoted five times AND downvoted five times. 🤔!

I'd like to see a list of tech that turned out to be vaporware but that devs think may deserve to be resurrected. But that's not very conducive to short mass surveys.

I’d like to spell out and underline the core assumption Macy’s work invites (haven’t read the paper itself yet, this is my pre-registered hypothesis 😝): that just as people find themselves strongly on one side of the divide over current non-issues, just lemming after a few influential early birds, currently-vitriolically-divisive issues (Sunstein mentions immigration, climate reform) were non-issues in the (recent) past and today’s alignment on them are entirely accidental, or at least post hoc.

It always dismayed me that evangelicals in America got hot about the non-biblical issues of gay marriage or abortion, since one can so easily imagine a parallel universe (simulated by Macy et al.!) where they were crusaders for criminal sentencing and correction reform (unjust imprisonment standards destroying so many more young people’s lives than abortion) or for gay rights (not judging).

So I am sure the 2.0 principle applies to religious proclivities too, not just political ones.

‼️—‘Across groups, Democrats and Republicans often flipped positions, depending on what the early voters did. On most of the 20 issues, Democrats supported a position in at least one group but rejected it in at least one other, and the same was true of Republicans … “Chance variation in a small number of early movers” can have major effects in tipping large populations — and in getting both Republicans and Democrats to embrace a cluster of views that actually have nothing to do with each other.’

O m f g!

Drop everything and read this overview by Cass Sunstein about what I’d like to call 2.0

They did MusicLab but instead of songs, they asked *lightly* political questions (“should companies be taxed where they’re headquartered”, “should bitcoin be banned” etc.). In the worlds where participants could see previous votes, Repubs vs Democrats flip flopped!

WOW 👏!! Via himself.

Eight page PDF, Macy et al.:

Totally want to go to ! But travel plans for next few years are set 😢!

Someone else go so I can vicariously live through you.

That bro on the subway wearing the suit, the gas mask, and the Beats cans.

Have I mentioned how MC 漢 (read “Kan”) and D.O basically make this Salu track? NSFW because he’s making fun of the stereotyped rap lifestyle with two scantily-clad young ladies, but listen to the two veterans rapping—Salu’s like a baby:

For more 漢, check this 🔥 track: (and his related names)

D.O is the ugliest mufucker on the scene and his voice is delicious: Spotify has a small set of gold e.g. (with 漢!)

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Octodon is a nice general purpose instance. more