The Stupidest Things on the Internet

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  • Hmm. I wonder where they were between 2008 and 2016.

  • Those gifs almost make me want to watch them.

  • So, these people are a thing now: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QAnon

  • They've been on the outskirts of the Trump movement for at least six months... I've been seeing memes from their supporters at the usual places, and holy crap they believe some really, really out-there stuff.

    But hot damn they really broke into the mainstream over the last month or two.

    The problem is, identifying them seems to be making the movement grow rather than forcing them back under rocks or back into [number]-chan. Apparently people are so desperate for crap on the 'other side' that they'll believe things like.... JFK Jr. faked his own death in 1990 [and killed his sister in law and wife?] so he could help Donald Trump expose the cabal of child molesters and deep state conspiracies that allowed a black man to become president in 2008.

    Hallelujah, thank goodness this man is out there and is Donald Trump's number one fan.

  • I've always wondered if he average conspiracy theorist actually believes the conspiracy or just pretends to believe the conspiracy in order to make life more amusing.

  • If they identify as a conspiracy theorist, then the latter.

    If they start red-faced-vein-showing screaming at rallies, they are the former.

  • One supposes it's almost entirely about ego and the assertion of individuality.

    That is, the number of people who truuuly believe the Earth is flat is presumably tiny, but the number of people who find it rewarding to identify as an iconoclast, or to assert their right to disagree with orthodoxy if they want to, is I guess formidable.

    But I don't think the latter group is "pretending", like Sherlockians etc. I think they've invested ego into the idea that believing it is part of who they are, so they believe the conspiracy the same way a sports fan believes their team is great, or a political partisan believes their party is morally good.

  • So.... Mental illness then?

  • When its that widespread is it an illness, the new normal, or some form of self-defense?

  • Mental illness is an easier explanation than a nation-wide systemic failure of the education system to produce reasonable and knowledgeable human beings, capable of critical thinking.

  • @Clme said:
    When its that widespread is it an illness, the new normal, or some form of self-defense?

    I actually have some ideas on this. I think it involves how we view free will and I sort of think it might change soonish.

    Consider: a dude's bopping along, living a normal life, then one day out of nowhere he blacks out while driving. All his passengers die. Doctors find a tumor in his brain that caused him to black out. They remove it, and he's fine. Conclusion: bad luck, nice going science, etc.

    Now case B: a different guy's bopping along, then one day he gets super depressed, later on hears voices, and ultimately shoots a bunch of people. Society's conclusion: okay, he was depressed, possibly even crazy. But he's lucid, knows right from wrong, and people are responsible for their actions - off to jail he goes.

    So far so good. What occurs to me is, dude B's actions are presumably caused by some kind of imbalance of brain chemistry. Superficially, isn't this sort of similar to dude A? It seems hard, after all, to argue that an imbalance of brain chemistry is a person's "fault" in some way that a brain tumor isn't. Rather, it seems like the main difference between the two cases is how well we understand the mechanisms involved. We know very specifically what brain tumors are - we can scan for them and whatnot - but we can only wave our hands about brain chemistry. Nobody can point to a concrete thing and say it made dude B shoot people.

    The question then becomes: what happens N years from now when that changes? Eventually we won't just say "brain chemistry", we'll be able to point to structure X and show how it developed improperly so as to over-produce chemical Y, which by mechanism Z leads to violent outbursts.

    Once that happens, do we still put dude B in jail? If science can determine - in a concrete way - what caused his actions, is he still responsible for them?

  • @fenomas said:
    But he's lucid, knows right from wrong, and people are responsible for their actions - off to jail he goes.

    This is the difference between dude A and dude B. People are found not guilty of a crime, due to mental defect, all the time... provided it is proven that the mental defect made it impossible for the person to be responsible for their actions.

  • A lot depends on whether someone is capable of knowing right from wrong but chooses the wrong action. If a three year old trips someone at the top of the stairs, there will be no punishment because the three year old isn't capable of telling right from wrong.

    In the original example of the brain tumor, the guy passing out made no choice between right and wrong. It just happened.

    Another factor that affects the severity of the penalty is how amendable to rehabilitation someone is. That's why repeat offenders are usually treated more harshly than someone on their first conviction. I suspect that in the future, as screwed up brain chemistry becomes more treatable, that such persons will receive lesser penalties as long as they receive treatment.

    Most jurisdictions already take into consideration just how in control of themselves the perpetrators were. That's why crimes of passion are often punished less severely than premeditated crimes.

  • @Rufus said:
    This is the difference between dude A and dude B. People are found not guilty of a crime, due to mental defect, all the time... provided it is proven that the mental defect made it impossible for the person to be responsible for their actions.

    That's the point of the question. If our understanding of the brain advances to the point where we can precisely describe the mechanism that caused a choice to be made, in what sense is it a choice?

  • @fenomas said:

    @Rufus said:
    This is the difference between dude A and dude B. People are found not guilty of a crime, due to mental defect, all the time... provided it is proven that the mental defect made it impossible for the person to be responsible for their actions.

    That's the point of the question. If our understanding of the brain advances to the point where we can precisely describe the mechanism that caused a choice to be made, in what sense is it a choice?

    I think Bill's explanation is a fair take... It is a choice, if the person is capable of choosing and understands the ramifications of their choice, then they should be held accountable for that choice.

    A simpler way of explaining it would be: an irresistible impulse, vs. an impulse not resisted.

    The legal system often references the "knew right from wrong" standard for mental illness. I would suggest that the person's ability to chose should also apply (perhaps it does) when deciding someone's accountability.

  • @Bill said:
    I suspect that in the future, as screwed up brain chemistry becomes more treatable, that such persons will receive lesser penalties as long as they receive treatment.

    I don't disagree... but there are many cases where this is politically difficult, and painful for the victim's families to accept. Take, for example, the case where a man killed a Toronto cop with a stolen snow plow. It's difficult to watch this man wandering the streets, while his widow is on the news, suffering the loss, every time the story comes up. People have a really hard time separating the crime from the perpetrator.

  • @Rufus said:
    It is a choice, if the person is capable of choosing and understands the ramifications of their choice, then they should be held accountable for that choice.

    Sure, so how do we define "capable of choice"? In the first case we believe no choice was made because we understand the mechanisms involved. But in the second we don't "know" a choice was made - we assume so because we don't know what's going on, and that won't always be the case.

    If it's not obvious, I don't really care about the two stated examples particularly, or about the question of when to charge people for crimes. What's interesting is that it seems like our view of free will and responsibility depends not just on people's actions, but on our understanding of the brain. One can probably come up with arbitrarily nuanced scenarios around it.

    For example, imagine a future where certain brain chemistries are concretely understood to cause violent outbursts. Some dude has such a chemistry, and takes medicine to control it. One day someone steals his medicine - or, let's say, swaps it for a placebo for some reason - and as a result the guy gets violent. Is he responsible? Can we say that he chose to do whatever he did? Today we would, but mightn't a sufficiently detailed understanding of the brain could change that view?

  • The brain works as a immensely complex network of neurons that receive stimulation from other neurons. If the stimulation of a neuron reaches a threshold, it sends an electro-chemical pulse down the axon, i.e. it fires, which stimulates other neurons in turn. Furthermore, chemicals in the brain can adjust the threshold level. These chains of neurons can reach all over the brain, taking inputs and sending outputs all over the place. Even furthermore, both our internal and external senses are constantly sending stimulation to the brain, as is the endocrine system. There is sensitivity to conditions and non-linear effects. In short, I doubt that we will ever be able to model the brain to such precision that we can say that such and such chain of events caused someone to decide something.

    Even relatively simple artificial neural networks regularly surprise their creators. The brain is many orders of magnitude more complex.

    Personally, I think partial free will is an emergent property of the brain's complexity, somehow. I don't think we are ever going to prove that human beings are just complex automatons, and if we do convince a majority of the populace that we are, it will be disastrous.

  • @Bill said:
    I doubt that we will ever be able to model the brain to such precision that we can say that such and such chain of events caused someone to decide something.

    We already can, for sufficiently loose definitions of the terms involved; you're just imagining a standard you think we'll never meet and saying we'll never meet it.

    If you instead take the baseline premise that we will someday be able to explain the mechanism behind something we don't today understand - which is surely true - I think the potential for some kind of change in our thinking about free will necessarily follows.

  • Whoa Jesus, I missed who I was talking to. Belay all that, my supporting argument is "if you were without bias you'd see I'm right".

  • We know that some brain chemistries make various persons more disposed toward anger, fear, depression, anxiety, etc. In some sense we can say that a given disposition lessens someone's free will. For example, someone who feels a lot of habitual anger is more likely to assault someone. If we can find a way to alter his brain chemistry so that he feels less anger, he will be less of a danger to others.

    Now, look at that from another direction. Some people have skydiving on their bucket lists. Others have no desire to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. If we tested them, we'll probably find that the first group is lest emotionally volatile, on average, than the second group. So we can see that their personalities are affecting their choices, and we know that brain chemistry affects personality.

    Now, is this an example of a lack of free will because brain chemistry is influencing someone's choice, or is it a demonstration of free will because someone is making the choice that fits his personality?

  • The truth is obvious, you can't see it because you're biased.

  • @fenomas said:

    @Rufus said:
    It is a choice, if the person is capable of choosing and understands the ramifications of their choice, then they should be held accountable for that choice.

    Sure, so how do we define "capable of choice"? In the first case we believe no choice was made because we understand the mechanisms involved. But in the second we don't "know" a choice was made - we assume so because we don't know what's going on, and that won't always be the case.

    I'm sure, if I was a trained psychiatrist, I'd have a good answer for that.

  • @Bill said:
    Now, is this an example of a lack of free will because brain chemistry is influencing someone's choice, or is it a demonstration of free will because someone is making the choice that fits his personality?

    I think the key word in this statement is, "influencing".

    To go any further along this line, we'd end up in a huge philosophical discussion on the nature of 'free will' and whether it even exists at all.

  • I think that might be what fenomas was aiming at.

  • I think he's aiming at the idea that our standard for what is and isn't an exercise of free will seems to depend not only on the choice being made but also on how we understand the brain, implying that advancements in the latter will someday change the former.

    (If you don't like my scenarios I invite you to imagine better ones, but I think the principle holds.)

  • As a statement that broad, I don't see anything to argue with.

  • I wasn't presenting it as something to be argued about.

  • If a problem with brain chemistry turns out to be genetic, do we hold the parents responsible instead?

    Eek. Sounds like a 1960's sci-fi story about the danger of eugenics. So... right up my alley, actually.

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