On Doing Your Own Research | The Weekly Sift – Doug Muder talks about how experts can be wrong, but doing your own research can be even worse, depending on your own knowledge base. In agreement with Doug, I think having a PhD certainly helps, because you understand what it’s like to understand something that only a few people in the world understand, and you also understand the kind of biases and mistakes experts make. But what strategy could I recommend to most people who don’t have PhDs? Are you just epistemically SOL?
I know what scientists are like, and that makes scientific conspiracy theories extremely unbelievable to me. On the other hand, scientific frauds, persistent errors, and plain miscommunications are far more believable. I’m reminded of an article in Wired that traced the 6-feet rule about COVID to old irrelevant arguments about the transmission of measles. I can’t vouch that this story is 100% accurate, but it’s very true to my understanding of scientist behavior. While the scientific ideal is to update your theories with the evidence, in practice scientists are financially incentivized to expound upon the value of their previously published work, even if that means perpetuating error. And this causes a whole bunch of problems, most of which are far too mundane to ever make it into the news.
How Teens Around the World are “Catching” Tourettes | Skepchick (video & transcript, 12 min) – Rebecca Watson talks about a sociogenic illness, where people (mostly kids) think they have a condition that they’ve seen on YouTube or TikTok–but then they cease to have the condition when an expert verifies they don’t have it. This is a sensitive issue because I know plenty of people with disabilities who have talked about inappropriate gatekeeping, where people apply their prejudices about what disability looks like to decide that people must be lying or faking. I think Watson models a good approach here: Yes, many of these people do not really have Tourettes, but no, you and I cannot tell the difference. And these people aren’t liars or fakers–sociogenic illness is often caused by stress.
Investigation: How Roblox Is Exploiting Young Game Developers | People Make Games (video, 23 min) – I knew that Roblox was some sort of platform for people to make and share games, but I assumed it was just like Mario Maker, where people just use it for creative expression, as well as an endless source of pathological levels. I’m sure a lot of people use it that way, but Roblox marketing is very focused on the money you could make (even though you most certainly cannot), to the extent that it becomes a multi-level marketing scheme. And this is apparently very popular among kids?