Links and Comments: World maps; religions as movies; movie physics; flat-earthers; Trump and his followers; webs v walls; wrong about the future; negativity bias

Catching up.

Washington Post: Six maps that will make you rethink the world.

I’ve always been fascinated by these sort of ‘alternate history’ maps. Khanna is the author of the new book “Connectography: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization,” in which he argues that the arc of global history is undeniably bending toward integration. Instead of the boundaries that separate sovereign nations, the lines that we should put on our maps are the high-speed railways, broadband cables and shipping routes that connect us, he says. And instead of focusing on nation-states, we should focus on the dozens of mega-cities that house most of the world’s people and economic growth.


From a Facebook post by Adam-Troy Castro (where he links to someone else’s photo), about the world’s major religions:

Think of it like a movie. The Torah is the first one, and the New Testament is the sequel. Then the Qu’ran comes out and it retcons like the last one never happened. There’s still Jesus, but he’s not the main character anymore, and the Messiah hasn’t shown up yet.

Jews like the first movie, but ignore the sequels. Christians think you need to watch the first two, but the third movie doesn’t count, Muslims think the third one was the best, and Mormons liked the second one so much that they started writing fanfiction that doesn’t fit with ANY of the series canon.

It’s all fiction. Well, crude history, optimized to advantage whatever tribe is telling the story.

Retcon, of course, is an abbreviation for “Retroactive continuity”, in which TV or movie series establish


This is a ‘clickbait’ site, annoying for all the ads and pages you need to click through, but which has many valid points.

CAN’T HAPPEN: 33 Scientifically Implausible Things That Movies Still Want You To Believe

These examples partly illustrate ‘intuitive physics’ but also illustrate why almost all sf movies are nonsense –- they’re appealing to how we think the world works, not how it actually does.


This is revealing about how human nature and intuition works:

Meet the People Who Believe the Earth Is Flat

Their reasons are often personal insights that somehow override the rational understanding they might get from others. (I went up in a balloon and the horizon was still flat!) Some are religious. And commitments to vast conspiracy theories are pervasive.

“I want them to know that NASA and all the astronauts and all of NASA are liars,” Patrice said.

Because, you know, they perpetuate the fraud that the Earth isn’t flat.


Trump doesn’t read; neither, I suspect do many of his supporters, being relatively uneducated.

The New Yorker: The Donald Trump–Roger Ailes Nexus

Nevertheless, Trump, who admits that he reads almost nothing and gets his information from “the shows,” adopted Fox rhetoric, Fox fury, and Fox standards of truth and falsehood, all with a dollop of Trumpian nativist flair. The Republican Convention in Cleveland last week was like a four-day-long Fox-fest, full of fearmongering, demagoguery, xenophobia, third-rate show biz, pandering, and raw anger.

More: Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All.


A genuinely useful insight from Thomas L. Friedman, in New York Times: Web People vs. Wall People. It’s not about Democrats vs. Republicans; it’s about those who would build walls vs. those who understand the world is necessarily becoming more interconnected.

…the instinct of Web People is to embrace the change in the pace of change and focus on empowering more people to be able to compete and collaborate in a world without walls. In particular, Web People understand that in times of rapid change, open systems are always more flexible, resilient and propulsive; they offer the chance to feel and respond first to change. So Web People favor more trade expansion, along the lines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and more managed immigration that attracts the most energetic and smartest minds, and more vehicles for lifelong learning.

While the wall people, afraid of change, want to cower within their walls and shut out the outside world.


A review several weeks ago Chuck Klosterman’s BUT WHAT IF WE’RE WRONG?, by Jim Holt: The Good, the True, the Beautiful and Chuck Klosterman

I bought the book and have skimmed it, and while many details seem interesting, it’s point would be obvious to anyone who intellectual mindset has been honed by science fiction: *of course* much of what we presume will be true in the future, won’t. The reviewer’s summary:

1. We are not special. We are neither at the twilight of an era nor at the dawn of a new one.
2. The future will resemble the past.
3. Reality will always turn out to be bigger than we think it is.
4. Nine-tenths of everything is crap. (“Sturgeon’s law”)


Adam Lee On Human Negativity Bias.

Why are so many people, despite clear evidence of relative peace and well-being in the world – compared to any past era – so inclined to believe we’re on the brink of social and political collapse? Statistics show crime rates have decreased, as have poverty, child mortality, and illiteracy.

(I said before this is partly a common misunderstanding of how the news media works; if the world were entirely peaceful except for one traffic accident, that one accident would dominate the “news cycle” for days, and rabble-rousing politicians would demand investigations into the corrupt auto industry and accuse the current administration of gross negligence, if not conspiracy to bring down the nation, and a certain segment of the population would become greatly alarmed a convinced the end of times was upon us.)


The question, then, is why so few people realize this. Year after year, surveys show that most people believe, inaccurately, that crime is increasing. (The violent crime rate in the U.S. has plunged in the last several decades.) Even people who’ve personally lived through far more violent times often suffer from this illusion.

This is negativity bias, the human tendency to pay more attention to bad news than to good. It manifests in all kinds of ways, not just beliefs about crime rates: for instance, most people are far more sensitive to a potential loss than a larger potential gain. We overrate the odds of stock-market crashes and terrorist attacks.

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