Tuesday, June 18, 2024

see.pessism.com Revised

 I stopped doing my news comparison/analysis at https://see.pessimism.com. If I were to do it over, I'd definitely use the new LLM AI techniques. However, over the years in which my site chugged along, other sites have started doing similar work and have done a much more thorough job than I. The main page now just directs visitors to these better sites.

My goal with the project had been to demonstrate that some sites are more or less biased and, presumably, more trustworthy that others. In some sense, I succeeded (in an admittedly not incredibly scientific way, mostly just by paying attention). Where I failed, I think, is coming up with an absolute answer. 

The best I could do was note that the more mainstream sites are held to a higher standard because everyone is watching them. If the NY Times gets something wrong, conservatives demand, and sometimes get, corrections or even retractions. The sites that cater specifically to a specific demographic aren't held to similar standards of accuracy.

On a similar note, I find it amusing--OK, incredibly frustrating--that people claim not to trust mainstream news such as the NY Times but whenever the Times reports something that conservatives agree with, they are quick to quote the Times as a reliable authority, thus completely contradicting all their negative claims about trust.

The mainstream news outlets show their bias through omission, placement, and framing more than outright lying:

Omission: Simply not reporting something. It is sometimes hard to tell whether the omission is because it simply doesn't seem relevant, at least from that organization's point of view, or if they are actually sweeping something under the rug.

Placement: A lot of articles are actually fairly balanced if you read them to the end. But many of them start with the point that suits the authors or editors and only add the other side's point of view much later, after many people have probably stopped reading, feeling that their world view is once again confirmed.

Framing: This is when you use a headline or accompanying picture to guide the reader into thinking a certain way. Fox does this more obnoxiously than most with so many examples that I wouldn't know where to start. I remember during the Oliver North trials, the Washington Post seemed to take joy in capturing Oliver North in those in-between moments, when one's eyes are closed, or the mouth is askew.  As far as I know, the only pictures of North published in the Post showed him looking like an idiot. So everyone does it to varying degrees.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Pascal's Wager and Covid-19

 I can't be the first to have thought of this...

Pascal (yes, the Pascal) wasn't sure if he should believe in God or not. He pointed out that, if people were right about eternal damnation, then the consequence of not believing was hugely expensive but behaving as if there is a God is relatively easy. Based on that logic, such as it is, he decided it was best to believe. 

Wikipedia puts it this way:

Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if God does exist, he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell). From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_wager.

For those who doubt various data that the Covid-19 virus is dangerous, Pascal's Wager seems like a really good approach. The consequence of being wrong and behaving in a way that causes you to contract the disease can be severe. And, worse than Pascal's dilemma, if you are wrong, you are also likely to hurt those closest to you. On the other hand, the cost of wearing a mask is pretty cheap. 

I just checked and I'm not the first to have thought of this parallel. Here is a longer version of what I'm saying but perhaps more clear as a result of the extra words:


Saturday, October 31, 2020

 My newest (and only!) analytical page is very much an experiment in progress: 


I thought I had figured out that more left- or right-leaning news sites tended to have higher "emotional" scores. When the "see" page was only tracking the Washington Post, Fox, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, the scores on the graph pretty much reflected those expectations. Now that I've included 4 more sites, the scores no longer match my expectations. Time for a new theory, maybe. Or maybe humans are just not as easy to pigeon-hole as we'd like to think. Anyway, I plan to keep working on it. My goal is to automate the analysis of sites against various interesting measures, and automate in such a way that human bias is hard to inject into the process. (And I said "hard," not impossible. Bias is extremely hard to avoid completely.)

Monday, August 24, 2020

Overshoot Day

 Happy Belated Overshoot Day!

 Overshoot Day is a concept that illustrates how humans are using more resources than can be sustained. According to the Overshooters calculations, we'd need about 1.5 Earths to remain sustainable. There are criticisms of the methods of calculation but I think the illustrative value of the concept is undeniable. And sufficiently depressing to be included here. :) 

These are some good links that discuss it:



Friday, August 14, 2020

Voting with your feet

We are all tiny dots contributing to one huge mass.

As the population of the world gets larger, our individual actions have an ever-smaller impact on the sum of our behavior. Our personal decisions such as whether to recycle trash or cut electricity usage become a smaller percentage of the problem--or the solution. But as population increases and resources are stressed, those tiny, incremental actions of each of us becomes ever more important. Our footprints become more and more microscopic on the global scale and yet all those tiny footprints add up to a larger and larger global impact. Individual significance decreases as our global significance increases. Odd.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Two different worlds

I've recently been engaged in a political conversation with my brother-in-law. We are on different sides of the political spectrum. While trying to understand how we could have such different world-views, I put together a web site that helps me keep an eye on the headlines from two conservative-leaning papers and two that are, from a conservative viewpoint, left-leaning. Check out https://see.pessimism.com. It isn't officially in production yet and maybe never will be. But I find it interesting and useful.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

from an interactive display at ArtecHouse in DC       
Somewhere on the Outer Banks, NC, near the Pea Island bird sanctuary, I think

This post was updated in 2020 so you can't really trust the blogger Post date of 2018. Good to know when getting one's info from a blog posting.