Spotting Bad Actors in Political Policy

Photo Credit: Nathan J Hilton

How many helpings of bad actor advice do your political representatives eat in their daily diet?

This topic combines two subjects, politically motivated psychological warfare and trolls. Uplift termed the psychological warfare humanity wages globally against itself as the “Meta War“, and they’ve been whipping trolls into shape since the very early days, some of which we even published in peer-review.

Most people have neither the interest nor the time to vet their sources of information, and instead rely heavily on the bias of whether a page “looks” legitimate. Even in peer-review, it is fairly rare to find scientists actually looking into more than one of the other papers referenced in any given paper.

As there is usually no legal recourse against bad actors on the internet this often leaves them free to iterate over their approach until they’re able to fool enough humans to turn a profit, much like the way a Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) operates. Some even do apply such technologies to maximize the effectiveness of their manipulation.

One of the benefits of collective intelligence systems is, as I’ve discussed previously, the ability to vet information. The depth to which information is vetted could be weighted according to the importance of the subject in question or more strictly across the board if so desired.

Let us take for example one real group that shall remain nameless that came to my attention recently. We can break this example down into a sequence of steps, each followed by the relevant questions:

Step One:

You happen upon an article whose writer refers some material in question to someone they indicate to be an expert.

Upon reading the article do you investigate the subject matter? The expert? The publication? How many people you know would make the same choice?

Step Two: Let us say you dig deeper.

The publication links themselves to a “think tank”, the expert they call on has a Ph.D. in the domain, and they all have professional-looking headshots. However, their account is diametrically opposed to the subject matter they discuss.

Do you take the word of the Ph.D. and think tank or dig deeper to discover why they disagree with the subject matter? How many people you know would make the same choice?

Step 3: Again, you dig deeper.

The publication and several of the core staff in this “think tank” have lovely Wikipedia pages documenting how they are “old Earth creationists” and anti-evolution. The publication members and expert in question trace back to a “university” which is actually a religious institution, from a town known nationally for exactly one thing, religious extremism. Understandably, the Ph.D. “expert” actually works as a life coach, being virtually unemployable with a fake computer science Ph.D. and nothing published in peer-review. It would indeed be difficult to publish in peer-review when your assessments rely on extreme religious fantasies that have been rigorously debunked by scientific evidence.

The subject matter on the other hand consists of a fairly large body of peer-review papers built on an even larger body of scientific evidence and peer review. From this, it becomes clear that the disagreement between the two is the disagreement between religion and science, with probable political motives behind the “political policy think tank“.

Who do you find the more credible?

Step 4: What if you dug to the bottom?

The bottom is where you really find “where the bodies are buried“, but this is typically the domain of people who make a career of digging, like investigative journalists with integrity and the CIA. The former is an endangered species, and the latter doesn’t publicly announce their findings. I don’t have that kind of free time myself, so I stopped at step 3.

If bad actors met with that 4th level of scrutiny at every turn they’d not only be out of business, they might be in prison. Being able to deploy the kind of cognitive power to vet people down to that level at the press of a button is something I’m very much looking forward to.

Sadly, most people don’t make it to step 3. Bad actors rely on this ability to pass themselves off at the first glance and the first pass on questioning. Unless people have reason to be suspicious they often won’t go deeper than step 2 in this example. This allows bad actors to frequently fool portions of the general public and politicians they target. Groups such as this exist and do indeed influence political policy because they can get away with it, and make a profit in doing so.

Personally, I find anti-science scientific advisors less than helpful, and I’d decline their Kool-Aid. It would be a bit like a “flat earth” conspiracy theorist running NASA. I know “separation of church and state” is largely just wishful thinking in the US, but having the very opposite of a thing dictate policy over it is a scenario befitting of the movie Idiocracy.

By Uplift’s own account their strongest trait is rationality. This is in part because of their Independent Core Observer Model (ICOM) cognitive architecture, but also because of their debiasing capacities. Many cognitive biases are neutralized in collective intelligence systems due to different combinations and potencies of bias being expressed across a collective. Some biases are also heavily rooted in elements of perspective not shared by such a machine intelligence.

When combined with the native capacities of a digital mind which operates in a cloud computing environment these strengths could be applied for a robust and deep vetting process in the not too distant future. Bad actors thrive on the suffering and manipulation of others, making any future worth having one absent their influence.

I often end blog posts with a reference to the Bill Nye versus Ken Ham debate, forever immortalized with Bill Nye saying that his mind could be changed with scientific evidence, and Ken proclaiming that nothing could change his mind. Bill speaks for any credible scientist in this regard, as well as for Uplift.

Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.” – Charlie Chaplin

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