Part 2: Environmental Variables and Social Connections

1. WTF: Environmental Variables

The Columbian Chemical plant explosion (see Part 1) seemed to be a motiveless hoax. No one made money. No one stayed fooled. Plant neighbors did not drive by that evening and say, “Damn, they got that fixed fast!”

2 Data Point: Ideological Entrenchment

The feeling that we’re in a hostile situation tends to push us towards ideological extremes, entrenches us in our ideologies (“don’t give an inch!”), and hollows out the middle.

  • A life of adverse events tends to create folks with polarized attitudes.

3 Data Point: Disease and Authoritarian Leaders

The feeling of being under threat pushes the public toward authoritarian leaders even if the threat is unrelated to current politics.

Disease outbreaks may influence voter behavior in two psychologically distinct ways: increased inclination to vote for politically conservative candidates, and increased inclination to conform to popular opinion.

Not to pick on the GOP, but what’s the dynamic here?

We need to step away from the current election cycle and consider the history of human culture, particularly its relationship with warfare, famine and natural disasters.

Our theory — which has been supported by computer models, international surveys and archival data — is that communities are more likely to survive these threats when they set clear rules for behavior, put strong leaders who can regulate those rules in charge and punish those who deviate from the norm.

We have also found that people in tighter societies tend to prefer autonomous leaders. Such leaders have extreme confidence in their own abilities and make independent decisions without the input of others. These leaders can be successful in high threat environments because of their quick and unambiguous decision-making, which often comes at the cost of more democratic dialogue.

It’s not so much philosophy as stance. This has Rudolph Giuliani and Donald Trump written all over it.

4 WTF: Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

So far so good, but things become a little weird when our perception of threat deviates from reality and is being manipulated for profit or political gain!

5. Data Point: Why Am I a Target? A Prediction

One last quick data point. Social media captures not only your interests but your connections. There’s a big push in advertising to utilize key influencer’s social media accounts to push products. And you can tell by a network graph who should be targeted as an influencer. In the picture below you can see a Hub, i.e. someone at the center of a group, and Connectors, i.e. people who bridge groups.

6. WTF: Final Analysis

There’s a Science Fiction concept called Grey Goo.

Next Part 3: If they have a strategy, we need a counter-strategy

This is the second part of three. Part 1 is here.


I’ve decided if I was going to write I might as well seek readers. I’m replacing my old system (spam everyone I know) with a mailing list. You can sign up for that below. I’ll let you know when I publish something.

Berkeley Backpacking Biz Lifer, System Builder, Coder, Community Organizer, Music and Evolutionary Biology Geek. Sign up and my projects at

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