Following up on the last post, there seems to be an abundance of poor arguments on the internet. Here is my theory as to why.
Earlier this year, I discussed a new paper on the evolutionary function of reasoning. The paper states that most people have poor individual reasoning skills and, on their own, produce biased arguments. The magic happens when people argue within a group and expose the weaker arguments. Thus, the experiments show that when at least some members of the group have the correct argument, they can convince others and that usually “truth wins”.
So why isn’t this happening on the internet, why isn’t “truth winning”? My theory is that people are dropping bad arguments, and then simply exiting the discussion. They might read an article, post their (biased) opinions in a comment, and then never come back. Or maybe they might come back at a later date after they have solidified their biased opinion.
In other words, if people don’t discuss things or engage in dialogue, then there is no mechanism to root out the bad arguments. You can’t convince someone if they’re not there.
Notice how this plays out differently online versus in a real conversation. Very rarely in a face-to-face conversation is someone going to make their argument, and then just leave the conversation without hearing others’ points of view. Why would anyone want to talk with such a person? Conversations, by their nature, are two-way streets.
Given the setup of the internet, I don’t see an easy solution to this. It’s not like you can force people to discuss things. Given this, I think the quality of arguments on the internet will only get worse over time.