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I’m selecting for surprising-if-true stories, but there’s only one way to get surprising-if-true stories that isn’t surprising, and given an entire Internet to choose from, many of the stories involved will be false. I can’t remember where I first saw this, so I can’t give credit, but somebody argued that the problem with non-replicable science isn’t just publication bias or p-hacking.It’s that some people will be sloppy, biased, or just stumble through bad luck upon a seemingly-good methodology that actually produces lots of false positives, and that almost all interesting results will come from these people.It’s only when you get a place like Reddit, which manages to feel like a community while also having a million readers a day, that you have to start thinking about these things.This suggests a more general principle: interesting things should usually be lies. I wrote in Toxoplasma of Rage about how even when people crusade against real evils, the particular stories they focus on tend to be false disproportionately often. Because the thousands of true stories all have some subtleties or complicating factors, whereas liars are free to make up things which exactly perfectly fit the narrative.
And it’s not just reincarnation and booklet-finding. If each of those annoying trolls posts one fake story to a thread like that for the lulz, that’s enough for ten really convincing stories per thread – which is really all there are, the other fifty or sixty are just the usual friend-of-a-friend-had-a-vague-feeling stuff.
” you laugh hysterically and tell me that nobody has even invented numbers that high. Reddit looks a lot like a normal forum or blog comment section, the sort of BBS I used to go on as a kid with twenty or thirty regulars who would dominate all the discussions.