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Ross
04-15-2009, 07:38 AM
The Herding Aspect of Global Warming

The fact remains that there is powerful evidence of herding at the social level on the global warming issue. Commentary on the subject is even selling theater tickets. And like all past social trends that were ending, there is a rush to extrapolate. The temperature data from which modelers at NASA derive their extrapolation are scant, the projection is extreme and their tone is strident. When any writers, including scientists, extrapolate 29 years’ worth of temperature data to predict an imminent apocalypse of Biblical proportions in an environment of waxing social focus, rising panic and calls for government obstruction, one must acknowledge the likelihood of social-psychological forces behind such a report and investigate whether the data support the prediction.

It’s fine to describe chemistry. It’s fine to offer a theory of atmospheric and temperature change. But there seems to be a degree of statistical selectivity behind this specific prediction from NASA.

Global warming advocates told me that doubting man-made global warming was akin to denying evolution, but the global warming movement has not a little taste of old-time religion in its accompanying admonition of humanity: Man is evil; he is destroying the earth; he is “fouling his own nest,” as one scientist on the web says. Scientists are usually good at their fields but not necessarily at recognizing their own political, moral and economic biases.

As I said, “My primary intent is to take a look at the question from the point of view of a social psychologist to decide whether it appears to be the result of hysteria.” One thoughtful scientist took issue with the term, “hysteria.” But the term applies here to social activity, not the overt behavior of any particular individual.

In 2005, when I was speaking about real estate hysteria and warning people against investing in property, people sporting a rather bemused expression would coolly respond, as if instructing an alien who lacked understanding of the way things worked on Earth, “They are not making any more land” and “it’s all about location.” They would say this with utmost calm. They had thought about it and sifted through the evidence. They were not hysterical but rational and thoughtful. At least, this was the appearance of behavior at the individual level. At the collective level, something else was going on. The number of people participating in the real estate market was unprecedented, and their borrowing, building and bidding activities, collectively, were extreme. Advocates of man-made global warming may appear sober as judges individually, but they are participating in a mass movement, complete with press releases, student rallies, pop concerts, movie documentaries and an underlying tone of moral crusade.

As one advocate for global warming admitted, the issue does become problematic when politics enters the picture. This is an understatement. Collective fears come and go, but public policy in response to them usually causes real horrors. Millions of people in the world are infected with malaria thanks to the DDT ban. The US starves for oil and emits more greenhouse gasses thanks to the ban on building nuclear plants, which could have powered a clean rail system.

Perhaps global warming is an exception to the overwhelming tendency of mass fears to prove unfounded. Perhaps NASA’s spectacular extrapolation of more than a 10 percent rise in temperature in the span of a single lifetime is accurate. But the advocates of government restrictions on productive activity had better be right, or they will once again have to answer for the “collateral damage” they will do with their proposals.

So, would I call man-made global warming a hoax, as a recent television program did? Definitely not; it has a strong scientific basis. Is the social environment with respect to the issue one of mass herding in an emotional state? It most definitely is. Should you believe predictions that climate change will usher in mass doom in coming decades? I don’t. I think the current frenzy over the subject is probably a symptom of peaking cycles in both climatic temperature and social psychology. But unfortunately 70 years from now most of us won’t be around to know the answer.

What I expect, based upon observing mass movements, is that this fear, too, will go away. Like the sweeping prison-yard spotlight that catches glimpses of external causes for stock-market behavior and then passes over them after a few years, crescendos of commentary on various foci of social fear almost always go away. Before my lifetime ends, global warming will probably fade as a focus of concern, and some new mass fear will be on the front page of USA Today. Nevertheless, I caution that only my views on the social aspects of the matter—not the meteorological aspects—are adequately informed.

* * *

http://www.elliottwave.com/features/default.aspx?cat=pmp*aid=3225*time=am

Ross
04-15-2009, 07:57 AM
Some notes on herding.

Causes and origins
The herd mentality seems to come from the primitive animal brain at a time when keeping inside the herd was a protection against predators, as well as attacking preys in packs gave more strength.

There is also some fear of retaliation or at least isolation when dissenting from the group

Another thing is that social learning, from the infancy onwards, is done by immitation.

The comfort and practicality of mental habits (herding can be not only in the behavior, but also in the way of thinking), a kind of mental laziness, might also interfere, with the following rationale:

"Why complicate our life by digging more information and weighing the pros and cons, with the risk of being wrong, while it is easier and more comfortable to do what the other people in the neighborhood do, and to think like them, as there must be a reason for their behavior and thoughts."

Some (real or dubious) advantages of acting in the wake of others (see below).

The effects ...and traps
Individual consequences
This social mimicry makes people abandon, consciously or not, some of their mental independence.
They become dependent and renounce to some of their freedom of thinking and of their free will.

There is some automaticity bias in that behavior, as in that case the group acts mentally and even physically as an autopilot for the individual.

Collective effects
In some cases this can lead to "crowd wisdom" But in many cases, such mimicry kills the real analysis that would come from a confrontation of information and ideas. Herding can explain:


* Social cohesion, as a positive effect,
* As another one, how innovations spread and help economic developement, and how new ideas disseminate and, if those ideas are fruitful, bring cultural advances.
* But also the persistence of common stereotypes, as well as the surge of new fads and crazes,
* Even clanish dogmas and extreme social beliefs
* And some excessive and irresponsible behaviors (crowd hysteria) with tragical effects, such as general gullibility, stampedes, demonizations and hates of "differences", lynching and wars.

dharma
04-15-2009, 09:18 PM
Collective fears come and go, but public policy in response to them usually causes real horrors. Millions of people in the world are infected with malaria thanks to the DDT ban. The US starves for oil and emits more greenhouse gasses thanks to the ban on building nuclear plants, which could have powered a clean rail system.
Good point, well put; fine article.

Unintended consequences will be with us always, but there tend to be more of them, and they tend to be worse, when the people who make "public policy" are as reality challenged as the current crop. Pity.

Fiddlerdave
04-15-2009, 09:56 PM
Good point, well put; fine article.

Unintended consequences will be with us always, but there tend to be more of them, and they tend to be worse, when the people who make "public policy" are as reality challenged as the current crop. Pity.:lol: "Reality challenged"? :lol:

What could be more "reality challenged" than someone who asserts "What I expect, based upon observing mass movements, is that this fear, too, will go away.". This guy is a fricking financial analyst who is trying to equate what the herd does with perceived fears in its response to wolves, or lack of grass or water, with the actual scientific reality of the event that drives the fear!

These financial people, salesmen, promoters, and con men forget that human faith, trust, perception, biases are all part of the equation that drives their world. The same is not true at all for the natural world (and as a engineering designer, I have had many a tiresome argument with their like as I try to to explain I cannot make a device that will do what the user INTENDS it to do, instead of what the user TELLS it to do, and that many design and manufacturing processes are the equivalent that 9 women cannot make a baby in one month even though one woman can make a baby in 9 months - they all think I am just making it up like they make up goals, policies, expectations! )

GW DOES NOT CARE if we like it or not. GW DOES NOT CARE if we fear it or do anything about it or not. It just IS, like any natural phenomonon. If it is AGW, then, in ADVANCE, we can take comparatively easy actions to minimize or avoid it. Once it hits runaway, then it is much tougher, and its looks like it will not go back in the box it came out of easily or quickly. We can be overcome by fear and panic, we can be frozen into denial by fear or self-interest (something our esteemed analyst skips in his work, despite the powerful effects of the enormous wealth being generated under the status quo for the interests that attempt to discredit the issue!)

This inability to understand physical reality is why he suffers from an enormous perceptual deficit in understanding the difference between a "fad" and an incipient reality.

While Prechter has his admirers, he has been criticised by media and pundits. For example, the Wall Street Journal ran a page one article in August 1993 with the headline, "Robert Prechter sees his 3600 on the Dow--But 6 years late," in reference to Prechter's 1987 forecast for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.[15] Technical analyst David Aronson wrote:

"The Elliott Wave Principle, as popularly practiced, is not a legitimate theory, but a story, and a compelling one that is eloquently told by Robert Prechter. The account is especially persuasive because EWP has the seemingly remarkable ability to fit any segment of market history down to its most minute fluctuations. I contend this is made possible by the method's loosely defined rules and the ability to postulate a large number of nested waves of varying magnitude. This gives the Elliott analyst the same freedom and flexibility that allowed pre-Copernican astronomers to explain all observed planet movements even though their underlying theory of an Earth-centered universe was wrong.[16]"

dharma
04-16-2009, 12:32 AM
:lol: "Reality challenged"? :lol:
Did I stutter?

What could be more "reality challenged" than someone who asserts "What I expect, based upon observing mass movements, is that this fear, too, will go away."?
Someone that doesn't understand that he is examining only one facet of the AGW fad?

The same is not true at all for the natural world (and as a engineering designer, I have had many a tiresome argument with their like as I try to to explain I cannot make a device that will do what the user INTENDS it to do, instead of what the user TELLS it to do
Indeed. The AGW modelers have learned that lesson poorly.

GW DOES NOT CARE if we fear it or do anything about it or not. It just IS, like any natural phenomenon. If it is AGW, then, in ADVANCE, we can take comparatively easy actions to minimize or avoid it.
Mmmmm, with respect, I wouldn't characterize those actions I've seen prescribed as "easy"; horrendously expensive, hideously difficult, and almost certainly unproductive would sum it up better for me. And that's if it's AGW.

Ross
04-16-2009, 07:16 AM
The following is an extract from New Scientist .


Interest in the idea of a herd mentality has been renewed by work into mirror neurons - cells that fire when we perform an action or watch someone perform a similar action. It suggests that our brains are geared to mimic our peers. "We are set up for 'auto-copy'," says Haidt.

Neurological evidence seems to back this idea. Vasily Klucharev, at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, found that the brain releases more of the reward chemical dopamine when we fall in line with the group consensus (Neuron, vol 61, p 140). His team asked 24 women to rate more than 200 women for attractiveness. If a participant discovered their ratings did not tally with that of the others, they tended to readjust their scores. When a woman realised her differing opinion, fMRI scans revealed that her brain generated what the team dubbed an "error signal". This has a conditioning effect, says Klucharev: it's how we learn to follow the crowd