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The Political Turing Test
a simplified version
Many, perhaps most, people with opinions on some controversial issue believe that their views are based on evidence and reason in contrast to the views of those who disagree with them. One way of testing that belief is to try to argue the other side. If you cannot do it about as well as an intelligent supporter of that side you probably don’t know enough to justify your confidence in your beliefs. This approach is sometimes described as a political Turing test in analogy to Alan Turing’s suggestion that one could identify a true human level AI by a human’s inability, in a free conversation, to distinguish between the AI and another human.
Setting up such an experiment might be difficult, so I have come up with a simplified version: Can you list the facts or arguments that support the other side? If you don’t know what the arguments are you don’t know if they are wrong.
Climate Change (for someone who considers it a serious problem):
What are the major positive effects of climate change?
Minimum Wage Laws (for someone who supports them): What are the main negative effects of having a minimum wage law or increasing the level?
Gun Control (for a supporter): What are the main positive effects of widespread gun ownership?
Regulation of Transport (for a supporter): What are or were the negative consequences of regulation of airlines, trucks and rail?
Tariffs (for a supporter): What are the main negative effects of a tariff?
Affirmative Action (for a supporter): What are the main negative effects of affirmative action in academic admissions?
Readers familiar with my writing will suspect that this is not a random list; for each of these issues one could write a similar question on the other side. All of these are directed at supporters of positions I disagree with — for two reasons:
1. Someone who supports a position is more likely to know arguments for it than someone who opposes it, especially arguments opponents are likely to miss, so better able to write a suitable question directed at the other side.
2. After taking the test you can grade yourself by seeing if someone on the other side can point out substantial things you are missing. Since I am a critic of climate orthodoxy, minimum wage laws, gun control, transport regulation, tariffs and affirmative action, I can list arguments I suspect those on the other side of those issues are likely to miss.
And plan to in my next post.
Readers, especially readers whose views are the opposite of mine or who are interested in different issues, are invited to submit their own questions in the comments.