Thursday, 22 November 2018

Born to do Math 97 - Cognitive Hierarchies and Cable Television

Born to do Math 97 - Cognitive Hierarchies and Cable Television
Scott Douglas Jacobsen & Rick Rosner
November 22, 2018

[Beginning of recorded material]

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is the idea of cognitive hierarchies as applied to ideas like television?

Rick Rosner: The new season for broadcast TV is on. It has blurred out with the new channels now since there are a gazillion channels. For ABC, NBC, CBS, they roll out some new shows in September. Carole and I have been checking out a couple of shows.

One of them is called Manifest. It is the list of passengers on a passenger jet. The concept of the show is a plane takes off and then lands 5.5 years later Now, all these mysteries unfold: why did this happen? Some people appear to have destinies and abilities.

It follows a dozen characters or so. What's interesting and also annoying is that since it is broadcast as opposed to cable, the characters are all pretty straightforward, they are all really easy to read. Any quirks that they might have may mean that it will likely be pertinent to plot twists at some point.

There is a certain lack of complicatedness and sophistication. It is an NBC show, I think. This calculation has been done by CBS for a long time, as it has the oldest demographics. Old people watch CBS.

They have a bunch of murder shows, genius shows, and so on. Every show is forensic detectives solving a murder. All the CSIs and NSIS, and Scorpion and half of a dozen others. What these shows have in common is clarity of execution for old people and people who do not want to think too hard, and also a little bit of flattery: "We will show you a show about geniuses. You will understand it. You will feel a little bit like a genius. Same with the mystery shows."

It seems similar to some of these other cables shows. They are making shows for people who are comfortable not thinking too hard. It seems like an overall cultural phenomenon in America. Fox News is predicated on enjoying it without thinking too hard.

The majority of their programming is bright and simple. It is based on the idea of making a shit ton of money by catering to people who don't want smart information or entertainment. So, you could argue that in America; there is a formation. Maybe, it has always been there.

But it is becoming more explicit: a stratification in thought styles. You could call this a cognitive hierarchy or cognitive layering, where there are plenty of resources for entertainment, for lifestyle, for people who are not comfortable being cognitively challenged.

There is clear and straightforward non-intellectually demanding information and entertainment. Not being challenged mentally. Those people who are at home with unsophisticated stuff, with a lack of ambiguity. 

With straightforward and clear plotting and no grey areas, and this works for people who are older in their 60s and beyond and may not have the mental flexibility, there is a hint of mentally challenged for some of that demographic, e.g., a chunk of old people - not everyone but it is a part of the experience of growing old for a lot of people.

I assume that you could set up a ladder of how demanding various forms of news and entertainment are, and then separate out three or four different layers of complexity. If you like stuff that is tricky and springs surprises on you and takes a long time to play out, it is different. 

Better Call Saul gets a lot of prestige and rave reviews from high falutin' quarters, so does the show  Black Mirror. These are shows that have a lot of ambiguity. Some stuff that takes many episodes to resolve if ever. The greatest unresolved show in history is The Sopranos and went to black.

Several years later, people are arguing about what it means when it cut to black. Does it mean Tony Soprano was assassinated or simply that it went to black to end the series? People have loved to argue about it for many years now.

Jacobsen: We talked before about the functionally illiterate population in America. There are 32 million American adults who are illiterate. 14% of the entire adult population cannot read.

Rosner: Functionally illiterate means, I assume, that you can get along in life. 1/3rd of the population just doesn't really read or may have difficulties with more than casual reading. I assume that's what you mean. That reading is not a large part. 

These people can read labels, traffic signs, and the headline on a news channel. They don't read books, newspapers, or magazines. Reading is simply not a big part of their life if at all.

Jacobsen: It is the impact of modern media on people's ability to consume information.

Rosner: Another 40% of that 1/3rd absolutely cannot read. They know enough words to go to the grocery store and can get what they need. They know what traffic signs mean. If given a slug of copy, they could not read it. If presented with a newspaper article and asked to read aloud, they would fail to read it.

Jacobsen: Given developmental psychology, you would find more boys and men in those categories. Girls and women speak and read earlier and maintain that advantage throughout life.

Carole Rosner: That's true. A study just came out about that...

Jacobsen: Go ahead, Carole.

Rick Rosner: Go ahead, Carole!

Carole Rosner: I just heard on standardized tests that girls perform so much higher in all those categories.

Jacobsen: That's right. It was about equal some time ago. But since that time, we have been seeing more disparities. It is not that the disparity is girls doing that much better. They are doing better. But the boys are doing much worse. They are declining. 

Rosner: It used to be that girls underperformed because they got the messages. There was a Barbie saying, "Math is hard." Maybe, now, girls are getting messages or are messaging themselves to work hard while guys are bros now who are working harder at the gym than anywhere else - or at the gym.

Jacobsen: Even there, they don't. If a draft, the majority of men would not meet the minimal standards.

Rosner: Men are lazy and undisciplined now. To bring this back to cognitive layering, there has probably been a population that has been functionally illiterate or comfortably dumb. But it is only in the last 40 years that dumb or the lazy have been mobilized and catered to. 

Fox News, "We are going to go after the dumbs and we are going t make them our own. We are going to lead them around and turn them into a force, a political force." We are dealing with the consequences of that now. 

It is the day before the Kavanaugh vote. If you follow the news, there is so much stuff about how Kavanaugh is the least popular nominee in history, how the National Council of Churches (covers 100,000 churches with 45,000,000 members) has come out against Kavanaugh, how John Paul Stevens - a retired Supreme Court Justice - has come out against him, how there is a list of 1,800 law professors who have come out against him, how there are 100 civil rights organizations. Nobody wants him demographically.

No one with this level of disapproval has ever gone through, but he will probably go through because has a strong Republican base who can live their lives without seeing this information; it will be about how Kavanaugh is this put upon and a wrongly accused guy; it is a brutalization against America, against liberty. 

They will be able to confirm him, the Republicans, because their base doesn't adequately consume news. 

Jacobsen: What about the conservative women in disagreement with him?

Rosner: I think there are enough of them still in play and sticking with the Republican side. Here is the deal: Kavanaugh is a terrible deal for the country because he is 53 and could easily be on the court for another 30 years. He is obviously biased.

He is being put on the court to do the dirty work for conservatives. The damage of Kavanaugh on the court will be decades. Him not getting on the court will lead to Democrats not winning the House, which would be its own disaster. It would be another 2 years of unbridled Trump and entirely Republican domination: Republican House, Republican Senate, Republican Supreme Court, and Republican President. 

It is a toss-up of Kavanaugh being confirmed and doing 30 years of damage versus Kavanaugh getting confirmed - and the thinking being born out via polls - and the Republicans going from moderately apathetic to being more active and then becoming more active. 

The thinking is that if Kavanaugh is elected then Republicans will be calming down. It is bad if Kavanaugh gets confirmed but it also might be bad if he doesn't get confirmed. At this point, I almost undecided at the outcome. 

I want him to not be confirmed and the Democrats to take the House. If either, I am undecided. But I am a guy. The harm to me with Kavanaugh would be less than for women.

Jacobsen: There are one risk and two follow-ups or silver linings with that particular line of reasoning. If he gets in, Roe v Wade will be part of the scrap heap of history, especially with the endorsement of people like Pence and all the people and organizations that are the undergirding of them.

Two other things come to mind. One is that more women are politically active now than at any other time in history. That's silver lining one. Two is that Trump or Republicans are at the lowest approval rating of women probably ever at 27% or lower.

So, it is a very tight cadre of women who would need to be very, very highly active, where we're talking 3-to-1 in terms of pushing weight to truly combat the centrist or even far-left-leaning sides. 

Rosner: Except if the Democrats don't take back the House, then the Republicans have another two years of owning the government, which, every day, is a fresh outrage. The EPA deals that have been going on that most people do not even realize had been going on, such as repealing safety ratings of radiation and environmental toxins. There is so much going on; that the Republicans are accomplishing not only all these objectives.

[End of recorded material]


Rick Rosner
American Television Writer

According to semi-reputable sources, Rick Rosner has the world’s second-highest IQ. He earned 12 years of college credit in less than a year and graduated with the equivalent of 8 majors. He has received 8 Writer’s Guild Award and Emmy nominations, and was named 2013 North American Genius of the Year by The World Genius Registry.

He has written for Remote Control, Crank Yankers, The Man Show, The Emmy Awards, The Grammy Awards, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He has also worked as a stripper, a bouncer, a roller-skating waiter, and a nude model. In a TV commercial, Domino’s Pizza named him the World’s Smartest Man. He was also named Best Bouncer in the Denver Area by Westwood Magazine.

He spent the disco era as an undercover high school student. 25 years as a bar bouncer, American fake ID-catcher, 25+ years as a stripper, and nude art model, and nearly 30 years as a writer for more than 2,500 hours of network television.  He lost on Jeopardy!, sued Who Wants to Be a Millionaire over a bad question, and lost the lawsuit. He spent 35+ years on a modified version of Big Bang Theory. Now, he mostly sits around tweeting in a towel. He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife and daughter.

You can send an email or a direct message via Twitter, or find him on LinkedIn, or see him on YouTube.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing

(Updated September 28, 2016)

He is a Moral Courage Webmaster and Outreach Specialist (Fall, 2016) at the UCI Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center), Interview Columnist for Conatus News, Writer and Executive Administrator for Trusted Clothes, Interview Columnist for Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), Chair of Social Media for the Almas Jiwani Foundation, Councillor for the Athabasca University Student Union, Member of the Learning Analytics Research Group, writer for The Voice MagazineYour Political Party of BCProBCMarijuana Party of CanadaFresh Start Recovery CentreHarvest House Ministries, and Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization, Editor and Proofreader for Alfred Yi Zhang Photography, Community Journalist/Blogger for Gordon Neighbourhood House, Member-at-Large, Member of the Outreach Committee, the Finance & Fundraising Committee, and the Special Projects & Political Advocacy Committee, and Writer for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Member of the Lifespan Cognition Psychology Lab and IMAGe Psychology Lab, Collaborator with Dr. Farhad Dastur in creation of the CriticalThinkingWiki, Board Member, and Foundation Volunteer Committee Member for the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation, and Independent Landscaper.

He was a Francisco Ayala Scholar at the UCI Ethics Center, Member of the Psychometric Society Graduate Student Committee, Special Advisor and Writer for ECOSOC at NWMUN, Writer for TransplantFirstAcademy and ProActive Path, Member of AT-CURA Psychology Lab, Contributor for a student policy review, Vice President of Outreach for the Almas Jiwani Foundation, worked with Manahel Thabet on numerous initiatives, Student Member of the Ad–Hoc Executive Compensation Review Committee for the Athabasca University Student Union, Volunteer and Writer for British Columbia Psychological Association, Community Member of the KPU Choir (even performed with them alongside the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), Delegate at Harvard World MUN, NWMUN, UBC MUN, and Long Beach Intercollegiate MUN, and Writer and Member of the Communications Committee for The PIPE UP Network.


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