Thoughts on Stephen Pinker's Freedom of Speech Speech


Steven Pinker gave a speech last week at ASU titled "Why Free Speech Is Fundamental"
Here's my notes and thoughts in blue. 

Wrote a chapter on swearing and taboo language.
It's no coincidence that A1 is A1.
It's also no coincidence that A2 is A2 either! or 3, 4, 5 etc...
Originally the first two were about how congressmen are paid. haha
Is free speech fundamental? I'll argue yes.

Stupidity is not stupidity, it's politicization.
As soon as something becomes a moral issue, people's critical thinking turns off. 
It's beyond me how people keep convincing themselves that some policies and politicians are "stupid." It's their job. It's what they do. The big ones have teams of scientists working for them calculating several moves into the future. Another elephant in the room is the epidemic of psychopaths who just unashamedly lie lie lie.


Free speech is fundamental because it's the right to exchange and evaluate ideas. Do not want "free speech for me and not for thee."

Free speech is fundamental to acquire knowledge about the world.
As opposed to faith, revelation, dogma, subjective certainty....
Conjecture, theory, testing, and allowing the world to refute us is what leads to new knowledge.
Yes, it's called the scientific method.

Speaker provides several examples about totalitarianism and dictatorships.
Defines common knowledge as the knowledge that everyone else shares their knowledge, which is necessary to coordinate activities. i.e. resist the dictator. E.g. story of emperor's new clothes.
Indeed. POTUS Trump's win is the common knowledge that half the country finds SJW rhetoric more vulgar and offensive than Carlin's classic 7 deadly words you can't say on television. I would much rather hear "locker room talk," than the words mansplain or microagression.

Humor is no laughing matter. It's terrifying to autocrats, and necessary for democracy.
A lot of University leaders can't explain the mission.

See "Excellent sheep" -- a scathing review of elite universities

Acquiring a self.
Harvard students had to take a kindness pledge.
I say, students' souls are none of our business.

Educated people should be able to:
  • Express clear ideas in writing.
Reason logically and statistically.
  • Avoid logical fallacies.
  • Distinguish causation from correlation.
  • Appreciate that people who disagree with them are not necessarily stupid or evil.
Indeed. This is a general requirement for admittance into any reputable Business school or Law Schools. I've written about this before about how the GRE is a garbage aptitude test. Basically good for funneling "excellent sheep" to work for the business/sales people and lawyers. Whereas, the GMAT actually measures all the skills he just listed. Coincidentally I keep hearing the mantra, "you get what you measure." So, how about the system architects make a tiny tweak in the system? There's you're solution if you're reading. It's right there.

Universities should not seek to protect students from discomfort or micro-aggressions.
Nor support political agendas.

Exceptions must be individually handled.

A right to express opinion is not guaranteed in a medium though.

e.g. hiring professors or choosing speakers who are provocateurs.

But then again, advancing unorthodox opinions is different.
Our speaker admittedly contradicts himself here, and says he doesn't know what he really thinks about this.

Some people don't think they're drastically changing the university for the worst.

Major ideas may never see the light of day, because they'll be shut down.

E.g. crime, gender relations, inequality. Ideas can't be said, but we've got the internet.

E.g. Alt-right believes that there are things that you can't say. Termed red pill.
A majority of Republicans think higher ed is a net negative on America.
Wow! Let that opinion settle in!

Q: It's a mistake to be citing legal precedent about freedom of speech on a University campus because it's a different community?

A: ...
I didn't clearly hear the response, but the wording of this question is problematic.

Q: Feeling of students and faculty and staff of being part of a community that is safe. So there's an emotional basis that there's an argument to limit certain kinds of discourse for higher inquiry

A: I think that's nonsense. E.g. standards of style of discourse. i.e. rules of debate. But not true beliefs. e.g. if talking about skin color, wars, sexuality offends you, well, too bad. Can't hinge on content.
Amen. Safe from what!? Are people seriously that sheltered that they can't tell the difference between getting punched, shot, and hearing words they don't like? Many would argue, yes. People have become so dysfunctional that they can't (or chose not to) tell the difference between words and physical violence. This is why we're having this conversation to begin with, because of SJW domestic terrorist organizations. Where "safe" really just means insulated from libertarian thinking.

Q: A1 is also freedom of religion, because we think these are natural rights.

A: Separation of church and state. Laws against blasphemy.
It was not long ago that disagreeing with any Democrat party rhetoric was tantamount to blasphemy on a University campus.

Audience Q&A


Q: To what extent do MSM profit and ratings have a negative effect on freedom of speech and what might you do to combat that?

A: Universities are restrictive squelchers of speech. There has been a corporatization of Universities. A culture of comfort at the expense of free speech.
Indeed, and Universities have lost a lot of credibility as a result of it.

Q: Free speech is polarized? How can we un-entrench it? How do we walk the dog back?

A: Has to be part of a broader de-politicization. Campuses have moved further to the left. Should not be a mouth piece for the left.

Q: Do you support cutting funding for universities that don't support freedom of speech

A: Better would be to single out issues.
Indeed. Please stop banning everything because a few people abused the system.

Q: Opinion of Jordan Peterson, and when he brings religion into the conversation?

A: …

Q: Social media, recommendations for Google searches or FB thought police?

A: The social media companies are fumbling towards a defensible policy that will not compromise their platforms for freedom of speech. e.g. echo chambers, manipulation… the platforms are so new we don't know well what they are.
How about, stop using social media in HR decisions, unless that person has explicit guidelines for social media use in their job description? How about giving every social media user a dashboard with their "metrics" so that they know what their "score" is that HR is judging them on? I just saw a presentation last week from a guest speaker at ASU about how her research uses some kind of analysis (that she wasn't able to explain, and ironically has not responded to my follow-up email about) to score "trustworthiness" and 6 other attributes from written content. Yeah, you're going to have to explain that one.

Q: Free speech restrictions in EU working okay?

A: There's a rise of authoritarian populist parties. The rest of the world is relying on the USA for ideas.
Ya don't say...

Q: What is the relationship between free speech and the funding of free speech as it relates to politics?

A: Campaign finance? Across the board restrictions could be used to restrict unpopular ideas.

Q: Science is conjectures and refutations. Feynman said science is trying not to fool ourselves. What about teaching undergrads about biases. e.g. the righteous mind.

A: yes ....

Q: Fav book, or impacted you the most?

A: Books: the beginning of infinity, The selfish gene, the blind watchmaker, the psychology of communication, 123infinity, retreat from doomsday

Q: Conformation bias?

A: yes, deeply embedded
Overall thoughts

Glad the speaker came and presented.
Seems like he's trying at least

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