Scott Adams: Genius or Smart guy?

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Those of you who found my blog through Hypothica, which was created by Scott Adams Blog commenters, probably know who Scott is. For the other ones, I’ll give a little bit of context first.

Scott Adams is the cartoonist who got rich by drawing Dilbert. He’s always been this kind of weird guy who has a zillion ideas, and hopes at least some of those are good ideas. He has a blog, obviously, where he often writes about a bad idea of his, hoping that someone smarter reads about it, solves the problems with the idea, and turns it into a good project. Scott seems to believe in The Simulation Hypothesis, and he often describes people as Moist Robots. He believes that everyone, including himself, is basically a meat puppet reacting in real-time to external stimuli according to physics and chemistry, and we later rationalize our actions because we happened to be smart enough to do that. He claims to be an hypnotist, and to understand persuasion very well even though he is not the best persuader in the world.

Last year, when the orange clown showed up, Scott predicted that he would win the 2016 election in a landslide. He went as far as to say that he would probably get around 65%, which would be incredibly impressive. Even though this prediction still can’t be proven right or wrong, he made several impressive smaller predictions since then. He told us that even though nobody saw Trump as a real candidate at the time, he would not drop out and easily get the GOP nomination. He told us that Trump would soften most of his stances when the nomination was wrapped up. He predicted that Hillary would have a Health problem before the general, or at least people would think she does. He predicted Trump’s one on one interview with Megyn Kelly in May.

Okay, that seems like an impressive record. Most of those things might seem obvious in retrospect, but if you didn’t predict it before the fact, it doesn’t mean anything. Anything can seem obvious in retrospect if you convince yourself that you are smart.

So there’s an hypothesis: Scott Adams is a genius. If he isn’t clairvoyant, then he is a genius who could see things coming before everyone else, as if they were obvious to him. The master persuader filter can predict the future, and its creator is a genius.

But that’s not the only hypothesis.

I have a vague memory of several other predictions that did not happen. Scott failed miserably when he tried guessing who the VP would be, not even mentioning the possibility that Trump picks someone that was not on the list. Scott has predicted the third act several times, always saying that now is the real deal. Scott had predicted that Rubio would get an unexpected surge in New Hampshire after his weird rigged Iowa hypothesis. Scott told us several times after key events that this election was over and Trump had won, while it seems pretty obvious that Hillary has been leading most polls the whole time.

Overall, those seem like pretty big blunders. In that case, why does Scott pretend to be extremely accurate? He obviously has some nice predictions, but he also has lots of bad ones. One possible explanation is Selective Memory and Cognitive Dissonance. Scott, just like everyone else, thinks he is smart. Therefore, maybe he conveniently forgets his misses, or his memory of those change just enough for him to think he was not really wrong.

But I don’t think that’s the case. If you read carefully how the bad predictions are worded in the links above, you might notice something. Scott even mentioned this several times. There is always an if. “Trump wins if he does that.” “Rubio surges if Iowa was rigged.” Sometimes, it’s not even hidden. “The election is over unless something big happens, and big things always happen.”


Source: Dilbert

This feels exactly like selective memory, but before the fact. “I wasn’t wrong, because something out of my control changed the outcome!” Basically, Scott is giving himself an out every time. Something small, that can be pointed to if he’s wrong and asked to explain, but still small enough to be forgotten if he is right. Then, when the result is out, just mention several times the things you were right about. That’s how you pretend to be a genius. This worked pretty well, because I’m sure I forgot about several bad predictions completely. I had actually forgotten about the Rubio surge prediction before digging up older predictions today.

As you can see if you’ve been following Master Persuader, the Disqus channel that was created to talk about Scott’s posts after he turned off the comments, what I’m saying is not news. I don’t pretend to be the genius that saw through it, most people over there are easily seeing through it too.

The thing is, we’re freaks over there. We pay way too much attention to Scott, probably to his delight. Most people won’t care enough to notice something like that, no matter how obvious it is. To them, Scott may very well looks like a genius.

And then, we see what he’s doing, and we see that it works. How do you call someone who succeeds at what he’s trying to do? To our eyes, Scott looks smart. He’s manipulative, yes, but still smart.

Scott has successfully created a situation where the average person who doesn’t really care gets the idea that he is a genius, and the people who actually look into it think he is a smart guy. It seems like, at that point, the only people who think he is dumb are the ones who have been strongly hating him before this election, like the feminists and men’s rights activists that started hating him when he wrote those Men’s rights posts a couple years ago.

The real question now is, does creating this situation alone makes him worthy of the “smart” tag? Or is that just a new level of recursive praise that he’s manipulating us into giving him?

I have no idea if my point was that Scott Adams is genuinely smart or that he’s a fraud. I’ll probably still be reading his blog tomorrow, so either way the joke’s on me I guess.