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Is the Internet Turning Donald Trump – and You – Into an Idiot?

President Obama was viewed as the first techie presidential candidate when he launched his campaign, and he has been connected at the hip with Google for a large part of both terms, although they don’t seem to be particularly close at the moment.

However, the brilliance his teams displayed with using analytics during both campaigns never seemed to carry over into running the country, which was disappointing. Most of the U.S. government still has systems that are decades out of date. Some, like the Veterans Administration, are so bad they are a national embarrassment.

Hillary Clinton appears to be less techie than Obama, and given her email problems and the growing threat of cyberterrorism, that doesn’t bode well for the country.

Unfortunately, we have Donald Trump as an alternative choice. He appears to live off Twitter, which appears to be resulting in near-insane behavior, with the word “near” likely an understatement.

The irony in this is that it really looks like these two are an ideal match in one way. Each likely represents the only candidate the other could beat. Right now, however, it looks as though Trump won’t just lose — he’ll destroy his expensively crafted personal brand in the process. (His properties already are taking a big hit.) That’s nuts.

When it comes to the tech argument that “connected people are smarter than unconnected people,” Trump seems to stand as an embarrassing counterpoint. He is connected, but his connection has made him appear mentally challenged. So why is the guy who spends more time on the Internet than any other candidate suddenly appearing so brain dead stupid?

I’ll consider that this week and close with my product of the week: the Xbox One S — yet another offering that showcases the new Microsoft is better than the old, while also showcasing the same problem we are seeing in Trump.

Internet Idiocy

Putting Trump himself aside for a moment, if you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter of late, it is almost impossible to avoid stupid comments by both Clinton and Trump supporters. Both groups seem to ignore completely the view that their candidates are so badly flawed they wouldn’t be hired to run a McDonald’s, let alone the country.

Clinton has been linked to so many scandals, she and her husband should have their pictures under “scandal” on Wikipedia. Trump, on the hand, increasingly appears to have no filter between what he sees on the Web, his first reaction, and his fingers and mouth.

In terms of strategy, Clinton and Trump should be exactly the opposite. Clinton should let Trump talk, and Trump’s camp should be trying harder to get the guy to shut up.

Trump increasingly reminds us of the drunk uncle character on Saturday Night Live — or even more likely, that older relative who pretty much has an opinion on everything, most of which violate our more modern views and rules regarding what is appropriate or even truthful.

Those of us who are smart have concluded that arguing with people like that is a waste of time — and we perhaps worry a bit too much that the problem could be genetic. (I do worry that I’ll become like some of my older relatives.)

So how do we avoid becoming like Trump or the drunk uncle?

Confirmation Bias

If there is a villain in my own life story — and, I expect, most of yours — it is a hard-wired problem we all have to some degree, called “confirmation bias.” Due to this defect in our thinking, we form opinions and then accept without challenge anything that confirms those opinions and throw out anything that contradicts them.

We most often can see this in our own lives with couples who start out thinking they are each other’s soulmates and then after a divorce position their ex-spouse as the devil’s spawn. Neither representation is likely to be accurate, but when they want the relationship they are just seeing the positive and ignoring the negative — and then, after the breakup, they are just seeing the negative and ignoring the positive.

If you’ve ever been tricked into buying something that you either didn’t really want or that was a scam, this is likely how you were played. The seller first got you to think you wanted the product, and from then on you saw only the positives and ignored the negatives. However, when you realized you were tricked, you suddenly felt like an idiot because the problems seemed so very obvious. The trick is to get to that latter mindset before you write the check.

The Trump Example

With Donald Trump, you see an extreme. Somehow, so many people saying during the primary process that Trump couldn’t win, when taken against the fact that Trump did win, has given the guy a sense of near omnipotence. In other words, he not only fails to challenge his own views, but also believe he can not be wrong, making most of his corrective actions seem insincere — or more recently, nonexistent.

This is confirmation bias in all its unfortunate glory. The result is that he can’t seem to accept that he has a problem, even though in just the past week or so, he has dropped from having a near-even chance of winning to having about a 20 percent chance. He also went from a guy who could do no wrong to one who could do no right. He appears to be facing an intervention by his own party — and right now, a coup within the Republican party is likely.

Trump isn’t changing, because even though these problems are obvious to us — and likely to his children as well — he is mentally refusing to see them. Ironically, this is likely the same problem that got people to regret investing in a lot of the now-failed Trump properties, and also likely why they failed in the first place.

Clinton Has It Too

If you think about it, both of these candidates are so flawed that you likely could make an entire successful campaign just pointing out their flaws. On paper, Clinton is more flawed, because she has behind her the most relevant scandals. What makes this ironic is that Trump lies the most, which means he avoids Clinton’s real weaknesses and instead favors the ones he makes up.

However, Clinton does much the same thing — often focusing on Trump statements taken out of context rather than even more-damning statements in context. (One thing both Democrats and Republicans seem to have in common is a wish they had another choice.)

This has many analysts concluding that the U.S. election will be driven more by the candidate voters dislike the least rather than the one who is the most qualified, which is a lousy way to fill any job, let alone the supposed leader of the free world. While the reasons are different, it is frighteningly likely that both candidates are unsuited for the job of United States president.

Wrapping Up: Learning From Both Trump and Clinton

I think this can be a teachable moment for all of us — maybe our last one if things really go south. Some of my most boneheaded moves resulted from making a decision before analyzing the choices, and then ignoring anything that suggested the decision I’d made was the wrong one.

The Internet is both a powerful tool and a crutch. Used effectively before a decision is made, it could save us from a mistake. Used selectively with confirmation bias, it simply could ensure we make a lot of mistakes — many repeatedly. Some of them could be both personally embarrassing and very expensive.

Just look at Trump. He started the election process relatively well regarded, and he is currently on a path to becoming a national joke — and folks aren’t going to be laughing with him.

The Internet has become his enemy, and he likely should get off Twitter until he understands the problem and can overcome it. He won’t, though, because confirmation bias will keep him from taking this advice, and his only real shot at becoming president now is if the Clinton camp really screws up — or if there are more surprising discoveries that make her even less attractive or land her in legal hot water.

It is interesting to note that Trump’s issues seem to come from him fighting his party, while Clinton’s seem to be coming from within her party — and that is only part of what makes this the strangest national election I’ve ever seen.

You know, while Steve Jobs was over the top, on this he is one of the best examples of how to approach a decision. His issue was that he’d often overanalyze things. Apparently he once took months to decide on a washer and dryer, for instance.

However, given this example and his success, I think it is far better to overanalyze before choosing than not do the analysis at all. So, for all of us, this can be an example of why it’s important to do some research before deciding. Otherwise you could become — or you’ll remain — your family’s drunk uncle.

Rob Enderle's Product of the Week

The Xbox and PlayStation represent some of the best and worst examples of confirmation bias. When the Xbox came to market, it was driven by a belief that Sony was going to turn the PlayStation into a PC and knock Microsoft out of the home PC business — or at least out as leader.

Like the Iraq WMDs, the PlayStation threat never emerged, and the whole reason for the Xbox to exist was false. What the Xbox did do is shift gaming away from PCs, and a great deal of the reason the PC market is now weak is due to the ill-conceived decision to create a focused gaming system as competition.

The PlayStation was nearly killed by a decision to force the market to the Blu-ray standard and away from the industry standard of HD-DVD. Sony won, but it was a Pyrrhic victory, because the cost to both the PlayStation 3 and Sony in general was massive. It almost put the company under and turned the PlayStation from a huge asset into a huge liability.

Sony is embracing virtual reality early with a VR option that effectively doubles the cost of a PlayStation. Microsoft is bringing out a more value-based solution in the Xbox One S, which adds 4K capability to its existing platform.

Xbox One S

Xbox One S

The result is a system that costs about the same as one of the rare Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray players and has that capability while still playing all of the old Xbox One and 360 games. It also integrates far better with a PC experience, and you’ll increasingly be able to move between PC and Xbox games while maintaining state — that is, you can leave off on one machine and pick up from the same place on another.

The Xbox One S also walks back the Kinect Camera (you can add one if you want it), which has fallen out of favor, while focusing on a need that we increasingly have for content with the 4K TVs more of us have been buying.

In short, why I think this both is a better decision and supports my confirmation bias theme, is that the original Xbox was based on a false threat, while the current Xbox S 360 is based on a very real need. This product would be my product of the week just because it is a decent value, but this week its history also supports my confirmation bias theme, so I got a twofer.

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends. You can connect with him on Google+.

1 Comment

  • Paul Klein would love this election. In case you don’t know who Paul Klein is, he’s the late ratings guru and network executive who coined the term "least objectionable programming." Although in the electorate, we don’t get to choose simply by changing channels…

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