The democratic process relies on the assumption that citizens (the majority of them, at least) can recognize the best political candidate, or best policy idea, when they see it. But a growing body of research has revealed an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that would seem to disprove this notion, and imply instead that democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies.
The research, led by David Dunning, a psychologist at Cornell University, shows that incompetent people are inherently unable to judge the competence of other people, or the quality of those people’s ideas. For example, if people lack expertise on tax reform, it is very difficult for them to identify the candidates who are actual experts. They simply lack the mental tools needed to make meaningful judgments.
As a result, no amount of information or facts about political candidates can override the inherent inability of many voters to accurately evaluate them. On top of that, "very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is," Dunning told Life’s Little Mysteries.
Last week on his show Keen On, Andrew Keen wrapped up a series of music-industry-themed interviews (which included BitTorrent’s Bram Cohen and Techdirt’s new friend David Lowery) by talking to RIAA CEO Cary Sherman. The conversation is pretty tame, and Keen mostly just lets Sherman speak his piece, so I wanted to take a closer look at his answers and respond to some of his claims. This is not a complete transcript, but the first part of the interview is embedded below—in the next post I’ll look at part two, in which Sherman answers some questions from Keen’s viewers.
One thing is clear: Sherman has been following the public reaction to things like his diatribe in the New York Times, and he knows that everyone is sick of hearing him whine about infringement. He actually makes it through one-and-a-half semi-sincere answers before even using the word “piracy”—but after that it’s virtually all he talks about. First, though, Keen simply asks him if he thinks the new ecosystem is better or worse for musicians. There are a lot of problems with his response:
It obviously depends on where you sit. For young, emerging artists they have more of an opportunity to get out in front of the public in ways that were never before imaginable. How much money they’ll be able to make doing so is a serious question. Established artists are definitely doing worse than they used to be doing, and artists who are signed by labels are not getting the opportunities that they used to get when they were signed by a label: the marketing, the promotion, the exposure and of course sales.