Occam’s Toothbrush

A few rules to help you understand our crazy times

Occam’s Toothbrush

The California Coastal Records Project photographed the Malibu coastline from a helicopter to alert California policymakers to the dangers of soil erosion of the cliffs above the beach. Out of 12,000 photographs, one was of Barbara Streisand’s house, and Babs didn’t like people taking pictures of her home from the air. So, being rich, she sued the photographer for $50 million for breach of privacy to force the removal of the photo from the Project’s website, thereby proving that The Law of Unintended Consequences applied to celebrities and their lawyers. You see, before she filed, “Image 3850” had been downloaded a grand total of six times and two of those downloads were by Streisand’s own lawyers. As a result of her lawsuit, public knowledge of the photo increased exponentially, attracting almost 500,000 site visits within a month, and millions within a year. The lawsuit was dismissed with costs and her actions coined the maxim “The Streisand Effect” — namely, that attempts to suppress information will always motivate people to access it and spread it far and wide over the internet.

But The Law of Unintended Con-sequences and the Streisand Effect aren’t the only rules to help you navigate through the 2020s. Occam’s Razor is useful when someone still claims that Trump won the US election because of voter fraud in five states that he lost in (but not in any of the states he won); or that the Pfizer, Moderna, and AZ vaccines are unsafe (particularly when compared to the horse de-wormer Ivermectin); or when someone claims Lee Harvey Oswald was not the lone gunman. Occam’s Razor is a problem-solving maxim to evaluate the truth of two competing theories, where the one with the fewest assumptions is the better one. My variation of Occam’s Razor for the 2020s states that where there are two competing narratives about vaccines, COVID-19 or Trump, the one with no reliance on quackadoodle conspiracy theories is the preferable one. (Let’s call it “Occam’s Toothbrush.”)

Then there’s the “Project Manager Rule.” Those who circulate conspiracy theories that the Deep State and Big Pharma are clandestinely in cahoots with the evil liberal mainstream media to force us to vaccinate against our will and deprive us of our freedoms, or that 5G towers will be used by Bill Gates to track the movements of the vaccinated (better than our cellphones?), have clearly never managed a large group project in the real world, or tried to keep something confidential. Someone will always make a mistake, brag about their cloak and dagger exploits in a bar and tell their story to the media in the hope of a movie deal. That’s why there aren’t secret conspiracies anymore. Just conspiracy theorists. Real conspiracies are just too difficult to manage and keep secret.

“Brandolini’s Law” (also known as the “BS Asymmetry Principle”), states that the amount of energy needed to refute an untrue statement is larger than that needed to create it. That’s why it’s just too much trouble for vaccinated people to keep correcting and re-correcting Robert Malone, Peter McCullough, Joe Rogan, and their followers when they claim the vaccines are dangerous, facemasks don’t work, horse dewormers and zinc are better than vaccines, or that we are all part of some “mass formation psychosis” and “naïve sheeple” for trusting the scientists rather than the pseudoscientists. Besides, why continually correct the anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists when you can just… wait.

Then there’s the “Dunning Kruger Effect” made famous by Python Emeritus John Cleese. It’s when a person’s lack of knowledge causes them to overestimate their own competence.

Here’s another. The best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question at all; it’s to post the wrong answer and see what happens. That’s “Cunningham’s Law.” I don’t recommend it as a research tool for lawyers, but in the 2020s, it’s worth a try.

Finally, there’s “Dicks Law,” which is less of a law and more of a warning for these troubling times of alternative facts, pseudoscience, and disinformation: “When liars prosper, truth dies. In the absence of truth, monsters rise.”

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