YouTube: https://youtube.com/watch?v=lBJVyCYuu78
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I think, for example, that pretty much every question about "cancel culture" is a question poorly phrased because "cancel culture" means at least 20 different things, from celebrities going to jail for sexual assault to viral "karen" videos. It's impossible to be right about cancel culture but very easy to have an opinion on it because every person has a different definition. It is a question, like the math test in the video, seemingly intentionally designed to create conflict.

There are so many mechanisms of how our disrupted world gets so messy and weird and bad, but the fact that it's much easier to argue about stuff when opinions are easy to form, and it's much easier to form easy opinions when questions are wrongly stated is actually new to me!!

Always learning!

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Good Morning John, One thing we do not talk  a lot about on Vlogbrothers is math,  but I’m about to show you a very low-stakes math problem  that you don’t have to get right that did change the way that I see the social internet.

With the last vestiges of my time tables still holding on,  I initially realized that each of the  numbers on the right was a multiple of the ones on the left. From there, I realized that there was a pattern…  9 times 10 is 90 8 times 9 is 72  7 times 8 is 56 6 times 7 is 42.

Great, so…what is three? This math question went viral on Twitter because people were  arguing about what three is. You may have even been snappy enough to form an opinion yourself.

A lot of people were said it was 12 A lot of people said it was 18. The 12 people and the 18 people were arguing with each other And they were all very certain they were right. Team 18 pointed out that there was a sequence of numbers being multiplied,  10, 9, 8, 7, and then the next number 6. 6 times 3 is 18.

Team 12 said that every number is being multiplied by itself plus one,  9 times 10… 6 times 7….  and so…3 times four is 12. Watching people on Twitter argue about this was a little like having  sand thrown into my eyes because, of course, there are two correct answers  to this question, and neither of them is 12 or 18. The two correct answers are either (12 or 18)  Not 12 or 18, but (12 or 18)  or, the correct answer is “The question is wrong.” But here’s the thing But here’s the thing..  to me, the right answer is 12  Because n times n + 1 just seems more mathy to me  than a sequence being multiplied by the numbers.

But, that’s not right. In this situation, everyone who believes their   answer is right is wrong The only people who are right are the ones who know they don’t know. Now with math problems, when they are unclear  You know that it’s a poorly created math problem.

But with almost every other kind of problem, you know that  if it is unclear that’s actually  a pretty good sign that it’s a real problem. Like if–if it’s clear in how to solve it, it’s probably not that big of a problem But I learned something else very interesting from this confounding,  incorrect math problem. Which I started to learn when I noticed that people were talking about this,  rather than every other math problem.

There’s nothing interesting about a math problem everyone agrees on. One of the very few reasons that math goes viral is when people fight.  Like this mess of an equation that I see all the time. It might seem to a person like me,  like this would be an important math problem, because it comes up a lot…  but mathematicians don’t think that problem is interesting.

They wouldn’t try and answer that question  they would ask for it to be re-written. And so, if vague questions that are easy to argue about mislead us into  imagining the world incorrectly, I think it’s important to ask,  WHY these questions are easy to argue about. And here’s why…  it’s not just that people believe different things in this situation,  it’s that it is easy to believe different things.

Looking at this problem it is as easy to know that the answer  is 12 as it is to know that the answer is 18. A question like that is bound to get some attention  whether it’s about math or guns or immigration. And particularly,  it will get questions from people who don’t know that much about it  because experts are aware that the problem is poorly phrased  and badly done and so aren’t really interfacing with it.

But for the rest of us, it’s easy to have one of several  different opinions that are not the same answer. Questions like that,  due to the nature of humanity and its algorithms,  are gonna be the ones we’re most likely to see. And that’s gonna drive wedges,  and not just in the way that we usually think,  where it's like between two big political parties.  But also within political parties.

Within communities.  Within people who broadly agree with each other on almost everything,  they just don’t notice because those aren’t the interesting things. When, if the question was asked in a more complete way,  we wouldn’t find it interesting...

because we’d all agree! Vague questions that lead to the formation of simple opinions that  are likely to conflict with  the opinions of others.  Are much more likely to create conflict, and thus the one most likely to go viral.

And also very often,  the answers to those questions are invalid, because the questions themselves are wrong. John, I will see you on Tuesday